#1. Before you start drafting that gear shopping list, assess the equipment you have on hand. Old doesn’t mean unusable. Think of all the people who trashed their tube amplifiers for solid-state stereos thirty years ago, only to find audiophiles preferring the warm sound of tube amps later. So, take the time to examine your gear. Does it work? Is it worth repairing? Can it be repurposed? Is there another ministry that can use it?
#2. Scrutinize your existing system, then deconstruct it piece by piece.
Speaker selection and placement
- Do you have the correct type and quantity of speakers?
- Are they installed properly?
- Do they adequately cover the seating area?
- Is there sufficient power for the number of speakers in place?
- Are the amplifiers properly installed, with good ventilation and appropriate AC power?
- Is there appropriate processing?
- Is the sound board located where the operator can properly hear the listening environment?
- Is there enough physical space for the necessary equipment and personnel?
- Has the system been wired neatly and logically?
- Were block diagrams and wiring layouts created during installation?
- Could any knowledgeable technician walk in and repair the system, or does it only make sense to the person who installed it and / or runs it?
#3. The most worthwhile investment you can make in your church’s audio gear is the time you spend developing a strategic plan based on your church’s current and future gear needs. The best sound systems are built on a foundation of communication with your church’s leaders, administrators (for instance, the budget committee) and the worship staff.
- Determine short-term goals. What’s broken or needs to be addressed immediately?
- Examine your mid- and long-term goals. Develop a plan that adds over time the components needed for the functionality you want.
- Establish a budget for gear maintenance, upgrades and training, just like your church would do for new phone or computer systems.
#4. You get what you pay for. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.You’ve heard those old saws before, but they’re true. Good equipment costs money.
- Don’t buy anything (cords, cables, mics, speakers, mixing boards, really anything in your system) just because the price is low. Buy it because you know it will work well and reliably.
- Talk to colleagues at other churches, read publications designed exclusively for church and production technology, attend seminars and workshops, and build a relationship with a trusted AV provider.
Once you understand exactly what you want to accomplish and which products can help, you’ll be ready to start shopping.
#5. Church AV is no longer a luxury. As you consider retrofitting an old system versus installing a new one, think about how you will integrate all aspects of audio-visual production. The size of the congregation is no longer the determining factor here: it’s the impact of the message on a community raised on fast-moving images.