Any task that requires a skilled professional for successful implementation is something you shouldn’t do by yourself. In the case of installed sound systems, an audio consultant is a skilled professional who understands the entire design process, how to make the various parts of the system work as they should, and has a lot of creative ideas for each project they work on.
Because good sound doesn’t just happen, it’s very important to involve the right professionals in the process, preferably early in the concept/design phase of a project. One of the primary benefits an audio consultant provides to the customer is their ability to act as an independent resource. They’re product agnostic, meaning their singular goal is to choose the best possible product for their customers’ application and bottom line.
By keeping up to date on the latest product offerings and trends in the audio and IT industries, a good audio consultant knows what solutions are out there and what applications they would be best in. They ask questions like: How is this room going to be used? Is it just conferencing or will there be presentation audio, too? What’s the occupancy of the room? What materials make up the walls and floors? Where should the speakers and microphones be placed for best coverage? They can walk into a room and start immediately building the system in their head.
Another benefit of working with an audio consultant is that they can act as the end user’s technical representative and liaison between their needs and those of the integrator. Not only can they design an audio system, they can come in after the integrator has implemented the design and ensure that it meets all the criteria the end user requires. If it doesn’t, the consultant and integrator will work together to make the appropriate changes.
I don’t want to give the impression that every integrator or every project needs the services of a consultant. There are a lot of skilled integrators capable of designing and installing a system. But for those projects where an owner wants the expertise of a consultant because of the size of the system, or the recognized experience of the consultant in designing similar systems, it’s a good choice. There are many instances where audio consultants and audio integrators work closely together to create very successful audio solutions for their customers. In fact, for some projects, a consultant may have favorite integrators to refer the owner to for purposes of receiving a bid for the proposed sound system. These are integrators the consultant has typically worked with in the past and knows will deliver a high quality installation. Having a qualified bid list will help the project move toward successful completion even before any actual installation work is done. A consultant working with a capable integrator makes a powerful team.
What Could Make Audio Consultants Even Better?
One thing I’ve noticed that audio consultants are in a prime position to highlight is the need for certifications. There are two types of certifications that the installing contractor should have. First, some products require the integrator to have manufacturer certifications showing they have been trained and authorized for specific equipment included in the design, and having these necessary certifications should be a prerequisite to being considered for the project.
Second, the CTS- level credentials awarded by InfoComm, the major trade organization for the AV industry, are ANSI accredited standards that help establish the qualifications of the employees of an AV integration company.
Specifying the certification requirement goes a long way to ensuring that the system is correctly installed and calibrated by skilled, trained professionals who understand the product.
The alternative is an integrator who’s shooting in the dark, and the first time they ever see the software program is when they show-up to the job. Anytime you have somebody who’s not skilled, you not only run the risk of having the system perform poorly for installation reasons, but even if they do achieve an acceptable performance level, it often will take longer because they have to learn as they go, and, at the least, cost the customer more time by delaying the delivery of a usable system
Good sound is skillfully designed and installed–it doesn’t just happen. Once you find a skilled audio professional, in any part of the project process, get them involved early and then let them do their job.