Tips for Choosing the Best Console
Choosing the right console for your house of worship is the first step in building the best audio mix for worship. However, narrowing down your choices from the seemingly limitless options available can be a daunting task, especially if (like most audio nerds) all the ‘bells and whistles’ excite you.
When it comes time to choosing a new console, there are several factors to consider. Knowing what you will be mixing on the console is key – the greater the mix demands, the more of those nifty bells and whistles you will need!
Are there future growth plans that could change your immediate mixer needs? If your house of worship is currently portable and only using a small worship band (think drummer, lead guitar, bass guitar, and rhythm guitar) with some or all musicians pulling double-duty as vocalists, you only have your pastor using a headset mic, and you are feeding the mix to on-stage monitors and a portable speaker system, your I/O needs will be relatively small. However, if you plan on moving into a larger portable or fixed facility within the next few years, and know your worship band is going to grow to include several vocalists, a keyboard, bongos and a trumpet, ambient mics, and your pastor’s trusty headset and a back-up lav, and you will be feeding audio to personal monitor mix systems for the musicians, a larger networked speaker system, and feeding your mix to the broadcast stream, your I/O needs will grow. Keep in mind, the larger the console the more money needs to be budgeted. If your future needs are far in the future, purchasing a console with some room for anticipated growth (but not for all your anticipated growth!) might be a better option.
As digital consoles continue to come down in price, while at the same time increasing in power and built-in onboard tools, they continue to be the console of choice for many houses of worship. Digital consoles can also easily integrate and control your entire audio system, from digital signal processing (DSP) zones, to Dante-enabled networking, to storing the live mix for post-mix production for video on demand. With built-in EQ, compressors, gates and limiters, your FOH engineer will be able to create dynamic mixes with ease. Many digital consoles also offer remote mixing via touch screen tablets and handy manufacturer apps, which will allow your FOH engineer to experience the mix from multiple spots in the sanctuary, which will help them maximize the audio for every area of the facility.
Consider Your Other Equipment
Make sure your new console will interface with your other audio equipment, especially any other consoles you might be using for different purposes (think broadcast mix, youth worship, etc.). Buying a console that can’t communicate with your existing audio gear is a waste of time and money. Be aware of networking needs from the start, and avoid nasty surprises after purchase.
Training is imperative when purchasing a new console – regardless of how much experience your FOH volunteers may or may not have. While all consoles have some similarities, they aren’t all set-up the same, and they don’t all offer the same options. Choose a console you can get training on – whether it’s via the integrator directly, or through the manufacturer. Buying a new console is great, but if your FOH engineer can only figure out how to use some of the options on it, you’ve wasted your money. Investing time and (if necessary) some money into properly training your volunteers provides the a solid base on which they can build. If your old console was a Yamaha and the new console you purchase is also a Yamaha, it will probably be easier to train your mix engineers, as manufacturers do tend to carry over a similar look and set-up to help keep their brand consistent. Just be aware that proper training is just as important to getting great audio as choosing the right console is.
Choosing a new console doesn’t have to be daunting. Knowing current and future needs, interfacing capabilities, and training your mix engineers will help you get the sound you need to ensure audio greatness in all aspects of worship.