Vocals:

  • The classic Shure SM58 ($99) is still a great option and probably will never have any rivals in terms of durability. Seriously, if you haven’t seen the videos where they get submerged, burned, dropped from a helicopter, run over by a bus, and used for shooting practice by a hockey team, you probably should: youtube.com/watch?v=w9qoou7mSCM
  • Other great options include the Beyerdynamic M88 ($399), which has great rejection and usually doesn’t require tons of EQ, and the Neumann KMS 105 ($699), which is a condenser microphone, and as such sounds very smooth and detailed.

Finally, the pastor’s mic: Last but certainly not least, we cannot have the mic we are solely relying on for at least 60 percent of the service (to say nothing of the importance of what is being said) be a slouch. My experiences as a sound consultant might be a little biased (since people usually are only calling me when there is a problem), but I have almost never walked into a church of any size that has a good sounding microphone for their speaker. Tragic.

There are two reasons for this — cheap wireless systems and cheap headset microphones.

1.) Cheap wireless systems are universally terrible. Anyone who knows me knows my disdain for wireless systems: They are overly expensive ways to degrade our audio. My most well-known article for this magazine is about this very topic. This is why you don’t see any wireless options recommended in the “vocals” section. You should generally avoid them when you can. However, there are obviously situations where wireless microphones are a near necessity, and this is one of them. For starters, take your wireless budget and double it. Seriously. A good wireless system like the Shure QLXD is going to set you back over $900. As the saying goes: buy once, cry once.

2.) Cheap head-worn microphones are also really bad. They have all kinds of irritating frequency spikes and once you’re done EQ-ing them out, the voice coming through them ends up sounding like it’s coming through a tin can. You can spend $500 or more on a system that still sounds pretty bad, so why not just budget for the right thing? Or maybe just hold a wired SM58 until someone in your church feels [led] to make a donation. The DPA D:fine series is really good: They start at $599. I have also been hearing good things about the Thor Hammer, which in addition to having a pretty great name is only $349 (only available direct from manufacturer).

So, my friends: When the right microphone is chosen for the right application (and properly positioned), so many headaches can be avoided! Godspeed on your quest for pleasing audio.

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