The Enormous Cost of Getting Church Sound Wrong

What does it cost to install incorrect audio and build without acoustical design considerations in your worship center? Not only monetarily to fix the issues, but the cost of frustration, too. Learn from the author, who's mission in life seems to be helping churches undo the bad tech decisions they’ve made.

Mike Sessler  ·  September 5, 2017

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A few years ago, Tim Cool of Cool Solutions Group created a thought-provoking post of the same name (The Cost Of Getting It Wrong).

It’s very good, and I suggest you go read the whole thing. He asks several questions related to staffing, building and designing.

As I thought about what he wrote, one particular question resonated with me:

What would it cost to have the wrong audio and the incorrect acoustics in your worship center? Again, this is not just the cost to fix the issue, but the frustration quotient and emotional capital. What are they worth?

This is one of the things I see churches missing regularly. How many churches have to build multi-million dollar buildings that sound terrible because they didn’t want to spend $20,000 on an acoustician? How many churches have installed hundreds of thousands of dollars of AVL gear that doesn’t work properly because they didn’t want to spend any money on design?

As someone who’s mission in life seems to be helping churches undo the bad tech decisions they’ve made (I’m sort of like a Mike Holmes of the church world), I can tell you the cost of getting it wrong is pretty high.

In my current church, for example, I’ve spent the last three years pulling out tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment that wasn’t thought through, and thus didn’t work. And of course, in addition to shelving all that old gear, we’ve had to spend money to buy new stuff.

It’s easy to see how churches fall into this trap. Most times, senior leadership has no idea how any of that AVL technology works, so they rely on either their staff—if they have them—or well-meaning volunteers when they have needs in the tech department. One of three things usually happen at this point.

Potential Outcomes

First Possibility:
The staff or volunteers don’t know what they’re doing and ask for the budget to hire someone who does. Money is tight, so that request is denied, with the comment, “Just find a good deal and make it work.”

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Acoustics · Audio Technology · All Topics

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By CBCtech on September 3, 2016

Another possibility is that even if the sound techs read Worship Facilities, the board rejects their input and instead goes with what someone else claims will work fine.

My church is in the process of building a new sanctuary and I impressed upon them the importance of hiring an Acoustic Consultant. But they rejected the firm I recommended, and hired a firm that had a relationship with the Architectural firm. When that firm quit, they looked for anybody cheap that would quickly provide sound system answers.

I had emphasized the importance of STI all along, but the consultant designed a room with a RT closer to 2 seconds than 1. In addition, they put acoustic material were it would absorb more sound from congregational singing than PA spill causing late reflections. Furthermore, the spec’d a sound system that would not satisfy any typical tech rider used by guest concert artists.

So… I would emphasize not only hiring an acoustic consultant, but also making sure the one hired is not living in the past. Hiring an integration consultant is a wise move too.