Consoles, Podcasting & Gratitude: Answering Church Sound Questions From Readers
Q: “I’m thinking about getting ‘X’ instead of ‘Y’ console. Which one should I choose? – Everywhere, USA
This question sure does manage to pop up quite a lot. Churches buy equipment but often aren’t really sure which direction to go. The answer is that there’s usually more than one answer, and anyone looking for me to give a shoutout about a specific console, well, I’m not ever going to do it. Sorry to disappoint.
Of course, I have favorites, and there are models that are objectively better than others for a multitude of reasons. But that’s not what I’m here for. My goal is to help inform you well enough to make the decision yourself.
Let’s start with technical specifications (“specs”). They’re usually factual, black and white, and are not intended to be subjective. (Understand, however, there are certain instances when certain manufacturers play “fast and loose” with the numbers.
That said, in comparing specs for consoles, focus on things like channel count, bus count, FX slots, latency, user-assignable buttons, networking protocols (Dante, AES67, AVB, etc.), and physical/digital outputs. These specs are pretty easy to quantify and should make for some simple comparisons.
For example, how many members are in your praise band? Will that number grow in the foreseeable future? By how much? Further, what are the overall goals of the worship team in the coming years? Asking these questions, and then using specs as a reference, can go a long way to narrowing the field of choices. Either the consoles you’re looking at will physically be able to handle what you’re trying to accomplish now and in the future, or they won’t. So far, straightforward.
Now, some harder questions, such as: Do we want streaming capability? Do we want multiple people to be able to run the console simultaneously? The answers to these types of questions require some digging deeper into the specs and feature sets.
Luckily (or unfortunately?), many consoles overlap on feature sets. After all, we’re all trying to do pretty much the same job – amplify and balance. But we have to think beyond these two factors and consider convenience and the little jobs that are just part of life for church tech teams these days, for example (again), streaming. Do the consoles you’re evaluating include a USB Type B port to connect a computer? Will extra cards be needed to accommodate things like Dante?
Let’s keep drilling down. For example: Which workflow does my team most prefer? Which manufacturers provide the most responsive and helpful tech support? These are really important issues yet they often go overlooked during the evaluation and purchasing process.
It’s usually not all that difficult to arrange for console demos at a church. Reach out to the manufacturers directly, or their rep firms or their local dealer – all three should be happy to provide a unit for at least a week for evaluation. (And if not, well, that pretty telling, yes?) Build a showfile, find errors, see what you like and don’t like. Don’t ask strangers on the internet which preamps sound better. Listen for yourself. There’s so much to know about specific and perhaps unfamiliar consoles that you won’t truly understand until they’re under your fingertips.
As you can see, there’s no single or perfect answer. It’s vital to work with reputable manufacturers (and their representatives) that genuinely care about the end users – us – who will be there when something inevitably goes awry. Strive to be as objective as possible, do thorough research that includes what I’ve presented here, ask trusted techs for their views and experiences, then let personal experiences with the consoles themselves help make the final decision.
Q: My church has started thinking about digging into the world of podcasting. What’s the best way to get started, if indeed this is something even worth pursuing? – Oklahoma City, OK
Podcasting is the new radio! It’s all the content that YouTube used to have but without the money grubbing. When I’m driving or going for a walk/run, I’m listening to podcasts. They’re great long-format content carriers. Video can be so much work (I’m know this from bitter personal experience) and can sometimes have zero payoff. Bummer.
Podcasts, however, are quite simple to set up and can bring great rewards. So, in summary, yes, podcasts are worth pursuing. Further, getting started is as easy as “1, 2, 3!”
1) Do you have a digital audio recording device of any type? It be a Zoom recorder, computer, or even a console/mixer with a USB slot, among many. Decide if you want to record the entire service or just the sermon. Different strokes for different folks. I only advise caution about recording and broadcasting music you do not own. Otherwise, go for it.
For simplicity, let’s say you’re just recording sermons, at least as a start. Be sure to get a clean recording; check on the it frequently both audibly as it’s happening and digitally to confirm the recorder is working as optimally as possible.
2) How do you want to distribute? There are many options, but I (and all the podcasts on the ProSoundWeb Podcast Network) utilize the Buzzsprout platform. It’s easy to upload as well as distribute podcasts to different platforms such as Apple, Google, Spotify, and many others. That said, research all viable options and make sure their services align with your specific goals.
3) Share, share, share! Social media is an important player in this. Making your podcast available and easy to consume is a must. Share it around and be sure that people know it exists. Be aware that everyone and their brother seems to be starting a podcast these days so you’re in for some stiff competition. That shouldn’t be discouraging, though.
If you’re looking to offer content other than sermon or service sharing, it’s an entirely different conversation. I recommend reaching out to me (or one of our other wonderful podcast hosts on the PSW Network) about getting started with a podcasting. For example, I help several theological colleagues that have their own conversational podcasts on a variety of topics.
Q: Our team has been working incredibly hard over the last few months and we team leaders want to show some gratitude. How do you recommend we show our appreciation? – Portland, OR
That’s so kind. I would start with verbalizing your appreciation. If there’s one thing churches have an abundance of, it’s gratitude. Share it with your team! If you’re not good with words, find a card that wraps it up nicely.
Personally, I find it pretty hard to resist any sort of free snack. If you ever want to get me to do you a favor, lace your request with either free food or a t-shirt. (I wear a size small in unisex and a medium in women’s – thank you.) Bringing the team some fresh coffee and donuts on a random Sunday before services can make their entire weekend brighter. Buying a few pizzas during a rehearsal might be the only time they eat that day. It’s the small things that make the difference, and it’s always the small things that people remember.
What’s the saying? People remember how you made them feel, not what you did for them. Make your people feel loved. Pray with them, check in on them, act like the family you most certainly are. It also couldn’t hurt to make sure that they’re taking care of themselves. Sleep can be hard to come by these days. Families might be struggling. Just be a good human to your team. Be the leader that you always wished you had.
Send your Church Sound questions to Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org.