traditional church sound

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by porpie, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. porpie

    porpie Active Member

    Greetings from another freshly-minted, optimistic, but dangerously uneducated noob showing my face for the first time after a lot of reading through this forum for the past few days. Thanks in advance for your patience with yet another new guy trying to learn how to swim.

    I've been given the sink-or-swim job of specifying some new gear for my very small church here in southwestern CT. I have no formal training or direct experience with sound, but I'm the most technical guy in the church, so I'm (apparently) the guy for the job. Here's what I'm facing.

    Current and future venue:
    We are still in a small rented space, but will be building in about a year. Current meeting room seats about 50 people and has a 9-foot drop ceiling (not the most acoustically ideal space). The new building will seat initially around 200 with 20-30' ceiling. We've decided (wisely, I think) to hire a sound consultant/installer when we get to the new building, but we'd like to get some stop-gap gear for now that can help us get some good recording of music and services in the meantime.

    Our music is definitely traditional, usually with piano, choir (15 voices), vocal ensembles (4-6 voices), vocal solos or duets, and some instrumentalists such as violin, cello, and flute. We also have a digital keyboard. Our 7'6" grand piano is ludicrously oversized for our current venue, so we play with the lid down.

    Audio reinforcement and recording goals:
    Clearly we need very little PA. In fact this is only necessary for solos/duets to help balance with the overpowering piano. We sort-of have a podium mic (read more below) for this and for the pastor. Mostly we want to get the best recording possible for the time being.

    Our current gear:
    1. Behringer Europower PMP 2000 which is our overkill mixer/amp
    2. pair of SE Electronics SE1a instrument mics
    3. 4 handheld mics (sorry can't remember what they are :oops: but they only work pretty close range and I think they cost around $100/ea)
    4. cheap Edirol USB sound card
    5. consumer-type Dell for computer recording
    6. just purchased, but not yet installed Presonus Firestudio Project

    What I'm seriously considering buying:
    1. Woot Computers rackmount DAW (quad core processer, 2 Gig Ram, etc)
    2. DPA SMK4061 kit for piano
    3. need 1 or 2 choir mics -- suggestions anyone?
    4. a splitter

    My current strategy:
    The piano and choir need no amplification, so I'm thinking of having these mics run straight to the Firestudio. We've been using one of the SE1as for a podium mic, and it seems to be doing a fairly decent job. (in our new building, I'd like to get something like a Countryman for the pastor, but for now the SE1a seems to be OK) I'd like to get a splitter for this podium mic (any recommendations for brand/type?) and run one end to the Behringer for PA and the other to the Firestudio for recording. We currently have all the mics going into the Behringer and then run an unbalanced RCA output to a cheap edirol USB soundcard attached to a Dell for recording. We get terrible line noise and awful, unbalanced sound because we're currently not micing the piano and the SE1a is the only mic for the choir, etc. So I'm hoping that running my mics directly to the Firestudio and a new DAW will eliminate line noise (as XLR is balanced) and allow better post mixing with a multi-track recording.

    Any purchases I make now, however, I want to be fully applicable to our new venue when we build next year. I think I have a decent budget (for a small church, anyway) for this current round of purchasing--approx $4-6K The DAW will be around $2K. The DPA piano mics around $900. This leaves me 1-2 thousand for choir mics, a splitter, and whatever else you guys say I need (IE better pre amps, if the Firestudio isn't good enough). Oh, and I guess I need to buy a rack and some 50' cables.

    Thanks for reading through this long post, thanks for not hating me for being ignorant, and thanks for any advice!

  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Hi, Porpie, welcome to RO:
    I have a couple of thoughts about you're gear and it's use, and I'm sure that others here do, too. You might also consider posting this in the "Live Sound" forum, or at least check out what IS posted there. There have been some posts there lately that cover some of your questions...
    For one thing, when you are dealing with live audio, the two most important components are the transducers- the microphones at one end, and the loudspeakers at the other end. I see no mention of the loudspeakers. In a room with low ceilings, this is pretty crucial.
    I just moved a church out of a very similar setting earlier this year. As for the choir, I'd suggest a pair of Audix MicroBoom mics. These work great on choirs, as well as acoustic instruments. Try to stay away from those hanging mics-they are a pain to move around as you experiment with positioning. If that is not budgetable, go with a pair of good ol' Shure SM58s. These should be what you have as a handheld, anyway.
    For the podium, Shure and Audio-Technica make some very nice gooseneck mics that will serve you well-certainly better than the SE-1.
    They are designed to be used with the human voice and to minimize feedback. A Sabine Phantom Mic Rider is helpful here, too. I hate feedback eliminators in general, this one is great for a podium mic, though. And cheap.
    I would suggest that you look at a compact digital mixer, such as the Yamaha 01V96. You can assign and mix all of your sources through that, then route different mixes to your house system, possibly a stage monitor rig, and certainly to your digital recorder/PC via the Firewire and ADAT output cards it has available. Scrap the Behr&^&*r box totally. NOTHING they make is any good. Well, maybe the headphone amp...
    With a digital mixer like the01V96, you can set up pretty elaborate mixes to the different destinations, and record these in its memory for instant recall. Yamaha makes very good equipment that will serve you well down the road. This has the added benefit of minimizing all those cables from 1 box to the next.
    Enough for now. We'll cover the speakers later.
  3. porpie

    porpie Active Member

    Well, we've got a pair of Bose speakers about midway back in the room. Didn't mention these because with a room that seats only 50, amplification is barely needed (I think output levels to these speakers are only around 20%), and at this point isn't really a part of what I'm considering. Certainly when we move into our new building, this will be a major consideration.

    I had actually thought that a hanging mic would not be too difficult, as we have a drop ceiling, but I am the voice of inexperience... Are the SM58s highly localized or directional? One of the problems we've had (a common challenge for micing choirs, I'm sure) is that the mics aren't picking up a good balance of the choir; instead they get a strong read on one or two voices while the rest of the choir is a murmur in the background.

    Based on reading through these forums, I agree that a Yamaha digital mixer is the way to go for us. I very much like the idea of having a house mix and independent outputs to the recording computer. However, I thought that this purchase might best wait until we're in our new building. Again, for the next 12 months or so we're primarily concerned with improving our recording results. For now, we pretty much don't care about PA. I'd get the mixer now if we'd get immediate benefits out of it, but I thought that would only be important if we needed to worry about a FOH mix. If possible, I'd prefer to avoid dealing with figuring out this component for now, especially as I'd want to make sure it would still be the perfect solution for our new building as well. However, I'm sure I don't fully understand the various ways to get signals to the recording computer (right now I'm planning on using the Presonus Firestudio for multitrack recording), and if the Yamaha's firewire connection (or ADAT) would allow us to skip the Firestudio, that would be something worth considering.

    Thanks very much for your advice, and I welcome more!
  4. porpie

    porpie Active Member

    For a choir mic, does anyone have an opinion on the Audio Technica ES933C? I had someone recommend the DPA 4021 stereo kit, but at $3,500, it's a bit ambitious for me...
  5. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I have used hanging mics (A-T's are great mics) in many larger churches. I just think that in YOUR situation, with a 9' ceiling, they aren't the best choice.Hanging mics work best when they are high enough to pick up a large "sweet spot" on the choir. Placing them close to the singers will result in the "hot spots" you described that are not desireable. If these mics are too close to the ceiling, you will suffer from phase anomalies in that the ceiling tiles will reflect some of the sound back into the null spot of the mics. And with ANY mic rig, you are going to have to play with positioning the mics against the choir, especially with a low ceiling. Climbing up on a ladder to do this is a big PIA, compared to walking up and moving a stand a few inches.
    When I did a choir in the low-ceiling orented office bit, I used one of 2 rigs. For the traditional choir (18 max, on a 3-stepped riser), I got very good results with a pair of Rode NT-5s, one on each side of the riser, flanking the choir about 3 feet out front and toed-in. NT-5s are one of the best values in the SDC market and sound a lot better than their $400 price would suggest, and MUCH better than the SE's.
    The other rig is for the contemporary services with a pair of 58s in a type of ORTF arrangement to handle the bleed of live drums. But I've used 58s in the same manner as I described the NT-5s when I had the NT-5s at another venue. 58s are good voice-range mics in many applications. I recommended the Audix MicroBooms because the church that replaced us in the same venue is using a pair of them and they sound pretty good, both on voice and acoustic instruments (guitar and mandolin).

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