Is Your Small Church Audio Team Under-Equipped? Here’s Your Gear Checklist

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Are you running sound at a small church or a new start-up church?  If so, chances are you’re struggling with the sound reinforcement system. I’ve seen a lot of “inventive” systems cobbled together by well-meaning folks and believe it’s time to toss out a life-line.

I’ve put together a list of the essential pieces of sound reinforcement equipment for a small church. Because most small churches don’t have much of a tech budget, I’m not going to be specifying high-end equipment. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have pro-quality and tour-grade gear.  I want you to have good gear – I’m NOT here to say it’s ok to buy bargain-basement gear.

A quick note; these are personal preferences. Your mileage may vary.

The basic sound reinforcement components needed for a small church with a contemporary service are [drum roll, please]:

  • Mixer: 16-24 channel analog mixer with 4 or more auxiliary sends or a 16-24 channel digital mixer.
  • Cable snake: 16-24 channels with 4 or more auxiliary returns, 100-150 ft snake – whatever gets you from the stage to the booth.
  • 2 15-inch 3-way powered speakers for front of house (same brand and model line as the subs)
  • 1 or 2 18-inch powered subwoofers (same brand and model line as the mains)
  • 1 1/3-octave equalizer for front of house (not needed with a digital mixer)
  • 1 2-channel compressor for pastor and one other channel (could be lead vocal or guest mic) (not needed with a digital mixer)
  • Either 4 powered stage monitor wedge speakers or 4 in-ear monitor systems
  • 4-6 vocal mics
  • Kick drum mic
  • 4 instrument mics
  • Mic cables
  • Pastor wireless headset mic
  • Mic stands (regular and shorty)
  • Furman power conditioner for the equipment at the sound booth.

All righty then. Now that I’ve defined what I consider the minimum requirements, let me start unpacking why.  Below, I’ve highlighted details behind some of this gear.  It contains a good bit of brands to avoid and highlights a few for consideration.

The Mixer

16-24 channel with 4 or more auxiliary sends analog mixer or a 16, 24, or yes, even 32 channel digital mixer.

Here’s what a typical lineup of channels might look like:

  1. Kick drum
  2. Snare
  3. Hi-hat
  4. Drum Overhead
  5. Percussion
  6. Bass Guitar
  7. Keyboard
  8. Acoustic Guitar
  9. Electric Guitar
  10. Extra Instrument
  11. Lead Vocal
  12. Backing Vocal
  13. Backing Vocal
  14. Pastor mic
  15. Extra mic
  16. Computer

Even though I show 4 mics for drums (ch 1-4), I usually recommend just miking the kick drum and the snare in a live room. Now if you have a really dead room or you have a huge building then use all 4 mics. If not, you have 3 channels that are now open. As you can see, there are enough channels for a typical contemporary band. If you have a choir then you may need more than 16 channels and may need to look at a 24 channel board.

Typical analog mixing boards I recommend are right around $1,000 for a new board. Soundcraft, Allen and Heath, Yamaha, some Mackies (in that order of preference) are pretty much bulletproof. An analog board may have some built-in effects and possibly a recording interface (either USB or Firewire) but that’s about the extent of the computer electronics. A lot of these brands (and audio boards) have been around for a long time and have proven their toughness on the road.

Analog mixer are inexpensive but in light of the dropping costs of digital mixers and the limited functionality of the analogs, unless you have a lot of expensive and somewhat new outboard rack gear, a digital mixer is likely a better choice.

Analog vs. Digital Mixers

Here’s the difference between an analog board and a digital board. With an analog board what you see is what you get. That means that if you want to change a setting, there’s a knob on each channel for it. On a digital board you have to bring that channel into focus since the function of the knobs on a digital board change depending on what you’ve got on the screen.

A digital board is a computer and is subject to the same issues that a computer has. An analog board has greater latitude in the environment it’s operated in and can tolerate a greater range of temperature, humidity, and power variances. A digital board has all the effects, dynamics and individual channel eqs and front of house eqs needed which means the above gear can be paired down. An analog board doesn’t have the luxury of having all that built-in.

Consider the Allen & Heath QU16, Behringer X32, Midas M32, and the Soundcraft SI Expression line. They are a decent chunk of change but when factoring in the additional capabilities and what you’d be spending for a decent eq and decent compressor, you’re about even.  The PreSonus StudioLive mixers have been very popular but don’t have the automated faders like the others.

Da Fat Channel

PreSonus, along with other companies like Soundcraft and Behringer, have digital mixers with a single-channel surface design.  PreSonus calls it the Fat Channel design.  This is where everything for a given channel is shown all at one time. No layers to wade through. It’s not as intimidating as higher end digital boards.

It’s important to note that digital mixers do not all have the same workflow.  Demo them and find which works best for your situation.

Powered speakers and subs

Why powered speakers? Because in a relatively short time they’ve come a long way.

Powered speakers along the lines of QSC’s K or KW series have built-in amplifiers and crossover circuits custom tailored to the specific speakers. Plug in the equivalent sub, hook up the mains and you can rest assured that the subs will crossover at the optimum frequency and that each amplifier is designed to produce the maximum sound for the given speaker. No additional amps or crossover boxes to wire in and fuss over.

Be aware that you’ll need to have power receptacles by the speakers to plug them in and they are heavier than non-powered speakers. While they may seem more expensive, by the time you factor in the cost of the proper amps and crossovers, the powered speakers come out equal.

Powered stage monitors or in-ear system

Monitor speakers are the typical – some say “old-school” – way for musicians to hear themselves on stage.

What musicians need to hear is quite different than what the congregation needs to hear.  Most musicians need the lead vocal and lead instrument to focus on what they’re doing. Sometimes they’ll need to bring their instrument into their mix. Vocalists always need to be able to hear themselves.

Monitor wedges require the sound team to mix each musician’s monitor mix from the sound booth.  The problem is with more monitors on stage and multiple monitor needs, stage volume becomes a problem.  This is especially true if the drums are right behind any vocalist.

In-ear monitors are pretty much headphones plugged into a box.  They take the individual channel sends from the mixing board and allow each musician to create their own mix. By being on headphones, stage volume isn’t a concern.

In-ears take some getting used to because of the amount of audio isolation. To compensate, it’s common to have a microphone on the stage aimed out at the audience and mixed into the musician’s mixes. In-ears are usually more expensive that monitor wedges.

Vocal microphones

Whatever you do, please don’t buy no-name (generic) brand mics. You’ll regret it. While the specs may look similar to pro-grade mics like Shure, Sennheiser, Heil, Audix, Audio-Technica, and ElectroVoice, they aren’t close.

There is a reason the Shure SM-series, Sennheiser 835, Heil PR20/30/40, etc. have been around a long time. Someone once said that every single hall in the United States has been eq’ed for a Shure SM57/58. That alone should tell you something. These mics are rugged, all-around workhorses that are still in use by major productions.  Just about every concert that you watch on TV has at least one of these mics on something, whether a vocal or an instrument.

The Shure Beta 58 has the added advantage of having a titanium ball cover which means you can drop the darn thing and never have a dented ball cover. You can drop the SM57/58s on the floor, from the stage, and probably run them over with a truck and they’ll keep working.

But don’t drop them.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  But you already know that, don’t you.

Drum microphones

In small churches, I usually recommend miking only the kick drum and the snare. I’ve found many small churches don’t have a big room and the rooms they do have are very “alive.”  Now, if the room is really dead or the room is huge, then use all 4 mics.  Use Shure SM57′s for snare and toms and a Shure Beta 52A on the kick.   Use a condenser for an overhead mic.

Instrument microphones

A combination of dynamics and condensers are good for instrument miking.  Most of this type of miking will be for a piano or a drum kit.  Other gear, like guitars and keyboards, plugs directly into the system.  A Shure SM57 is a good dynamic microphone and commonly used for snare drum miking.

Microphone cables

No matter what you’ve heard, don’t go spending $50 for a Mogami or Monster mic cable. Go to monoprice.com and pick up their mic cables for peanuts. They’re lifetime warranted and just as good as anything out there.

Wireless headset microphone

You get what you pay for.  Have I said that already?  Spend under $500 for something other than a Shure, Sennheiser, or Audio-Technica wireless system, with a headset mic, and the regret might soon set in.  A wireless system from any of the “big names in high-quality microphones” will be good.  I’ve just listed a couple in case you’re new to buying equipment.

Quality counts in the wireless arena and high quality isn’t cheap.  Look for something in the UHF or digital frequency range. Stay away from anything in the 680-850mhz range if you are in the USA. As of July 1, 2010, this frequency range is no longer available for wireless mic use.  You should not see them in the stores but watch for “a great deal on eBay” because it’s not a great deal.

Also, in this price range models are frequency-agile.  This means they have dual antennas and can skip back-and-forth between frequencies to get the best signal.

Power conditioner

Spend a little bit (around $100) for a Furman power conditioner to protect the “really” expensive equipment.  Furmans are built for protecting audio and computer equipment. They are also built like a tank.

Don’t buy a $15 power strip and expect it to protect gear the same way. It won’t. I have a standing rule. Anything that plugs in at the sound booth gets plugged into a Furman, or it doesn’t get plugged in.

Furmans are designed to sacrifice themselves in the event of a power surge.  This means spending another $100 for a replacement if it gets fried but the rest of your equipment will have been protected. Plus, they have a replacement guarantee on the remaining equipment if the Furman doesn’t do its job.

It’s a wrap

That’s it in a nutshell – a very big nutshell. Post a comment below if you have questions about your situation or thoughts on this list.

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Comments

  1. wessly says

    thank you Brian for the article

    I am searching the internet for this type of article

    Thank God for this article

  2. Cyril says

    I’ve noticed you mentioned about drum mic’ing as a start up for this article. We have a medium sized church hence recently, the drum mic’ing question came up. What are the main questions to would justify when and why we should mic the drums? At the current state, drums are pretty clear however drummers are suggesting to put in mics so that it can go out thru the front of house speakers as well. What’s your thought on this?

    • says

      Cyril, you are miking for several reasons including; ability to give drummer’s the right monitor mix, and to be able to mix the drums properly in a room. You said the drums were clear, but were they balanced? I doubt they were. A drum kit is filled with kit pieces played together but they are separate pieces. It’s up to you, as the tech, to mixing them so they are balanced; so the kick sits in the right spot, the snare punches through just right. This is a hard part to example because it’s best demonstrated live in your room by saying “this is how it sounds” and “listen to how it should sound.”

  3. Jared Koopman says

    A good list…but I would disagree with the Presonus choice. :) Honestly in my humble opinion the X32 is a much more complete system and super easy to learn. The Soundcraft EX series and A&H Qu series would be my next choices before a presonus.

    But again there is more to it than just console…you have to consider the system as a whole (digital snake, personal monitor mixers, etc).

    Anyway just my 2 cents. Thanks for sharing! :)

    Jared

    • says

      Jared, the X32 is definitely a viable alternative. Brian and I were talking about this and we’ve decided to tweak the article to better reflect more options given the market.

  4. Clyde September says

    Just a question, I did not read all the comments so maybe someone raised this already.
    Why the emphasis on mics for drums? Often in more rock sounding music the natural drums volume is louder than the guitars …or in fact the rest of the band?

    • says

      Clyde, two big factors come into play with drums; the drummer and the room acoustic. Well, and a third; control. Few drummers at this level know how to play to a room. Many don’t have the finesse to play softer for a smaller room. But the biggie is control. You want to control the amount of kick and snare for both the house mix and monitors as they are important for setting the tempo for other musicians.

      Also, drums should be shields for controlling stage volume. That’s for the benefit of the other musicians, the audience / congregation, and the sound tech.

    • TJ Wuth says

      Clyde, great question. To dig deeper into what Chris said, their is a big difference between drums sounding loud and drums sounding good. The room acoustics will act as a filter on any sound and what you hear when you’re right next to the drums will be much different than what you hear when you’re out in the house. Low frequency sounds are not very directional and therefore require more energy to project. High frequency sounds are quite directional and require relatively little energy to project. When you put drums in a room, you’ll notice that they start to sound thin – especially as the size of the room grows. When we mic drums, we’re able to capture those frequencies that make drums sound good and then reinforce or augment the acoustic sound of the drums. I think you’ll find that most people will tolerate a good sound that is a little too loud than a quieter but unbalanced sound. If we think of mixing sound like painting a canvas, then holes in the frequency spectrum would be like certain colors missing from the painting, its just not as pleasing to the eye or the ear. When instruments are not mic’d, you’re forced to mix around them rather than blend them into your mix. As a drummer myself, it is much easier to play when the drums sound good to you, so the other benefit of micing drums is the ability to feed them to the drummer’s IEM mix. Then you’ll probably have an easier time working with your drummer and convincing him or her that they can play softer and you’ll be sure they sound good in the house.

      • Clyde September says

        Thanks for the inputs. Don’t really agree :-) but thanks for the inputs.
        My view is that for small churches on tight budget, forget about mixing the drums. I’ve been playing, recording and ardent audience member at several small venues. More often than not the loudest sounding instrument is only the drums and everything else is some midrange muddle.
        Again, I see this as definitely music style related, since a choral based church is not going to have this issue with the tambourine player :-)

        • Paul says

          I have been debating on a few ideas regarding putting mics on drums at my church; which is small. There are days when the drummer drowns out the band and they are not mic. I had sacrificed keys and some vocals because its already too loud in the house. I have pondered if a shield would even help. For my issue, I am considering of building a room around the drums or move to electric drums. So I guess what I am saying is that mic on drums is not essential for small churches; it depends on the drummer.

          • says

            Paul, you are very right. I do wonder if the electronic drum kits used in the home by new drummers leads to drums who don’t know how to play for the room.

          • Clyde September says

            Hi
            Actually I think that drummers who practise their craft (home drummers) make for better musicians. However the mechanics of the instrument makes it a loud instrument naturally. I would really like to have a good set of edrums at the church, but they are rather expensive.
            Next bet is a drum shield. ..

          • says

            As a drummer I know what it’s like to have the loudest instrument in the band. The biggest problem with attempting to ease up is dependent on a couple of things, ignoring the Animal-type drummer :). Drum/cymbal construction and sticks play a very big role. If you can choose drums I’d go with a jazz style kit. They tend to have smaller toms and kick. Similar deal with the cymbals. Thinner cymbals will be easier to sound good with less whacking than rock cymbals. Tuning the drums accurately will also help. If you’re getting ringing or long sustains on the drum heads add either Moon gel or damping rings to the kit. For the kick definitely put in a drum pillow and tune the kick up a bit so it doesn’t boom across the room.

            Sticks play a really important role. If you’ve got a small room the drummer shouldn’t be playing with anything other than Hot Rods. Hot Rods are pretty much a bunch of small diameter wooden dowel rods taped together. They cut down on the volume significantly. The major downside with any wooden dowel type sticks is that if you’re drummer channels Animal then your drum area will look like it’s had a beaver convention! Hot Rods definitely will require replacement every couple of months. Lighter sticks like 7As will also help.

            All a drum shield does is deflect the energy coming from in front of the drums and sends it backwards if you just use the acrylic shield. If you use the sound absorption panels with it then you’ll get some deadening of the drums but the cymbals will still bounce off the back wall and also come out the top. If you are going to get a shield go with something like Clearsonic and not go with a cheap brand that uses Lexan or plexiglass. Acrylic has some absorption properties compared to plexiglass. If you can afford to put the drummer in a completely enclosed shield then that’s the best solution from a volume standpoint. By that point you’ve probably spent as much money as buying an electronic drum kit.

          • Anonymous says

            Our drummers are pretty good at playing for a small room (they only use hot rods). We didn’t have a drum mic for ages. It isn’t essential but I have to say it’s nice to have. Now that we have it at least one week out of three I use it. Mainly with EQ in order to bring out specific parts of the kit.

  5. Fran says

    A lot of great information in this article that I’m sure will help many out.

    Although I am partial to Soundcraft’s quality, there are options for churches/ministries on a tighter budget.
    I’m a little surprised that there wasn’t any mention of Peavey equipment. For anyone on a tight budget that still wants high quality, top of the line Peavey is hard to beat. For mobile sound systems their IPR class D power amps are a great buy and only cost slightly more than the Behringer class D knock offs.

    I’ll give another shout out for a hard to beat quality/price brand; Samson. They have a small catalog, but everything of theirs I’ve ever had my hands on has been very well built and great features. Their L2000 mixer is loaded with features and its at a great price point for those who need to make the most of every dollar. http://www.samsontech.com/samson/products/mixers/l-series/l2000/

    IMO, I’d stay away from Allen & Heath. We had an expensive 32 channel of theirs that only lasted two years. Total disappointment and cost just as much to fix as a buying a new one.

    Its nice to see an article that is actually helpful to the average ministry budget. I get tired of articles laced with sales pitches for over-the-top-priced-money’s-no-object equipment for mega church budgets. I was at a seminar once, and I asked the speaker, “What about churches with less than 500 members?” He stood silent for a moment and gave a generic answer like “I’m talking in reference to rooms seating over a thousand.” to keep his talk moving along. Jesus spoke to thousands without a PA. LOL :)

    • says

      Fran, great points!

      So everyone knows I wrote this article over a year ago. It’s time for an update since a lot of the equipment has changed, with new equipment coming in and old equipment discontinued. The PreSonus StudioLive 16 channel referenced in the article has been replaced by the PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 AI. There appear to be enough teething pains with this new board for me to not place it on my top list as of this date. The good news is there is an influx of lower-priced, full-featured digital mixers that have come out in the last 6 months that are comparable.

      Samson is a great brand, very under-rated. I have a buddy who runs live sound for some big acts and he swears by the Samson mics. He really likes the headset models as well.

      Forgot about the Peavey amps. I would definitely choose Peavey over Behringer for amps any day.

      Chris and I have been doing some brainstorming as this article appears to have resonated with quite a few folks. Stay tuned for additional posts specific to small churches!

    • Keith Matocha says

      I disagree about Allen & Heath. I have 2 consoles that I use 5 nights a week for open mic or Karaoke. Not one problem out of either one in well over 2 years in service. I like them so much I am considering the new digital TU-16.

      • says

        Keith, I agree with you. Allen & Heath consoles have been pretty reliable for me too. I just ordered an A-H GLD112 and a QU-16 for our camp and one of our church plants so it will be interesting to see how they hold up in those environments.

        • Keith Matocha says

          Would love to hear your thought on the QU-16 once you have a chance to use it. I really want to downsize the gear I move nightly. I feel like a digital board is the only answer for an all in one solution.

  6. Jeff says

    I see you linked to the Furman M-8×2 power conditioner. For a live sound setup, would the PL-8C be worth the price increase for what amounts to their LiFT noise reduction, Isolated outlet Banks and Extreme Voltage Shutdown Protection. I’m happy with the sound we have coming from the speakers for the most part, although we do have a little bit of hum that is covered up once the music starts.

    Also, if I’m looking to get one for the sound booth and another for the stage, should they both be the same? Do you think getting the PL-8C for the sound booth and the M-8×2 for the stage would make the noise filtering features ineffective since we have powered PAs and they’ll be plugged into the M-8×2?

    Regardless, I know either would be a major improvement over the power strips we have, especially considering the building was built in the 1920s.

    Sorry for the barrage of questions, but I appreciate any insight you guys can provide.

    • says

      I’ve gotten a couple of questions on what you need to protect the equipment. Here’s my reply which should cover the bases.

      Don’t stress over needing too many power conditioners. Use the power conditioners like the rack-mount Furmans for the delicate equipment like the mixers. For the stage and any of the speakers I would just use any of the Furman power strips like this one http://www.fullcompass.com/product/238922.html. Amps are usually pretty immune to voltage spikes since they’re built pretty stout. Guitar amps are more sensitive but using any high-quality power strip is all the protection you’ll need. My setup is usually 1 Pro at the booth (with everything plugged into the Pro saving set up time) and then 2-3 of the power strips for the stage and speakers.

  7. SamH says

    Try, if you can, to match wireless vocal mics with their wired counterparts. For example, we had some Sennheiser ew335 wireless handheld mice, which use the same capsule as the wired 835 mics. Granted, they don’t sound EXACTLY the same, but they’re close enough that it helps keep things more predictable.

    • says

      I am loving the comments! Great suggestions too! For the noobs in the group this is the one thing I love about tech. Being able to share amongst ourselves the tricks of the trade! No one can know it all and as you can see by the comments and suggestions there are some valuable adds that I didn’t think about! Keep it up!

      Dave U, it depends. Price ranges make the difference in this market. If you are a small church I’d try to steer away from powered wedge monitors. If your team absolutely must have them I’d go with something like the Galaxy HotSpot. Berhinger and Mackie make a similar mic stand mountable monitor. I like them because they are small and powerful. Being able to be mounted on a mic stand means you can put it right at someone’s ear if you need to. Being small also means you’re not going to overwhelm the stage with too much bass.

      The problem with having powered monitor speakers that are bigger than the Hot Spots are that they are multi-function speakers (think JBL Eons). They can function as FOH or monitors. The downside is the price. You’re looking at spending as much for a monitor speaker as a main. They also tend to be rather bulky unless you start getting up in price ($1,000 and up).

      Personally the best bang for the buck is to get a headphone amp and a set of decent earbuds. You plug the monitor send into the headphone amp instead of the powered monitor. Then each musician gets’ their own mix or if multiple musicians are sharing the same monitor channel all you need is a multiple headphone amp (most of them have at least 2 outputs). The cost for this setup is less than $100 per station.

      Now if you are looking for a quality IEM then you’re looking at Avioms or Allen-Heath ME3 or Behringer IEM. I love the A-H ME3 from a total channel choice count (40) to the cleanliness of the sound. However for a 6 piece system on any of them you’re looking at around $3,000 – $4,000.

      • Scott P says

        I’ve used the Behringer HA4700 at a couple churches with great success. They work well because they have four separate amps that can be used for individual mixes. They also have a stereo input that can be mixed with any of the four amplifier channels, sort of allowing a “more of me” situation. The HA4700 also has individual EQ controls for each amp channel.

        I’ve also used Mackie HMX-56 and the similar OZ Audio headphone amps with great success.

        We currently have Behringer P16M personal monitors in conjunction with Behringer X32′s in our student room and our portable campus. The feedback from the band has been very good.

        There are a lot more personal monitor solutions available now than there were a few years ago.

      • Anonymous says

        Hi I got the Allen & Heath QU-16 which we use each week at church and it’s fantastic. The recording of 18 channels direct to a hard drive is one if it’s usp’s. But also it sounds great and with peq’s in all inputs and peq’s and geq’s on all 12 outputs plus ilive effects it’s just brilliant .

    • says

      For IEM’s is all about what you want to spend and how you want musicians to control their mixes; with a surface or with an ipad or iphone. Check out EliteCore, myMix, Aviom, for just a few possibilities.

  8. TJ Wuth says

    Great article Brian. As a former technical director and current electrical engineer I can’t stress enough the importance of good power conditioners – and don’t forget to put your powered speakers on a power conditioner too. I repair equipment as a hobby and I’ve had two different pairs of powered speakers in my shop this month that were taken out by power issues and we’re not plugged in to a conditioner. Older models don’t usually have switch mode power supplies (SMPS) so a voltage spike may go strait to the rails and fry the output chips and transistors and in some cases it will take out the high frequency diaphragm as well. The newer designs with SMPS can be even more susceptible to poor quality input power as the quality and complexity of SMPS designs vary among manufacturers. Remember that the design engineer assumes fairly good and clean input power so be sure to give them what they assume should be there.

    • Fran says

      SPOT on TJ. I’ve got a main power amp on my bench right now that was taken out by rotten electricity. IMO everything electrical, if it has value to you, should be on a conditioner.

  9. says

    loner1200, don’t fall into the trap of looking at what I am recommending and looking at what you have in your church and think that you’re short on something. That’s not necessarily the case and it depends on where your church is technical capability and financially.

    In terms of priorities get a power conditioner on the system first. I like Furman’s a lot. They’ve never let me down and I’ve had some that totally fried themselves to protect the downline equipment. Well worth the money. I usually have one in the rack for the soundbooth and one on stage (the one that looks like a big extension cord box) for the musicians to plug their stuff into. I’d also get one for the rest of the sound equipment on stage. The difference in price between a 6U and 8U units (at least here in the States) is relatively minor and I would try to get the biggest lugable case that you can afford. Bear in mind that 2 6U cases loaded up will weigh less than 1 8U unit. For a portable church that needs to be a consideration.

    15 inch speakers should have decent enough low end that you can get away without needing a sub. In that size room it might be overkill and might make the bass drown out the rest of the music. I wouldn’t worry too much about getting one.

    Instead of a stage monitor you might want to think about putting everyone on in-ears. Using a headphone amp and wired earbuds would only cost about $50-$60 and depending on how many mixes you need you may be able to have multiple musicians on the same headphone amp.

    The Zed420 has good eq built-in. While a whole house eq is nice and an additional tool layer you may not need it. If you can get decent sound from each channel on your mixer in the house without having to completely rack the eq controls either off or full blast then you can just use the mixer. If you find you’re having to drastically eq each channel and it still doesn’t sound that good then it’s time for a whole house eq. But if you get one then you’ll want to put it in the rack with the mixer. Once you get the house eq set decently you’re probably not going to change it that often. Probably a couple of times a year depending on your weather conditions. So you could put a cage on it if you don’t want anyone mucking about with the settings once you’ve got them set.

    • Scott P says

      I agree completely with Brian. Are you and the team satisfied with the sound that you’re getting? If you are, then why buy more equipment? Maybe items like a cable tester or velcro cable ties would be a better investment. Could a snake for the drums reduce your setup time? Then maybe a drum snake is the next want.

      In a portable environment, ease and speed of setup can be crucial. If you are going to purchase a rack to house rack gear, I’d consider going with a larger rack and adding drawers to it. We have one three space and one four space drawer in our 12 space FOH rack at our portable campus for this reason. Those drawers store the stuff that is needed near FOH – cables, sharpies, CD’s, iPod, wireless microphones, batteries, as well as the video converters and adapters needed for the video booth.

      • loner1200 says

        Thanks for the replies.

        We are somewhat happy with the sound. I doubt much could be improved by equipment, with maybe the exception of in-ears. I’m not too sure how you can get a headphone amp for $50-$60 but with that said, in Australia we do seem to pay a lot more for things than you do in the USA or maybe I’m looking at the wrong brands. We only have one drum mic so there’s no need for a snake and we have more than enough velcro ties.

        This is going to sound stupid because I have no experience with power conditioners. I’ve been looking closely at Furman’s site. Their manuals make no mention of the units being sacrificial in the international version. The US version does have a paragraph that says that at times it may fail due to extreme surges but has a resetable circuit breaker switch. Is it close to a normal circuit breaker in that it might be good for a few small transients or one large one then it’s done?

        • Lee says

          Take a look at a Rolls PM55P as an inexpensive IEM system, it has a built in limiter (one of the few that I have found that do), volume control and a “more me” feature. It can be hooked on a belt to reduce wire fatigue and for less than $100.00 US, it might be a more affordable option for small churches.

        • says

          No such thing as a stupid question as far as we are concerned unless you don’t ask it mate! :)

          Power conditioners (decent ones anyway) do function like a circuit breaker and also like a smoother for power. The main purpose is to even out spikes and protect against surges. All of them will have a built-in circuit breaker that gets tripped whenever the surge exceeds the engineering amperage. I’ve had Furmans that have withstood surges that I would have sworn should have reduced it to just a melted blob. I’ve also had them that got fried with a lightining strike but they saved the rest of the equipment. Usually what will happen in a “normal” surge situation (not a lighting strike) is that the built-in breaker will trip protecting both the unit and the downstream equipment. Now keep in mind that you want to plug all connected equipment into the conditioner otherwise if you leave one piece of equipment plugged into an unprotected outlet and you get a surge, the surge, if large enough, can jump through the equipment cables into the protected equipment attached to it. So if you have a CD player plugged into the mixer and it’s plugged into an unprotected outlet you could still fry the mixer.

          For the headphone amps a Sampson S AMP 4 channel headphone amp retails for around $50 in the U.S. You really don’t need anything fancy so a Rolls unit works great as well. Not sure what they would cost in AU.

  10. Chris G. says

    Nice writeup–thanks! The only other critical pieces of equipment in my small church’s arsenal are DI boxes. We regularly use 3 (acoustic guitar, bass guitar, and electric guitar). We might use 4, but our keyboard has built-in balanced XLR outputs.

  11. Scott P says

    I second your list and thought that I would add a few more things. We recently launched a portable campus with a system similar to this – Behringer X32, 2 QSC KW122, 4 QSC KW181, Sennheiser wireless, Shure and Audix wired mice, etc. You can check it out at http://www.thisisfoh.com/mlc-lambert/.

    I agree about wireless – stay away from the cheap stuff. I’ve been asked to troubleshoot many wireless systems that someone found a “great deal” on. In every case, that “great deal” worked for less than one year. And they never worked well to begin with. If you know what you’re doing, used wireless can be a great option.

    Another option for IEM’s is going with a multi-channel headphone amp fed by the auxes of the console. In this case, individual monitors are still mixed at FOH. I’ve found this to be the least expensive method of going wedge-less, and it is a great way to begin transitioning from wedges.

    Don’t forget power extension cords! They can get expensive -we spent around $500 on them. Also remember various cables – headphone cables, instrument cables, iPod cables, etc. Direct boxes come in very handy and may be a necessity depending upon your band.

    Beware of great deals on Shure and Sennheiser microphones – especially on eBay. Many, if not most, of these are counterfeit. If you are not familiar enough to know genuine from counterfeit, stay away! I was at a church recently that had purchased all of their SM57′s and 58′s on eBay. 4 of them failed within two weeks. Every one of them was fake. Sennheiser wireless microphones are highly counterfeited, too.

    The best use of resources is to buy better quality gear, but maybe less of it. For instance, this may mean you have one wireless microphone instead of three. But that one wireless microphone is likely to still be in use five or ten years from now when you’re spec’ing your next PA.

    • says

      Scott, I’ve seen photos of SM58 counterfeits and even their boxes looked highly suspect. In some cases, they screamed “WE ARE BAD FAKES!”
      Chris

    • says

      I agree with Scott and Chris. A Shure SM57/58 should cost around $99 (maybe $79 on sale) that’s brand new. If you think you’re getting a deal then you’re probably getting ripped off.

      I wrote the article before the Behringer X32 came out. I would add that mixer to the list of decent, relatively inexpensive digital mixers. It’s got some functionality that the PreSonus doesn’t have. Either one of them work great in a church environment.

      Chris G., DI’s (Direct Injection) boxes are definitely critical. You can get decent ones by ART, Behringer, AudioPile for about $40-$50 for a passive box. As long as the DI has an attentuation switch and a ground lift. Personal preference, especially if you want the DI to be the best sound and be built like the proverbial brick outhouse is either Radial or Whirlwind DI’s. If you’re a small church I’d stay away from active DI’s because they needed to be powered, either by battery or by phantom power. And if the battery runs out or if you forget to turn phantom power on you don’t get any sound.

  12. loner1200 says

    I mix at a very very small church. The congregation is never more than 50 people, probably less than 30 on most days. The room is smaller than 10*10 metres with a stage beyond that, which is no more than 3m deep.

    Our equipment list:
    A&H Zed 420
    30m 16 channel snake (12 send, 4 returns)
    2 15″ powered speakers
    DBX 2 ch compressor/limiter
    1 powered stage monitor
    1 POSSE audio in-ear system
    3 Shure SM58s
    1 large diaphragm condenser (no-name) mic for the drums
    2 Shure SM57s
    1 shure SLX wireless headset mic
    Lexicon 2ch fx box
    3 Behringer DI100s

    So compared to your list:
    no equaliser
    no subs
    2 less foldbacks/stage monitor systems
    1 less vocal mic
    2 less instrument mics
    no power conditioner
    additional fx box & 3 DIs

    Additional details:
    We are a portable church for sound purposes. Our host church has a set & forget system with a mixer in a side room where nothing sounds like the FOH.

    Our typical worship band composition is:
    1)1-3 singers
    2)1-2 guitars (1 acoustic, 1 electric or 2 electrics)
    3)Piano
    4)Drums
    Other potential instruments (rarely used)
    1)Keyboard
    2)Bass guitar
    3)Violin
    4)Cello

    My thoughts:
    I’d like an equaliser but we have about 30-45 bump in time (depending on when the host church finishes) and I’m not sure we have time to ring out the room. We barely even have time to sound check.

    I’m also not sure I can sell a sub to the pastors. Additionally, I’m out of storage space at the church for large items such as that.

    Similarly, I’m out of space for wedge monitors and, to be honest, even that one stage monitor for vocalists standing 1-2m away from the drums is killing my FOH sound. I know the 3 rows of seats maxim but on most days 4 rows is the entire church.

    More mics would probably be useful.

    Power conditioner is actually a really good idea. Is there a significant benefit to the furmans that aren’t sacrificial?

    On top of this, we have no real tech budget. I just make requests on and off. Any thoughts as to priorities? I’m thinking power conditioner+rack case (for the conditioner, fx box, compressor, SLX receiver. Am thinking 6U case to leave room for expansion.

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