Finding a Good Acoustic Consultant
Finding A Good Consultant (Part 3).
How does a church find a good consultant? Strange as it may seem, there are no good lists of consultants qualified to design sound systems for churches. There are professional societies, but they include many who specialize in completely unrelated areas of acoustics.
One way to begin your search might be to ask some of your local sound contractors to point you to the better consultants they’ve worked with. You’ll probably learn two things here. First, if they try to limit you to contact with their sales or “engineering” department, you know you’re not dealing with the most ethical contractor in your area. Second, from the better contractors you’ll get the names you’re looking for. When the same names start showing up on several lists, you know you’ve got independent consultants.
The contractors from whom you got those names are the more ethical ones you’re probably going to want to invite to bid on the system once it gets designed. It’s a good sign if the contractor initially wants to send someone to talk to you, but early on refers you to some consultants when they see the size or complexity of your needs. And conversely, it’s a bad sign if the contractor insists that they can do the job just as well as a consultant and save you a lot of money.
A second (but generally less productive) way to search is to contact other churches in your area, and within your denomination on a regional or national basis. The problem with this approach is that in most churches, the people who were around during the design process and worked with the consultant during that time have now moved on to other churches. The person now in charge either don’t know who the consultant was or don’t know enough about how things went to offer a meaningful opinion. (For example, if things went badly, is it because the consultant gave bad advice, or because the consultant’s advice wasn’t followed?)
Don’t limit your search to churches or consultants in your area. Most of the better consultants are centered in a handful of the larger cities and work nationally. It’s much more important for you to have a local sound contractor than to have a local consultant. The consultant will need to travel to your church only a few times to provide the services you need, but you’ll want the contractor to be there for you long after the job is done to provide support, and to help you expand the system as you grow. In the grand scheme of things, the consultant’s travel expenses aren’t nearly as important as getting someone who is well qualified, independent, and understands your needs.
Finally, interview prospective consultants to find out how they work. Will they do the things outlined in this article? Will you be able to make them understand your needs? Will they be willing to help you make hard decisions (like spending more money or changing the room shape), or will they take the path of least resistance and tell you what you want to hear? Are they wedded to only a single approach to things, or are they capable of “thinking outside the box?” Will they slow down to communicate technical concepts to you in plain language, or will all of their explanations fly over your head?
Buying a sound system can be a daunting task for any church, but be encouraged. If you’ll follow the advice offered here, you really CAN get it right the first time!
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by Jim Brown
AUDIO SYSTEMS GROUP, INC. 4875 N Ravenswood Ave Chicago, IL 60640 773/728-0565 email@example.com