Selecting an Audio Visual Vendor
Planning on buying a sound system? Here are the things you should know before you purchase. Learn the right questions to ask and how to find a vendor who understands your needs.

Be honest! How many times have you been ready to throw your fitness sound system components out the window due to frustration over its poor performance? How often have you scratched your head and wondered if you really have the right sound system to do the job in your fitness facility or dance studio?

Sound systems can be a complicated subject wrought with technical language, insiders’ jargon, and just plain mumbo-jumbo. We’ll cut through all that and give you some general concepts in non-technical language that should help you make more effective equipment purchasing decisions.

The importance of a good sound system is frequently the "forgotten factor" at many fitness and dance facilities. While instruction and performance must be first in any professionals list of priorities, the proper selection, installation, and use of a sound system will often determine whether the participants and the audience get the message. The sound system is a professional tool. Just as an automobile mechanic buys new tools as needed, you, as a fitness or dance professional, should be prepared to invest in new audio tools, which enable you to communicate!

Function, Variable Speed, Power, and Budget! The first step in the selection of equipment is to determine your needs. Each dance and fitness facility is different and each facility usually has some equipment already, which can be integrated into a new system.

Ask yourself what type of music playback equipment do you need — record player, tape deck, CD player and MP3 player or iPod? How much power (expressed in watts) do you need? Will the equipment be stationary or portable? What is your personal preference? What is easier to use based on the nature of your operation?

Decide which playback media you want to use. Fitness facilities use only cassette tapes and CDs. For most dance studios, the answer is CDs, cassette tapes, and sometimes vinyl records. Variable speed equipment is available for all of these media and there is a wide enough price range to suit every budget!

Variable speed playback equipment, turntables, tape decks, and CD players have about ±12% variable speed pitch control, which is more than adequate tempo variability!

The question often arises whether you are better off using individual components or an integrated sound system. There is no simple answer to that question and many solutions might be right. Separate audio components can be selected with specific features sometimes not found in integrated systems and also have the advantage of being able to be purchased over a period of time, as budget permits. This approach also gives the flexibility to swap audio components between studios if you have several facilities or tour frequently.

Input and output are virtually all compatible on all currently available equipment. (To check on compatibility of old equipment, call an expert). “Line”, “Auxiliary”, and “Tape” outputs are commonly referred to as “line level” as opposed to (microphone) “mic level”. Audio information is transferred between components such as tape decks, CD players, and amplifiers through these "line level" outputs. Integrated systems have the advantage that they are usually more compact and are easier to transport as a complete system, compared to individual components.

Generally speaking, 80 to 200 watts is enough power for the sound in a small fitness or dance facility. Larger facilities will require more.