Consent Preferences

TECH TALK:


Entry-Level Video Cameras – Part 2

By Jim Boratko

An audio system can make or break your worship service or your event. We’ve all been to events where the speaker or performer sounds like they are in a tin can or the music is being played through a tiny transistor radio. Having the listeners strain to comprehend the words or music requires energy from the listener, which takes away from the enjoyment of the experience. On the other hand, I’m sure you have also attended events where the sound seems natural. You’re not alone in thinking that the latter situation is much more pleasing than the former. The proven truth is that people will watch a poor-quality video if the audio is clear and understandable. Still, they will turn off a superior-quality video if the sound is scratchy or garbled.

What should you do if you and your church are frustrated by the quality of your sound system? And if you have limited funds to spare for improving the situation, where do you begin? Hopefully, this article will assist you in analyzing your situation and where you should focus some attention and money.

In its simplest form, three components make up a sound system:

    • A microphone (or multiple microphones) that captures the sound and converts sound waves into electrical signals
    • An amplifier that receives the signal from the microphone, refines several aspects of the signal (tone, volume, and effects) and transmits it to
    • A speaker system that receives the refined signals and reconverts them to sound waves again.

If you are unsatisfied with your current audio system, the one thing you can do that will provide the most significant improvement to the situation in the shortest amount of time is to improve your speaker system. Unfortunately, many people choose speakers from their pocketbook perspective rather than an aural perspective. There are aspects of an audio system where you can skimp if you need to, but your speaker system is not one of them. The difference between the sound an inexpensive speaker produces compared to a better quality but higher cost speaker is immediately recognizable.

So how do you determine what kind of speaker to purchase?

A best practice for selecting the right speaker for your budget is listening to several candidate speaker systems side by side. You can experience this at your local music store. Ask them to show you some different speakers in a price range that you can afford, and listen to them in a side-by-side comparison using the same amplifier. Next, choose a recording of an instrument with an exceptional pitch range (like a pipe organ or a grand piano). Play the same music through each speaker and listen carefully to which sounds more pleasing. If you are fortunate enough to have others at your church interested in improving the sound, have them join you and get their impressions.

Different speakers have different qualities. Some will enhance the lower frequencies, while others will focus on the higher frequencies. If possible, you should also have your minister join you (since they are the person who will speak most often through the system). As with the recording, have them speak using the same microphone and amplifier through the different speaker systems. Some systems will have a warm, pleasing sound, while others may sound harsh and brittle. Ensure that the microphone and amplifier settings remain the same regardless of which speaker system is connected. Again, there is no wrong or right answer here. The right speaker is what you and others think sounds the best.

There are audio system installers and technicians throughout the country who can assist. If you want to ensure the installation is done correctly and aesthetically pleasing for your church, that is how you should go. They can perform this side-by-side comparison test for you. Have them bring several candidate speakers to try in your church setting if possible. Every room has its unique dynamic, and hearing the speakers in that unique setting can make a significant difference. They can also determine what other parameters might be necessary to make your audio sound natural, like recommending multiple speakers on a delay system for large spaces seating over 400 people.

So, in summary, if you want to make the most significant improvement to your audio system in the shortest time, look at replacing your speakers. Make a side-by-side comparison between similar speakers in the same price range and choose the one that sounds most natural to you and others interested in helping you with this decision. While price is always a consideration, your speaker system must be the best you can afford. 



Jim Boratko has been an organist and music director for nearly 40 years. He retired from his corporate IT job in 2015 and now devotes himself full-time to his passion for music. His technical IT and network support background merged with his musical experience as we navigated from in-person experiences to virtual rehearsals, concerts, and worship services.

Jim will share some of his tips in a recurring column concerning the use of technology in worship. If you have any questions or want to suggest a future topic for him to address, please get in touch with Jim at jim.boratko@whfirstchurch.org.

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