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Rockin’ church sound system ... or rip-off?

By Darby Jones

SUMMARY: A church sound system is crucial for most worship gatherings. However, when it comes to buying sound equipment, one problem often arises. Some sales representatives care more about receiving their commission than finding the most economical solution to meet your needs. Follow these five tips to get what you need at an affordable price.   

1. Know your church’s sound requirements. 
A sound company with integrity will ask for specifics and find the best fit, but it is best to provide as much detail as possible in the beginning. Here is a list of questions to help you decide how big your sound system should be:

  • What are the dimensions of the sanctuary or other rooms needing amplification?
  • Who needs amplification? Is it just the worship team and the choir? What about the preacher and liturgists?
  • Do you need to replace the existing main speakers? 
  • Are the main speakers underpowered? 
  • Do you have speakers in the hallways or the nursery that might require an additional amp? 
  • Do you use any monitors on the “stage”?
  • Do you want to record any part of the service? 
  • Do you need any professional services, such as installing the sound system or setting the house EQ?
  • Do you want to control lighting? How much control and what types of lighting do you want?
  • Do you need top-of-the-line products or will a mid-range component suffice? A $5,000 tier-one board is cool, but the $1,200 board may fulfill your needs.  

2. Create a good RFP (request for proposal). 
An RFP is a document that explains all the conditions that a dealer’s proposal for a sound system must meet. Answer the questions above and write out all your requirements; then you should be fine. Not having an RFP makes it easy for the sales representative to take advantage of you. They will know you lack expertise.

3. Bring expertise to the market.
An RFP will help, but it’s best also to bring a sound engineer with you to consult on all decisions. Be careful, though! An over-zealous sound engineer who wants a top-of-the-line sound system can hurt your wallet just as much as an eager sales representative can.

4. Make and model can be tricky.
Specifying a product make and model in your RFP requires being positive that a particular make/model will do exactly want you want and will work with the rest of your sound system. Personal product knowledge is much more valuable than simply reading product reviews. Unless you are certain you know what you’re talking about, it may be best to leave make/model out of the RFP. Let your consultant and sales representative help you to decide what make/model is the best fit.

5. Think five years in advance.
If your congregation is growing, you may want a sound system that can grow with you. Also, let the trustees know about potential upgrades, maintenance costs and other essentials that may come later. This allows them to budget for the cost ahead of time.

A generic RFP will produce proposals with a wide range of pricing and recommendations. The more specific you are about what your church needs, the easier it will be for the sound company to generate an accurate proposal.

-- Darby Jones, eMarketing Coordinator at United Methodist Communications.