The Ultimate Church Sound System Buyer's GuideChurch Sound System
Buyers Guide

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know
When Considering a Church AVL Technology Purchase

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How Much Does a New Church Sound System Cost?

The average cost for a professionally installed church sound system can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $500,000 or more. There are many different variables that can drive the cost up or down which is why we created the Church Sound System Cost Calculator.

From the instant someone cries out, “We have to do something about the sound system!”, there’s one question on the minds of everyone involved from the pastors to the volunteers to the committee members.

“How much is this going to cost?”

Although this can be a tricky question to answer, our interactive calculator will provide realistic ballpark pricing, and this article will provide information and guidelines to help you along the way.

For instructions on how to use the  cost calculator click "Learn More" below.Learn More

Church Sound System Budget Calculator

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Most Common Mistake: Committing to a church sound system budget without a clearly defined scope

In every case the short answer to the question of “How much should we budget?” is that it depends. Worship technology is one part art and one part science. Every congregation and every facility is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, this short answer isn’t really helpful to a fundraising team or finance committee chair who has to establish and justify a budget. However, the budget can’t be finalized without a clear scope. Not defining a clear scope is the first mistake we see churches make on a regular basis.

How much is a church LED Lighting System? In this article we cover exactly how much you should pay for new LED house Lighting.

Why is the cost question so hard for AVL companies to answer?

There are a lot of moving parts to a worship AVL system. It’s often much more complicated than it appears on the surface. In order to make a responsible recommendation on a technology solution, the MediaMerge Discovery Process includes more than 100 standard, pre-defined questions to accurately assess your needs. Your answers to these questions can cause pricing to vary wildly.

  • Who will be using the systems?
  • What is their skill level?
  • What equipment do you plan to re-use?
  • What are the electrical considerations?
  • When will the project happen?
  • Will work have to be completed between Sundays?
  • What types of events will the systems need to accommodate?
  • What are the aesthetic considerations?

Of course, in the business world AVL integrators need to know two key pieces of information before they can even  justify the internal expense of committing engineers to pre-sales design. History has shown us that without these two critical pieces of information, the probability of a project moving forward successfully is quite low. Any integrator worth their salt is going to ask two basic questions:

What is your anticipated time-frame?
What is your anticipated budget?

This is where the chicken-and-the-egg scenario begins. You can’t establish budget without scope, but integrators need to confirm the project is actually likely to happen in order to justify the investment in the pre-sales design effort. As a result, you need to establish budget in order for them to help you establish scope. It can be a vicious cycle.

How to define & document scope

It's best to start the process by creating a document that gathers the information needed to discuss your project both internally and externally. The document should be written in lay-terms, so it will be easy for everyone involved to understand exactly what you are trying to achieve. 

We created the MediaMerge Discovery Process  as our internal tool to define and document project scope. It's the most efficient way we've found to uncover and organize the information needed to take a church from the earliest stages of the project through completion with minimal headaches.

If you need to solicit multiple quotes or just want to go it on your own, you can use the following information as a template to help you document your project's scope.

Project Objective

Begin by writing out a brief narrative description of what life would be like with an ideal solution.  Ask yourself, "If we accomplish ____ with this project, the congregation will consider it a success." Don't get technical, here. We're looking for the overarching goals of the project. 

"Our goal is to purchase a system that sounds great no matter where you sit and is easy for our team to use."

"We need speech to be easy to understand without the system ruining the beauty of our Sanctuary."

"The new system should work without feedback should not exceed a set budget ."

Project Info

Your scope document should include the following basic information in a section labeled "Project Info":

  • Location - Physical address for the project
  • Contact Information - include key players who might be consulted during the process
  • Schedule - Include target date for completion, date work can begin on-site, blackout dates
  • Budget - Best guess at the budget level the team has in mind. You can also use the cost guidelines provided below to develop a starting point.
  • Number of Seats
  • Square Footage of Facility - include all Sanctuary seating areas, aisles and stage in the calculation
  • Decision-Making Process - List of stakeholders, required votes, approval process
  • Special Considerations - Does the work have to be completed between Sundays, is it possible to get a lift into the building, "nothing can block the view of the cross", etc.

Document the Existing System

The next step is to document the state of the current system if you are renovating or planning to re-use any existing equipment. Start by producing an inventory of every piece of equipment in the system. Include manufacturer and model # along with the condition of the equipment, if known. Make sure to note items that are definitely intended to be re-used and the ones that are definitely NOT. Integrators may use this list to identify potential cost-saving opportunities when recommending solutions.

Architectural Drawings

Include any schematic drawings or other documentation that describes the current system. Take the time to find the construction drawings and have them scanned or copied at a local print shop (Kinkos, PostNet, etc.).  Integrators will be primarily interested in floorplan and elevation drawings, but reflected ceiling plan (RCP), electricals and other drawings can be very useful. These drawings are invaluable to the process and will increase the likelihood of accurate cost estimates in the early stages of the project. This cannot be stressed enough... Find the drawings!

  • Floorplan Drawing
  • Side, Front and Rear Elevation Drawings
  • Reflected Ceiling Plan (RCP)
  • Electrical Drawings
  • Structural Drawing
  • Existing Sound System Schematic Drawing
Photos of Existing Facilities

Another important step in the documentation phase for renovation projects is to take pictures of any facilities that may be impacted by the project. These pictures should include the main room, booths, equipment racks/closets and any floorboxes. For the main room stand in the middle of each wall (front, rear, sides) and take pictures from left to right covering the entire space. Be sure to include images of the ceiling from these positions.

  • Front Wall
  • Rear Wall
  • Side Walls
  • Ceiling
  • Sound Booth
  • Equipment Racks (Front & Back)
  • Each Floorbox
  • Other Areas That Include Sound (Lobby, Nursing Mothers, etc.)

Needs Analysis

With the system documentation complete, the next step will be to create a bulleted list of problems you are experiencing with your current system. This list is very helpful for an integrator to understand the current frustrations, so they can be specifically addressed in any proposals. Examples of common problems may include:

  • Feedback
  • Musicians and vocalists can't hear
  • Front row can't hear
  • Sound is harsh
  • Mix changes from week to week

List Technical Requirements

For the final piece of the puzzle, you'll need to provide a list of the technical features required for your system. These typically include:

  • List of Inputs
  • List of Outputs (Main Speakers, Choir Monitor, Lobby Speakers, etc.)
  • Wired Microphones & Direct Boxes
  • Choir Microphones
  • Baptistery Microphone
  • Wireless Microphones
  • Playback Sources (CD, BlueTooth, smartphone, etc.)
  • Floorboxes & Cabling Infrastructure
  • Mixing Console
  • Recording & Streaming
  • Amplifiers & Processing
  • Main Loudspeakers
  • Subwoofers
  • Distributed Audio (ceiling speakers in Lobby, Nursing Room, etc.)
  • Hearing Assist System (for ADA compliance)
  • Broadcast Audio 
  • Stage Monitor Speakers
  • Stage Monitor Mixes
  • Personal Monitor Mixing
  • Wireless In-Ear Monitors

Team Overview

Provide a list of who will be operating the final system. Include a description of their role, experience level, time commitment and whether they are paid or volunteers. This information is very important during post-installation training, but it should also be taken into consideration during the early design phase. Design recommendations can vary wildly based on anticipated end-user skill level.

Biggest Problems to Avoid When Upgrading Your Church PA System

At MediaMerge, we spend a lot of time in churches. From traditional to modern and everything in between, we've just about seen it all. Most of the time that knowledge is a blessing, equipping our team with a vast arsenal of experience that drives our creative approach. At other times, though, it can be downright heartbreaking.

How It Happens

There's no counting how many situations we have encountered where a church's investment in technology was not only failing to enhance worship, but was downright distracting. In some instances it results from a lack of quality resources, but more often than not these failures are the result of poor application or basic operation rather than faulty equipment. Just like other forms of art, having the tools is simply not enough when it comes to worship technology. 

If we view running sound, video and lighting as an art form, which it is, then we should make an effort to approach it with the same measure of excellence that we demand in other areas of worship. 

Very few would consider inviting a musician to the platform without some proven level of mastery of their instrument, so we should be similarly mindful of the tendency to send our media volunteers into the booth unequipped for the task at hand. Musicians often audition for positions on the praise team, but all too often we don't hesitate to throw a completely inexperienced, non-technical volunteer into the trenches just because they'll show up.

Worship presentation technology is a unique creature comprised of multiple disciplines, each fraught with opportunities to negatively affect the next. While any one of these shortcomings might not completely derail worship, their sum total can often add up with surprising force. The result is a sort of death by 1000 paper cuts, whereby technologies that are intended to enhance worship create a series of tiny disconnects that can, in extreme cases, become a major distraction.

Practical Examples of Church Sound System Mistakes

There's nothing in the world that can derail a worship service like a sound system failure. System operators can unleash feedback, buzz and hum on an audience in the blink of an eye. On the other end of the spectrum, a muted microphone can completely disrupt the flow of worship. While these are probably the most common issues in worship, the good news is that they are the easiest to correct with training and proper system setup.

With the state of technology today, expectations are understandably higher than ever. There's no excuse for feedback or noise in modern audio systems, and proper loudspeaker coverage is easily attainable for any church working with a reputable integrator.

Here are a few of the common mistakes we see on a regular basis in no particular order:

Mistake: Poor Coverage

On a recent site visit, we were disappointed at how much of the church's seating area was completely out of the coverage of the loudspeakers. When we brought it to the attention of our client, they suggested that the system was fine and that at least 80% of the congregation had "good" sound. They were shocked when we suggested that the low-cost solution was to remove the first three rows of pews, but in essence, that's what was already happening because no one in those seats was within the coverage of the system. While 80% coverage might seem like a high number, the 20% of the people in the congregation that couldn't hear what was said every Sunday probably felt differently about the quality of the presentation.

Mistake: Booth Location

The location of the sound booth in a church facility is almost always a controversial topic. The ideal location for the booth often consumes the most prime seating real estate in the room. In many cases the booth will be relegated to the back corner of the room, or worse, to the side or rear of the balcony. We've encountered more than one scenario where the sound tech was in a room on the second floor sticking their head out of a tiny window in an effort to hear what was actually happening in the room. This is obviously a recipe for failure.
In order for the system operator to provide a balanced mix for the congregation, they need to be located in the same sound field as the congregation. It makes sense, right? It has to be clearly understood that the instant you push the system operator into a different acoustical environment than the congregation, their job becomes exponentially more difficult. The operator is now tasked not only with mixing all of the instruments and voices on stage, but they also have to translate between what they are hearing and what the congregation is hearing and compensate in real time. The stress created by this arrangement will not set your system operator up for success.

Mistake: Sound Team Training

You can spend millions of dollars on the greatest sound technology available, and it won't make any difference if the tech team doesn't know how to turn the system on. A properly trained operator is just as important as having the right equipment, good design and controlled acoustics. Almost every time we visit a church experiencing sound-related issues, the experience and knowledge of the system operators represents the best and least expensive avenue for improvement of the church's worship experience.

Mistake: Bad System Design

We once visited a church that had the most unique mixing console we'd ever seen. The system was cobbled together from dozens of components including rack-mount pre-amps, digital converters, a series of midi controllers and computer software. Watching the sound tech use the system was like some kind of demented ballet where he moved back and forth between racks of equipment, grabbing knobs and faders along the way. The church was proud of what he had cobbled together, not realizing that his entire dance around the mixer could be accomplished with a single button push on a standard digital console. We were called in because they needed to add inputs, and they couldn't figure out how it was possible with the science experiment that was their mixer. They also complained that nobody could operate the system except the mad scientist who had pieced it together. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should...

With modern technology it's pretty easy to buy a list of components, wire them up and get sound out of the system. Designing a system that is flexible, maintainable and easy to use is another story. A well-designed system simplifies operation and takes into consideration the skill level of the system operators and sets your team up for success. 

What Can Those in Leadership Do?

  • Honestly evaluate your team's abilities and resources
  • Get the right tools and training for your team
  • Set realistic expectations for your equipment and your team
  • Define production values clearly
  • Formally review your team's performance on a regular basis

Getting an Honest Appraisal of Your Resources & Abilities

In order to effectively determine your tech team's strengths and weaknesses, it's prudent to seek wise counsel. The truth is that if you could identify and correct your problems internally, you probably would have solved them by now. There are two convenient channels for input that are available to pretty much every church leader:

Consult Other Churches - It's relatively safe to assume that other like-minded churches may have experienced the same type of issues you are facing. A view from the outside can often reveal flaws that can't be so easily seen from within. Invite leaders from other churches into your world to see if they can spot any flaws in your approach. Listen to what they have to say about how they've dealt with similar issues.

Consult a Professional - A qualified media systems integrator, like MediaMerge, can evaluate your situation and offer insights that may not be immediately obvious to you or your team. We've experienced a vast array of presentation challenges, and we've learned a thing or two about executing exceptional presentations with volunteer staff and limited resources. We would love the opportunity to learn more about what you're doing and to see if there is a way that we can help you avoid the pitfalls along the way.

What is a Modern Church Sound System?

Sound system components can vary widely based on the specific needs of your church. The following includes a list of the most common components and considerations for an modern church sound system.

  • Wireless Microphones
  • Playback Sources (CD, BlueTooth, etc.)  
  • Floorboxes & Cabling Infrastructure
  • Mixing Console
  • Recording & Streaming
  • Amplifiers & Processing
  • Main Loudspeakers
  • Subwoofers

  • Delay/Fill Speakers
  • Distributed Audio (Lobby, Nursing Room, etc.)
  • Hearing Assist System (for ADA compliance)
  • Broadcast Audio
  • Stage Monitor Speakers
  • Personal Monitor Mixing
  • Wireless In-Ear Monitors

Is your sound system effective?

There are a number of issues that ultimately will determine the effectiveness of your church sound system installation. For non-technical leaders and decision makers it can be hard to know what differentiates one approach from another. In fact, of the hundreds of worship leaders and administrators we meet each year, very few can clearly identify what an effective sound system even is.

In most instances the sound committee or tech team has had limited experience with the process of designing or installing a new sound system. Defining a clear set of expectations should be your first step when undertaking a new project. We can help with that! 

What should you expect from a modern church sound system?

You should expect the following from a well-designed church sound system:

  • First do no harm. A good system doesn't create distraction and should go relatively unnoticed.
  • Everybody should hear the same thing. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and you can't control where visitors will sit. Make sure every seat is a good one.
  • The sound tech should be able to hear. The sound at the mix position should be the same as what the congregation hears.
  • No feedback. With modern design techniques and equipment feedback is avoidable and should be considered completely unacceptable.
  • Vocals should be clear and easy to understand. It shouldn't take effort to understand what is said.
  • Music should sound good. The overall sound should be balanced and pleasing.

If you can't check each of these boxes, then your sound system is failing your congregation. With the right design a properly installed sound system should achieve all of these objectives. There are several aspects of design and installation that are key to a successful project. Ignoring any of these elements will create the issues that commonly plague church presentation. 

Church audio installation & purchase process

Whether it’s large or small, traditional or contemporary, your church is unique, and your selected AV company should strive to understand your needs. When working with an AV company to upgrade your church sound, video or lighting system the process will usually look something like this:

1) Discovery Process - You and your selected AV Company will work together to identify your stated goals and uncover your hidden needs

Setting the expectations on what is really important to your church while staying on-  budget is critical during this stage of the buying process. AVL integrators need to know two key pieces of information before they can justify the internal expense of committing engineers to pre-sales design.

Be aware that most integrators will be focused on understanding your timeline and budget before they can justify the hours of engineering work that it takes to generate a custom solution.

2) Design Development - Your goals are translated to conceptual designs including preliminary budgets. 

Some AV integrators, like MediaMerge, use 3D Rendering Technology which allows us to explore sight lines, experiment with aesthetics, and pre-visualize how light will interact with the architecture, as a creative process in the early stages of the project. This also allows the congregation to see what the new system will look like before it is installed which makes it easier for your team to communicate the vision and justify budget.

The real challenge during this part of the process lies in identifying needs, anticipating pitfalls, providing clear communication and overcoming architectural limitations. Working with a professional is essential to achieve optimal results.

3) Drawings & Documentation - The design is formalized with drawings and schematics.

Your selected church AV installer should provide you with a detailed proposal which will includes an overview, equipment list, execution plan, pricing break down and general terms and provisions.

4) Installation - Systems are built, tested and installed according to the documentation and drawings. 

Safety should be the first concern when it comes to installation. Whether it’s hanging equipment overhead or pulling wire, your AV integrator should follow code to the letter. All wiring should be meticulously managed and documented for future serviceability. 

5) Commissioning - The systems are programmed and tested to ensure they meet specifications

Your selected AV company should test and program your new system to ensure that there are no issues during your first Sunday service. Don't be afraid to hold your AV integrator accountable to ensure that the systems are functioning properly and are fine- tuned for your congregation and style of worship.

6) Training & Support - Your team is trained to use the systems effectively. 

Our official policy on training is that we don’t have one. If your team can’t use the technology then your selected AV company has failed you. Whether it’s one short training session or ten, they should guarantee in writing that your team will get the training and support they need.

When Should you Consider Hiring an AV Company?

Whether you are starting a new construction process or thinking about system upgrades, the best results will come from starting with a well-planned strategy. The earlier you can involve an AV company, the higher the probability that your project will be a success.

New Construction Projects

On new construction it's common for the architect or GC to hold off on engaging an AV company in order to maintain control of the architectural details of the project. This delay often results in decisions about acoustics, room layout, wall orientation, booth location and other logistics that are difficult, if not impossible, to correct later in the project. Audio and visual communication are key to a functioning worship facility. Don't wait until late in the process.

A qualified AV Company should be part of the architect's MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) team during the design development phase of the project. Having a partner available to provide consultation in the process can save you tens of thousands of dollars. It will also improve the probability that your systems will look and sound great and be easy to use.

Worship Technology Renovations

Technology renovations can range from simple upgrades of existing systems to more invasive replacement of technology, often alongside aesthetic updates like paint, carpet and seating upgrades. These projects can be fraught with challenges related to installing elements in a facility that was not designed for modern presentation technology. 

One of the first steps in any worship technology renovation should be interviewing and selecting a qualified AV Company to serve as the church's partner in the process.  A qualified AV Company will provide guidance and help you explore possibilities that may not be obvious to your tech team or committee. Tools such as computer modeling and 3D illustrations can help your team work through the technical and logistical challenges, as well as, assisting your team with capital campaigns and fundraising efforts.

If you wait until late in the process and ask multiple companies for proposals on the back end, you'll find yourself selecting from a few companies' best-guesses at what your needs really are, instead of working as a team to develop the ideal solution for your project.

Considering DIY?

There’s no denying that with a few YouTube videos, a subscription to Amazon Prime, some power tools and enough time, you can accomplish just about anything. But when it comes to worship technology, it’s better not to hang a complex system of loudspeakers, lighting and video projectors over your congregation’s heads without the proper training and experience.

These are not cabinets you bought from Ikea or a few planters that need to be hung from the ceiling. This is advanced technology. But that’s not the primary reason it should be installed by a professional. We’re talking first about the safety of your congregation, and the potential for accidents that could lead to serious injury, potential bankruptcy, or even loss of life.

Most churches would be well-advised to resist the temptation to undertake a church sound system installation project on their own using volunteers or in-house staff. In some limited instances this approach may be effective, but more often than not the results are disappointing, if not dangerous. Before moving forward with a DIY sound system installation project, please consider the following:

Safety - A qualified AV Company will provide a team of trained professionals with a knowledge of rigging, electrical codes, OSHA guidelines and safe practices of system design and installation.  We routinely encounter unsafe conditions like improper rigging and electrical code violations on DIY installation projects. Safety should be your church's first concern, and without the relevant experience with similar projects your volunteer team is probably not qualified to perform the work. 

Liability - Most church insurance policies are designed to cover "normal" church activities. Overhead rigging, operation of hydraulic lifts/construction equipment and electrical work will not be covered under most policies.

Additionally, in the event of a claim, your insurance company will begin an investigation to determine fault. The church's due diligence should include hiring licensed professionals with the proper qualifications to complete the work, and in some instances, using a team of volunteers or inexperienced staff members performing work outside of "normal" church activities could potentially be the basis for the denial of a claim. Before considering a DIY installation project contact your insurance provider to understand your coverage and exposure.

Experience - Driving a fast car doesn't qualify you to build a race car any more than running sound qualifies a tech to design and install a large-scale system. They are completely different skill sets, and experience is the best teacher. Will your church be better served by a person who is designing their second system or their 200th?

Service - Without proper system design and documentation, your system will be very difficult to service down the road. Who will your team turn to when there is a problem with your DIY installed system? What happens if your current tech leaves?

Savings Often Don't Materialize - As an experienced Church AV Company, we receive calls from stressed out worship leaders and committee members looking for help troubleshooting their DIY sound systems. In most cases the driving factor in their decision to move forward with a project in-house is related to cost-savings. However, the DIY approach often leads to unforeseen problems requiring replacement of system components, system re-design or in some scenarios, wholesale replacement of the DIY system. The final result is a compromised system that ultimately costs more than a well-designed turn-key system. 

Once the money has been allocated and spent on the DIY system, the congregation's negative experience makes fundraising for future technology much more difficult. Consider the costs of the DIY approach carefully.

Pros and Cons of Hiring an AV Installation Company


  • Your system will be well-designed and easy to use!
  • Turn-Key AV integrators typically take a holistic approach to designing your AVL which will help create a guideline as you continue to make new additions later on.
  • A properly designed system considers future service and growth needs.
  • There's no confusion about where to turn for help. If anything goes wrong you can contact your integrator to get your issues resolved quickly.
  • Safety and liability issues will not be a problem because the systems are installed by qualified professionals with the appropriate licenses and insurance. Remember, your church's insurance covers normal church activities, not media systems installation.


  • Finding a qualified integrator can take time.
  • A properly designed and installed system may require more upfront investment.

I don't think I am ready to work with an AV integrator, what are my options?

  • Design/Bid Process - Hire a consultant to design the system and then hire an AV company to install it. You may be able to negotiate a lower price on the equipment, but you will also pay the overhead of two separate companies.
  • DIY - You design it and build it. You also assume all of the associated risks.
  • Local Music Store - Guitar Center, Bailey Brothers - This may be the best option for smaller churches with very basic needs.
  • Do nothing at all.

Church Sound System Case Study: Churches that needed an AV company

Contemporary Church Sound System
Contemporary Worship
Green Valley Baptist
Contemporary Blended Church-Sound System
Blended Worship
Trinity Baptist Church
Traditional Church Sound System
Traditional Worship
Independent Presbyterian

Need help setting a church sound system budget?

Schedule a 15 min call to tell us about your project, and we will help you get started with a budgetary range estimate.
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