There is a vast difference between setting up a sound system for a church built several centuries ago and today’s newly-built churches—the old churches are made of bricks and thick walls designed for sound amplification without using modern sound systems. However, modern churches come with different structural acoustics for the use of modern sound systems.
So, before you even try to set up a sound system for your church, you need to consider several important factors like the church structure, its acoustics, the components you will include in your sound system rig, and many others. In this way, you can build a PA system that best suits your church.
Factors to Consider When Setting Up a Sound System for a Church
The sound system of a church should deliver a clear sound that helps in the congregation’s worship. Such a sound system should make the community hear the sermons or talks of the presiding celebrants. It should also enable the people to listen to the choir clearly. Hence, before zeroing in on a particular sound system for your church, you need to consider the following essential factors:
The Room Dimensions
The sound system you should set up for your church should be capable of directing clear sounds to the congregation and away from ceilings or walls to avoid unwanted feedback. For this reason, you must choose a sound system that matches the church’s inner space, including its size, shape, and geometry. A sound system that works well with a high ceiling may not work well with a low-ceiling, short, and wide room.
Sometimes, you need to ask questions like: Does the wall reflects much sound? What are the walls and ceilings made of? What components are best for such a sound system requirement? How many people will be seated in the church? How many loudspeakers should you include in the system?
You should also consider the setup of the church. The traditional setting of churches includes an organ or piano that accompanies the choir. This setup works well with spacious churches with high and voluminous ceilings and thick walls.
However, this setup usually doesn’t work well with modern worship setups that come with electric guitars, drums, and floor monitors. Such a band setup will not work well with highly reflective walls and ceilings. Nevertheless, this modern setup suits well those churches with acoustically treated space.
Who Will be Operating Your Sound System?
In many instances, untrained persons will run your church’s sound system. As such, you will need a user-friendly sound system. It must be easy to run and must come with a design that matches the team’s skill level in operating the system.
The Church’s Worship Style
Your sound system choice will depend largely on what style of worship you often do in your church. If the type of celebration that happens more often in your church is a typical thanksgiving wherein you need to amplify the pastor’s or priest’s voice to get it heard, then a small sound system that offers excellent vocal clearness or intelligibility will suffice for your church.
Nevertheless, if you want to amplify the band’s sound or the choir, you will need a more elaborate system that can clearly reproduce all the mics and instruments’ sounds, something that can handle all the instruments’ frequencies likewise.
The Number of People in the Congregation
Churches and communities vary in size; some consist of 50 to 100 seats, while others can have as many as 2,000 seats. If you are equipping a church with a small congregation, you need a simple and maybe portable sound system.
But if your church consists of a large assembly, you will need a more elaborate sound system that could cover a considerable space or area.
Another factor that can limit your choice is your budget. Even if you want to buy a high-grade sound system that offers clear sound, you will be unable to do so because of monetary issues.
So, make sure that you consider your budget when selecting a sound system for your church. Moreover, you can buy a less expensive sound system that is open for future expansion if, at present, you don’t have enough money for an elaborate system.
Things You Will Need To Setup A Sound System For Church
The sound system setup for a church will depend mainly on the abovementioned factors. Aside from knowing these factors, it will be helpful to be cognizant of the following different components of a sound system:
1) Right Microphones
A sound system is never complete without mics. When it comes to mics, the most common mics used in churches are dynamic microphones, which provide excellent sound pressure levels (SPL). High SPL allows a sound system to lessen transient sounds while reducing pops.
Other good mic options for your PA system in the church include wireless microphones like the lavalier mic, handheld condenser mic, and even headset mic.
If you use cables to connect your mics to the mixers, you will need a cabling system that can run across the altar or stage, causing cabling clutters. To do away with these clutters, you can use stage snakes or stage boxes. With these stage boxes and snakes, you can connect your mics to the mixer without causing unwanted cable clutters.
Nevertheless, you will not need such a stage snake or box if you only use few mics. Moreover, you will only need to connect a mic to an amplifier and a speaker without additional equipment or gear in a small setup. Yet, you will not have the benefit of a mixer in such a setup.
2) Right Mixer
You will need an audio mixer for your sound system aside from mics. You will usually connect the mics to an audio mixer. Yet, you should choose an audio mixer that comes with multiple inputs if you use multiple mics for your church services. Most inputs of your mixer come with mic preamps. These preamps increase the level of audio signals to line-level signals.
One important consideration when choosing a mixer is its number of channels and inputs. You will need one input for every mic and one channel for every instrument. If you have a complete drum setup for your worship, you will need up to 12 microphone inputs for your drum kit.
Aside from the inputs, you should also need to consider the EQ settings, outputs, and effects of your mixing board. The majority of speakers come with outputs for the main speakers. In most instances, you will only need two outputs for the church’s sound rig.
You can use an analog mixer or a digital mixer. Digital mixers usually come with more effect settings and equalizer. It may also come with an option for recalling your settings for future use. In this way, you will not need to set up your rig every time you use it.
Unless you are using a sound system consisting of wireless transmission components, you will need cables to connect each gear and equipment. You will need cables, for example, to secure the mics to the mixer. Moreover, you will need cables to connect the mixer to the speakers. You will also need cables to connect your audio interface to your computer.
When it comes to cables, you should choose quality cables to ensure that they will last longer. It will be best if you also choose the right cables for your sound system rig. Besides, you should select the correct jack and adapter.
If you are not familiar with the cables, you may get confused because they may look the same. It will be useful to remember that the shorter the cables, the better they can convey audio signals, especially if they are unbalanced.
You can also use a Direct Box for converting the input of the low or high impedance instrument into output with low impedance. In this way, you’ll ensure that the audio signal maintains its integrity as it travels through the cables.
Another crucial component of the sound system for the church is the amplifier. You should select an amplifier based on its power and reliability. Moreover, the amplifiers should be compatible with the speakers in terms of power rating.
The amplifiers should be capable of powering the speakers. You will sometimes choose something with extra power, but don’t choose something that has less power.
The amplifiers should be adjacent or near the speakers but can be away from the soundboard. The closer the amps to the speakers, the shorter the wires that you will use to connect to them, and the less power will be lost along the way.
5) The Snake
You will need the snake to connect the mics and instruments to your mixer. These snakes come in different channel counts and lengths. Additionally, the snake features multiple input and output jacks housed in a box. Furthermore, it will help to label the box at the end of the stage.
Each cable is enveloped in a jacket that can extend many feet away toward the mixer. Then, the box separates into individual connections to the mixer’s inputs.
When it comes to the mixer’s outputs, they also travel back to the snake as they slither back to the stage to connect to the amplifiers that power the monitors and loudspeakers.
6) Connecting Your Monitors and Speakers
You must connect the audio mixer to speakers and monitors for the congregation to hear the mixes. The speakers may require power amplifiers to raise the audio signals. You can find audio mixers that come with power amplifiers for a more compact sound system setup. You can also opt for active speakers that no longer need power amplifiers.
It will be useful to note that speakers can be active or passive. Passive speakers necessitate amplification and extra cables for connection. On the other hand, active speakers come with built-in amplifiers, allowing you to connect the speaker and the mixer directly.
You will find the process of connecting speakers and mixers straightforward and easy. You will only connect the cables coming from the mixer’s outputs to the speaker’s inputs. If you got a standalone amplifier, you could connect the mixer’s cables to the amplifier, then to the speakers.
Besides speakers, you will sometimes need monitors on the stage or altar for the performers and speakers to hear themselves. You will use auxiliary outputs on your mixer to connect the monitors. The church’s sound system is almost complete once you have already connected the speakers to the sound system rig.
As mentioned above, the mics can either be connected to the mixer directly or to the stage box. The mixer is hooked to the amplifier, then to the equalizer, or you can directly hook it to the monitors and speakers.
Once all these components are connected, you can start doing a soundcheck for your sound system. Adjust the settings accordingly before you commence the church celebration.
No matter what equipment and component you choose for your sound system, the sound system should clearly enable the congregation to hear the speakers or performers during a church celebration. Otherwise, it defeats its purpose as a sound system. It should also let the speakers or performers hear themselves.
The thing is, you should carefully plan the church’s sound system to ensure that it will be useful to the congregation and the community. You should meticulously study the church’s structure and its acoustics.
It will help too if you carefully choose the components that are best suited for the acoustics of the church’s structure. Remember that if you plan everything well, you will indeed develop a sound system that fits well with the church’s design and delivers what is expected of it.