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Selecting The Right Contractor For Your Church Sound System Upgrade

Tips on selecting the company which will best serve your church audio needs.

By Gary Zandstra December 9, 2011

Let’s pretend . . .

Imagine you walk into your next committee meeting and to your amazement discover that they have approved your suggestion to seek bids for a new sound and video system. 

You leave the meeting excited! 

Finally all of you problems will go away. 

No more buzz, no more hum, no more having to dim the lights and shut all the shades just to barely make out what you are projecting on the screen! 

You figure by next Sunday all of your frustrations will be gone. The next morning you immediately look in the yellow pages and see a large ad for Audio Services. 

You call and talk with “Blair” who informs you that he has on his shelf two of the latest, greatest speakers that will work in any room and deliver equal sound pressure and all frequencies.

To top it off he can have his guy there Friday to do the install! 

Then to seal the deal (or your fate) he throws out a price that is well within what your committee said you could spend.  Bingo we have a Deal! 

Blair and his hatchet men show up Friday afternoon.  You get out of work and excitedly head over to see the progress that has been made. 

To your surprise Blair and crew are walking around examining the sanctuary. They haven’t started a thing…

After many heated questions and answers, it comes to light that these particular speakers won’t possibly work in a room of this size (ie: average) without a needlessly costly add-on. Feeling boxed in, you agree.

Upon the completion of the “installation,” not only does the system not work, but now you’ve spent more than the committee approved. 

In fact you are so embarrassed you donate enough to make up the difference so that no one will know of you blunder….other than they hear it every week!

Rewind: What should you have done?
When deciding that it is time to upgrade the old sound system there are many options as to how to proceed. 

The first choice should be to decide to hire a design build contractor or a consultant to design the system.  Needless to say there are some very bad design build contractors and some very bad consultants. 

However there are also some very good ones!  My general rule (variables such as acoustics and complexity of the system also play into this decision) is that if the project is under $100,000.00 and in a room under 1000 seats I would explore a good design build contractor.  Most design build firms have good experience in these size rooms.

You also have the choice of using the local music store.  In general, unless the music store has a specific division that focuses on installation and has a strong proven track record, I would steer clear. 

Many of the poor designs and implementations that I see are from good intentioned “guitar shops” that have a great passion and understanding of gear and technology, but do not understand the laws of physics and just how difficult it can be to install a successful sound system in a larger room.

What does a design build contractor do?
A design build contractor should function in much the same way as a consultant. 

The only difference is that he is not going to bid the project out at the end of the design (the contractor will also be the installer).  I recommend that you once again do your home work and select the right contractor. 

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About Gary

Gary Zandstra
Gary Zandstra

Consultant, Dan Vos Construction, Writer for Worship Facilities and ProSoundWeb
Gary Zandstra has worked in church production and as an AV systems integrator for more than 35 years. He’s also contributed numerous articles to ProSoundWeb over the past decade.


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