New Equipment: Audio

Last time we talked about our new lighting system in our kids and students wing. Today, we’ll look at the audio gear. Of all the equipment, audio varies the most, but it’s all still generally very similar. Here is the list of gear:

Mixers: Soundcraft FX16ii, GB2-24
Wireless Mics: Sennheiser G3 100 series
Speakers: Yamaha DXR10, DXS15 Sub
Processing: DBX DriveRack PX, Symetrix Jupiter 8

Many people asked why I didn’t go digital for these new rooms and the reasons are very simple. First, cost. I paid less for all three mixers than I would have for a single digital mixer, and the budget was really tight. Second, these rooms are operated by people with very limited technical skill. I needed something that would be very easy and intuitive to use, and these mixers fit the bill perfectly. Plus, I’ve always been very happy with the sound of smaller Soundcraft consoles, and the FX16ii’s even have effects built in. The smaller consoles went into the smaller rooms; the GB2 landed in Student Life. We have plans to put a GB4 into our other student room, so there will be a lot of consistency, console-wise.

The consoles were chosen for their channel and aux count, based on the needs of the rooms. Each console represents a huge upgrade over what was in the rooms before, and the ministry leaders are thrilled with the choices. We have 12 mic inputs on the stage for the smaller rooms (the remaining channels are taken up with CD, Video and wireless mics), and 24 in the larger room. The small rooms have 2 monitor mixes available, while the larger room as 4. Again, this was all determined by the programming needs of each ministry—it wasn’t arbitrary. 

 

For wireless mics, we stuck with what we already had been using, Sennheiser G3, 100 series. They’re not my favorite wireless mics, and we’re a Shure house in the main room. But I really don’t like anything Shure makes below the ULX-D line, and that was way too expensive for this project. The G3 stuff has been really reliable, and it’s affordable enough. We have one handheld and one body pack system in each room, and since they get used for announcements and teaching, I wasn’t too concerned about absolute sonic quality. Of course, we went with Ansmann rechargeable batteries and chargers for them.

I heard the Yamaha DXR10s at the WATS seminar a few months ago and was really impressed. The K-3 and 4th-5th grade rooms get two DXR10s, and we add a DXS15 sub for the Student Life room. We didn’t spend a lot of time setting them up yet, but the speakers sound pretty decent right out of the box. The sub packs a pretty good punch for it’s size, and we were blown away that we got two DXR10s and the sub cranking away at 102 dB SPLA and it was only drawing 3.2 amps of power. 

We used Gepco’s new RunOne cable to send power and audio from FOH to the ceiling. Because the power draw is so low, we can switch the PA on and off from the Furman, and we have two audio channels available (main and sub for the big room, and audio and DMX in the smaller rooms). We mounted quad power boxes in the ceiling so we can power the speakers and LED lights from that single power source. It’s quite elegant.

For processing, I took two roads. First, in the smaller rooms, I went with the DBX DriveRack PX. We’re using that primarily for system EQ and feedback suppression. It does more (crossover, delay and more), but we don’t need any of that. I could have gone with 1/3 octave EQs, but they get adjusted too easily. Once I get things dialed in really well, I’ll lock the panel out and it will be set for a while. I’m always amazed at how close to really good the auto EQ wizard gets with those boxes.

For the larger room, I had a sneaking suspicion that it would end up being one of our more used rooms. As such, I wanted an EZ button system installed. Again, I went with the Symetrix Jupiter 8, and an ARC-2e remote and ARC-SWK mode switch. We’ll dual-wire the wireless mics, video and an iPod cable into the Jupiter so a very unskilled operator can run a few mics or play a video with ease. Eventually, we’ll have the Jupiter on the network so we can remotely control it as well. Of course, it does all the usual speaker management things we’ll need it to do, and it’s quite easy to set up. 

I also bought a stock of Shure SM58s and 57s to keep over there, as well as grip of new mic cables, mic stands and music stands. I figured I would start them off with good stuff and see how long it lasts. Again, the SM58 is not my favorite vocal mic, but they sound OK and are virtually indestructible, not to mention cheap. 

Though we’ve only had a short while to evaluate the sound, so far, I think everyone is very happy. I want to tweak the PA’s when I get back from vacation, and we’ll probably experiment with the DSP built into the DXR10s that we’re using for monitors as well. But if the smiles on all our worship teams faces were any indication, I think we did OK by them. Next up, video.

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