Modern House of Worship teams require scalable, flexible systems that can adapt to services of all sizes while still being intuitive and easy to use so that volunteers of varying experience levels can manage the mix. With so many digital mixers on the market, professional features have never been more accessible at any budget, but with so many options from which to choose, it can be difficult to select the best one for your praise service. This article will help to define some of the key characteristics of digital mixers that are particularly advantageous to House of Worship praise teams.
Making the Connections
The first thing to decide when selecting a digital mixer is how many simultaneous inputs you require and whether you’ll need mic preamps, line inputs or both. A full praise band generally requires a minimum of 16 mic preamps and there most digital mixers can fulfill this need with the analog inputs onboard. Depending on the mixer, this complement of inputs can be expanded either over a digital audio network solution, analog patching to outboard preamps, digital protocols like ADAT, or some combination of all three.
But not all mic preamps are created equal. A great-sounding worship service begins with high-quality mic preamps and top notch digital signal processing. PreSonus StudioLive Series III digital mixers provide up to 32 remotely controlled XMAX mic preamps onboard. XMAX mic preamps are designed to provide transparent performance for condenser and dynamic microphones alike.
Mixers that provide more channels than physical inputs, like the StudioLive 32SC, can easily be expanded to 32 inputs by adding an NSB 16.8 stage box connected by a single Ethernet cable. There are several advantages to choosing a mixer with remote-controlled mic preamps. The first of which is that the preamp trims can be saved and recalled with the rest of the mix session. This greatly simplifies session recall and ensures that you can reliability repeat the same sound at every service.
In addition to onboard I/O, modern digital mixers are equipped with a plethora of processing options. As any professional sound engineer will tell you, having the right signal chain of expanders, compressors, and EQs is the secret to getting the best audio to the audience. Most digital mixers provide limited plug-in models that can be inserted on several channels at once.
StudioLive Series III digital mixers take this one step further and provide state space modeled compressor and EQ plug-ins on every input and output bus. This not only allows you to process each channel individually, but your main and aux mixes as well, so your worship service sounds its best ensuring the best praise experience possible for your congregation.
While most Houses of Worship would love to have a small, portable system for youth services and mobile events in addition to their main sanctuary, the reality is that the additional expense cannot always be justified. This is where a scalable digital mixing system can make all the difference. The StudioLive Series III ecosystem of products are designed to work together on an audio network using a protocol called AVB. This means that you can send and receive audio from any audio device connected to the network, but it also means that many devices can used for multiple applications.
Let’s take a common scenario of a console mixer, like the StudioLive 32S, running the main worship service. Like any conventional mixer, a digital mixer requires that the audio sources on stage make their way back to the inputs on the mixer. One solution is a traditional analog snake and stage box. The disadvantages of this cabling solution are numerous. Copper audio cabling is expensive and can pick up noise and interference the longer it must be run. Additionally, a high-quality 32-channel stage box and snake with a long enough cable (usually 50 to 200 feet depending on the room size) is going to be very expensive and serves a single purpose: to get audio from the stage to the mixer.
By contrast, let’s look at a network solution like the StudioLive 32R rack mixer. More than just a stage box, this full 32-channel digital mixer offers two modes of operation when connected to a StudioLive Series III console mixer: Stage Box and Monitor Mix.
While in Stage Box Mode, the StudioLive 32R will function much in the way that a traditional analog snake would by taking the audio sources from the stage and carrying them to the main (or front-of-house) mixer. Except that the StudioLive 32R connects to the StudioLive 32S at front-of-house using an audio network. This means that all 32 sources from stage will travel over a single CAT5e or CAT6 Ethernet cable. This type of cable is significantly less expensive than an analog multicore cable and can be run for much greater lengths without any signal degradation or additional noise being introduced to the system.
However, using Monitor Mix mode provides a unique advantage in that the praise band can now have dedicated processing and mixing for their monitor audio that is completely separate from that of the front-of-house mixer. These monitor mixes can be remotely control on an iOS or Android device using QMix-UC. QMix-UC is a dedicated monitor mixing app that provides easy level control for StudioLive Series III aux mixes. Additional channel and bus processing, like compression, EQ, and effects mixes, can be configured from UC Surface.
Another advantage of using the StudioLive 32R in this application is that it is a fully functioning 32-channel mixer. This means that when you need a mixer for a mobile event, you have one; with minimal impact on your normal worship set-up.
The System that Grows with Your Congregation
Mobile churches and small Houses of Worship want to provide the best praise experience possible for their congregants, and part of that experience is high-quality sound production. Of course, when investing in a digital mixer, no congregation wants to have to replace it should their needs grow beyond its capabilities. Some digital mixers, like the StudioLive 32SC and StudioLive 64S are much larger mixers than their footprint and onboard analog I/O complement would suggest.
For example, the StudioLive 32SC is a full 32-channel mixer in a 16-channel frame size. This means that right out the box, it is ideally suited for a small mobile church, but can be expanded to a complete 32-channel solution by adding an NSB 16.8 network stage box. This makes it a compact, highly mobile option for any small- to mid-size House of Worship.
StudioLive Series III digital mixers make adding remote I/O and personal monitoring solutions like the EarMix 16M as easy as plugging in an Ethernet cable. So, as your needs grow, your system can grow with you. Every StudioLive Series III digital mixer is also designed to work with one another. This simplifies adding a monitor mixer or a broadcast system because it doesn’t require any complicated cabling or analog patching; all you need to do is connect the new mixer to the network and route your audio right from the StudioLive Series III console’s Touch Display or UC Surface.
Because StudioLive Series III digital mixers are all built on the same FLEX DSP platform, every StudioLive Series III digital mixer offers the same workflow. This means that once you have trained your volunteers to mix 16 channels on a StudioLive 32SC, they can easily mix 64 channels on a StudioLive 64S because every mix parameter is accessed exactly the same way.
And for volunteers that need to have their access restricted, StudioLive Series III digital mixers off User Profiles that allow the systems engineer to lock out or limit certain functions to some users. User Profiles can also be associated with custom projects and mix scenes, further opening accessibility.
Let’s look at a common scenario: the pastor offers a small youth study group one afternoon each week. For this group, she only needs a microphone and the DVD player. The main church engineer can create a User Profile for the pastor with her youth study scene associated with it, so when the pastor logs into her profile on the mixer, the settings she needs are instantly recalled. In this way, no volunteer is needed to run the sound system.
Broadcast Your Message to the World
Streaming your worship service online is a great way to provide a valuable service to congregants who are unable to come in person because of illness as well as for those who want to listen to it throughout the week or share your message with family and friends. Modern digital mixers make this possible for any sized House of Worship by incorporating an audio interface that allows you to record the audio from your mixer to a computer. But only StudioLive Series III digital mixers provide a complete recording solution right out of the box.
Included with StudioLive digital mixers is Capture, a unique multi-track recording application that makes recording as easy as a single mouse click. More than just a tracking application, Capture also provides a fully automated Virtual Soundcheck with your StudioLive Series III digital mixer.
Once recorded Capture sessions can be opened in Studio One Artist (also included) so that you can mix it down in a professional music production application. StudioLive mix scenes stored with Capture audio are automatically recalled in the Studio One mixer complete with level and Fat Channel settings, providing a great starting point for your streaming mix. And when your mix is done, you can push it to Soundcloud to create a digital release right from Studio One.
The Professional Choice
With scalable audio networking, powerful processors, high-quality mic preamps and more, StudioLive Series III digital mixers are a fantastic solution for any sized House of Worship. As an integrated solution, they provide a complete networked audio system that can grow and adapt as the needs of your congregation change.