Be the Best You Can Be
By Luke Vettel
Freshwater Community Church in the suburbs of Minneapolis is a Christian and Missionary Alliance church that is focused on reaching people for Christ. We opened the doors in November of 1998 with only a handful of people and today serve around 1000 worshippers weekly across two campuses and 4 services. As the worship pastor, it is my responsibility to oversee the music and media, creating an environment that helps people recognize God’s presence in our services.
As our community grew, the need for more people with a passion for leading people in worship grew. Going from one service to two, and then to multiple campuses meant that our volunteer based worship teams grew. One of our core values is creating a distraction-free environment for people to experience God’s presence. As we had more and more volunteers on our teams, we found that our current monitoring technology was a point of frustration and distraction. We needed a system that sounded good and was simple to use — basically, we needed it to get out of the way and enable our teams do what they do best.
Through a relationship with Digital Audio Labs, we were introduced to the Livemix system. Developed by people that play on worship teams and work with church techs, it was obvious that they really understand the needs of the church musician. We were immediately impressed with the features it offered “on paper” but it wasn’t until we set it up that we really experienced how great a system it is.
We have been using the Livemix system for about 16 months. In that time, we have put Livemix through its paces. We have used it with our main service teams, youth teams, and even took it out and used it at a high school talent show. Livemix has helped us live up to our value of a distraction free environment in a number of ways. First, it is easy to use, and more importantly, easy to teach people to use. We found that we can train someone who has never used a personal mixer to use it comfortably in a manner of minutes. The LCD touchscreen allows for intuitive channel naming, so my teams can easily select who they want to adjust and not have to remember who was on what channel. When our team is not distracted by how to use a technology, they can focus on performing their best and helping our community connect with God.
Each personal mixer has two separate mixes, meaning two performers can use the same controller. This means we have half the cables, half the stands, and half the personal mixers on stage. There is an A side that is blue and a B side that is red, so it is easy to see who is currently “in control” of the system. With fewer things on stage and less clutter, there is less to distract people from entering in. As far as ease of use, the “ME knob” is an example of where Digital Audio Labs understands the market. I can imagine that someone on the design team got tired of hearing “I need more of me,” and just added the ability for each performer to do just that. Both mixes have their own master volume and ME knobs so they can adjust those regardless of who is “in control”.
Livemix makes our rehearsals and setup more efﬁcient. We are blessed in that we have ﬁ ve full bands with 6-7 people in each and we are very conscious to respect the time of our volunteers. With the ability to save global setups with channel names for each band and individual personal mixes, we can near instantly recall a setup for a particular team. Channel naming can be adjusted for new players easily. This means we can jump into practice quickly without spending our volunteers precious time on getting the right monitor mix.
Built-in ambient mics are another feature that we love about Livemix. The ability to hear the room noise around you is a huge plus, especially for our younger and less-professional team members. Those same mics double as an intercom so we can communicate during a set or call out changes.
At times, we will have a performer get frustrated because they just can’t hear themselves, or their mix is too loud, or they just can’t ﬁgure it out. Digital Audio Labs includes a feature called MirrorMix where any person with a personal mixer can connect to any other mixer in the system and actually hear what the remotemix unit is hearing and then make changes accordingly. Where was this technology when we were mixing ﬂoor monitors?
Working with Digital Audio Labs is great because they listen. We made a number of suggestions that they implemented: one is a hands free control via a footswitch. We also commented on one of the original user interfaces and they redid the whole thing to make it much simpler to use.
Livemix is not without its ﬂaws. One thing we didn’t love is that you could not chain multiple mixer units together and each one had to be connected directly to the rack unit. This isn’t a huge deal since each cable carries power to the unit and data for both mixes, but it was different than we were used to. We also would like to have a PC application to set up the channel names. In practice, it doesn’t take long to set up through the LCD touch screen, but it would be nice if our techs could do that from the main mix desk. Though, with MirrorMix, it makes sense to have a Livemix personal mix unit near the console so the tech can jump in and help with monitor mixes when necessary.
All in all, the Livemix has been a great tool for us. It sounds fantastic, is easy to use, and allows my teams to play without distraction. We feel like Digital Audio Labs is more like a partner than a manufacturer. They understand the need of the church musician, and they are willing to listen to feedback to make a better system. We still use one of the other brands at our satellite campus, but we will be switching to Livemix as soon as we can.