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The Small/Start-Up Church Gear Checklist

Avoid the "inventive" systems cobbled together by well-meaning folks by doing it right in the first place...

By Brian Gowing March 9, 2017

Vocal Microphones

Whatever you do, please don’t buy no-name (generic) mics. You’ll regret it. While the specs may look similar to pro-grade mics like those from Shure, Sennheiser, Heil Sound, Audix, Audio-Technica, AKG, and Electro-Voice, they aren’t close.

There’s a reason the Shure SM Series, Sennheiser 835, Heil PR20/30/40, etc. have been around a long time. Someone once said that every hall in the United States has been EQ’ed for a Shure SM57/58. That alone should tell you something.

These mics are rugged, all-around workhorses that are still in use by major productions. Just about every concert that you watch on TV has at least one of these mics on something, whether a vocal or an instrument.

The Shure Beta 58 has the added advantage of having a titanium ball cover which means you can drop the darn thing and never have a dented ball cover. You can drop the SM57/58s on the floor, from the stage, and probably run them over with a truck and they’ll keep working.

But don’t drop them. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. (But you already know that, right?)

Drum Microphones

In small churches, I usually recommend miking only the kick drum and the snare. I’ve found many small churches don’t have a big room and the rooms they do have are very “alive.”

Now, if the room is really dead or the room is huge, then use all four mics; for example, Shure SM57s on snare and toms and a Shure Beta 52A on kick. Use a condenser for an overhead mic.
Instrument microphones

A combination of dynamics and condensers are good for instrument miking. Most of this type of miking will be for a piano or a drum kit. Other gear, like guitars and keyboards, can plug directly into the system.

Microphone Cables

No matter what you’ve heard, don’t go spending $50 for a Mogami or Monster mic cable. Go to a place like monoprice.com and pick up quality mic cables for peanuts. They’re lifetime guaranteed and just as good as anything out there.

Wireless Headset Microphone

You get what you pay for. (Haven’t I said that already?) Spend less than $500 for something other than a premium wireless system with a quality headset mic, and the regret likely will soon set in. A wireless system from any of the “big names in high-quality microphones” will do the job.

Quality counts in the wireless arena and high quality isn’t cheap. Be aware of changes to available frequency ranges and which are no longer open for wireless system use. You shouldn’t see these models in stores, but watch out for “a great deal on eBay” because it’s not a great deal.

Also, the higher price range models are frequency-agile, meaning they have dual antennas and can skip back-and-forth between frequencies to get the best signal.

Power Conditioner/Protection

Spend a little bit ($100 or so) for a Furman power conditioner/surge protector to protect the “really” expensive equipment. Furman gear is designed for protecting audio and computer equipment, and they’re built like a tank.

Do not buy a $15 power strip and expect it to protect gear the same way. It won’t. I have a standing rule: Anything that plugs in at the sound booth gets plugged into a Furman, or it doesn’t get plugged in at all.

These conditioners are designed to sacrifice themselves in the event of a power surge, which means spending another $100 for a replacement if it gets fried—but the rest of your equipment will have been protected. Plus, Furman has a replacement guarantee on the remaining equipment if the conditioner doesn’t do its job.

That’s it in a nutshell – a very big nutshell.

 


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