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The Small/Start-Up Church Gear Checklist

Avoid the "inventive" systems cobbled together by well-meaning folks by doing it right in the first place...
This article is provided by Behind The Mixer.

Are you running sound at a small and/or 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. As a result, 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: some of 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 four or more auxiliary sends or a 16-24 channel digital mixer.

—Cable snake: 16-24 channels with four or more auxiliary returns, 100- to 150-foot snake – whatever gets you from the stage to the booth.

—Two 15-inch 3-way powered loudspeakers for front of house (same brand and model line as the subs)

—One or two 18-inch powered subwoofers (same brand and model line as the mains)

—One 1/3-octave equalizer for front of house (not needed with a digital mixer)

—One two-channel compressor for pastor and one other channel (could be lead vocal or guest mic) (not needed with a digital mixer)

—Either four powered stage monitors or four in-ear monitor systems

—Four to six vocal microphones

—One kick drum mic

—Four instrument mics

—One pastor wireless headset mic

—Mic cables

—Mic stands (regular and “shorty”)

—One 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.

The Mixer

16-24 channel with four 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
4—Drum overhead
6—Bass guitar
8—Acoustic guitar
9—Electric guitar
10—Extra instrument
11—Lead vocal
12—Backing vocal
13—Backing vocal
14—Pastor mic
15—Extra mic

Even though I show four 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 four mics. If not, you have three 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 one. Soundcraft, Allen & Heath, Yamaha, and Mackie 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 mixers are inexpensive but in light of the dropping costs of digital mixers and the limited functionality of the analog, unless you have a lot of expensive and somewhat new outboard rack gear, a digital mixer is likely a better choice.

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