When the first service was held in the new Sanctuary on October 12, 1969,

“there were nearly a thousand people there – all anxious to see the building, to admire its beauty, and to share the excitement of having reached this landmark in the life of the church.  The only obvious flaw that day was the sound system, which did not function properly.”  (From A History of River Road Church, Baptist 1946-1996, page 74.)

Pew Speakers
Pew-back speaker system

The Sanctuary was intentionally designed to be acoustically live and has a sound almost “cathedral like.”  It is a wonderful environment for music, both instrumental and vocal, but due to the reverberations in the space, clarity of speech is difficult.  The  original sound system was totally inadequate to make the spoken word intelligible to those sitting in the pew.

A well known audio consultant from New York was retained, and he designed the current pew-back system.  It was installed in 1973.

About fifteen years ago the equipment (amplifiers, mixer, equalizer, and delay unit) was upgraded to the latest models, but the basic design was not altered.

The Issues

The current sound system, while adequate for most listeners in the pews, still has deficiencies that could and should be corrected.  Members at times complain about “dead spots” in the pews, certain locations where the speaker’s voice is not heard well.  In the chancel area of the Sanctuary, the ministers cannot hear clearly, and the choir has some difficulty even though there are pew-back speakers in the choir pews.  When the Sanctuary is full for special services, those attendees who have to sit in the transept aisle seats on the side cannot hear at all, as there is no amplification in those two areas.

Moving Forward

IMG_0393Since 1973 sound technology has evolved dramatically.  In order to address the deficiencies noted above, this new technology should be evaluated in the Sanctuary to determine if it can deliver a better sound than the church’s present system.  Even if it is decided not to replace the existing system, additional speakers could be added to improve the quality of the sound of speech in both the chancel and the transept areas of the Sanctuary.