Last week, I had the chance to talk with an experienced AV installer. He had just completed the installation of a new sound system for an auditorium.
Brand, Spanking New Sound System
It was a complete and comprehensive installation. There were 4 three-way front-of-house, flown sub-woofers, in-fill speakers for the front two rows of seats and delayed speakers for the balcony area and under the balcony.
A hefty 5-figure sum had been invested into the installation of the sound system.
We spoke about how he was planning to “pink noise” the room in a couple of weeks, how the system compressors had been set up and how the speakers were configured with the mixer.
The system sounded really good with programme music played over it. However, one thing from my conversation with him stuck with me.
As we were discussing about how the sub-woofers were configured with the mixer, he made the point that the most important factor in any system is… drum roll, please… the sound operator.
The Most Important Part of Delivering Sound
In his opinion, the skill level and experience of the sound operator is the most critical part of delivering good sound to the audience.
A good sound operator can make a system perform acceptably and a good sound system sound great. As my new friend shared with me, it all boils down to the experience and ears of the operator.
This got me thinking.
Many institutions are happy to spend plenty of money procuring and installing the best equipment and gear for their venues. However, how aware are institutions that the most important part of the “signal chain” is the human operator?
Investment In Skills and Experience
There is a story told of a performance where Reggie Wooten, a phenomenal guitar player, was spotted playing a Squier guitar. The Squier line, for those who aren’t familiar, is Fender’s budget, entry-level instruments. Despite using what most musicians would refer to as a “beginner’s instrument”, Reggie made the guitar sing. It was all down to his technique, experience and finesse.
The same principle applies to operating a sound system.
It is a good idea to invest what you can afford into getting a great sound system. However, be sure to invest in the humans operating the sound systems too.
If money spent are an indications of an institution’s priorities, what is the budget allocation between equipment and people? While investments into a sound system will depreciate over time but investments made into equipping sound operators can only appreciate in value. Perhaps this is something to consider for the future.