By TJ Cornish, March 2015
There’s a useful article entitled Why Churches Buy Three Sound Systems, written by an experienced AV company. The article describes the usual path that churches follow in getting started with sound equipment - usually a path that due to short sightedness and inexperience ends up with a fair bit of failure and wasted expense.
Buy Once, Cry Once
The better way, and in the long run the less expensive way, is to buy good quality, fitting equipment the first time. The price tag of good quality equipment sometimes causes a bit of shock, but having equipment that works for its intended use that is likely to be rugged and long lasting is worth it. This page provides a starting point, and possibly some perspective of what it takes to have the right equipment that just works.
Example System: High Quality Portable Sound System
High Quality Portable PA <- Detail spreadsheet
This system is designed for a church of 200 - 500 people with a typical contemporary worship team. It is designed as a portable system, and is suitable both as a secondary system used for special events, as well as a primary system for a mobile church.
The equipment on this list is what I describe as “the low-end of the good stuff” - gear that is professional-grade, sounds good, and is long lasting, however many items are on the value side of the spectrum. You will likely need to tweak quantities of things depending on your needs, but this represents a reasonably complete system for many situations.
The prices listed here are generally MAP - the minimum price that merchants are allowed to list. It should be possible to purchase the equipment here for around 10% less than the numbers on my sheet from good dealers.
This system is based around a good sounding main system - ElectroVoice ETX-12P speakers and ElectroVoice ETX-18SP subwoofers, and the Behringer X-32 digital mixing board. This system is based on in-ear monitoring for musicians - something that is highly recommended for minimizing stage volume and maximizing sound quality for the audience.
This system is designed to setup quickly, and have minimal interconnection time and effort. At the sound board position, the EWI workbox provides cable and mic storage, as well as a table to hold the mixing board. A single Ethernet cable runs to the stage rack which contains the remote end of the digital snake, the in-ear transmitters, and the wireless mic receivers. When putting both IEM transmitters and mic recievers in close proximity to each other, it is important to use a remote antenna for the IEMs. Otherwise the IEM transmitters can overload the wireless mic receivers. This system includes the IEM antenna combiner and an antenna that can be mounted to a mic stand to get the antenna away from the stage rack.
If the rack is placed close to the drum kit, short mic cables can be used to wire the drums. If the rack is placed farther away, it may be desirable to use a small snake to better organize the cabling.
The X-32 mixing board has 16 aux mixes, so if two are used for reverb and delay effects, 14 remain to be used for monitors.
To save some cost, this system has six wireless in-ear monitors and two wired in-ear monitors. The wired packs were intended for the drummer and either the bass player or keyboardist, as they have other equipment and wiring, and are less mobile than vocalists. Increasing the system to eight wireless in-ear packs can be easily done by adding one more Sennheiser EW300 IEMG3-2 system as the antenna combiner has one port available as designed. Adding more wired in-ear monitors is very inexpensive, requiring only another XLR cable, wired pack, power supply, and set of buds.
The in-ear buds on this list are low-end, and fairly disposable. I would recommend issuing a set to each member of your band. This eliminates hygiene issues, and does not require a scheme to manage swapping ear-tips on more expensive buds. If musicians desire, they can purchase their own higher-quality buds, as both the wired and wireless systems work with standard 1/8” plugs. If musicians do wish to use their own buds, make sure they are sound isolating or they will not work well.
The mic stands in this system are the touring industry standard. Cheaper stands are available, however they will not last very long. This is one place where buying the right product the first time will save money and hassle in the long run.