The Ultimate Guide to Worship Audio Tech Pt. 1
This is a three-part series where I’ll show you the tools you need for seamless audio, video, lighting and automation during your church service without needing a huge budget or team.
In part one, I’m covering:
Digital mixing consoles
Digital stage boxes
Digital audio networking
After reading this guide, you'll be able to decide which pieces of worship tech you’ll need to build a strong foundation for a growing worship ministry.
First off, I want to stress the importance of having a robust and functioning audio system which is critical to the entire service. Any interruptions or errors during service can distract the congregation or even hinder them from participating. If you only look into one of the tools we recommend today, check out the audio system–it’ll go a long way in improving your service and allowing your congregation to worship fully.
Digital Mixing Console
Our first recommendation is the digital mixing console. It’s the heart of your church’s sound system, allowing you to process, route, mix and record audio. Old analog mixers can still get the job done, but you’re missing out on so many features that could enhance the sound of your worship.
Most digital mixers come with EEQ, reverb, and delays all built into the internal computer so you don’t have a bunch of separate pieces of equipment laying around. Having all of those abilities at your finger-tips makes it easy to create high-quality mixes.
Another great thing about going digital is that most of them can record to USB drive or SD card, so you can plug in your computer with a digital audio workstation (DAW) and produce an entire worship album. For all of the built-in capability and ease-of-use, you’d expect these pieces of tech to go for over $10,000. While you used to pay that much, you can get some great quality digital mixers for less than $2,000!
Some of our favorite consoles here at Churchfront include the:
While each of these options have their pros and cons, you really can't go wrong with any of them. Implementing a digital mixing console will help you lay a great foundation for you to build on.
Digital Stage Box
Our next recommendation is the digital stage box. It’s the next step in building your audio tech once you have a digital mixing console.
These stage boxes typically have 8-32 input channels, and 8-16 outputs; your musicians plug in their mics or instruments and can set up their own in-ear monitoring all on their own. Everything gets routed back to the mixing console via an ethernet cable, so you don’t have to use bulky, unreliable analog snakes anymore. Put 2 on either side of the stage and your musicians plugin and are good to go.
Once you’ve got your digital mixing console and stage box, you can now fully harness in-ear monitors for your team. While floor wedges work fine, in-ear monitors reduce stage noise, making it easier for the engineer to mix and protects the hearing of your musicians.
Implementing in-ear monitors is a sure way to boost the excellence of your worship band because you can play click tracks, keeping everyone in-time and grooving.
With your digital console and stage box in place, there are a few options on how to equip your team with in-ears. For a really in-depth look, check out Churchfront’s Ultimate Guide to In-Ear Monitors.
Here are a few recommendations for setting up in-ear monitors
Option 1: Headphone amp
A super cheap and easy way to go is purchasing a headphone amp. These small boxes convert the XLR cable from the stage box output to a headphone cable for your musicians. This option is really affordable, around $20 to $50, and works great for stationary musicians like drummers or guitarists. Most of the digital mixing consoles come with apps so your musicians can EQ their own mix as well.
Option 2: Wireless in-ear monitor system
If you’ve got money to spend, you can buy a wireless in-ear monitor system. Of course, how much you spend will translate to how much quality you receive, but you can purchase systems anywhere from $200 to $700 a person–it all depends on the needs of your specific team.
Option 3: Combine the options
You can use the headphone amps for your stationary, backline musicians and invest in the more expensive wireless systems for your leaders and singers. I love this method because it allows you to tailor your setup to the exact needs of your team and congregation. That’s the benefit of building your audio setup this way–you start with the foundation and build up from there.
Digital Audio Networking
After implementing a digital mixer, stage box and in-ear monitors, you’d already ahead of most local churches. You could stop there, but if you want to go further, here’s the rundown on digital audio networking.
Since you’ve got your in-ear monitors set up and ready to go, you’d probably want to run a click track over a DAW (our favorite is Ableton Live) for your musicians. But you’d quickly find that it’s difficult sending multiple channels of audio from the laptop into the mixing console.
You could go the traditional route and purchase a large audio interface which plugs into the computer via USB, sending your analog outputs to the sound console via digital snake, but why go through all that trouble after you just modernized your audio tech?
With digital audio networking, you can send multiple tracks of audio from the laptop right into the mixing console over one, simple ethernet cable. It’s honestly a no brainer: you eliminate a bunch of connections, the sound quality is better and you have greater audio routing flexibility.
There are a number of popular networking protocols such as Waves’ SoundGrid and AVB, but we recommend Dante by Audinate.
How to get set up with Dante
To get up-and-running with Dante, you’ll need to purchase the Dante sound card for the mixing console, this comes in at about $600.
Then, you’ll need to install the $30 Dante sound card app for each computer you plan on using in the Dante network. With the sound card app, you’ll have access to, essentially, a virtual audio interface for your computer with 64 inputs and outputs of audio.
Plug in your Dante-enabled devices to your local network over an ethernet cable, and you’re ready to go–instant flexibility and ease-of-use for your musicians and sound team.
Those are my favorite tools for your church’s audio and sound system.
Maybe you don’t need all of the capability of these tools today, but as you grow your worship ministry and as you implement more of the latest worship ministry tech, a sound system that includes these parts will be more than ready to accommodate your team’s growth and provide an incredible worship service for your congregation.
To jumpstart this process and discover how to grow as a worship leader and team, fill out this form and schedule a call with me or someone else on the Churchfront team. We’d love to connect, learn more about your ministry and talk about what it would look like to work together.
Feel free to reach out to us to get started.