Technical And Control Room Unit

Rev. Felix Nwafili (Chaplain)

Rev. Felix Nwafili (Chaplain)

Doing church sound for worship. If faith comes by hearing, shouldn’t our church sound systems be a priority? Many churches invest heavily in audio and media systems, and others, unfortunately, do not. Whether you’re a small, mid-size, or mega-church, church sound systems that will allow the Word and the music to be heard with detail at the appropriate level for your congregation, based on the style, culture, and make-up of your church, should be one of your highest priorities. This comprehensive guide to mixing and doing sound for worship in church will be the only guide you’ll need and the perfect training manual for your new or even mid-level sound-tech.

There are many things to consider when a decision has been made to improve, replace, and/or install new church sound systems. Audio church sound systems are, like any complex system, made up of many parts. The weakest link in the system would negatively affect the whole. However, replacing inferior or obsolete components of an existing system can bring it back to life.

So, what are some of the things to consider in this process? This guide will attempt to provide an understanding of what church sound systems are comprised of, the different environments they will be used in, and the level of skill required of those operating the system.

The Room

Before you set up any audio system, you need to consider the environment it will be in. Does the room have hard surfaces that can reflect the sound? (i.e. sheetrock walls, glass windows, tiled floors, wooden pews, vaulted hardwood ceilings or a metal roof with beams and columns) Perhaps it’s filled with stuff that absorbs sound like heavy drapes, carpeting, and padded chairs. It’s not that one environment is better than another, but it depends on the style of worship your church practices as to what type of room most suitable.

In a more traditional setting with a piano, an organ, and a choir, a more reflective, lively, and ambient environment works well (think singing in a tiled shower). However, when a modern worship band with drums, electric guitars, and floor monitors plays in highly reflective space, it can be a very difficult thing to control. Rooms that have been acoustically treated are much more suited for this style of worship. I am not saying that the room should be like the interior of a clothes closet –quite the contrary. You want some life to the room, but you don’t want to have reflections bouncing around like a billiard ball. If anybody tells you that the new sound system you’re considering will fix the problems in your room, please qualify the claim. In some cases, you may not be able to do anything to fix the room anomalies- a round, dome-shaped ceiling with glass walls, for instance. Many times, acoustic treatments that you can buy or build yourself can minimize the adverse effects of not-so-perfect sanctuaries.

This article is not a comprehensive guide to acoustics. I would highly recommend that you hire an acoustician to evaluate your church and to make recommendations before DIY (doing it yourself). They are worth the investment and can save you a lot of money downstream. Once you get the room to behave as best you can, with the resources available, the sound system will have the greatest potential to do what it was designed to do.

The People

If you happen to be in a small church, 50-100 seats, the required skill to set-up a new church sound system will be less than it would be for 2,000 seat mega-church. The equipment needed to cover a small space is typically less difficult to connect and operate. For instance, in a portable church application, simple connections are made from a powered mixer to speakers on stands. Larger congregations in larger spaces will need to consider systems with more parts and control. What is the skill level of the one(s) who will be manning the controls? Are they former FOH (front-of-house) engineers for touring bands, or are they a full-time cop, plumber, or soccer mom with very little experience in audio, volunteering their time 1-2 hours a week running sound? Make sure that the audio components you are going to buy are going to be able to be operated by the assigned techs on your team. It doesn’t make sense to purchase equipment that has the latest, greatest bells and whistles if you can’t find them. Consider purchasing equipment that is easier to operate, whether that is a new mixing console, a new digital keyboard, electronic drums, wireless microphones/in-ear monitors, or any new technology that the church needs.

Please, please, please reserve a portion of your audio budget for training your tech team on a continuing basis. It doesn’t sense to have great tools if no one knows how to use them. Contact me for training opportunities, tech conferences and various educational resources that are available.

The Cables

Oftentimes, sound system quality can be improved just by replacing your old worn out cables with better ones. Many churches are using an inferior microphone, instrument, and speaker cables or the wrong cables entirely. Does it make sense to purchase a new digital mixer, high-quality microphones, and loudspeakers and then connect them together with the cheapest cables? Evaluate your interconnections. Make sure you’re using the right type of cable, adapter, jack, etc. Many cables look alike but are very different. Keep the distances from the source to the destination as short as possible, especially if they are unbalanced lines. This is especially important with instrument and speaker cables. If the distance from an acoustic guitar or a keyboard to the mixing console is more than 20 feet away, please use a Direct Box to convert the high or low impedance instrument input to a balanced low impedance output so that the signal integrity will not be diminished. If you try to send the signal from the worship leader’s guitar output to a mixing console’s input without a D.I. (Direct Injection/Direct Box) more than 20 feet away, the signal will be much weaker and will have picked up noise along the way. High frequencies will also be lost.

Mixers are also known as mixing boards, consoles and desks and they can come in many forms, shapes, and features with varying degrees of control over inputs/outputs.

This is also a mixer (see picture below) and is placed on the stage where instruments and microphones would connect directly to it. There is now no for a snake. This allows for much faster setup in portable situations or allows the church to use it for other purposes outside of the church. It is controlled remotely with a variety of options: iPad / iOS devices, MAC/PC, All-In-One Windows computer or moving-fader control surface.