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Setting Up a Church Sound System: 4 Tips Before Jumping In

Setting up a church or house of worship sound system can be a daunting task, and not just for first-timers. In this post, we review a few things to keep in mind as you plan.

Church sound systems aren’t very different from any other indoor sound system.

You still have the same basic components – a mixer, PA speakers, mics, in-ears or wedges, iso-booths for instrument speaker cabinets, lighting, digital mixers, and the instruments.

However, there are some distinctions about a church environment that you must keep in mind. As with any sound system setup – whether it’s a simple recording studio or a large indoor venue –  it’s easy to overlook the effect of the smaller components and their impact on the overall sound.

But before we get into the setup of your sound system, let’s cover what it should all sound like.

What is a “Good” Church Sound?

Good sound in a church or worship setting is all about control. The sound and experience should be focused primarily on the vocals, so the instruments need to be limited so as to not overpower the vocals.

The instruments will ideally be clean and punchy, but they shouldn’t be loud. The vocals should come through clearly without any harsh reverb or feedback. You want your congregation to be able to hear the lyrics and respond in the right moments, which requires controllable separation between the instruments and vocals.

#1. Know the Challenges

The problem sound engineers run into is that churches are often massive, open spaces with significant echo. Getting a tight and controlled sound with the vocals at the forefront is difficult – especially when the church band includes a lot of instruments.

As a sound mixer or engineer, unfortunately, there are a lot of factors out of your control. You have to trust that the band can play at the right level and that the church has done all they can to set up their building to be as acoustically friendly as possible.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into the things you can control.

#2. Control the Acoustics

Good sound is about control. And, as we mentioned, in a worship setting that mostly means controlling the noise levels of the instruments to prevent them from overpowering the vocals delivering the message.

To do this, you should use iso-booths for the speakers, plexiglass surrounds to dampen the drums, digital solutions that can connect to the right mixers, and opt for in-ear monitors instead of wedges. In-ear monitors allow you to mix the instruments for the performers to hear themselves without affecting the overall volume of the room.

#3. Pick the Right Cables

You can use the best equipment. You can mix everything perfectly. But if your system isn’t connected properly, sound, lighting, and effects will suffer.

Many people overlook the importance of good cabling in a sound system. Using poor-quality cables can negatively impact your sound quality by introducing noise and unwanted feedback into the mix.

Here’s a list of every cable you might possibly need…

#4. Organize Your Gear

Church sound systems are beasts and require planning and organization.

With so many cables running to mics and sending sound everywhere, cable organizers and gaff tape will be a critical part of your arsenal. They keep the cable runs discrete and help prevent people from stepping on them or tripping.

Preventative measures will also save you a lot of headaches, so consider using a cable tester to test connections and make sure everything is working properly before the service. Use instrument stands to keep unused instruments out of the way and undamaged. And finally, cleaners like mic sanitizers, surface and headphone cleaners will help maintain the condition and cleanliness of your equipment over time.

Conclusion

Setting up a church sound system is a process. But a little preparation goes a long way. If you account for the unique environmental qualities, you’ll be well on your way to getting a great sound for every service. Thanks to good-quality cables and plenty of intuitive digital sound equipment, homing in on the right sound for your church worship is easier than ever.

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