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Church Sound: Choosing The “Best” Microphones
It may have better specs, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice
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Conversely, if we hung a new PA that had vastly better coverage, evenness, phase response, lower comb filtering and overall better fidelity, I think people would notice.

To be sure, it’s going to cost some coin to make that happen, and for the same amount of money, I could have bought a truckload of mics.

But I’m quite sure I could replace the e609 on our guitar amp with a U87 (roughly 30 times the price of a 609) and no one would notice.

So my recommendation to the reader was not to replace the drawer full of SM58s just yet, rather, investigate a new speaker system.

Once the system can faithfully reproduce what you send it, then start looking at better mics.

Now let’s get on to another part of the report that I mostly agree with.

“Microphones should be selected from a trial use after the rest of the sound system is brought up to standard. The more expensive microphones have a flatter frequency response (more natural sound, higher volume before feedback occurs), better off axis rejection (more volume before feedback, less pick-up of adjacent instruments or voices), lower proximity effect (tone changes at varying distance from mic), lower handling noise, better ‘pop’ filters.”

Generally all of this is true. What I take issue with is the notion of “more expensive” microphones are inherently better choices.

Case in point: When we bought our new wireless system, I specified one Shure KSM9 capsule that I planned on using that for our worship leader. Turns out, it doesn’t work for him. And as we’ve tried it on many of our vocalists, it doesn’t work for most of them either. In fact, some of them really don’t like it.

So here we have a capsule that’s over $500, and for the most part, we and most of our singers prefer capsules that sell for less than half that. Quite honestly, I’d be really ticked if I had ordered ten KSM9s instead of ten SM58s based on the notion that more expensive = better. In fact, I’m going back and ordering a few more Shure Beta 87s because in our PA, with our singers, they are a superior choice.

Does this make the KSM9 a bad mic? No! On paper, it is be head and shoulders above the Beta 87 or SM58. However, the less-flat frequency response, proximity effect and wider pattern make the latter two better choices for our vocalists.

And that brings me to the one part of the consultant’s report that I thoroughly agree with:

“Microphones should be selected from a trial use after the rest of the sound system is brought up to standard.”

Before you go out and commit big dollars on new mics, try them out. If you can get demos, do it. If not, buy from a dealer who will let you return them if you don’t like them. Try a large cross-section of mics if you can. The best choice might surprise you.

In our case, we much prefer a Heil Sound RC35 on our worship leader over the KSM9, even though the Heil is half the price. And our student worship leader sounds fantastic on a RC22. I’ve always been a big fan of the Neumann KMS105; we had a KMS104 on our worship leader and I thought it made him sound muddy with no clarity at all.

Most importantly, don’t let anyone sell you a microphone because it’s more expensive and therefore “better.” It may have better specs, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.

Try it out and hear for yourself.

Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog, Church Tech Arts . He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.


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