Church Sound Systems

Service Info

Church Sound Systems

Church Sound Systems

While servicing Church Organs and Digital Pianos I am frequently being asked about Church Sound Systems. Since I have been around sound systems for years and have played in professional bands and in Church, I have picked up a fair amount of knowledge pertaining to sound systems and stage setups. I do not claim to be an expert, but there are significant numbers of those with little or no knowledge that I may be able to help. This is a general information document meant to give a basic idea of how sound systems work. Much of this info is already common knowledge and easily found on the internet. Perhaps this consolidation will be a good starting place.
Some links are to documents that require Adobe PDF reader. Download Adobe Here  

CONTENTS: Basic Concepts Sound System Components Mono and Stereo Microphone Tips Mixer Tips Equalizer Tips Amplifier Tips Feedback Effect Processor Tips Monitor Tips Main Speakers Tips

Basic Concepts

Image from Sound System Manual Courtesy of JBL
The purpose of the sound system is to amplify an otherwise in-audible sound and project it to the most people possible in a comfortable pleasing way. Secondly, it should be able to satisfy the performers by way of a good monitoring system.
One of the goals of the sound system is to be invisible and not noticed. If it is doing its job correctly, the audience should not really notice it especially after listening for a while. Usually the sound system is noticed when its doing something wrong. Too loud, feedback, distortion etc.
In a traditional venue, sound should come from the stage and instruments. This may seem obvious but I have encountered Churches where the sound system speakers were in the back of the church hanging on the wall, pointing toward the Pulpit! If you think about it, walking into a building with a stage or pulpit, you would expect the sound to come from there, not the back. People will tend to seat themselves according to how close they are to the stage so they can control the depth of their involvement. For example some may not like loud volume and seat themselves accordingly. Having speakers in unusual places can ambush the unsuspecting person and leave them with a negative experience.
The soundboard (mixer) should be located in front of the stage where the soundman can hear for the most part what the audience hears. Placing the soundboard on the stage or in a booth behind glass isolates it and limits the ability to adjust the board according to the needs of the audience.
Learn more specific information on the pros and cons of miking instruments off stage

↑ Top
Sound System Components
Microphones The Microphone is the first device in the system to capture a sound source and put it into the sound system. Many different types of mics are available for many different applications. There are mics for Vocals, Instruments, Choirs, Wireless etc.The mic pictured to the left is a Shure SM58 which is considered a standard of sorts for vocals and is a true workhorse.
In the same family, the Shure SM57 is considered a good instrument mic .
Audio Systems Guide for Houses of Worship  Courtesy of Shure
Microphone Tips

Soundboards The nerve center of any sound system is the Sound Board. It is used to connect all microphones, instruments, and any CD or cassette players to your amplifier and speakers. The measure of a soundboard at it's most basic level is the number of channels it has. A separate channel is needed for each mic , instrument etc. Secondly, the number of tone controls, auxiliary and effect sends on each channel.
Tone controls  are used to fine tune each channel and the more controls available, the more control you will have in fine tuning the sound. Usually tone controls are at fixed frequencies like the bass and treble controls. Many mixers offer a sweep-able midrange control which is a great asset for tone adjustment.
Auxiliary sends are typically used for monitors. Each additional Auxiliary send allows additional monitor mixes on stage.
Effect sends are for effect devices such as