Should your audio system be portable or permanently installed?
Does your congregation meet in a dedicated building or location all the time? If so, you’d probably be best served with a permanent installation. On the other hand, do you hold services, events or fundraisers in locations other than your main area of worship? Then you might need a portable solution. Or maybe you need both – a permanent installation for your regular services plus a portable solution for other circumstances.
What type of space are you using?
If you’re in a dedicated space, what does it look like? Is it a long, narrow room, or a small space, or a very large area? Are the ceilings high or low? The dimensions and geometry of the space need to be considered before you design your system.
What is your worship style?
Are you looking to simply amplify a speaker at the front of the congregation or will you need to mic a large choir or a band playing multiple instruments? Do you have different needs week-to-week, meaning you’ll need a scalable solution?
Who will be operating the equipment?
Audio solutions range from simple to incredibly complicated, so it matters who will be operating the equipment. If you have a dedicated A/V resource, then perhaps the sky is the limit; on the other hand, if you’ll have volunteers running the system, you may want to err on the side of a simple setup.
What’s your budget?
As with any other organization, most houses of worship operate on a budget that drives what you can buy and in what quantity. However, don’t be tempted to skimp on audio equipment and simply buy items because the price is low. Buy a product because you know it will work well and will last a long time. This will reduce repair and replacement costs in the long run.
Start Building Your System
Once you’ve successfully answered those questions, and any others you feel will help you assess your situation, then you can start researching products or packages that will fit your church. Even if you’re creating a fairly simple system, there are quite a few items you’re going to need. Let’s review the major categories that will serve as the building blocks for your house of worship.
Mixers and Digital Consoles
This is probably the first thing you need to look at when creating your church’s sound system. Your entire arrangement will revolve around your mixer. It provides audio inputs and outputs, routing, effects, amplification options and more. Some elements to consider when looking for a mixer include who/what you are amplifying (one person, choir, full band), whether you want an analog or digital mixer, and the usability of the selected model (will an expert be using it or a volunteer?).
Speakers are a critical component of an audio setup, since they are projecting the sound to your audience. Purchasing high-quality PA speakers can make the difference between great and terrible sound. This is where understanding your room or space is crucial, so you know how many speakers to buy and where you’ll want to place them.
The reason you’ve purchased a mixer and speakers is to amplify a speaker, choir or band during your services. Now, those people will need microphones! There is a huge variety of microphones on the market, including wireless mics, handheld wireless systems, instrument mics, mics that are great for choirs, boom microphones … the list goes on and on. Once again, it’s critical for you to assess who will be miked and whether they’ll be moving or stationary. For more detail, check out how to buy a microphone.
Stage and In-Ear Monitors
Everyone who is speaking or performing with a microphone needs to be able to hear themselves. This is where monitors come in. The amount of stage space you have and your budget will drive your purchase here. Stage monitors are larger but will allow you to build a monitoring system on a budget. In-ear monitors are great for situations where you are limited with space and/or when cost isn’t as much of an issue.
You may wonder: what’s the difference between an amplifier and a speaker? Without going into too much technical speak, think of it this way: a speaker can produce sound without an amplifier, but the amplifier is useless without a speaker. Without the speaker to create the sound, you wouldn’t hear anything. So, why do you need an amplifier? Well, without an amplifier, the speaker would work, but it would only be able to produce the sound output equal to the volume of the input. That won’t work in a large space!
Audio System Accessories
In order to connect all of these various products and make them into a well-oiled sound solution, you’ll need accessories like cords, cables and snakes, stage tape, lights, batteries, headphones and microphone stands. We carry all of these items and anything else you might need to put the finishing touches on your system.
No doubt, if you’re not an A/V professional, creating or upgrading a church audio system sounds difficult. And while there are a lot of elements to consider, remember to go back to those questions at the beginning of this guide and establish your basic needs. You can worry about bells and whistles later (or maybe never!). Consider your space, your style and the size of your congregation, then take the time to map out what you require. Assess what you currently have. Consider if there is anything you can purchase used or ask your members if they can contribute any items that might be gathering dust in their basements.
If you need more help, we have a library of music technology articles to help you learn more. And we’d also encourage you to call our experts who are available to help you purchase the right products for your space that are within your budget. We’re proud to carry everything your church or house of worship needs to create the best sound system for your congregation. Call us at 800.346.4448 to get started.