In the last few years, there have been so many digital mixing consoles released that it’s almost mind boggling to keep up with them.
But let’s look at some of the big-picture differences between analog and digital consoles. Perspectives first…If you’re the sound technician at your church, then what you may like about a console could be very different from what the money people or the congregation think about it.
Here are a some things to consider in terms of analog and digital:
Audio Quality. Ultimately, it’s all about audio and what it sounds like. With that in mind, regardless of all the snazzy features on a mixer, what really matters most is how good it sounds. If a console doesn’t have good preamplifiers, then regardless of all the other cool features and pretty lights, no one will be pleased with what comes out of the speakers, through monitors, or on a recording. Fortunately, almost all modern consoles, whether digital or analog, provide acceptable preamp circuits.
Number Of Channels. It’s important to consider where you are in your church’s growth curve. What might be just fine now may or may not last for a significant season. If you’re a start-up, or fairly new church with big plans to grow quickly, then you might want to go smaller to start with so you can move your console downstream to the youth, children or fellowship area. The reverse is true as well. If you’re growing rapidly, you might want to get more channels that you need right now to future-proof your main room setup
Presets, Scenes, and DSP. The main difference between a digital console and a traditional analog console is that digital consoles have lots of processing power in addition to the preamplifiers, subgroups, and auxiliary sends. Most have a strong complement of presets and scene memory along with multiple bands of equalization and effects processors.
The presets alone can make it worth purchasing a digital board for many churches. Imagine the ability to set a Sunday morning, Wednesday evening, funeral, and wedding preset. These can make midweek or Saturday events much easier when a trained sound tech can’t be there. Most digital consoles have moving/automatic faders as well. Some consoles, like the PreSonus StudioLive series, have presets and great DSP, but they don’t have moving faders.
Worship Style. If you have numerous worship services and they vary with different styles of worship, or if you have another congregation meeting in your facility, then a digital console can be a huge advantage. Each service can be customized and saved as a preset for easy recall and less headaches. This is particularly helpful if you have multiple worship team members who rotate throughout your seasonal schedule. Saving a particular vocalist’s or different preacher’s/teacher’s eq settings can be a lifesaver and really streamline the sound check process.
Control Freaks In The House? Sometimes tactile control of the console is not enough control because your mixing location is not in an ideal place. That NEVER happens in a church, right? So, many digital consoles have the capacity to actually control them wirelessly with an iPad or tablet computer from anywhere in the room that your wireless connection can reach.
What you hear and what the rest of the congregation hears are not always the same. This can be particularly helpful if you run traditional monitor mixes from the house console and you need to adjust them from the stage. You can actually walk onstage and make adjustments wirelessly while simultaneously amazing your worship team with how tech savvy you are! Even personal monitors can be controlled wirelessly by the team members or the sound tech can control for them as well.
The Bottom Line. If you don’t need all the whistles and bells that a digital console provides, then your analog desk options are varied in channel count, features and price. They range in price from under $500 up to five figures.
Digital consoles range in price from about $1,000 up to even six figures, depending on what your needs are. In alphabetical order, here are some of the top console manufacturers: Allen & Heath, Avid, Behringer, DiGiCo, Midas, PreSonus, Roland, Soundcraft, and Yamaha. Of course, there are others, but these are the most well-known and have been around the longest.
Jeff McLeod is managing director and a certified church consultant for Church Audio Video.
Church Audio Video specializes in the design, installation and support of high-quality and affordable custom audio, video, lighting, broadcast and control systems for worship facilities. For more information, visit their website.