Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

What Do You Recommend?

Anthony Coppedge has a good post at his blog about the way people ask for equipment recommendations. I laughed when I read it because just the night before, I had used the exact same illustration. As I talked about in Asking for Help, I get several requests for advice on equipment a month (sometimes several a week). I’m cool with that; as an equipment geek, I’m more than happy to talk gear with anyone. 

I’m amused sometimes when the question comes in like this, however, “We want to get a new mixer for our church, what do you recommend?” Most times, that’s the e-mail. Well, that’s not true, a lot of times people will tell me they read the blog and really enjoy it. Stroking the ego is a great way to get people to respond to your emails .

As you can probably guess though, there’s not really enough information there to make any kind of recommendation. I get this question often enough that I have a standard list of questions that I reply with. If you ask me that, here’s what you’ll get in reply:

What is driving the desire to get a new board? Digital desks offer recallable setups, internal dynamic and effects capabilities, digital signal transport, and it’s the latest technology; but you may or may not benefit from those features. 

What are the requirements of the new board (channel count, mix busses, outputs, type of output–analog or digital)?

What are the goals of the new board? Ease of use, improved sound quality, increased feature set, more I/O, smaller footprint, elimination of outboard gear, better monitoring & metering…there’s a lot to consider.

What kind of monitoring system do you use (wedges, IEMs, Aviom, etc.)?

Who operates the board, and what is their experience level? Who would train new operators on the new board? Who will train them 2 years from now?

Who will be installing the new board? If it will be installed by someone at the church, what is their level of expertise? Or will dealer installation be required?

What does the existing infrastructure look like? Do you have a permanently installed snake? How many channels? Where is the amp rack, and what kind of loudspeaker management do you have?

What does the rest of the system look like? Do you have a rack of external effects, compressors and the like? How much of it is worth keeping?

What kind of budget do you have?

Of course, that is not an exhaustive list to make a recommendation, but it at least gets the conversation going. The funny thing is, when I reply with this list of questions, about 1/3 of the time, I never hear from the person again. Were they just looking for a blanket recommendation? Did they not want to do the hard work of really determining what the best fit for their church is? I’m guessing my experience is not unique.

If you ask any of the great people who write blogs on church technology for a recommendation on equipment, you will likely get the same helpful response. Most of the guys I know are more than happy to share their knowledge. And I’m pretty sure none will answer the “which mixer” question with, “You should buy a _insert your favorite mixer here_.” 

Spending money in a church is serious business. People give money to the church with the expectation that it will be spent to advance the Kingdom and help people. Those of us with the authority to spend it need to really weigh out what we’re spending it on. And sometimes that means really thinking through our options.

So ask the questions, but be prepared to be answered with more questions. And really think through your options. Just because we use an M7, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you (and when Upper Room moves, we won’t be using an M7 anymore…). Just because North Point uses a Digi Venue doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you either. Would I like a Venue? Sure, but I’d probably have to make do without speakers…  

With that said, let’s get some dialogs going!

12 Comments

  1. grahamprouty@gmail.com

    I am so thankful for your willingness to share your insight and expertise! I had a quick question about subs. We are in the process of building a new building for our church. Part of how we are doing it involves leasing a large amount of space out to a public junior high and high school. The assembly space we are building will be shared with them as gym space, so our auditorium is a big rectangular space that is multipurposed. Some of our equipment, like speakers, will be permanently installed, but some will be rolled in on a sound cart. The space has carpeted floors, and an angled ceiling with a really high peak. We have a stage and will be able to leave it set during the week, without people messing with it. We have a contemporary worship style with a guitar centered core. Currently our expert is recommending that we fly our sub woofers from the ceiling. We want a strong bass presence in the room and are not sure that having them up high is a great way to utilize them. We just don’t have enough experience to know if this is a good idea or not, and are relying on the professional’s expertise. Most of the subs I have seen in other “live” environments are floor mounted. So my question is: what are your thoughts on sub placement? (BTW: I haven’t looked through your archives to see if you have addressed this before, so I apologize in advance if you have!)

  2. grahamprouty@gmail.com

    I am so thankful for your willingness to share your insight and expertise! I had a quick question about subs. We are in the process of building a new building for our church. Part of how we are doing it involves leasing a large amount of space out to a public junior high and high school. The assembly space we are building will be shared with them as gym space, so our auditorium is a big rectangular space that is multipurposed. Some of our equipment, like speakers, will be permanently installed, but some will be rolled in on a sound cart. The space has carpeted floors, and an angled ceiling with a really high peak. We have a stage and will be able to leave it set during the week, without people messing with it. We have a contemporary worship style with a guitar centered core. Currently our expert is recommending that we fly our sub woofers from the ceiling. We want a strong bass presence in the room and are not sure that having them up high is a great way to utilize them. We just don’t have enough experience to know if this is a good idea or not, and are relying on the professional’s expertise. Most of the subs I have seen in other “live” environments are floor mounted. So my question is: what are your thoughts on sub placement? (BTW: I haven’t looked through your archives to see if you have addressed this before, so I apologize in advance if you have!)

  3. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Hi Graham,

    There are a few schools of thought on this one. I’m not sure I would say there is a “right” answer. For a lot of reasons, I like the idea of flown subs in many applications. When subs are flown, they are in the same time “zone” as the main speakers. Therefore, it’s easy to get proper time alignment with the main speakers. This leads to a tighter, cleaner sound, as it’s all arriving at the same time. That’s the plus side of flying subs.

    The downside is that when subs are flown, they don’t get to take advantage of a half-space or quarter-space environment (such as being on the floor–half-space; or in a corner–quarter-space). For every boundary the subs sit against, there is a 6 dB increase in output. Thus, ground stacked subs are more efficient. They tend to offer more thump because of the boundary effect.

    You can get the same thump out of flown subs, but you need to move more air. This can mean bigger drivers, more drivers or more amplification.

    I wouldn’t say flown subs are a bad idea. It’s hard to say for sure without knowing a lot more details about the design. I would talk to your A/V consultant. Make sure he understands your desire to get very solid low-end response. He should have modeled the room and would be able to predict response. Ask the questions straight up, and make sure you get straight answers. As long as you’re both on the same page, you should be fine.

    Thanks for reading!

  4. mike@churchtecharts.org

    Hi Graham,

    There are a few schools of thought on this one. I’m not sure I would say there is a “right” answer. For a lot of reasons, I like the idea of flown subs in many applications. When subs are flown, they are in the same time “zone” as the main speakers. Therefore, it’s easy to get proper time alignment with the main speakers. This leads to a tighter, cleaner sound, as it’s all arriving at the same time. That’s the plus side of flying subs.

    The downside is that when subs are flown, they don’t get to take advantage of a half-space or quarter-space environment (such as being on the floor–half-space; or in a corner–quarter-space). For every boundary the subs sit against, there is a 6 dB increase in output. Thus, ground stacked subs are more efficient. They tend to offer more thump because of the boundary effect.

    You can get the same thump out of flown subs, but you need to move more air. This can mean bigger drivers, more drivers or more amplification.

    I wouldn’t say flown subs are a bad idea. It’s hard to say for sure without knowing a lot more details about the design. I would talk to your A/V consultant. Make sure he understands your desire to get very solid low-end response. He should have modeled the room and would be able to predict response. Ask the questions straight up, and make sure you get straight answers. As long as you’re both on the same page, you should be fine.

    Thanks for reading!

  5. grahamprouty@gmail.com

    Dude, you are thanking me? I am so grateful for your willingness to share your experience with all of us that know a whole lot less! I passed your site on to ALL or our AV guys so they can learn from you! You are a kind of ongoing training for our volunteers and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it!

    As for our question, the consultant has doubled the number of subs we had scheduled, and I will make sure they are amp’d well. We are still in construction, so we just want to make sure we get it right from the get go, it is a whole lot easier to do it right the first time than have to fix it later! The consultant has some kind of modeling software, so I will ask more questions for sure!

    Thanks again for your taking time out to answer this question specifically!

  6. grahamprouty@gmail.com

    Dude, you are thanking me? I am so grateful for your willingness to share your experience with all of us that know a whole lot less! I passed your site on to ALL or our AV guys so they can learn from you! You are a kind of ongoing training for our volunteers and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it!

    As for our question, the consultant has doubled the number of subs we had scheduled, and I will make sure they are amp’d well. We are still in construction, so we just want to make sure we get it right from the get go, it is a whole lot easier to do it right the first time than have to fix it later! The consultant has some kind of modeling software, so I will ask more questions for sure!

    Thanks again for your taking time out to answer this question specifically!

  7. iammichaelshort@gmail.com

    Mike,

    Right on. I seen to many churches that go after the latest greatest piece of gear. That might not be remotely what the church needed, but they can say they have. I must admit that I suffered from this when I first started working at a church. Coming from using midas console for everything, using moving lights just because kinda world to a church was hard and an eye opening experience. I came in thinking that if it not the top of the line it’s junk and God deserves more then junk.

    What I have been challenged by lately is kinda what you spoke about. That is if the technical ministry was left to all volunteers could they fill the role. That in turn has been changing the way I look at gear. Finding solution that are easy and powerful enough to do the job but can also be grown into rather then snug from the beginning. But mostly is it something that everyone can grasp and use.

  8. iammichaelshort@gmail.com

    Mike,

    Right on. I seen to many churches that go after the latest greatest piece of gear. That might not be remotely what the church needed, but they can say they have. I must admit that I suffered from this when I first started working at a church. Coming from using midas console for everything, using moving lights just because kinda world to a church was hard and an eye opening experience. I came in thinking that if it not the top of the line it’s junk and God deserves more then junk.

    What I have been challenged by lately is kinda what you spoke about. That is if the technical ministry was left to all volunteers could they fill the role. That in turn has been changing the way I look at gear. Finding solution that are easy and powerful enough to do the job but can also be grown into rather then snug from the beginning. But mostly is it something that everyone can grasp and use.

  9. jblasongame@gmail.com

    I love asking these questions myself and playing devil’s advocate on gear equipment upgrade choices. Most choices I find are a matter of want more than pure necessity. And just as Shortie cleverly pointed out, many (myself included) get the notion that rubbish equipment is an insult to God. He’s God right? He deserves our best right? Why not get the best (and most expensive) equipment?

    And I have to agree with you 117% on the training issue. A great console will sound rubbish if the operator is rubbish and doesn’t know what they’re doing.

  10. jblasongame@gmail.com

    I love asking these questions myself and playing devil’s advocate on gear equipment upgrade choices. Most choices I find are a matter of want more than pure necessity. And just as Shortie cleverly pointed out, many (myself included) get the notion that rubbish equipment is an insult to God. He’s God right? He deserves our best right? Why not get the best (and most expensive) equipment?

    And I have to agree with you 117% on the training issue. A great console will sound rubbish if the operator is rubbish and doesn’t know what they’re doing.

  11. iammichaelshort@gmail.com

    I think that God demands excellence from us. Excellence is doing our best with what we have. Which is where being good steward of what we are entrusted with.

  12. iammichaelshort@gmail.com

    I think that God demands excellence from us. Excellence is doing our best with what we have. Which is where being good steward of what we are entrusted with.

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