If your congregation is a portable church that meets in a secular space each weekend, like a school gymnasium, community center, or outdoor space, you’re probably spending hours loading and unloading equipment. Being a portable church can have its challenges, but audio doesn’t have to be one of them. Full Compass can help you build a foundation of audio equipment that allows you to create a sacred space anywhere, under any budget. Let’s explore the gear you’ll need to fit your unique needs, streamline your set up, and do it all while wisely stewarding your congregation’s resources.
All-In-One Portable Sound Systems
All-in-one options can make your money go far. Products like the Anchor Audio Liberty feature wireless and Bluetooth capabilities, which reduce the amount of equipment to buy and lug out of storage each weekend.
Products like the Yamaha StagePas 400i and the Fender Passport offer high-quality sound in a lightweight, affordable package. All are great options if you want to mix your audio in the same unit as your speaker.
At the low budget price point, you’ll want to look at the 8-16 channel Analog mixing board options, such as the Mackie VLZ4 Series, Yamaha MG, Soundcraft EPM, or Allen & Heath ZED. These merchandisers offer mixers under $500 that are compact in size, and deliver proven performance and flexibility, which make them ideal for lectures, bands and more.
You can buy more flexibility at a higher price point. If your congregation can spend $1,500 or more on a mixer, go for a 16, 24, or 32 channel digital board. The options seem endless, but some great choices for 32 channel boards include the Behringer X32, Midas M32, Allen & Heath QU or GLD series, Soundcraft SI, PreSonus StudioLive, or the Yamaha CL and QL series.
Powered speakers will help with setup and teardown. It will reduce the complexity and time required ahead of any service. Some quality options at a $700 and lower price point include the Mackie Thump, JBL Eon, or Electro-Voice ELX. Plus, they will pair well with your audio mixer options above. If you’re planning to mic a full contemporary worship band that features electric guitar, then at minimum you’ll need 12-inch mains with subwoofers. We recommend QSC K or KW, Electro-Voice ELX, or PreSonus StudioLive.
We recommend 15 – 18 inch powered models that match your top speakers. Try to keep the speaker manufacturers the same, and preferably the model series as well. They have built-in crossovers and amps that are specifically matched to the output characteristics of the subwoofer. Some good options include the Mackie Thump-18S, Electro-Voice ETX-15SP, JBL PRX418S, or one of the many options from Bose.
House Speaker Management
These units provide all of the processing needed between the mixer and amplifiers to optimize and protect your loudspeakers. Two options to consider are the dbx Driverack or Driverack PA2. They are pretty standard units and easy to use. They feature house EQ functions, delay function, feedback suppressor, and more.
Whether you’re in a school cafeteria, conference center, or on a beach somewhere, lecturers and performers want to be able to hear their own voice, the band, and drown out the ambient noise. This leads us to personal monitor options. A few dependable products that won’t break the bank include the PreSonus HP2 and the Behringer HA modules that allow you to adjust audio levels on your individual earpiece. At a higher price point, systems like the Aviom A320 or the Allen & Heath ME1 offer high-quality performance, with more features.
We suggest pairing your personal monitor system with in-ear headphones. A terrific buy for any budget is the Shure SE215. At less than $100, these in-ear headphones offer tremendous sound isolation and great sound quality. If you have a few more dollars to spend, connect well-fitting, isolation-type, high-fidelity earphones to your personal monitor. For that, we recommend you head straight to the Shure SE535-V or level up within the Westone UM-PRO Series.
Microphones are a segment where a church can find a great product at a lower price point. There are two major categories for microphones: wired and wireless.
Among the wired options is the Shure SM58. It’s considered an industry standard, and is among the most reliable microphones out there. However, the Sennheiser e835, AKG P3S, and Audix F50 are three great options for any church service, offering high-quality sound and long-lasting performance on a budget.
If you’re looking to invest, go for the Shure BETA58A. It’s still an exceptional value, but delivers amazing sound. You can also opt for the Sennheiser e845, Audix OM3, AKG C5, or Audio-Technica AE6100. In the wireless category, you’ll want to consider a Shure BLX, AKG WMS, or an Audio-Technica ATW wireless bodypack system. All three can offer you wireless set up for a handheld mic, lavalier mic or headset microphone, giving you a lot of flexibility in your portable church setting.
If you’re not familiar, audio snakes are used to simplify the setup time and cable clutter involved in bringing multiple microphone signals to a final destination (generally a soundboard). Audio snakes are usually the longest piece of cabling that a church PA system will need. You’ll want to pick up an audio snake from Elite Core Audio or ProCo RM to streamline your set up.
Protecting your investments comes down to how you handle them, and what you plug them into. You’ll want to rely on a rack-mountable Furman M 8Dx or similar power distribution unit because you have a lot of expensive equipment to protect. Speakers and subwoofers should get separate attention, so we recommend plugging them into a Furman on-stage surge protector.
…the best advice we can give you is to invest in new equipment.
Finally, a portable church on a tight budget might be tempted by an incredibly low price on a used item. The best advice we can give you is to invest in new equipment. When you buy new gear it almost always comes with a warranty. That makes sense at any budget. In the rare chance your equipment is faulty or damaged your warranty will help cover any repair expenses.
This list is by no means all-inclusive, but is meant to be a guide to get you thinking about your congregation’s unique needs. Our Full Compass Sales Professionals specialize in working with House of Worship professionals who are dedicated to delivering the very best message every week. Call 800-476-9886 for more information about any of the products discussed in this article and to share more information about your individual needs.