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Church Sound Files: Equipment Should Be Seen As Well As Heard

Let's play hide the sound gear! Sounds like a child's game, eh? Maybe so, but unfortunately, it's also a reality...

Let’s play hide the sound equipment! Sounds like a child’s game, eh? Maybe so, but unfortunately, it’s also a reality that I’ve seen played out in too many churches. 

A primary purpose of a church’s existence is the delivery of spoken word and music, so it begs the question: Why place sound equipment that is so important to this purpose in locations where it cannot be seen?

More importantly, sometimes it’s even placed where the sound operator is totally out of earshot of anything going on in the church sanctuary, where the operator can’t even see the platform and pulpit, and where it is completely inaccessible to the operator.

Here are some of the oddest places I’ve found sound equipment hidden at churches:

—In a nursery three rooms down the hall from the sanctuary. Nursery volunteers, by listening to a five-dollar ceiling loudspeaker, adjusted the entire church sound system with no physical contact with the space. The church was regularly plagued by feedback and “too soft-too loud” complaints. I wonder why…

—In a closet behind the chancel area of the church, with the door constantly locked and only the pastor had a key! Adjustment to change levels or avoid feedback was impossible.

—On a shelf in an alcove well behind the pulpit next to the organ.  The elderly organist couldn’t hear very well and was always was fiddling with the system – to no avail, of course, particularly since there was no loudspeaker that provided any audio signal to that area of the church. Again the system regularly howled with feedback and distortion.

—Behind the last row of seating in the auditorium (which seats nearly 800 worshipers) against the back wall under a 30-foot balcony. The system operator, at a quite-large console, regularly used headphones to listen to what was going on because he was completely out of the coverage range of the primary loudspeakers.

—In the basement. And who was designated to adjust levels? Why, the custodian of course!  He listened via the cheapest of cheap ceiling loudspeakers, this time mounted on a blank panel in the equipment rack.

—In a small cabinet located under the last row of pews where an usher had to get down on his hands and knees and adjust the level of the system if there was a problem… Best wishes!

—And our first place winner: In a stairwell to the right of the platform (with door that was always closed), placed on top of shelves that were positioned directly beneath a leaking eave of the roof, where over the course of a couple of years, water had seeped into all of the electronics. Fortunately no one ever seemed to adjusted the system, so no one was electrocuted. 

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