Audio is where I spend much of my time, both professionally and as a hobby. In fact, quite a few years ago I used to design public address systems and components (most notably loudspeaker systems and subwoofers). That venture didn’t last too long because I discovered that many people just didn’t care that much about high quality audio and weren’t willing to pay for it. If only I had been born 20 years later.
One of the pro sound magazines I receive is Pro Audio Review. Lots of material on new equipment, studio redesigns, and stuff like that. They have a column entitled “Worship Audio” which deals with sound and production gear for the church market. That’s right. There’s a market, a huge market in fact, for audio production gear in churches. When I was a kid the average church PA consisted of a couple of microphones, a little mixer-amp, and maybe a couple of simple column arrays or ceiling mount loudspeakers. Nothing fancy but it got the job done. I haven’t been inside a church in decades (excepting the occasional wedding) and I haven’t paid much attention to this worship audio thing, so I was floored when I saw a photo from the latest issue of PAR. The church in question, the Gardendale First Baptist Church in Alabama, is nothing short of stunning. This is basically theater. Behind the main stage for the ministers and whatnot is an orchestra pit, and behind that, a 100 person choir. I don’t know how much the structure cost (obviously, a lot) but I can say a few words about the audio systems in places like this. In the case of Gardendale, they recently upgraded to a digitally-centered audio system. Their console is a Yamaha PM1D. Here is a review of the unit from PAR.
You will note that it sells for $110,000.
That’s just the mixing console. No amplifiers, loudspeakers, crossovers, microphones, compressors, etc. Nothing. Just a digital console. A very nice digital console, but just one piece of the puzzle. And these folks are not unique. To see some more examples, visit prosound web. There you’ll find even relatively modest churches springing for a $40,000 48 channel Soundcraft MH4.
Why do I bring this up? Well, if the primary mission of churches is to help people and their communities, don’t you think that the money might be better spent elsewhere instead of making a glorified home entertainment system for the faithful? I think of these places spending several hundred thousand dollars just for audio production gear and I can’t help but wonder what the alternate use of those funds might bring. I guess it all boils down to the old saying “Put your money where your mouth is”. Clearly these folks have demonstrated just what it is that they feel is important. Perhaps it’s just another good reason to tax the churches.
I would be remiss if I did not point out Gardendale’s Fast Food Friends program. Definitely worth a future blog entry.