These are the complete parts of any sound system. Miss any one of these and the system performance will suffer.
Sound System Component Component Key points
Your ministries as a group
1. Sound tracks
2. Instruments
3. Soloists
4. Persons speaking
5. Choirs - adult, youth, children
6. Drama or special productions
7. Radio - TV
8. Media recording outreach
9. Guest music groups
All of your varied ministries place different levels of demands on sound system performance. The easiest is tracked music and the most difficult is drama and children's ministries. Your goals of your ministries must be thoroughly explored before any meaningful sound system design can begin
The talent of your ministries Picking up the strong voice of a well spoken pastor will be easy compared to picking up the timid voices of a volunteer drama team. The talent directly affects the quality required of your sound system.
The ears of your music director,
choir members and musicians
These are trained ears and they expect to hear quality. This is a crucial point when the music director wants a certain sound. It's extremely important for these gifted members to feel confident during a musical performance. How they hear will determine how they want the sound system adjusted, hence what the audience will hear. If they know they don't sound good, it's hard for them to keep an optimistic spirit during the performance or worship service. And it shows.
The microphones Every ministry requires a different type of microphone specifically designed for that application. You can't use a vocal mic to pick up the choir! You have to know what mic works the best in any given application
Connections from the platform to the sound mixing location Length of cabling and routing is important for minimal noise and interference
Placement of mixing location
1. Height of mixer
2. Space required
3. Noise from air conditioning returns nearby
4. Road noises
5. Electrical noises
6. Isolation from audience
7. Annoyances from audience onlookers
8. The acoustics of the sound booth itself
Mixing sound is a serious art. The mixer must be located in such a way to minimize annoyances from onlookers and audible noises that can interfere with sound mixing
The ears of the sound tech The sound system will sound no better than the ability of the sound tech to hear not only sound in general, but specifically how to mix music. A sound system should be designed with as much latitude as possible to allow for a variety of trained and untrained ears in this department. This is often the weakest link in the success of any sound system.
The electronics The choice of amplifiers and control electronics though important is not as critical for the average sound system as it once was. It's more important to know how the units are connected and set up. Tuning a sound system is an art form done by someone with years of developing highly critical and tuned ears. Instrumentation though helpful in roughing in a tuning, it's still up to the art of the sound to get it sounding good.
The main speaker systems The main speaker system design is the key element in a successful installation. They MUST be chosen perfectly to match your sanctuary acoustics for the best sound and coverage of your seating. The speakers must also be able to handle any dynamic music reproduction or sound effects.
Room acoustics and the seating layout It is impossible to begin selecting the speaker systems until a detailed study of the sanctuary acoustics is completed. We must know how the sound is going to behave in the room before the correct or best fit speaker systems can be employed. Often acoustical treatment is required to fix room problems that can affect sound quality. The acoustics determines which brand or type of speaker will work the best. It's NOT the other way around.
Speaker placement - where they are needed vs. where they look the best according to the architect or building and grounds Speakers are chosen to be placed where they will sound the best. Sometimes that's not where other people think they look the best. You must make a decision if you want sound quality or the best looks if there's no way to build in the speaker systems otherwise. The physics of sound have no clue about room decor. Speakers located in the wrong acoustic place will change the sound of the system and will lower the quality of the sound.
Who is doing the listening? This is definitely a grossly overlooked part of a lot of sound systems. People with good hearing automatically assume that everyone in the building hears as well as them or either figure those that don't are a minority and don't count. Everyone that attends should be able to hear clearly. Otherwise, what's the point! A system design must cover every seat with easy to understand distinct sound, especially for the hearing impaired. This is extremely important for choir, drama, and children's ministries.
The person writing up
your sound system quote

Yes, the person writing up your quote is definitely part of your sound system, because this person is going to directly affect every level of quality throughout the system.

- Are you getting what you really need?
- Are you getting too much?
- Are you being sold what they think you can be sold
  instead of what you need?
- Do they really understand what is needed
   in church ministry?
- Do they have a full scope of the available
  products on the market?
- Have they ever actually set behind a mixing console
   and mixed for a production?
- Do they have a trained set of ears?
- And the list goes on.

The budget - often, unrealistic ideas
about what it takes to have great sound simply
because buyers assume the "good sound"
comes in the box with the equipment.
The budget directly affects the sound quality and flexibility of your system. If what you truly need costs $30,000 and you can only afford $20,000, something has to go. You'll have to decide if picking up the children's choir or drama is a luxury or a necessity. Keep in mind you can find people that can beat a price on anything. But, you always give up quality. You don't go to McDonald's looking for a steak.

I can't tell you how many times we've lost jobs because the guy down the street was cheaper only to get a call 3 years later to come redo the system. However, we believe in being realistic when it comes to your available budget and what we think you need to further your ministries.

It may be possible to install your system incrementally by installing the core components first, then adding options as your budget allows. However, if what we feel you really need is just beyond any means for us to install it within your budget, we will pass up your installation. We refuse to sell something we know won't work even if it would pad our banking account. It's just not good business.

The buyer or committee - The buyer
approaches the buying process with
no concept or understanding of exactly
what they are buying, again thinking
equipment is the answer.

You arent buying sound equipment but a type
of sound
that equipment will produce in
your acoustic space.

The buyer further reduces the chance of
a successful purchase by attempting to
choose from several bids the correct
system design that places the buyer
in the assumed position of a sound

This is also a real part of your sound system.

What usually happens is several "contractors" are asked to quote on a system. The level of experience in sound system design ranges from the local band member, the local electronics wiz, the "we'll beat anybody's price" dealer, the local music store, and on up to the seasoned professional. All quotes are miles apart with all types of suggested ways of installing it and with reasons why this or that is the best way.

The buyer is faced with the chore of sorting out the best quote without knowing anything about sound system engineering, plus there's no real way to evaluate any of the proposals since you can't hear anything until the system is completed. It's essentially a little more than a shot in the dark. Even with references of the prospective contractors 3 feet long there's still no guarantee that YOUR system is going to sound good. There is a way to measure and ensure a performance standard if you go through the ARTICULATION AND COVERAGE TEST© demo.
System Tuning Setup and Training As previously mentioned, designing and tuning a sound system is an art form. It's not about a list of equipment. An $85,000 Steinway grand piano is worthless without proper tuning and someone that can play it despite all of the best machining in the world at the factory that built it. The person that tunes the system and trains your operators to get the most out of it is another extremely important part of your sound system.
copyright 2013 Cathedral Sound