Gear Snobs

Audio guys can be snobs when it comes to gear. But the reality is, we can’t always have our favorites. Sometimes, it’s a simple budget issue. For Coast Hills, we didn’t have the budget for Meyer, d&b or L’Acoustics. If I had held out for those brands because they have more cachet, we would not have a new PA at all. The money is just not there. But the church can afford RoomMatch. And having heard it, and after some considerable evaluation, I’m convinced we haven’t sacrificed that much. 

Is RoomMatch as good as a L’Acoustics Kara rig? Maybe not. Will the average person notice a big difference between those two? Probably not. Will the average person notice the upgrade from what we had to RoomMatch? Absolutely. I’ll take that outcome over no change at all.

Be Open

Lighting guys can be snobs, too. Some will say, “If it’s not Varilite, it’s not in my rig.” Or Martin. Or High End. Whatever. In the past, we’ve rented about 6 VL2500s for Easter. Those are great fixtures, to be sure. But this year, we rented 18 Elation Platinum Spot 5R Pros. Are they as good of a fixture as the VL2500? Not really. The panning isn’t as smooth, the color mixing isn’t as nice and we had one go flaky on us. However, we made a bigger visual impact with 18 of them than we ever did with the 6 VLs for the same money.

And you know what? If I were buying moving head fixtures for Coast Hills, I would probably go with Elation. No, they’re not as rugged as a Varilite. But, we can afford more of them, and they would be fine for what we’d need them for. 

Use What Fits

When I say “fits” I mean both budget and application. If you’re at a big church with big budgets and can afford the best gear, go for it. But if you’re at a smaller church with small budgets, don’t feel bad about going with brands with lower cool factor. Sometimes, the smaller companies innovate really well and come up with great solutions at great price points. Don’t discount them because they are not what the big church or big tour is using. 

I’ve talked with guys who are at smaller churches with all volunteer tech teams who are convinced they need a Digico at FOH and a Grand MA at lighting. Those are great pieces of kit, but they do have a steep learning curve, as well as big price tags. In a smaller setting with lower production demands, there are better options. Never feel bad about choosing the best option for your church; even if it’s not what all the cool kids are using. 

Get Good Advice

In my new role, I find myself helping churches decide what to buy. While I have my preferences on what I like, I have to set those aside and make sure I’m recommending what is best for them. I recently steered a church toward a Yamaha QL away from a Digico SD9. Personally, I would prefer the SD9 any day. But in this setting the QL makes much more sense. Not only is it considerably less money—and they were already at the top of their budget—it’s much more friendly to non-professional operators with zero digital console experience (and 20 years of analog experience). 

When purchasing equipment, make sure whoever is recommending what they are recommending knows your situation and how it will be used. Make sure they aren’t just giving you their stock solution. It would be a lot easier for me to have a “small church package” of gear that I can price and sell. But it would not likely be the best fit for everyone. So we stay custom for each church. 

I’ve always been a contrarian, so this concept is not foreign to me. But I write this to encourage those of you who are nervous about not doing what everyone else is doing. They used to say, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” That may have been true, but a lot of companies missed out on better options because someone took the safe route. 

Don’t be a gear snob. Get what works for your church. Everyone will be better off for it.

Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

Keep An Open Mind

Despite the grammatical challenge, Apple's campaign is a great concept for a company and for life. 

Despite the grammatical challenge, Apple's campaign is a great concept for a company and for life. 

From what I can gather, one of the traits of most successful people is the ability to try new things. Ability may be the wrong word—we all have the ability to try new things. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is desire. I love to try new things. I’m always on the lookout for some new technology, process, idea, whatever. Along the way, I’ve made some fantastic discoveries. 

Sadly, I have also had many conversations that go somewhat like this.

Other Person: So, what kind of PA are you putting in your room?

Me: Bose RoomMatch. We’re pretty excited about it.

OP: Oh, I would never mix on one of those. Terrible.

Me: Really? Have you ever mixed on it?

OP: No.

Me: Have you ever heard it?

OP: No.

Me: Have you even looked into the technology behind it?

OP: No. Bose=bad. That’s all I know.

Usually, all I can say at that point is, “Huh.” Now, we all have our biases. We all have things we know that we generally like. Given the choice, I’d probably choose a Heil mic over another most of the time. But if someone shows up with a new mic I’ve not used before, I’ll give it a shot. In fact, that’s how I discovered Heil. I had never heard of them five years ago, but someone showed up with a box full, and we gave them a try.

Try New Things

Alton Brown used to say, “Play with your food!” I tend to agree. Try new things. You never know what’s going to happen. Just because you’ve been doing something the same way for the last 10 years doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Talk to someone else and see if you can learn something from them.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons our stage is so efficient is because I’ve stolen ideas from a lot of smart people over the last 10 years. Every time I visit a church or talk with another TD, I try to pick out something that I can learn from them. It’s amazing how much you will know if you just talk with other people. 

Take Ideas From Unexpected Sources

I read all kinds of blogs and magazines and books. Some of them are directly related to my field, many are not. But I try to learn from all of them. I’ve picked up on some brilliant ways to automate my tech booth by reading computer articles. I’ve learned to be a better leader by reading articles on successful entrepreneurs. 

Even though Coast Hills is considered a big church, I’ve even learned many things from my fellow TDs at smaller churches. Don’t ever think you’ve learned all you will learn, or that whoever you’re talking to right now doesn’t have something to teach you. Some of the process we have in place at Coast were developed by someone who wasn’t even born when I started doing production. 

Don’t Pre-Judge

We all know prejudice is bad. However, we practice prejudice all the time. As I mentioned at the start of this article, some audio guys I know have a huge prejudice against Bose. That might be well-earned; their earlier stuff was not great. However, don’t let that blind you to new innovations. A few years ago, we all “knew” digital audio was inferior to analog audio. Today, most of us would not give up our digital consoles. But I have talked with some old guys who are convinced digital is bad; not because they’ve ever used it, know anything about it or heard it, but because analog is what they know.

If someone says, “Hey, have you ever tried this?” Don’t shut it down because it doesn’t fit your pre-conceived notion of what it should or should not be. Weigh the merits and try it. You might find a great new technique or product. 

It’s easy to fall into a rhythm of how we do things. But rhythms can become ruts. And ruts are just graves with the ends kicked out. Stay out of the graves; try new things!


Today's post is brought to you by myMix. myMix is an intuitive, easy-to-use personal monitor mixing and multi-track recording system that puts each user in control of their own mix! myMix features two line-level balanced 1/4" TRS outputs and one 1/8" (3.5mm) headphone output, the ability to store up to 20 named profiles on each station, 4-band fully parametric stereo output EQ recording of up to 18 tracks plus stereo on an SD card. Learn more at

Church Tech Weekly Episode 199: Rapport and Raparte

Continuing our theme of leadership, this week we talk with Greg Atkinson about his new book, Strange Leadership. We learn how to delegate, what role the Holy Spirit plays and how to be innovative. 


Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

Field Guid to AVL Renovations: Commissioning

Well, this turned out to take longer to get through than I expected. But here we are, at the final post and the final stage of the project. After figuring out the system objectives, developing an initial budget, landing on key technologies, working out the design, installing the gear, it’s finally time to fire it up and see if it all works. 

This is probably my favorite part of the job, to be honest. I love seeing the gear light up and enjoying the fruits of our labor. And in most projects, there is a lot of labor…

It might be too late to bring this up, but I feel it is important to raise the question, why do churches like to launch a new campus—with all the new technology, processes and people—on big weekends like Christmas and Easter? I certainly get the concept. Those are the biggest weekends of the year, and great ways to build momentum. 

However, it’s pretty rare to spend months on a project, weeks of install and perhaps a week to get everything talking and not have any issues. Even if the installers did their job perfectly and all the gear works, chances are, your tech crews will still be getting used to the new system. Your band may need some time on a new personal monitor mixer. Even your kids ministry may benefit from a weekend or two to get up to speed on a new check-in process.

A Modest Proposal

Instead of making the first weekend in the new or newly remodeled space one of the biggest of the year, why not plan on having the project done a few weeks early so you can work the bugs out? This is a good idea for many reasons. For starters, you’ll likely have a lot of guests on that big weekend. You want their first experience with the church to be a good one. Give your teams the chance to make it a great experience. 

You may also find that the initial tuning of the PA wasn’t quite right once the band and congregation got in the room. Having a week or two to really dial that in will make it better for all. A soft launch gives all your teams time to adapt to the new environment, which will enable them to be more friendly and helpful on the big weekend. 

Get Some Help

As with design and installation, having some help for commissioning the system is a great idea. Your integrator will likely want to turn the key for the first time to make sure all is well and you’re happy. On complex installs, you may also get manufacturer support. 

Commissioning is a great time to learn all you can about the new gear. As a tech, you should be there as much as possible while they get things set up. Ask questions, look over their shoulders and pay attention. After they leave, you’ll be responsible for running and maintaining the system, so you’d better know it reasonably well. 

It might also be a good idea to work into the contract to have the integrator send someone back down a few weeks or a month after opening weekend to tweak, adjust and train. Sometimes you’ll have questions after a weekend or two that you didn’t have at first. Having someone come back a few weeks later will ensure that you are really up to speed on everything. And if the PA needs to be tweaked a bit, that’s a great time to do it.

Ultimately, your integrator and manufacturers want you to be happy with the install. If you have issues, make sure to bring them up and give them a chance to fix them before going nuclear on social media. Good integrators will be very reasonable to deal with and make sure your experience is a good one. 

The End?

This may be the end of this series, but the story goes on. It’s rare that a church buys AVL equipment only one time, or never remodels their building. I strongly suggest doing a de-brief after the project is done to see what you can learn to do better next time. There will be a next time, and you owe it to yourself and future staff to get better each time. A remodel project is not a small undertaking, there will be bumps along the way. But when you approach it with the right attitude and open communication, it can be a great experience. Hopefully this guide has been helpful.

If you want to see all the posts in this series, click here. They’re in reverse order due to the way Squarespace sorts posts, but at least they’re all in one list. Enjoy, and happy remodeling.


Today's post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.