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Where to start with purchasing new speakers

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Dick Rees:
Russ Buck wrote on Tue, 23 February 2010 15:34
  From what I have heard here and else where just buying a set of speakers and setting them on each side of the stage is not the best way of doing things.



Maybe so, maybe not.  Before we go farther, what (if any) other options are open to you?  Sometimes the proper technical solution is summarily dismissed for aesthetic reasons.  Aesthetics, acoustics and physics all end up fighting each other to a certain extent.

If you cannot stand mount or permanently wall mount the speakers, there will be talk of flying them.  This in itself will easily eat the budget you have for purchase plus fly-rated speakers and hardware will cost way more than you're looking at.

If you have a significant live music presence (praise band), then you're going to want the speakers placed in front of or at least even with the front of the band.  That kind of dictates things.

You can argue with the congregation.  You can't argue with physics.  (Friendly arguments only, please. )  

Brian Ehlers:
I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here (if I'm allowed to do so on a church message board   ) just to air another viewpoint.

I agree with what everyone is saying, and I encourage the original poster to bring in a professional to evaluate the church's needs and provide a rough estimate of what it would cost.  This will allow the church to plan for the future.

But we have to admit that there are many situations, and many small churches, where the sound reinforcement needs can be met with a system which is FAR less than optimum.  Many years ago I read somewhere the three priorities of sound reinforcement:
1.  Make sound, ANY sound.
2.  Make LOUD sound (which I will paraphrase as "provide good coverage").
3.  Make GOOD sound.

I can't count the number of times I've been in a public place with no PA system and wished they had a simple speaker on a stick and one mic.  It wouldn't matter if it was 6 dB too soft or 6 dB too loud.  It wouldn't matter if it had the distortion and bandwidth of a telephone.  I just wish I could hear most of what was being said.

Hopefully your church is a little beyond that point.  But we have to admit that there are MANY struggling churches out there who simply cannot afford decent PA equipment, nor can they afford to pay a professional to design and install a system.  For such churches it is entirely appropriate to head to the local Music store and buy one or two speakers on a stick and a small, cheap mixer.  With that, you grow your congregation, grow your budget, and grow your knowledge of sound reinforcement.  Sure, if you have to replace this equipment three years later you've wasted some money, but not much.  It was the right solution at the time.

I don't know where Russ's church fits into this picture.  Hopefully they're ready to move beyond priority #1 above.  But there are many churches who aren't.

George S Dougherty:
Russ Buck wrote on Wed, 24 February 2010 09:18
That's why I am here getting advice.  I Realize there is much more than just finding a speaker in my price range.  i was thrown the number ($1000) by someone that would of just looked in a catalog for speakers that "Looked Good" for the price.  There are other people involved that have the same approach, run to the local music store and buy some speakers within the price range, I am hoping to get the nessasary info to help them understand that we need to bring in an expert.  My hope it to find a few options and let them decide how they want to proceed.  I threw the prices out there to let everyone reading know where I am coming from.  If Hiring a professional is going to run in the $10000+ then I don't think we are at that point yet, and maybe we need to figure out something to "get us buy a few more years. But I have know idea what cost we are talking about.


If you're on a budget and decide you can't afford the advice of a professional, you may also want to consider building your own to save some money.  I've been a participant over at www.billfitzmaurice.com  for several years now.  The speaker designs are as good as commercial speakers costing quite a bit more and the designer and forum participants are happy to help with selection and placement questions given enough info on requirements and layout.

That said, if you can afford to hire in experience, do so.  I don't think you'd necessarily be looking at the $10K range and if you don't have the experience in-house you'll be far ahead of the game.  Running out and buying whatever the salesperson at a local music store decides you might need or fits your budget is likely to get you not much past where you're at already.

A few thoughts from your intro post.  You have a speaker with a blown woofer.  More than likely, you need a limiter and probably some sort of EQ with a HP filter to remove the frequencies the speakers will never realistically reproduce anyway.  The club series are not great speakers, but they're not terrible either.  I'd put them in the "Kia" or "Mercury" range following your previous analogy.  They do fine with the basics as long as they're not driven hard, at which point I find the high end goes harsh and fatiguing.  There are better options, but a repaired woofer, some system processing and maybe a quality subwoofer could be a better option for a crowd of 120 people than just going out and buying new speakers.   Hard to say, depends on the room dimensions and what you're doing.  Answer the other questions posed first and that will help determine what might do better for you.

Keith Shannon:
Russ Buck wrote on Wed, 24 February 2010 11:18
That's why I am here getting advice.  I Realize there is much more than just finding a speaker in my price range.  i was thrown the number ($1000) by someone that would of just looked in a catalog for speakers that "Looked Good" for the price.  There are other people involved that have the same approach, run to the local music store and buy some speakers within the price range, I am hoping to get the nessasary info to help them understand that we need to bring in an expert.  My hope it to find a few options and let them decide how they want to proceed.  I threw the prices out there to let everyone reading know where I am coming from.  If Hiring a professional is going to run in the $10000+ then I don't think we are at that point yet, and maybe we need to figure out something to "get us buy a few more years. But I have know idea what cost we are talking about.


I doubt hiring a pro will cost you $10,000. However, if you think your cost ballpark is in the $1k-$2k range, hiring a consultant to analyze, spec, install and tune the system may cost more than the system itself. However, a professional acoustical engineer is a must for most jobs beyond the simplest portable setup.

Whether a consultant is strictly necessary depends on what the basic plan is. The space seats roughly 120 people; that's one consideration, and unless your space is shaped weirdly, it generally suggests that a simple pair of speakers up front, about 300W/channel, would be more than enough to get the message out to the congregation clearly and inexpensively. However, there are other questions that need to be asked and answered:

- What will this system be required to reproduce/reinforce? Is this just for reinforcement via a podium mike and maybe a couple handhelds or lavalieres? Will you be playing recorded music through the system? How about live reinforcement of instruments? Does it have to have enough power to blend with a drum kit? The more power you need for volume, and the wider frequency response you need, the more expensive the components will be.
- Are there space concerns? Specifically, do you have space to set a couple of speaker stands such that the speakers will do their job but not interfere with the flow of worship, or is floor space at a premium, requiring you to fly or wall-mount them? If you're going to fly them, I recommend a professional just for that; you only get one shot tp place them correctly, and there are building code requirements for weight-handling when you fly a wooden box that can easily kill someone if it falls.
- Are there portability concerns? Do you need to be able to move this system in and out of the space, because it's used for other things or you need the system in a different space? If so, poles are your main option, and wall-mounting, flying, or similar permanent installation is probably a no-no.
- Have you had any complaints about the current PA being too loud in front, but unintelligible in back? That would suggest that your space is either very lively, or deep enough that the current setup's volume is being attenuated before it gets to the back row. One solution to either problem is a set of fill speakers toward the back, acting as a sort of booster to the volume level, while allowing the overall volume, especially up front, to be lower. These kind of systems, however, require timing and tuning for best performance, and that usually means expert consultation.

Beyond that, there are some dimension and dispersion questions that must be answered, to determine what type, brand and model of speaker is best suited for your environment. A wider dispersion pattern is necessary for a broader space, but if used in a narrower space, it'll bounce sound off the walls, reducing intelligibility. Almost the exact opposite is true for narrower patterns. Also remember that speakers work in the vertical too; speaker cabinets generally have a 40- to 45-degree vertical dispersion pattern, which is again good for the general case, but if you have low ceilings or a deep room, you'll bounce sound off the ceiling with a basic 2-way cabinet. Line arrays (a vertical stack of multiple speaker cones) make use of an acoustical effect that narrows and fine-tunes the vertical dispersion of the sound wave coming out; however, this is another area of acoustical design that requires an expert's help to get just right, and line arrays are almost universally more expensive than the basic 2-way.

Just some more things to think about; answer these questions (doesn't have to be here) and you'll have a bit more knowledge of the direction you need to go, and whether you think you can do it yourself.

Russ Buck:
To clairify more on my situation.  the building is older, basicly a square, so it's wider than deep where people seat and the ceiling vaults up probably 40' at the point, with huge stained glass on one side and the back wall.  I am guessing the room dim. are close to 100' square.  I am hoping to go and get some exact measurements in the next few days.  currently the speakers are at the far sides sitting on shelfs the band is to one side of the stage so that speaker is set a little bit closer to the pews than the other side.   We are a very contemporary music style with drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, and everything is run through the board, including the Bass via a direct box.  We are also planing on caging the drums sometime int he near feature which I think will make the speaker issues even worse.  The front is loud and they are not very clear in sound, you get very different sounds depending on where you are at in the room.  We have a newer Allen and heath GL2400 sound board  , Apc8 compressors on the individual inputs, currently power the existing speaker with a crown amp and no processors, or crossovers.

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