Choosing a sound system for a church or other place of worship is complicated by a combination of legal requirements for public spaces and the limited budgets of non-profit organizations.
Church sound systems, and sound systems for houses of worship in general, address a wide range of sometimes conflicting needs.
From reinforcing the sound and cadence of human speech to faithfully reproducing musical performances, sound systems used in churches must be both robust and flexible. At the same time, church sound systems must satisfy the legal requirements for public spaces and work within limited budgets.
The best place to begin to resolve these conflicting demands is to identify the specific needs and constraints of the church.
Why Does a Place of Worship Need a Sound System?
First, as words are at the heart of most religious services, the sound system needs to reinforce human speech. Sound systems must, at a minimum, accommodate the normal range of human speech and provide a good acoustic experience for the congregation. In the area of sound reinforcement for sermons and spoken prayers, the main area of concern is the size and configuration of the physical space.
Second, there needs to be some accommodation for individuals who are hearing impaired. This is not only required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, more commonly called the ADA, but also makes sense as a means of enriching the experience of congregants. AudioLinks offers a wide selection of ADA compliant listening systems from which to choose.
Third, a multi-ethnic congregation may require accommodation for individuals who do not speak English. Fortunately, many of the same assistive listening devices required for the hearing impaired have the added ability to faciliate simultaneous interpreting. Whether your congregants speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, or other languages, the ADA compliant systems currently available can help them fully participate in the service.
Fourth, many churches and houses of worship emphasize music in the liturgy. For these congregations a public address system must support the much wider range of frequencies characteristic of singing and musical instruments. Even pre-recorded musical accompaniments calls for more robust sound reinforcement than is normally associated with human speech alone.
Where music is a major concern, Fender PA systems might be a good portable PA solution. Fender Passport PA systems have a good reputation for musical reinforcement. We also recommend Paso PA systems as a very cost-effective alternative worthy of consideration. Both systems have options which allow the use of pre-recorded music CD's.
Small PA Systems, Mid-Range PA Systems, and Large PA Systems Based on Audience Size
Installed sound systems are a high-end option for churches and houses of worship.
If your church has the budget to install a fixed PA or sound reinforcement system, there are a number of good options.
The sound system should be properly installed and operated, optimally by a knowledgeable and experienced technician. It is usually easier to do this in a new building rather than retro-fitting an existing public space.
The installed sound system should not draw attention to itself - enhancing the environment rather than overwhelming it. If you have an existing public space, we suggest you consider building your system incrementally with good "open-ended" equipment to which you can add. Buying too large a system is not only expensive, but also can ruin the intimate atmosphere of a service.
Also, be aware of other potential problems that can be magnified by installed sound systems. For example, if badly positioned in a church, fixed installations can magnify ambient noise from air conditioners, buzzing light fixtures, the street, air traffic, or even the congregation. In addition, common problems in some installed PA sound systems can be feedback, unbalanced mixes and volume levels, or hard-to-hear monitors.
Since installed sound systems are literally made-to-order, we urge you to call 1-800-263-0112 for a personal consultation. We will often be able to recommend not only equipment, but also local technicians capable of undertaking the installation.
How to choose among sound systems for your church or house of worship.
Here is a summary of the some of the suggestions already offered for choosing a sound system for your church or house of worship:
1. Choose sound equipment which fits your needs as to audience size
2. Choose sound equipment which fits your needs as to speech vs music
3. Satisfy people who suffer from hearing loss (or language barriers)
4. Buy incrementally unless you are doing new construction
5. Buy with possible expansion in mind.
In addition, the acoustics (the total effect of sound in space) of the church or house of worship will dictate how your equipment should be deployed to get the best sound possible.
6. Buy enough equipment to optimize your sound system based on the acoustics of the public space.
It is important to comprehend the three basic principles of “good sound” to secure your optimal sound system.
• Audibility – means achieving a comfortable listening level at the furthest listener. In your house of worship, is the sermon or music loud enough for the worshipper in the back row to hear?
• Intelligibility – is determined by the signal-to-noise ratio and direct-to-reverberant sound source. More simply, make sure that the voice or the music can be heard clearly, cutting through a room's ambient noise. If the signal is not clear enough, a sermon's text can be masked and music rendered lifeless.
• Fidelity – ensures that the frequency response of the sound arriving at the congregant's ear provides an accurate representation of the original speech and music. Every audio component in the signal chain contributes to this, so a limitation in any individual component will limit the fidelity of the entire system. This is the principle of the weakest link.
Use these six guidelines to purchase the right amount and kind of pro-audio equipment to suit your immediate and future plans.
If you have other questions please do not hesitate to call at 1-800-263-0112 or email us here.
Next installment Church Sound Systems & the Volunteer Engineer.
Call or email us if you have any questions about which Sound Systems are right for your house of worship.
You may also wish to read our other product reviews on PA systems.
see more Small Portable PA Systems
see Mid-Range Portable PA Systems
see Large Portable PA Systems
see more PA Systems with Podiums
see more PA Systems with Lecterns
see other Portable PA Systems
see Accessories for PA Systems