Monday, August 26, 2013

Sound System for Dummies

Choir members have been quietly grumbling about the inability to hear what is going on in church. The new sound system has two small speakers in the chancel, but the sound level they produce is clearly inadequate. It is difficult to hear the scripture readings or sermon. Yesterday, I finally decided to say something about the problem, but before I did so, I took a look at the new equipment in the ambulatory. Although there are level controls accessible for sound system inputs (wired and wireless microphones), I could find no output level controls either on the front panel of the system or in back. Instead, there are pushbuttons for soft, medium, and loud sound.

I spoke to Paul Barker about the problem with the level of sound in the chancel, and he said that it was necessary to call in a technician to change the balance of the system. (Making the overall sound louder was clearly not the right solution.) This is ridiculous. Our new sound system seems designed for dummies who cannot be trusted to make even the most minor adjustments to the system. Instead, we have to call in a technician, who,  I assume, we have to pay for.

I was audio-visual coƶdinator at St. Paul’s for nearly two decades and often thought about what a new sound system should look like. I even served on two committees that solicited bids for a new system. The system we have now is nothing like what I thought we needed or what was bid by the vendors we spoke to.

The new sound system has its virtues, but it also has some serious limitations. That it was designed under the assumptions that we’re all idiots at St. Paul’s is certainly one of its faults.

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