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Checklist: Planning A Church Sound System

Answer these questions honestly to be off and running on your next church project.

By Peter Patrick August 3, 2011

In every project there are always a number of driving factors. However, determining the importance of each is key. 

Use this checklist to carefully assess your system needs and you’ll be well on your way to a successful church sound system project.

Priority of room purposes?
This is critical when room acoustics are considered.

Congregational singing benefits from strong room reflections, which naturally reinforce the singers voices. An acoustically “dead” space makes singing uncomfortable.

On the other hand, the strength of the reflections directly affects speech intelligibility in a negative way.

If the priority is the spoken word then room acoustics should be so weighted. A space designed for both requires some compromise and careful attention to the design of the speaker system.

Presentation styles?
Consider whether various styles of events such as plays, orations, bands, choirs etc are to be presented. Choirs require the use of long-range “choir mics”.

There is simply no way a choir can be amplified when located right beside a drum kit/bass guitar/rock band or any loud sound source without also amplifying the other sound as well. This produces a very poor mix of choir voices and backing instruments.

Communication needs?
Plays and musical shows require stage management and coordination by a stage manager who needs paging and announcement facilities in dressing rooms etc from a backstage location.

This can be managed on a budget through the main house mixers auxiliary send system or bus system in conjunction with a “Push To Talk” style mic for the stage manager, but the wiring needs to be in place first, rather than last.

More communication??
Following from the point above… IF pantomime style shows are contemplated please consider the need for headset comms between stage manager, sound and light controllers, stage hands (scene changes etc).

There are wired and wireless comm types available in a great range of capabilities. It is therefore worth working through your needs carefully.

Building shape/layout?
This is obviously a job for an architect. There is, however, great merit in getting a sound system consultant involved at the drawing board stage.

This work, along with that of an acoustical consultant, provides very valuable input to the process of simple things like whether choir mics will work or not. If you can locate a consultant with dual capabilities, so much the better.

Early budget by negotiation?
A PA system consultant should be able to give a fair idea of just what options are available at what approximate costs. Determine what you want your sound system to be capable of, and budget accordingly. Broad-brush figures should suffice early in the planning stage but be prepared to be flexible.

There are more than enough sad cases wherein too little money was allocated to this discipline in the first place and a second rate or simply inadequate outcome results.

This either means people have to live with a bad system or find another sum of money to retrofit new equipment. Retrofitting is always more expensive than getting it right the first time.

Installation process?
Consider whether you want to install the sound system yourself. For example, determine if there will be loudspeakers/equipment mounted overhead in public places. If so, do you have the skills and resources to ensure the mounting system meets engineering safety requirements?

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Jim S says

I am wondering if we can use VHF wireless mics, on our UHF sound board?

Joseph White says

UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency which refers to wireless transmission and does not apply to mixing consoles. Your sound board is not UHF just like your car is not High Definition.

In short, yes you can use VHF wireless microphone systems with any sound board. Just plug the output of the wireless receiver to an input of the board and you should not have any compatibility problems.

Tom Carter says

It seems that the original commenter could be using a powered mixer with a built-in UHF receiver, or perhaps is confusing the UHF receiver with the mixer.

In either case, no, you CANNOT use VHF mics with a wireless UHF receiver (whether built into the board or not).

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