15-11 Church Sound Systems, Problems and Solutions
Is Your Church Sound System Too Loud?
Blake Engel, All Church Sound Systems, Chicago, IL:
The biggest mistake I see has little to do with the sound system. The acoustics of the room determine the performance level of any audio system. A qualified and experienced individual must analyze the situation, take the required acoustical measurements, and form the correct solution(s). Equipment manufacturers assume you have a good room and audio system. If you have acoustical issues or system design problems, their equipment will not operate as they say it should. No amount of training is going to alleviate problems caused by acoustical problems, a bad design, or using the wrong equipment. Many times the volume of an audio system is turned up in an attempt to mask problems. Higher volume levels do not solve any problems; the sound is just louder. Higher volume levels do not provide additional clarity, but often reduce it. Each church needs to establish what is acceptable for their style of worship. There’s a lot of leeway in that. Pentecostals put a lot of emphasis on emotions and feelings. Unless you’re getting loud and involved you’re not doing church. It’s an adrenaline rush. Loud sound has a physiological effect on us and we get excited. My observations are: just like the pastor goes to formal training, sound operators should too; no amount of money spent on equipment can solve an acoustical problem; not all equipment marketed to churches was designed for church; you get what you pay for but spending a lot of money doesn’t guarantee the right solution; owner’s manuals contain very good information.
Robert Harrah, IBC Sound Ministry Instructor, Indianapolis, IN:
There are a lot of aspects that go into the volume of a service. It depends upon the mood of a congregation, whether you have a younger or older congregation. With a younger congregation, the volume will inspire them to a degree. It’s the way kids listen to music these days. I don’t think you can set an overall volume control.
Preachers ask for volume when they’re preaching. They want to try to get their message across, but if you try to use volume to do that you can turn people off to what you are saying. Monitors are a good portion of the problem. Listen. Watch feedback. Watch how the congregation responds during the service. You are mixing for the people, so people can worship.
Soundmen should learn how to EQ their sound system so it doesn’t hurt your ears when the volume is up. A lot of it is how you EQ it. It would not be a bad idea to test a church for decibel levels. I would actually say that 90-95 decibels is loud and 100-103 is too loud.
I recommend that soundmen know the equipment. It will help soundmen know how to take care of their equipment and run their equipment effectively so it won’t break down as quickly. There are conferences and classes to attend. There are books out there that can help. In the long run it will save money.
John J. Owens, Providence, RI:
Somehow, we mistake the loudness for the anointing. The louder it is and the more exuberant it is, the greater the anointing. But we know that’s not true. The poorly trained sounds staff really does not understand decibels and acoustical values. If the volume of our services is offensive, we need to be concerned about it. We should be considerate, not just have noise for noises sake, and be more focused on the anointing than on the loudness of the service. It’s a cheap substitute for the anointing.
Danny Whitley, Searcy, AR:
It is a psychological thing. They (preachers) assume that nobody else out there can hear them. It is usually a monitor thing, at least in my experience. Typically Pentecostals solicit a lot of feedback, but if you were in denominal congregation where there is not any, it would not be an issue. I’ve had very few complaints from church people. Our soundman has actually spent a lot of money and invested time self-educating and going to meetings. From the preachers’ perspective, if I can hear myself, I’m happy.
Bruce Peffer, Belvidere, IL:
We think that if people don’t walk out with their ears bleeding, we haven’t had a move of God. The world has it that way and sometimes I think the world has more influence on us than we do the world. Our policy is that the soundman needs to hear it. I had a man come in with meters and set everything. We had a lot of problems with the sound system until he did that. It was causing the music to be off in timing because of the echo.
Kenneth Coleman, Lockport, IL:
We turn it up, and they like it! In Apostolic circles, people are so restless. The saints are looking at everybody else and comparing them to us: our choirs, praise and worship teams, to how they sound. You have to keep the volume up. We should be concerned about overly loud systems. You do not want the people to be messed up later in life. Pastors should make training mandatory. They talk about loud sound systems, but what about these car systems? They’re shaking your windows before they get to you.
Kevin Sanders, Daisy, TN:
I do like loud sounds, but I think we need to be concerned about health. Typically, a lot of Pentecostals run it extremely high because of the type of songs we sing, and to create more of an emotional involvement in the service. I have not had our services checked for decibels. Personally, I checked into buying equipment to keep a close check on it. I like the environment to be extremely inviting. We’ve already talked to some professionals that have agreed to assist us.
Steve A. Boyd, Branford, FL:
We’ve all come to a happy medium on our sound system, and we have been able to follow that very successfully. When we spent the money to get the system right, it took away all our problems. Our staff has been trained by a professional who is Apostolic, a man who understands what we are trying to get at as an end result. Someone in the denominal world wouldn’t have the same goals. While they may be highly trained, they may not have the understanding. I don’t think that louder is better.
Volume 15, Number 11
Page 5, Opinions Forum