MT: Okay. So training and set-up experience are the most important pieces for midsize churches. You’ve got the whole system from microphones to speakers to whatever is in the booth. What’s the single most important piece of gear? (Or if that’s a dumb question, then please fix my question.)
Spangler: Your ears are the most important tool you have.
Spangler: No, really: If you can’t trust what you’re hearing, the rest of this isn’t just a paint-by-numbers thing (or this would be a whole lot easier for everybody). But sound is subjective and so are the acoustics of your physical room. You need to trust your toolset — being your ears. So from the toolset standpoint, that’s number one.
MT: Your ears: check.
Spangler: Now for talking nuts-and-bolts of the actual physical equipment, the speaker or speaker system is by far the most important. It has the most difficult job of transferring electrical energy into acoustical energy. And even the very best speakers on the market kind of do a poor job if you can look at it in measurement terms. There are limitations to what they can produce and how cleanly they can produce it. More often than not [the] speaker system is most critical in the equipment side of things.
MT: Anything else?
Spangler: Plenty! But as a side note: We can have the best equipment possible but if we have bad acoustics in our room, we can’t fix those bad acoustics by throwing new equipment at it. So very often I will have [an] initial dialogue with the church where they’re having struggles getting the sound quality that they want into the seats and I start to get some information on the room, whether I’m physically there for a site survey or I’m doing it remotely through a Skype call. Even on a Skype call, I’ll ask them to walk me around the space, and I’ll see this big room that’s all sheetrock and flat surfaces and no acoustical treatments anywhere.
And they think they’re going to try to fix the sound [by] buying a new speaker system or microphones or whatever. But getting the acoustics of the room corrected for your style of worship is in my opinion, equal to or even more important than new sound equipment. So for a lot of smaller churches that have [a] small budget we can eyeball the room to get a general sense of what’s going on. We have a basic calculator that we can plug in the dimensions of the room and tell it things like this is a sheetrock wall with a [carpeted] floor and drop ceiling. Frequently there are some acoustic manufacturers that will allow you to plug that stuff in and get the very basic end of acoustic treatment.
Bobby Spangler is rolling into three decades serving in “the industry,” [and] he has installed systems and trained techs in many churches and schools throughout the U.S. He mixed FOH for portions of the 2015 Vineyard National Conference (hosted at the Columbus, OH, Vineyard), and has recently upgraded and installed systems at several Vineyard churches around the U.S. He’s engineered on projects released by Vineyard Worship and Tooth and Nail Records and has toured with several local and national acts as their FOH engineer and road tech. Bobby and his wife, Jennifer, live in Kentucky where they raise their three kids and serve at the Vineyard Church. Check out his website: http://www.spanglermedia.biz/