Obstacle Number 2 -

You cant hear a proposal



People don’t seem to get this at all. You look at three proposals. You see three different prices miles apart, different brands of equipment, and different ways to install the speaker systems. Now tell me. What will each of these systems sound like in your acoustic space? What if none of them is what you need? How will you know? Which one will give you the good sound you have in mind? Oh sure, all of them say they are THE one and this is the best, yatta, yatta, noise, noise. Prove it. Unless you are an expert in the art of system design, you can’t. There is no way a layperson can pick out the best proposal if any of them even come close. What usually happens, is that it will come down to price or who made the best presentation of which neither has a thing to do with how the system will sound after it’s installed. However, there are a few things you can do to get some idea of the sound you about to buy.

The BEST thing you can do is experience the ARTICULATION COVERAGE TEST© so you can learn what you're listening for - what the design goal truly is.

Then, go listen to a job that’s as near your church’s layout as possible that the contractor has done that’s similar to what he is quoting for your space. Bring your sound tech to operate the system and someone to sing. I’ve never had a problem setting this up with my existing clients. You want to hear what you sound like not a sound track. Don’t let the contractor play a sound track and try to impress you with volume. Music is not the standard test of a sound system especially with a sound track. You don’t have feedback and acoustic gain problems with a CD player. Test the system under real world conditions with speech and a live microphone. The music will take care of itself. Walk around as your people sing and talk over the system. See if the coverage is good.

The next option, that I’ve already mentioned is have the designer sit behind your console and mix for a service. Any decent system designer can make any system sound better. If you are planning a new system or upgrade there must be a reason or you wouldn’t be getting quotes. With that said, I have never found a system in any shape that I couldn’t use my knowledge to make some improvement. It still won’t sound like it should, but you should be able to hear a difference. If your prospective designer seems lost or can’t seem to do much, that should raise a huge red flag.

Another option is one that I am carefully recommending because it’s easy to be deceived or have the facts misrepresented. Let’s talk about computer generated sound system designs.

There has been much ado about computer generated sound system designs. A contractor will brag about entering some data into a computer and it magically spits out the perfect sound system design. Not so. Always remember the old computer expression, garbage in garbage out. A computer cannot think for itself. It has to be told what to do. Which also means it can be programmed to show you what the salesperson wants you to see.

The programs I’m referring to, shows how a particular speaker system will cover the seating areas. The room dimensions are entered, a speaker is positioned in the virtual room in the computer, and it paints a color map over the seating area supposedly showing how well the area is covered with sound. Unfortunately, if the wrong data is entered you won’t get a true representation. Not to mention there are many more factors than coverage that are important to clear sound. You must have the coverage, but other room acoustic problems must be taken into account as well. I have those same programs and use them too. But I use it as a tool to confirm what I already think and have worked out with other methods and past experience. I never use a computer program as the backbone or foundation of my system designs. It’s just a tool and no more than that.

With that said, ask for the coverage map of the speaker system the contractor is proposing in your space. You are looking for a consistent single color over the seating area, no more than two colors. Another way to say this, you want no more than plus or minus 3 db variance at 2 HKz. If you take our ARTICULATION COVERAGE TEST© you will understand this completey. Just keep in mind when you see the map the contractor presents, don’t stake your life on it. Unless you use the program yourself you really don’t know what data was used to create the coverage map. Just add a notch to that contractor’s creditability for being able to show it.

When it comes to knowing which proposal is going to give you the good sound, all I can say is do everything you can to qualify the person that designed the system. That’s the key. Don’t listen to salespeople or the owner. Who is the designer? Can you bring him here so we can ask some questions?

You have a church full of people that gave money expecting a sure fire result. It’s your money and you are the one that’s going to be stuck with it if it’s wrong. I highly recommend you do your homework.


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