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What to Know, Before You Invest in a Sound System

Shopping can be such a depressing process, especially when you're faced with so many options. The choices can be overwhelming, and actually lead you to what social psychologists call "choice overload" or as Alvin Toffler coined in his seminal book Future Shock "overchoice". Unfortunately, having more choices doesn't mean there's more information about those choices readily available to help you decide.

Trying to find the best sound system for your venue seems less about sound but often more about features and the companies that make them. Not that they don't sound good but let me suggest that the best place to start before you choose a sound system is in your room, church, office or wherever it will be used. 

Theres something inherent in every building and room called "acoustics". Merriam Webster defines acoustics as "the qualities of a room (such as its shape or size) that make it easy or difficult for people inside to hear sounds clearly".  Did you know that the best acoustical room shape is the rectangle? The worst would be a circle or fan shaped room. Don't get me wrong, any system can be configured to sound good in most environments, the operative word being "configured".  

Let's say your church is shaped like a dome and circular and your friend's church is rectangular. You both on the same day buy the same sound system costing $100,000 dollars. Because your room is round, there are a number of natural acoustic anomalies due to the shape of the room that must be overcome for your new system to sound good. I'm simplifying this argument to make a point because there are actually many factors to consider such as building materials flooring, ceiling height (to name a few) that affects the way a room sounds. But all things being equal, you may spend ten thousand dollars or more, to get your new sound system to sound as good as your friend's. 

So whats the point of this short exercise in futility. Most people purchasing systems are installing them in buildings or rooms that already exist. They don't have the luxury of constructing them (buildings) from the ground up. If this is you, I strongly suggest you get a professional to come and take precise acoustic measurements of your room, home or sanctuary. Having this information will give you an idea of what issues must be addressed before you spend money unnecessarily when anything you buy will sound just as bad because the solution to the problem may not be in getting a new system but getting a new understanding of the room you want to play it in.

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