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Author Topic: New Sound System from the ground up  (Read 2237 times)

dick rees

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2014, 02:48:35 pm »

For permanent installs you often start by looking at where speakers can be located and based on that, what speaker pattern(s) may be appropriate in order to provide good coverage while also minimizing overlap and keeping the sound aimed at the listeners rather than at the walls or ceiling.  Without knowing the speaker locations or how those relate to the listener area it is therefore difficult to comment on any proposed speakers or to make related recommendations.  And without knowing the room and where speakers could be located it is usually rather difficult to determine where the speakers should be located.  While nothing can beat actually being able to be in the room, it would really help to have any pictures, drawings, dimensions, etc. for the room.
 
Another aspect of the speaker system is the speaker output and response.  As proposed to be installed, can the speakers provide sufficient output and do they have appropriate response for the intended application?  There's two basic ways to approach this.  One is to define related goals and select speakers that can be predicted to meet those goals.  If you have any goals for the desired sound levels and/or response then knowing that that might help people with such an effort.  The other option is to select speakers based solely on other criteria (size, brand, price, etc.) and then accept whatever results they provide.  It really comes down to whether you have any specific goals in terms of the system output and/or response or are willing to accept whatever you get.
 
Of course one aspect of the speaker installation that is often relevant to installed systems is whether any speakers are to be flown or rigged overhead.  That is often a desired approach in order to obtain more even coverage across the entire listener area, but it also entails having a professonal verify that you have structure to which the speakers can be safely attached and having appropriately qualified and insured parties handle the related installation.
 
Then there is system tuning.  Getting the most from a speaker system often involves proper system optimization or tuning and that includes both having the appropriate equipment in place and having the skills and tools to apply that equipment in an effective manner.  While many churches cut back on the tuning and/or related hardware to help reduce costs, just be aware that doing so quite likely negatively affects the final system performance and/or limits getting the most effective use of the speaker system hardware.
 
The general point is that selecting speakers for installed systems is typically approached differently than selecting them for portable systems and because you are dealing with a specific space and often specific uses, much of that difference is often in optimizing the speakers, their physical implementation and the system tuning to the specific room, acoustical environment and application(s) involved.  Put simply, to get the best results for installed speaker systems it is usually not just picking good speakers for the intended use, it is also considering how the speakers will work with the intended implementation in that particular space.

In the "cart before the horse" scenario, I'd not make any commitment further than analyzing and optimizing the current setup.  Too many times I've seen attempts at "improvement" jump right into "let's get a whole new system", completely bypassing the possibility that the original equipment may well work if brought up to specs and put into a more advantageous deployment.

It has been mentioned by the OP that things are not well-configured at the board and suffering from "screwy EQ"...as well as ill- or un-trained operators.  New equipment will not address a basic lack of understanding and operator training.  So...

I'd see how well the existing setup can be made to work.  If nothing else proceeds, at least everyone involved in the "upgrade" attempt can obtain a decent grounding in "what's wrong" which will play well into doing it right with either a tweaked and tuned system or any upgrades attending.

Haste maketh waste...

 
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2014, 05:52:52 pm »

I am not as experienced as Dick, but from personal experience I would agree with working with the existing setup first.  I took over a system 2o years ago that was using an outdated 12 channel BiAmp mixer, and while the main house speakers and monitors were well done, some of the other areas left a lo to be desired.  Over time the BiAmp was replaced with a Mackie 32-8 for more channels and now o a A & H GL3800-48 channel-but the house speakers are still the same and this last Christmas we had a lot of visitors commenting on how good the prorgam sounded.  The auditorium is roughly the same square footage as the OP's with vaulted, tin ceiling and the back wall consists of four hardwood roll-up doors that do a very nice job of reflecting sound.  It is a very live space -but over the years I have learned how to tune and tweak the sound in the room to get excellent consistent results.  In my opinion, getting to know the space and the program material and what is currently in place before ripping everything out will yield far better results.  Though it it takes a lot more effort and is not as fun as buying and unwrapping new gear.   New gear, improperly utilized will sound little better than old gear improperly utilized.     
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Steve Swaffer

Matthew Donadio

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2014, 07:09:12 pm »

Paul, I am not a sound contractor, but we replaced our sound system about eight years ago (partially driven by some system failures).

The absolute best thing we did was to solicit bids, and hire a professional for the final system design and installation.  A good contractor will model your room(s), and pick the best solution for you.  They will then optimize the solution during installation, and provide training.

I have serious doubts that we could have picked up the Full Compass / B&H / Sweetwater catalog, and gotten the same results (even now with the availability of design software, SMAART, etc).  We are potentially upgrading our board this year, and I will still bring in a contractor to help pick the best option for us.

Two other thoughts.  You may want some DSP in front of the amp/speakers; that board has an EQ on the main bus, but something dedicated (and lockable) may be desirable.  And what would you do for crossover?  And, make sure you plan for the future.  You will likely outgrow a 16x2 mixer very quickly, especially one that only has 12 mic ins (some which you lose if you want the stereo ins).  Repatching every time you want to do something different gets old really quickly.
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Paul Foeller

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2014, 07:11:46 pm »

I am not as experienced as Dick, but from personal experience I would agree with working with the existing setup first.  I took over a system 2o years ago that was using an outdated 12 channel BiAmp mixer, and while the main house speakers and monitors were well done, some of the other areas left a lo to be desired.  Over time the BiAmp was replaced with a Mackie 32-8 for more channels and now o a A & H GL3800-48 channel-but the house speakers are still the same and this last Christmas we had a lot of visitors commenting on how good the prorgam sounded.  The auditorium is roughly the same square footage as the OP's with vaulted, tin ceiling and the back wall consists of four hardwood roll-up doors that do a very nice job of reflecting sound.  It is a very live space -but over the years I have learned how to tune and tweak the sound in the room to get excellent consistent results.  In my opinion, getting to know the space and the program material and what is currently in place before ripping everything out will yield far better results.  Though it it takes a lot more effort and is not as fun as buying and unwrapping new gear.   New gear, improperly utilized will sound little better than old gear improperly utilized.     

I really appreciate all of the replies. Would the speakers and/or board be in danger of imminent failure simply from length of use at anywhere from 20 -35 years? I've honestly never used gear 35 years old before on a regular basis.
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Paul Foeller

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2014, 07:24:14 pm »

Paul, I am not a sound contractor, but we replaced our sound system about eight years ago (partially driven by some system failures).

The absolute best thing we did was to solicit bids, and hire a professional for the final system design and installation.  A good contractor will model your room(s), and pick the best solution for you.  They will then optimize the solution during installation, and provide training.

I have serious doubts that we could have picked up the Full Compass / B&H / Sweetwater catalog, and gotten the same results (even now with the availability of design software, SMAART, etc).  We are potentially upgrading our board this year, and I will still bring in a contractor to help pick the best option for us.

Two other thoughts.  You may want some DSP in front of the amp/speakers; that board has an EQ on the main bus, but something dedicated (and lockable) may be desirable.  And what would you do for crossover?  And, make sure you plan for the future.  You will likely outgrow a 16x2 mixer very quickly, especially one that only has 12 mic ins (some which you lose if you want the stereo ins).  Repatching every time you want to do something different gets old really quickly.

I was looking at the (please don't kill me) Behringer X32 after the lukewarm replies to the PreSonus. Is it any better than Behringer products of the past?

And I'll definitely look into hiring some outside help. Thanks.
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Samuel Rees

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2014, 09:30:03 pm »


I was looking at the (please don't kill me) Behringer X32 after the lukewarm replies to the PreSonus. Is it any better than Behringer products of the past?

And I'll definitely look into hiring some outside help. Thanks.


I think it is. The X32 has been reviewed pretty well here at PSW considering, where skepticism of the brand is plentiful. It offers additional features over the Presonus options which may or may not be important to you.
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Brad Weber

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #16 on: March 05, 2014, 03:12:25 pm »

In the "cart before the horse" scenario, I'd not make any commitment further than analyzing and optimizing the current setup.  Too many times I've seen attempts at "improvement" jump right into "let's get a whole new system", completely bypassing the possibility that the original equipment may well work if brought up to specs and put into a more advantageous deployment.
I agree with you wholeheartedly, however if the existing speakers are indeed like the residential B&O speakers that Paul linked earlier (http://www.beoworld.org/prod_details.asp?pid=647)then and are 20-35 years old then in this case they would likely benefit from some system upgrades.
 
I really appreciate all of the replies. Would the speakers and/or board be in danger of imminent failure simply from length of use at anywhere from 20 -35 years? I've honestly never used gear 35 years old before on a regular basis.
How a system has been operated and maintained can affect how well a system 'ages' and a 20-35 year old system would typically be expected to have incurred some degradation to specific components such as cone surrounds and capacitors, however that does not mean the equipment is in danger of imminent failure.  What is often more of an issue is how a church's needs and expectations may have changed over that 20-35 years.  Most churches looking to upgrade their audio systems seem to be doing so primarily as a result of their existing systems no longer adequately serving their needs.  And that is why it is often important to keep the focus on the overall goals and results rather than on the equipment itself.
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Luke Geis

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2014, 01:41:14 am »

I have help setup a few church systems where the initial thought was spending money to fix it. Although each case is different, spending money is not always the answer! In one case the system was lacking the needed EQ to properly deal with all output channels, but was able to be changed in such a way that at least it was usable and functioned better than it did in the past. The beauty of it is that only the money spent for consulting was used. They were left with the options for future improvement. In general, the major downfall is the lack of user knowledge. A relatively crappy system can be made to sound pretty good these days for very little money. It requires proper processing equipment such as EQ's and X-over's, but for the most part can be made to work rather well.

As mentioned before, do yourself a favor and try and make the current system work first before writing it off! I was recently in a meeting with a local University to consult about one of their campuses. The question mark was if there system currently had the needed power to do the job. It consisted of some mid range JBL ceiling speakers in the meeting room they had. They had a very limited range of control, but would work fine in competent hands. I had worked the room a few times and knew the system was capable of what they needed. The less knowledgeable " USER'S " were the ones having a tough time with it. Un-skilled user's presented a large part of the problem. In the hands of a proficient user the system was fine. I suggested a couple of options, each of which were cheap and useful, but left them with the fact that no matter what, a better trained operator will have better results. I ran a show there a few weeks later :)
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #18 on: March 10, 2014, 12:01:37 am »

In the "cart before the horse" scenario, I'd not make any commitment further than analyzing and optimizing the current setup.  Too many times I've seen attempts at "improvement" jump right into "let's get a whole new system", completely bypassing the possibility that the original equipment may well work if brought up to specs and put into a more advantageous deployment.

In a classic case of misused equipment yielding bad results, I once attended a service at a sister church to mine. As this was a special service and I arrived late, I ended up sitting in the fellowship hall. A signal from the sanctuary PA system was fed to the PA system in the fellowship hall.

Almost immediately, I could tell things weren't working right. My first impression was of an overdriven input. After that service, I took a look at the system, and found that the signal line between the systems was connected to a speaker-level output on the sanctuary system, and to a line-level input on the fellowship hall system. This resulted in the input being overdriven. A simple repatching to a line-level output at the sanctuary system resolved the issue.

I found out later that several "experts" (probably music store salesmen ::) ) had failed to find a solution.
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Brad Weber

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Re: New Sound System from the ground up
« Reply #19 on: March 10, 2014, 09:45:53 am »

I had an interesting scenario some years ago where in a short time period we had two potential Clients where we recommended that they could resolve many of their existing problems by cleaning up and optimizing the equipment they already had.  One Client was happy to not have someone try to sell them another piece of gear that did not solve their problems and was very happy with the results.  The other group responded quite negatively to our suggestion and my guess is that the tech staff involved were concerned that getting more out of what they already had would make them look bad and/or they simply wanted new gear to play with.
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