You may have millions of sound reinforcement systems out there but the fact is that most of us know little or nothing about them. For most of us, as long as a sound system “sounds good,” the buck stops right there. How then do you exactly define the term, “sounds good”?
The following factors, therefore, need to be considered carefully before certifying a sound reinforcement system as one that really “sounds good.”
Reliability: The most important factor if the overall quality has to be judged. A sound reinforcement system’s performance may be top class but should it fail to work at the appropriate time, it’s nothing but junk.
Reliability depends heavily on configuration design, component selection, assembly and the correctness of installation. However, predicting an impending failure, isn’t easy because any audible change in performance is too subtle.
Loudness: Before installing a sound reinforcement system, always test its sound level at the location to ensure a fully satisfying listening experience. Is the sound reaching all corners of the venue? Is it cracking when the volume is being turned up? Is it grating on the ear? Should the answer to any one such question be negative, look for an alternative.
The reinforced sound’s level needs to be sufficiently higher than any background sound or noise to ensure program enjoyment and speech intelligibility. Always remember that any sound system that produces a distorted sound, even in the slightest degree, is never acceptable.
Timbre: The overall tonal balance, technically termed timbre of a sound reinforcement system is the strongest influence on its quality. This is easily measurable and any system that sounds measurably flat or has the same input-to-output level ratio at all frequencies, won’t sound too good. Its output at high frequencies, moreover, will be too loud.
Intelligibility: A fundamental rule of sound reinforcement systems is the ease or difficulty in understanding speech that it generates. If you’re listening to your favorite songs on the system and the singer’s words sound garbled, chances are you’ll trash the system immediately.
The good news, however, is that there are a number of foolproof tests to check out the abovementioned qualities and one must ensure that the sound reinforcement system that he is going to install must pass these tests.
A low intelligibility score, for instance, may indicate a serious technical or physical problems and it is good enough reason to reject the system.