IS THE EXTRA EXPENSE WORTH THE MONEY?
Frankly, I am not asked this question very much...thankfully! But as a person who tries to be wise with the resources I am given, I have to imagine it crosses the minds of others when they are thinking about upgrading their AV systems. So lets explore this.
Here are a few practical reasons. Obviously, the bigger the project, the longer the list gets:
1. After you spend all of the money necessary to upgrade your system, it is ideal when it does what you were hoping to accomplish.
There's nothing like getting excited about being able to finally upgrade your system so you go to Guitar Center, Amazon, Sweetwater, or someone else to get your new gear. You bring it back, unbox it, plug it in the best you know how, and... maybe it made an improvement, but you were hoping for so much more! Why it doesn't do so much more could be related to a lot of factors, some of which are mentioned below, but in many cases, it COULD have been so much more. It may still not be too late to hire a professional, but if the professional makes some of their money selling product, they may charge you much more to fix what you have in order to make up the difference, and he/she will be limited to the equipment you chose (which may or may not be ideal).
2. Getting the RIGHT equipment the first time can actually save you a LOT of money.
Somewhat related to the first point, someone that is just selling you gear is often happy to make as much money selling you gear as possible. You might not realize that your equipment could have been used in a different way that could have eliminated the need for really expensieve gear that may end up being a disappointment anyway. One example is In Ear Monitors (IEMs). Maybe you were told to buy individual IEM Mixers for each member of the band, but, unbeknownst to you, there was a way to accomplish the same thing using the tools you already purchased that would have given you much more flexibility AND cost a LOT less. While professionals also make money selling you gear, a professional that tuly cares about your ministry/endeavor would be remiss to not at least mention some alternative ways to accomplish the mission and, more importantly, help you set the equipment up in such a way that you can realize those alternatives in a way that would make you wonder why you ever considered buying the more expensive but much less capable solution. On the other hand, if you have the money, they may be aware of much more expensive options that will meet your needs in ways you only dreamed of.
A second way this can be important is that a professional will help you navigate between where you are and where you want to be, and help you think through a reasonable balance (chronologically speaking). At the same time, they can help you find gear that will keep you from being disappointed when you get home, plug everything in and realize that you really need to go buy the upgrade because what you just purchased isn't going to get the job done. In carpentry, the saying is "measure twice cut once." In AV equipment, it is often described as "cry once, buy once."
3. Having the most expensive equipment in the world won't do you any good if you don't know how maximize its usefulness.
So you now have an inexpensive equivalent of what used to be an extremely expensive piece of equipment. But do you know how to utilize that piece of equipment to its fullest extent to really help make a difference? Not all professionals take this extra step, but anyone worth their salt will most definitely take the time to optimize your sound/lighting/video boards to ensure they are as useful and easy to use as possible.
I often give this example: In 1996, I was introduced to a brochure for a Midas XL-4, which at the time was a $100,000 soundboard. If someone is going to trust you to use a $100K soundboard, chances are you have some idea of what you are doing. Fast forward to the ubiquitous X32 (which is by no means the most complicated soundboard out there now), and they basically took 90% of the features found in the XL-4 and added another $60,000 worth of rack gear, and sold it to anyone who could afford a $3,000 upgrade for their soundboard. And then you wonder why people don't know how to fully maximize its capabilities! Your professional integrator is PAID to do this for you, and their skill at this is usually well worth the money you invested in them.
Likewise, even if your AV system has been optimized and sounds/looks amazing, you will often need to be trained in order to keep it doing what it is designed to do. Don't skimp when it comes to receiving this training! Professionals are usually more than happy to provide said training (once), but it behooves you and your organization to fully take advantage of this training WHEN it is provided. Chances are, your installer won't be going to your church or organization on a regular basis.
4. Who care what it looks like anyway?
Aesthetics isn't EVERYTHING, but frankly, it should be important, espcially when it is an option. The whole goal of a proper AV system it to be as non-distracting as possiblle. This includes looks as well as sound. Whether that means running cables through walls and ceilings wherever possible (as compared to a mess of cables dangling down the wall or raceway running everywhere), or that your speaker system is not a horrible eyesore (but still gets the job done), a professional installation will be much more likely to sound amazing and look beautiful at the same time.
5. Is your installation safe/ legal?
When you do wiring on your own, you can often get away with a lot of things that seriously skirt the concepts of legality. However, it turns out that some (OK Most) of those legalities are in place to keep your church or orgnaization from falling apart or burning down. And nobody wants that!
6. Who do you go to when you have a question or something goes wrong?
There are a few people who may be willing to help if they were not the people who did the installation, but it is nice to know that your installer has your back AFTER the gear is in place and working correctly. This is unfortunately NOT a given (in spite of the fact at a licensed contractor is legally required by law to at least warranty their work and materials for two years after installation), so you willl want to discuss with your installer the kind of support that you will get after the installtion has been completed. At Whole Hearted Pro AV, we have answered a lot of questions on Sunday mornings from clients trying to trouble shoot this piece of gear or that issue, etc., often years after the installation. At a certain point, we might say that an issue was caused by you and decide that you owe us something for getting you back on the straight and narrow (especially if we have to invest some serious drive time or other resources), but we tend to be pretty generous with our customer support, especially for clients that paid us well to meet their needs. And that ALONE may be worth the cost of hiring a professional.
Hopefully, this has been helpful. At least you now have an idea of why you should even be considering hiring someone from outside your organization to help improve your AV system. Not all integration companies are created equal, but there should be one that will be perfect for what you are trying to accomplish. But that sounds like a blog for another day!