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Sound Decisions: Choosing the Right PA for Your Church

In the Part 1 of this series, we learned how choosing the right format for your church sound system is crucial to keeping your message easily understood. The wrong setup can literally create reflections that clutter your listeners' aural field and make it harder for them to hear the message. We also discussed how a very large system calls for some professional design and installation advice. Now what if your church is a new startup, or a mobile outreach that might become a brick-and-mortar church one day? Is your mobile church towing a trailer and setting up a system for each service? Maybe your budget only allows for a small investment in sound reinforcement, but you don't want to invest in equipment you'll have to replace later? In each of these cases you'll want to take a creative approach to building your system incrementally. Let's look at some options for building a modular system over time and become familiar with the design considerations.

Most of Us Can't Look into the Future

Part of the challenge of scaling a sound system from small to large is you can't be certain what you may need sound system wise in the future. By putting a little imagination into your early investments, you can most likely find equipment that is adequate now and can be supplemented later to grow with your needs. If you have modest needs for music because you're playing CDs or you have a small acoustic band, you might be able to get by with a central mono system in the beginning. At a later time you might expand that center mono system with another identical speaker system to make a stereo system, or add a pair of full-range speakers to create an LCR (Left-Center-Right) system. One easy and versatile option is to buy powered full-range main speakers or monitors as your first set of main speakers. This allows you to select an often less expensive unpowered mixer with more features providing more flexibility for the future. Growth may include repurposing your current main system to another branch of your ministry, like youth ministry, when you decide it is time to install a larger permanent system. Or those powered mains/monitors can be used onstage as monitors for your worship team when you expand down the road. If you always consider scalability when investing in sound equipment, you will simply augment your existing system rather than having to replace it.

Planning for Wireless and Lavalier Microphones

Do your presenters stand at a podium or pulpit, or do they move dynamically around the stage? Will you need wireless microphones? This can affect your speaker choice, Speaker placement, monitoring options and design format as well as equipment requirements. Most ministries these days will find a wireless lavalier and wireless handheld microphone to be invaluable. Some mixers like the Carvin Audio C1648 can be configured with internal wireless receivers for added convenience. If you do decide to use lavalier mics (wireless or not), you might want to set aside some of your budget for a multi-channel compressor/gate unit to keep your spoken presentations loud but not overpowering.  The Gating is used to automatically shut off mics that are not in use, especially with more than one lavalier on stage. Set up some kind of schedule to ensure you always have fresh batteries in your wireless units right from the start, and you'll save yourself headaches in the future. Also, speaker placement is more critical with people with lavaliers walking around. Look to place your speakers further forward of the stage area or higher up out of the path of the microphones. This will allow you be able to turn up the microphones with less feedback and not have hot places on the stage where feedback happens.

Effective Doesn't Have to Mean "Complicated"

A very modest system for a start-up or outreach ministry might start as simply as a single high quality full-range powered speaker, a mixer, and a couple of microphones. Carvin Audio's S600B battery powered column array is an excellent expandable system. 
It provides a small mixer right onboard, as well as an optional internal wireless receiver. Its battery power feature can be great for outdoor events like weddings and barbecues.

S600B battery powered column array

The battery powered S600B includes a small mixer and optional wireless receiver.

 If you look at your current system needs fitting into a larger system from the beginning, you'll be investing in a sound reinforcement system that can grow along with your ministry. For help designing the right system for your church, contact our team at Carvin Audio by clicking here or call us at 800-854-2235. Click here to read part 3 of this article.

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