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How long should our sound system last?

Articles, Media, Stewardship, Technology - by - May 27, 2011 - 16:59 Etc/GMT+5 - Be first to Comment!

In general, we have found that the median life cycle of audio equipment is around 10 years.  Some pieces will last longer, others will require maintenance or refreshing to continue to perform to specs and some things will need replaced much sooner. Environment, handling and maintenance, and materials and workmanship directly affect longevity of components. Indirectly, the experiences and expectations of people effectively shorten product efficacy.You could call this the “inside, outside, upside down” theory of life cycle of audio systems.



First, let’s acknowledge the obvious- the component itself has a part it its own lifespan. Some equipment is designed to be touched continuously: microphones, cables, patch cords, wind screens, stands, and clips tend to get a lot more wear and tear and may need replaced every 2-4 years. The mixing console not only is touched continuously but also has moving parts; with maintenance and care it could last 10 years, but usually need replaced within 6. Another piece with moving parts is the loudspeaker: speaker cones are under much stress and dry out over time; the foam surrounds get brittle and fall apart; yet with refreshing and tune-ups every 5-10 years, the loudspeaker system could potentially last indefinitely. Conversely, some equipment is rack-mounted and rarely touched; if designed well, they could last 20 years.  The culprit attacking in this case is temperature, humidity, dust and oil.


Yes, temperature, humidity, dust and oil (hazers?) are on a mission to ruin your rack mounted electronic equipment. Good system integration design, proper installation, ongoing maintenance and adequate and consistent cooling of the equipment are essential.  Underpowered systems will burn up speakers and components.  Poor airflow or buildup of dust prevents equipment from cooling properly.  Equipment that overheats regularly can fail at any time– expect lifespans cut in half at best. System processors are extremely sensitive to heat and often fail after only 3-5 years because of improper maintenance and cooling, but if properly taken care of, system processing can last 10-15 years. To minimize environmental hazards, audio design relies on cooling, air filtering,  cleaning and maintenance.

Upside! Down

The required and expected functionality of equipment combined with reasonable expectations for installation and maintenance will absolutely give you the highest performing audio system for the best longterm cost/performance ratio. That’s the upside.  The down? Audio systems that were designed in the 80s and 90s to reinforce voice, piano and choir are just not able to keep up with the evolution in worship music and contemporary church media-  some must be replaced or majorly overhauled and expanded to continue to meet the requirements of the twenty-first century congregation.  Technological advancements mean higher quality systems and components are available now than just 5-10 years ago.  Our congregations have likewise experienced higher quality and more adaptive media, and this increases the general expectations of the media systems used in our worship facilities.


People have an expanding expectation of quality, functionality and performance with intensifying immersion into everyday media, rendering obsolete some audio systems that are still performing to their initial quality standards. Personal preferences aside, components of the system should be professionally designed and installed around proper cooling and air systems, and then periodically inspected and maintained. Only then can you be sure to have the optimal system for the longest amount of time. An audio design consultant can provide you with a schematic detailing your equipment integration, a parts list, and a maintenance schedule to help you create a budget for meeting your church audio needs.

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