Study Hall

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Who Done It? A Matter For Investigation…

It's easy to blame the previous sound system designer for the problems when we don't know the whole story.

Image courtesy of Hartwell Davis

Have you ever walked into a church sanctuary and thought to yourself “What blithering idiot designed that system?”

Okay, maybe not in exactly those terms, but you get my point. The world is full of churches that, with the best of intentions, wound up with a mediocre sound, video, or lighting system and/or poor acoustics.

Someone is responsible for the project not hitting the mark, or for setting the mark too low, but it’s never quite clear who.

Of course our carnal nature wants us to feel superior. I’m sure that neither you nor I were responsible. The reality is that we shouldn’t be too quick to place blame unless we know the whole story. There are a lot of people who either directly or indirectly influence the final results, and a poor result could have been caused by any one of them. More often than not, it’s a team effort.

Was it the System Designer?

There’s no question that there are people with little experience or knowledge about system design trying to make a living in the industry. We all have to start somewhere. To be honest, we all (hopefully) learn something during each project – usually how to do it right, and sometimes what not to do.

I’m blessed to be friends with some of the best-known, almost revered system designers in the country, and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing and seeing some of their systems in action. Want to know something? Even the best miss the mark at times, sometimes by a long shot. I would hazard to guess that there’s not a single system designer on this planet who would want you to hear the first few systems they designed.

It’s easy to blame the previous system designer for the problems. But if we’re going to grant people a measure of grace as God would, and if we’re going to give the designer the benefit of the doubt, we should stop and think that maybe, just maybe, the poor results weren’t the designer’s fault.

Was it the Building Committee?

There are a myriad of reasons why an installation might not perform as the church originally envisioned.

First, the church’s senior pastor, music pastor, administrator, and tech team leader might have each had entirely different concepts and objectives regarding those systems. The system designer must find a way to deliver a design that’s congruent with the church’s vision, needs and budget realities. When those are a moving target, hitting it becomes difficult at best.

To further confuse the issue, the church’s architect, general contractor, and performance system designer should be working as a team, but sometimes they have conflicting objectives. Each tends to believe they’re right and that their particular needs, objectives and opinions must take priority.

For example, what the architect envisions for how the room will look when it’s built might cause tremendous grief for the acoustics consultant. What the performance system designer needs in order to adequately cover the room with sound, lights and video display just gets in the way of the architect’s passion for visual aesthetics. The general contractor thinks they’re all nuts because the church says they don’t have enough money to pull it all off anyway.

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