A question deserving considerable thought and begging a slew of additional questions before making a decision. Is it really an absolute necessity to update or upgrade my 15-year-old sound system?
The working life of a sound system can extend well beyond 20 years, and I've personally seen systems 30 to 40 years old still in use and functioning quite well.
The question deserves considerable thought, and begs a slew of additional questions:
1. Has your programming changed (added a keyboard, drums, bass..)?
2. Have you added any additional seating, like additional rows of seats in the front or back?
3. Are you experiencing intermittent problems or shall we say, surprise noises?
4. Has the expectation of your congregation changed?
I not a person who promotes technology for the sake of technology. However, I do enjoy thinking of myself as "hip" and an early adopter.
In fact I owned the original Palm Pilot, one of the first Windows Mobile PDA's and a Palm Treo Pro phone all purchased right when they were released.
Oh yeah, I forgot the Apple Performa 405 PC I purchased in the early 90's, the iMac, and now the Macbook pro.. Okay you get it, I love new technology and am not afraid to be one of the early one that jumps in, with some caution.
I am usually not the first, but reside comfortably in the early pack that makes a purchase. I prefer to wait and see the viability and stability of the product.
So what does my personal love of technology have to do with upgrading your sound system? Not much, other than show that I am not an anti-technology kind of guy.
Getting back to the issue at hand. I would like to introduce a fifth question.
5. What is the expectation of people who come and visit your church?
Between 1913 and 1920, Thomas Edison did more than 4000 "blind listening tests" to promote his Phonograph equipment and Diamond disc recordings. Edison would rent theaters and concert halls to do a comparison.
He would hire some of the prominent musicians of the day and have them behind a curtain. The musician would sing a song and then a recording would be played on the Phonograph.
Believe it or not the audience could not distinguish any difference between the two. In other words, they could not decipher if it was live or recorded. If you are like me you have to be saying - Hold on! People had to hear the difference between a scratchy, frequency limited recording and a live person.
I guarantee if we took the exact same equipment and repeated the test today, the majority of people would easily be able to point out what was live and a phonograph recording.
Other than almost 100 years, what is the difference? Reference! What did people in the early 1900's have with which they could compare the recording?
Okay, by now I think you get the point. There are a number of great reasons to upgrade your audio system however, if it's still in "working order," then managing and dealing with the expectations of your congregation (also known as questions #4 and #5) are great reasons to update.
So, how often should a system be updated? Ignoring changes in programming, seating, and any potential issues you may currently be experiencing with your system (do it today if these reasons apply, you are overdue) my answer: if the system is older than your car, it is time to update.
This is my answer primarily because our family drives a 1998 Suburban and two other late 1990s-vintage vehicles. Maybe a better answer is every time the second number in your age repeats (10 years for those not good with numbers and abstract concepts), it's probably at least time to begin considering upgrading.
Gary Zandstra is a professional AV systems integrator with Parkway Electric and has been involved with sound at his church for more than 30 years.