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Church Sound Files: Is Bad Sound A Sin?

If bad sound is a sin then there are a large number of churches which are sinning every Sunday.

A while back I had a conversation with my good friend Doug Gould.

I was introduced to Doug way back when he was working for Tascam and then followed his career as he served many years as the How of Worship specialist for Shure. 

He now works as an independent consultant to numerous manufacturers helping them to enter into and understand the House of Worship Market.

What I love about him the most is his passion for equipping and training the local church.

Doug and I were discussing a potential worship conference that we would work together on to make it happen. 

It was a fun, engaging conversation on what a conference should consist of, how it could be put together to best empower the local church, and how it could reach beyond just the technicians and worship band members to all worshippers. 

The following day I had lunch with a new friend of mine, Jeremy. 

Jeremy is an accomplished musician and well known local worship leader.

As we talked at lunch I realized that he was also working on a worship conference, and most of his vision lined up with the vision that Doug and I had talked about the day before! It’s a small world, right?

Moving on, and what I really what to hit on goes back to part of the conversation that Doug and I had.

As Doug and I talked about the struggles of the local church, we ventured off into how the local church (almost always because of ignorance) breaks God’s Laws of Physics at every Sunday service.

Many times it is so obvious (at least to someone with a little bit on knowledge about sound) that the sound system in a church is going against God’s laws of physics.

Just looking at how the system is installed and where the speakers are located you can tell it is not going to sound good. 

An experience I had a few years ago, illustrates this quite well.  The well-intentioned “soundman/janitor” for the church learned at a sound seminar that it was better to place the speakers as close to the listener as possible.  In theory that may be true. 

However this good intentioned gentleman took that advice and decided to place 6 speakers to cover the seating area in the church. 

He placed three on each side wall, the front one near the stage was pointed towards the opposite side back corner, the middle one was pointed straight across at the other side wall and the rear on was pointed toward the opposite front corner of the seating area.

If the sanctuary was a Dolby 7.1 listening space for movies, with the proper processor it might have worked for the people sitting in the center pews. 

In this case it really did not sound good anywhere as the quality of the equipment was poor and the design and implementation was even worse.

Bringing this back to the conversation with Doug, Doug playfully asked the question “is bad sound a sin?”  I took his bait and replied “not necessarily” Doug then asked “is breaking one of God’s Laws a sin?”

He added that “If breaking God’s law is a sin then there are a large number of churches that are sinning every Sunday as their sound systems are breaking God’s laws of physics…”

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The consequences: bad sound (obviously), frustrated people, strife, division, poor communication.

So is bad sound a sin? Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below!

Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 25 years.

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