In your upgrade, allow for more channels than you think you need, because you will need them sometime in the life of the system.
You’ll need to decide whether you want a powered mixer or a separate power amp. The advantage of the latter is that you can replace the amp and mixer separately.
There is a LOT that could be said about the mixer. Mixers not only have a range of features, but also their own ‘sound’. Some mixers are more designed for ‘live’ use and some more for recording. You’re not likely to want a high end recording mixer. More likely you want one that will do a both of both, so to speak. The former will be cheaper.
- Get one that allows you to adjust levels on each channel to your foldback or monitors . Ideally you want more than one foldback speaker with the ability to adjust the mix in each speaker. eg. vocalists need to hear themselves, band need to hear the band!
- Most mixers have an onboard EQ (and maybe a simple reverb), but the ability to add external ‘effects’ is a major plus. There are plenty of great analog and digital effects units around, some at quite reasonable prices. Hence you can add a separate external EQ, reverb unit etc. To be able to do this the mixer needs one or more effects send and return output/inputs, with the capacity to set levels for each channel. If you go this way, plan for somewhere to put an effects rack. It doesn’t need to be big, but it will need to be close to your mixer (eg. underneath). Usually you will EQ for the room and then adjust EQ on each channel as well.
- If you are looking ahead, you may want to consider a mixer with digital inputs/outputs as well. (SPDIF) More and more devices will have a digital output.
- I think it is worth planning for a ‘send’ channel from mixer to ‘stage’. There are many occasions when it helps for the person on the desk to be able to say something to the band through the foldback system.
- If you’re rewiring the church, allow for multiple sound inputs from multiple points, that way you’re not limited to simply having the presenters at the front and the desk at the back.
- It’s worth spending a bit on a decent radio mic! You can get good name brand mics for $200-$300 – Shure, Sennheiser, AKG. You might want to consider getting one shotgun mic as well.
Again, a lot could be said about speakers. The architecture and speaker placement affects the sound. I would ask suppliers to bring a system and set it up in the church so you can hear it. The more you go for a ‘surround’ sound, the less you will have the people at the front being deafened. The sky is the limit here. The important thing is that if you cut corners on the speakers, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the system is!
This is a bit ‘left field’, but you may want to consider a computer based system. ie. a Firewire or USB mixer into a computer, which will allow hard disk recording and mixing recorded sound with liver sound. This will cost you more up front (eg. you need a suitable computer and software as well) but may be better in the long run. However I don’t know any churches that have dont this yet. Maybe someone else does.