Sunday, October 2, 2011

Amalgamation of Sound

My church is an amalgamation of sound systems.

  • The sanctuary has two (or maybe three) - the main one for CDs and microphones for the audience, another one for CDs and microphones for the choir, and I think that the organ is somehow tied into the same one as the choir (the speakers are in the same location), but it might be an entirely different set of mixers and amplifiers.  The main sanctuary system sends a balanced line-level signal to another room and a powered signal to the nursery.  The main sanctuary sound system has been incrementally updated over the years, mostly focusing on new console, CD player, recorder, wireless mics.  The choir area used to have monitors - well, it still does, it's just that someone unplugged them years ago.  I think I found where the wires for those monitors come out, but I'm not certain yet, because some things are labeled while others are not (assuming the labels are for the most recent update and not left over from an old cable patch).  For example there is a rotary pot with two 3-conductor wires attached to it, but aside from that the wires come out of a hole in the wall, I know nothing about it.
  • The secondary worship space also has its own sound system (cassette tape only, no CDs there).  It's tucked away in a closet off a hallway and has a couple of wireless microphones that I'm not certain are still legal to operate.  It's okay, though, because I don't know that anyone else would be able to find them.  A balanced line-level signal comes from the sanctuary (transformer isolated to unbalanced to go into the mixer/amplifier) to be heard there, if both systems were ever turned on at the same time.
  • The gym has a sound system on wheels, one which can be completely taken anywhere, if you've got the patience to move it.  This gym system is the one that I deal with on a regular basis.  Because we take it apart each week, it is reasonably well organized with no fluff or overlap.  I feel that I must note that this organization is not due to me - the system was already very well organized before I started working with it.

Still, because I don't have a full-time job and was foolish enough to announce that I had experience working with sound reinforcement, I'm one of the people who gets asked about sound changes.  The other day, someone mentioned that the choir has a hard time hearing the pastor even though they are sitting on the same (very small) stage with him.  Also, wouldn't it be nice if the worship service form the gym could be sent to the nursery?  Couldn't you just set up a wireless speaker - the gym is just across the hall from the nursery?

While I think I've figured out how to get all of the changes done, my first task is going to be making a (nearly) complete picture of what all we have where, and how it's hooked in.  Then I'll be able to make intelligent decisions about how I would do the changes.  This post is my initial record of the soundscape - as I have time, I'll work to get everything for each system in block diagram format with one page per system.  Then, hopefully, whoever makes changes in the future will update them so that we always know what plugs in where.