I almost titled this post: "What I wish I could say to every church leader."
Important First Concepts:
Have a Realistic Budget
I remember an occasion where I was tasked to install a complete sound system for a medium-large sized congregation. Mics, all cabling, amplifiers, speakers, mixing console, outboard, monitoring, etc. Everything. When I asked the leadership what their budget was, I got the reply - "Will $1,200 do it?" You have to have a realistic budget to get the job done. If you are building a new building, you have to factor in the sound system as part of the cost of construction. You don't have to buy expensive, but you should buy smart.
"Well we wanted a really nice water garden on the property. We thought it'd attract more people to our church." But your sound system is 40 years old, your speakers are blown, half the channels on your console no longer work, and your volunteer that's running it is not for sure what the difference between a fader and a mute button is.
Every Part of Your Service Goes Through Your Sound System
Your worship, your message (the gospel); everything.
You'll spend less money if you buy quality gear in the beginning, than if you have to keep patching and replacing cheap stuff year after year.
It doesn't have to be super expensive to get the job done, but it shouldn't be the cheapest. If all you can afford right now is the cheapest, then wait. Save your money until you can afford what you truly should purchase.
Buy Gear You Can Grow Into
"We only need 16 inputs; how cheap can we get one of them there 16 channel mixers for?"
If you are running 16 inputs from the stage, then purchase a 24 channel mixing console (at least). If you purchase the bare essentials now, what happens when you grow? You'll have to purchase the same type of item a second time. You are money ahead if you purchase gear you can grow into. Purchase it smart once, and you won't have to purchase it again.
Find the Balance Between Form & Function
I received a call from a pastor that had heard of me from another church I have done extensive work for. His congregation was about to move into a new building, and they hadn't purchased the audio equipment yet. When I got there, I noticed that there was no mixing console area. When I asked about where he'd want the booth, he showed me to a separate room (with a door) about 8ft x 10ft totally separate from the sanctuary. Their church had a full band (drums & all).
You have to realize that the construction of today's modern church buildings have to be focused on the audio/visual element. Again, everything you do, runs through your sound system. If it's installed right, it won't be ugly, and will greatly enhance your services. You say that the gospel is important, but if your audio system sounds terrible, the listener will be distracted from hearing it. It is more important for the gospel message to be clearly and cleanly heard, than for the curtains in the Sunday school classrooms to be brand new. Hearts can be changed and touched through worship, but what if your sound system sounds terrible and is a distraction? "Oh well, at least our new plastic trees we just purchased look great on stage."
There Is Nothing Wrong With Buying Used
Used, B-Stock, Re-furbished Gear with a warranty, etc. - are all great ideas! Nothing wrong with buying used, and especially if you get it in good working order from a reputable dealer. I buy allot of used gear from guitar center. I haven't been burned yet, and have been super happy! I would stay away from ebay and other similar online bidding sites, unless you are absolutely sure the seller has a stellar rating, and a guarantee of some sort.
Seriously - I know I run a live sound training site, but know that I am REALLY NOT trying to sell you anything. With that said - if whoever is behind the console has no idea what they are doing, your gear and your audience can suffer. I cannot count how many times I have been called in to a facility to replace gear because of abuse. Most of the time it's the improper use of gain structure, or lack of maintenance. You are going to end up spending money you shouldn't have to because of a lack of education & training!
Stayed tuned for the next article in this series as we delve into making the best use of the gear you have on a limited budget!
We've been providing installation, consultation, mixing, and mastering services for 25 years. We have taught numerous conferences and workshops regarding live sound and recording.
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