The audio industry has made dramatic technological advances in the realm of digital application. Wireless microphones can now run on digital bandwidth, analog stage snakes are being replaced with CAT5 cables, and eight foot wide mixing consoles are being replaced with digital consoles running twice the channels and a quarter of the desk space. With all of this advancement in technology comes an understandable level of intimidation, especially in church applications. I would like to explain why not only the church should not be intimidated by digital mixing technology, but how it can improve service flow and quality of sound, while make mixing easier for volunteers.
Tuesday night band rehearsal
comes to an end and the choir sounds great, the piano has never felt more alive, and the organ is filling the church with angelic sounds. We walk away ready for service, only to return Sunday morning to everything seemingly fallen apart. What happened? John Doe teenager decided those EQs just weren't right for the Wednesday night youth band and went to town on your console. Now there's only precious minutes to get everything in working order, and come service time you're fighting feedback and a choir that sounds like it's singing in a train tunnel. How can I run multiple services on one console without manually resetting every channel between services? Go digital.
Over the last decade, there's been an explosion of affordable digital consoles. World renown manufacturers such as Yamaha, Midas, Allen and Heath, Behringer, and more have created a market of low cost, yet still great sounding digital mixers. The most popular console by far being the Behringer X32. With thirty-two inputs and sixteen outputs, and a price tag of only $2000, the X32 has become the leading console in church sound installations. Need more than thirty-two inputs? The Yamaha TF5 digital console has forty-eight inputs and twenty outputs for only $3600. As an mix engineer, I get asked all the time, "Is it all worth the money?" My answer is undoubtedly yes. To put it in perspective, there are thirty-two inputs on a Behringer X32, each with its own built in compressor. Behringers cheapest rack mounted compressor is $130. If you were to buy a compressor for every channel, you would already be over $4000, and that's not including the compressors on the outputs, mains, etc. Digital consoles are the most economic choice in terms of processing.
Digital mixers are an appropriate and affordable solution for any house of worship. With an incredible amount of processing, a small footprint, and at a great price, it would be hard to justify anything else in a church sound booth. As both a volunteer that learned to run sound on analog consoles, and now as a professional, I can testify to the massive difference it makes in church sound quality.
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