6 Things To Consider When Upgrading Your Sound System
I am sure that if your reading this post is because, you are in the market for a brand new sound system, upgrading an old one or just looking to add onto the system you already have, let me help you with some things that you need to consider when upgrading your small church sound system.
The new system has to be able to handle a wide range of inputs, including wireless microphones and instruments. In addition, we would have to ensure that all aspects of performance could be accurately represented and clearly heard, whether it was spoken word, recorded or live music.
We know that every church is different and has different audio needs so we don’t consider a “cookie-cutter” sound system. We will give you great info on a sound system for your church based on your specific needs.
Just like our church, chances are you’ve been in a position to re-evaluate your sound system or a piece within it. Whether you’re looking at a complete overhaul or simply updating some components, I’ve found that these 6 things help to guide you to getting the equipment you NEED.
1. Evaluate your needs/current deficiencies
Where do we start? Typically, there are obvious deficiencies in performance or features that lead us to consider an upgrade. While you may assume that any sound system will inevitably involve some loss of quality when used in a large space, this isn’t the case with properly functioning equipment. If you find that your sermons occasionally sound garbled, get in touch with an audio installation professional to learn about replacing your church sound system.
Small churches will have certain needs and requirements in order to run efficiently. It’s very important to narrow down needs so money is not spent needlessly, or in the wrong areas.
A common trend in recent years is not that churches are replacing equipment that is failing, but they’ve outgrown the systems which were designed and installed to meet simpler needs. In a church, it is essential that a sound system is able to handle music. Not all systems are built for this purpose, though. While amplifying one voice isn’t much of a technical feat, clearly amplifying the sounds of multiple voices and instruments in harmony is. If members of your congregation can’t clearly hear the music you play for them, it’s time for an upgrade.
Small churches are trying to upgrade to a system that are designed for light music and voice reproduction. We now find ourselves running out of channels on our mixers, short on stage monitors and running out of steam in our PA’s. It’s important to know exactly why you’re looking for upgrades so you can make an effective case for your cause.
2. Consider All Available Products
Once you’ve defined the areas that need to be upgraded and why, it’s important to consider all available products. Sometimes budget can be saved in one area to make sure you maximize in another area. One example when you want to move to a digital console. Get to know your current system and sit in on a few services, just to get a real feel for your needs. Then you can make an educated analisis of what spend money wisely.
Another consideration is to ensure the right product is spec’d for your space. Just because a certain speaker format works for touring bands in arenas, doesn’t mean it is right for your venue. Your wanting to go with a line array speaker system as it was the latest and greatest, when the room simply didn’t require it and wouldn’t benefit from it.
3. Get Training For Your Team
Please don’t skimp on training costs. Make training part of your yearly budget. Invest in your tech team. If you plan to purchase a new sound system or upgrade your existing system, depending on the overall budget, allocate from 5%-15% of the budget to training. What’s the point of having a great sound system if no one knows how to drive it. Don’t send just your main soundperson to a training workshop and then expect him/her to come back and be able to teach everyone else on your media team. Personal experience should tell you that some of the best sound techs aren’t always great teachers, and that’s a heavy burden to place on inexperienced tech personnel. So find a good church sound workshop and send your entire team.
Another thing is that many churches, for some unfathomable reason, do not include the sound/media team members in equipment purchase decisions. Yet this same team is then given the responsibility of making it all work — under pressure. Discuss your expansion plans months before you start pouring concrete for that new stage.
Ask the team (or team leader) to research potential equipment updates well in advance of your budget deadlines. Then listen to their input. An informed and involved media team will present the church with better operational procedures and uplifted morale. Everyone likes to feel appreciated.
Make sure your team members have thoroughly researched the recommended equipment purchase, have heard it in use in other churches and know how to properly operate it. Sound and equipment stores across the country are loaded with expensive gear that came highly recommended but if no one knows how to use it then it’s a waste.
4. Evaluate Your Space
I’m sure we’ve all been to venues that suffer from too little PA, and I’ve seen my share that suffer from too much! When thinking about upgrades, it’s important to evaluate the meeting space. I realize that in some cases churches may be in transition and could be considering products they can use in a new space, and also use currently. When analyzing your space, it is important to consider acoustic treatment as part of any upgrade project.
While you likely aren’t going to be changing any architecture of the building, some well-planned treatment will go farther than any console/ PA combo will to help you get better sound in a non-treated environment. Considering things like in ear monitors/ electronic/hybrid kits to keep stage level down, or at least smaller compact monitors and proper drums skins/ cymbals will help keep your space under control. There are companies that will help you source the proper drum skins and cymbals for the size of room you have, considering items like volume and decay times.
5. Prioritize Your Needs
As previously mentioned, it’s important to get the proper pieces in place in the right order. Getting the appropriate PA for your application is the most important step in achieving your goals. Once again, dropping in that digital console you have your eye on isn’t going to improve your coverage issues, or extend the range of your speakers.
In some scenarios you can start your upgrade by simply replacing power amplifiers or adding processing to the system as these are pieces that will make a difference (not all amplifiers are equal) and they are items that can be carried over when you are ready to purchase new speakers. Prioritizing your needs is important, and will help build your budget. Perhaps going with an in ear monitoring set up is the right next step, or perhaps the integration of a new/better subwoofer will help you achieve the sound you’re after. Perhaps getting those guitar amplifiers off stage, mic’ing them up and finally being able to mix properly is the way to go. As you can imagine there are lots of possibilities, so figuring out what you are missing in your set up and at what stage these things make sense to implement are very important.
6. Create A Budget/ Plan
Obviously none of this gear comes free, unless you’re fortunate to have inherited some past equipment that suits your needs! Your budget is a clue as to what spending is important to your church, and what isn’t. It’s a reflection of the overall strategy and focus of your church in a given calendar year.
Once you’ve prioritized your needs and enlisted the help of a trusted AV provider or consultant, you can proceed to evaluate the available products that will meets your needs. Once these steps have been completed you’ll be in a much better place to create a realistic budget and plan. Far too often random budgets are placed for specific purchases and then the tech team or budget manager are tasked with finding solutions to fit within this budget. It’s been my experience that doing the research ahead of time, getting proper input and budgetary quotes from your AV supplier results in a far better result and less money spent on things that may not have been required, or were a Band-Aid solution.
It can be daunting sometimes to make these decisions, and we all sleep better if we feel we’ve done our research. Try not to use Band-Aid solutions unless you see the potential of using these purchases somewhere else down the road when you get a little more budget to invest.
Ultimately, you’re going to be the one left to use the gear, so make sure you are satisfied with equipment you invest in.
It’s a given that the same gear that was broken last week will still be broken this week. Give your sound team a budget for gear repair and service; even a modest one is better than none at all. They need to replace damaged microphones, cables, connectors, DI boxes and all the other gear that gets stepped on, dropped and beat up.
Last thing, make sure that damaged gear is separated from working gear – and then actually gets repaired. Damaged equipment will always and inevitably find its way back into the system just in time for a major event. Mark it; separate it; fix it!
So, there you have it, these are just a few ideas or tips for upgrading your church sound system. This post was written with small congregrations in mind but, they can be udes for big ministires too. Just because, the budget is bigger doesn’t mean that you don’t want to make an educated decision on such a big investment. Making the choice will be beneficial for your ministry in the long run, God Bless.
Thanks For Reading,