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Church System Upgrade Questions

Hey Folks,

I've read a few posts here and found the information very helpful, so I decided to sign up and post a question of my own (Sorry for the longness of the post).

I am part of a new church plant. Currently we operate out of a local movie theater (about 230 seats). I look after most of the sound issues. I'm self taught and have no formal training so bear with me.

Currently our setup is:
Yamaha MX200 mixer (a gift to the church)
2 Dual 31 Band Phonic A6600 EQ (we use one for the mains and the other for the monitors)
Phonic DFX 256 Effects Processor (I use this to add some reverb to the vocals)
3 Wharfedale EVP12PM Wedge Monitors

TD-6SX Electric Drum Kit
Korg Keyboard
Rhythm Guitar
Acc Guitar
Lead Guitar
5 Vocals
2 Wireless

For the mains we currently use the theaters house speakers. While sound quality is not the greatest, it is easy set up (just run a couple of cables). Oh ya, did I mention we set this up and tear down every Sunday? We arrive at 9 am with our gear in tow, set for practice at 10, service at 11, tear down at 12:30, leave at 1. The theater has 3 sets of front speakers: a center and two side speakers. I route the vocals to the center speaker (via the right stereo output) and the instruments to the sides (via the left stereo output). It is kind of like subgrouping.

We’ve are currently looking at the A&H GL2400 as this was a board that was recommend when we originally bought our gear 2 years ago. Shortly before we purchased we came into possession of the Yamaha MX200 24 channel. We therefore didn’t buy a mixer.

Now that we are a little older and wanting to upgrade, we have a few issues we need to solve. I'm looking for recommendations.

1. We are currently struggling with monitor mixes. The MX200 has only 2 pre fader aux sends. We’ve been using these as monitor feeds to the stage. We are finding that we would like to have more monitor mixes. Eventually we plan to go to in ear monitors so we need to be able to handle that. From my understanding the GL2400 has 6 aux sends (that can be set to be pre fade). As well, there is a 7x4 matrix which can also be used as an aux send giving us effectively 10 aux sends. Is there another way in which we can accomplish this easily?

2. We want to record our services for posting to the website. We’ve tried using the RCA outputs on the MX200, but the mix was not right. We would use a set of aux sends, but we only have 2 prefader. From my understanding we have a couple of options with the GL2400. We could use the direct outs and connect to some sort of multitrack recording interface (to something like an MOTU 24I/0) for post service mixing, we could use the 7x4 matrix and feed directly to a left/right mix to a single track recorder (or laptop etc) or we could use a spare Aux Send to send to a mono recorder.

Additionally, rather than a new GL2400, I may be able to get a fairly new Soundcraft GB4 second hand.

Thanks for any help you can provide!



moonbaby Wed, 02/20/2008 - 14:10
Good point, Bob. Also something to consider when doing multiple monitor mixes is the # of power amp channels this will require. You don't list ANY power amplifiers in your current rig. You will need to have a channel of power amplification for each monitor mix. In your situation, this is easier said then done. I provide sound services for 2 churches in a similar situation as yours, every Sunday morning. One of them is a sunrise service on the beach, and is a quickie. The other one is a full-fledged performance with 2 services, set up in a school "cafetorium". AC power is extremely limited in that room. Basically, I'm limited to a single 20-amp service for my entire rig. This includes ANY power amps, as well as the usual FOH gear (mixer, EQ's, wireless receivers, compressors,etc) . That 20 amps is quickly eaten up by a single Crown dual channel power amp. I use one channel for the house, 1 for the monitors,. I have another FIVE amps sitting back at the church office that I COULD be using. I certainly did when we had a permanent setting in a makeshift bank building. But now we're portable, to save $$ for a new facility under construction. I've had to pare the system down from 4 monitor mixes to ONE. Ughh, what a headache to compromise with all of the players (now 3 horn players, guitar, keys, bass, drums, and 10-12 vocalists). Why do I have to? Because there is not enough AC service to provide reliable power to all of the amps that would be required. Not to mention set-up/break-down times. I have to start set-up 8, rehearsal by 8:45, a pair of services at 9:30 and 11, out of there by 1. It's a long day. I don't need more power amps to lug around and deal with. Be very careful to check your AC service at this theater; you may not have the resources you'll need to pull off what you are wanting to do. There's nothing worse than chasing down a popped circuit breaker in a facility that you are not intimately familiar the middle of a performance.
And, for what it's worth, be careful when considering what mixer you get. You've probably noticed a few threads on this site dealing with this recently. I have owned A&H boards since they were first imported into the States back in 1974. They're getting cheesey now, with less reliability than they used to be known for. It's not such an issue if they're installed in a venue, but if you're hauling one around and tearing it down every time you use it, I'd look at something else, maybe a Mackie Onyx.

BobRogers Wed, 02/20/2008 - 15:30
There are other drawbacks to having a lot of monitor mixes - setup time and the difficulty of adjusting multiple mixes from the FOH position. Is this really the only reason you are dissatisfied with the Yamaha board? Seems like you are making a lateral equipment move for the sake of a few features that may not be as necessary as you think.

Our church band runs all instruments direct to the board, but we have small amps as personal monitors for bass, drums, electric guitar and keys. This allows us to take the bass almost completely out of the (single) monitor mix and keep the drums and keys fairly low. We keep stage volume low, but the amps give the players control over hearing themselves. Keeping as much bass content as possible out of the monitors helps clarity enormously. We are using a collection of fly-by-night volunteers to run sound. So we have extra incentive to keep our system simple. But I'm worried that you may be underestimating the difficulty of mixing FOH and several monitor mixes at the same time. Even if you go with inears, I think there are several ways to take a basic mix and allow individuals to add "more me" to their own monitor. (I have not done this, so I can't recommend products with any authority.)

anonymous Wed, 02/20/2008 - 16:16
Thanks guys.

For amps, the wedge monitors have built in amps. For the mains, we use the theater in house speakers which have the amps in the projector room upstairs (we run a pair of cables up). Currently we haven't run into any issues with power at the stage (with 3 self amped wedge monitors, a lead guitar head and speaker cabinet, a rhythm guitar amp and gear and a bass amp).

The monitors have been a bit of a headache. Because of the size of the room we have had problems with way to much stage volume. Many of our musicians are bring large amps with them for their own monitors and many times I don't have to put anything through the mains as their amp provides enough volume. With this, I have no control over the sound. Because of the loudness of their amps, I've had to pump up the vocal monitors so that they can hear themselves. We originally had a set of accousitc drums (not miked) which was the biggest reason for the guitars having their amps up so load. The stage volume even more. We seem to have partially solved that with the electric drums. We are working with our musicians and trying to compromise.

What we are looking for basically is a monitor mix for the keyboards/vocals, a mix for the guitars (possibly including the bass) and a mix for the drummer. I think that 3 monitor mixes is probably not overkill yet our current board cannot handle it.

The second reason for upgrading is the recording aspect. From what I can determine there are two ways of recording. Live Mixing and Post Mixing. For live mixing I will need some way to provide an alternative mix than what is comming from the mains for recording during the service. Only a Left and Right feed will be recorded and the mixing is done live. For Post Mixing I would need to record multiple tracks using something like the MOTU 24I/O. Mixing would be done after there service. With either of these methods, the current board will not work. There are no direct outs on the MX200. There are only 2 aux sends. There are no sub groups. There is no matrix. I could get some sort of snake splitter and feed to a second board, but that would mean a second operator. Unfortunatly, we don't have the personell for that.

I have read the negative comments on the A&H. I have also read negative comments on other boards. It is hard to know. The Makie Onyx 24-4 seems to be similar in features, however, the board appears to be a little cheaper than the A&H GL2400. Any particular reason why.

BTW, the GB4 didn't work out. The used price was still outside our budget ($3500).

RemyRAD Wed, 02/20/2008 - 19:14
I'm not trying to advocate a separation between church and state but you might want to consider purchasing a passive XLR splitter? With that, you would have a separate mixer exclusively for stage and in-ear monitors, that would be totally separate and transparent to your front of house sound and multi-track recording.

Having come from the land of split console architecture i.e. old-time Neve & API consoles, it was easier IMHO to keep your monitor mix and tracking side of the console, clean & separate. I really never cared for direct in line monitoring consoles as they can get damned confusing. I guess I'm just an old-fashioned girl?

One does not always need active nor transformer isolated splits, in this application. Loading down the microphones will not be too severe and other provisions can be made to actually eliminate that problem. It's simple, easy. Most microphone inputs are terminated with a 1500 ohm input shunt resistor, which could be clipped out of the monitor console. Proper grounding and careful and proper AC mains distribution must be adhered to. Your life depends upon it. This would greatly simplify your situation with perhaps an even more economical, with greater versatility, upgrade.

I'd even go so far as to recommend you purchase an Alesis HD 24xr instead of going the MOTU 24-IO route. Why? Because its operation is easier and more like the simplicity of an analog machine with its single-purpose use. Easy transfers and dumps into the computer are quickly achievable. Plus, it's a heck of a lot easier making backups to a secondary disk drive which can also easily be handed over to a guest performer. Then any computer can handle the post mixing & processing without the need for the 24-IO. In the end, you're still shuffling disk drives. Computers are cheap time is not. But versatility reigns supreme.

Supremely versatile woman
Ms. Remy Ann David

anonymous Thu, 02/21/2008 - 08:55
Hmm...I like what I'm reading on the Alesis HD 24xr. At least with that solution we wouldn't need a computer to do the recording (we would only need it for the editing). Setup time would be quicker since I assume it is just a matter of plugging in the cables and hitting record. If we wanted to do the mixing live, we could do that as well.

I notice that the Alesis has a ADAT connector. I guess using the direct outs means having a 1/4" cable for each channel to the Alesis. I guess 24 cables would probably run you a couple of hundred bucks, plus having spares.

With the ADAT cable, you connect that directly to a ADAT capable mixer. 1 cable. Less hassle. Less room for breaking down. Less wear and tear.

Any thoughts?

Boswell Fri, 02/22/2008 - 05:38
ablundon wrote: Hmm...I like what I'm reading on the Alesis HD 24xr. At least with that solution we wouldn't need a computer to do the recording (we would only need it for the editing). Setup time would be quicker since I assume it is just a matter of plugging in the cables and hitting record. If we wanted to do the mixing live, we could do that as well.

I notice that the Alesis has a ADAT connector. I guess using the direct outs means having a 1/4" cable for each channel to the Alesis. I guess 24 cables would probably run you a couple of hundred bucks, plus having spares.

With the ADAT cable, you connect that directly to a ADAT capable mixer. 1 cable. Less hassle. Less room for breaking down. Less wear and tear.

Any thoughts?
A couple.

An HD24 is easy to set up and get recording with. When you are done recording, you slide the drive caddy out of the HD24 and take it off home to your computer, where you have the Alesis FirePort adaptor. You plug the caddy into the FirePort and dump the tracks to your computer disk and start editing.

The HD24 is equally at home using analog or digital (ADAT) inputs. Yes, you would have to budget for 24 TRS jack cables from your direct channel outs on your mixer to the HD24 analog ins. However, if you want to use ADAT digital connections, you need 3 lightpipe cables (each can carry 8 channels at 48KHz), but the implication is that you have a digital mixer to source these signals.

So you have to think about that in connection with your original post regarding equipment upgrades. A typical setup would be a Yamaha 01V96 mixer with MY16-AT ADAT expansion card fitted, driving an HD24. If you need more than 12 microphone channels, you would need ADAT-equipped pre-amps. The 01V96 can handle 8 monitor mixes - 4 using outputs on the base mixer plus another 4 via the HD24 if you trade recording channels for monitor mixes.

anonymous Fri, 02/22/2008 - 08:44
We'll be looking into the digital mixers a little further, however, they do seem a little pricier than the analog ones, especially if we have to buy a separate expansion card.

Getting back to the analog, are there any other mixers similar to the A&H GL2400 and a Makie Onxy 24.4 that we could consider?

The recording interface is probably a year out, unless we get a donation!

Codemonkey Sun, 02/24/2008 - 15:10
I would love to go into our Church and see an Onyx 24.4 (or better, a 2480) sitting on my desk. I think I'd hit the roof (about 6m up from there).
We use a Phonic K-16 which is now discontinued but is great. 2 Aux + 2 post fader Efx which we use for the induction loop and one which I shall soon use for recording services.
I suppose we're in a fortunate position. No setups, save for doing concerts elsewhere. Just a few switches on Sundays and we're done.

I was just looking at a Yamaha 24/14 which is at a strangely low price but seems to be lacking a few things. I didn't check it in full.
Maybe a few on this list would be useful, though not all them are 24 channel.

And I hate how every Church has to do things on a budget, from the big time American ones to small town ones in Scotland.
Can we not do things RIGHT and PROPERLY for once? If it ever happened, I'd get my Onyx and you'd get your whatever (but I like the Onyx, seems to be a good unit) and maybe we'd get a decent power supply and the pews would be GONE! Along with the pulpit and all the moany old codgers.

sheet Sun, 02/24/2008 - 22:38
Make everyone use small amps. If you mix to each other acoustically, then things will be much easier. Let the monitors receive a vocal mix only. If you balance the band correctly, you should be able to get by. This is how people did it for decades.

I have done the theater thing. It sucks. There is a bunch of midrange and low frequency wash that hits you on stage, and your sound feels like it isn't going anywhere. I hated it.

anonymous Mon, 02/25/2008 - 08:40
Yes, the "theater thing" has been a challenge. I still haven't really tacked EQing our system for the theater. I've read a lot on "ringing out the system" but from what I can tell, the best way is with an analyzer and a reference mic. We had a guy come in who was supposedly was an expert. He came in a turned many of eq bands down to -12db and left after about 10 min. Needless to say after listening to it for a while, it sounded horrible. Also, it seems that every week the sound is different. You would think that with the same setup, I would be able to make all of the adjustments once and never have to touch it again. Not quite. Every week is a challenge to get everything sounding the way it did the week before.

As others have talked about in this forum and others, there always seems to be a battle between the sound engineer and the musicians. I'd like to have only the vocals in the monitors but the singers and musicians feel differently. They want a little drums, they want a little acoustic guitar. Musically, I'm not on the same level as they are nor am I standing where they stand, so I have to listen to them. My biggest concern is stage volume, but that is getting better.

We are fortunate when it comes to sound issues. Luckily our Pastors are on the same page we are when it comes to trying to do it right. While our budget is no great amount, it is flexible enough for us to build a great system.

Anyway, I sent A&H an email regarding our situation. Contrary to many of the opinions expressed here, the sales guy's main selling point was the build quality of the GL2400. I realize he is a sales guy and his job is to sell, but he made some good points. One being that the A&H has a separate circuit board for each channel while the Mackie's have a single circuit board. It was his opinion that with this design, there is less pressure on the board when transporting, therefore, less chance for damage. He indicated that this was the reason for the difference between the price of the Mackie 24.4 and the GL2400.

Thanks for all of the good feedback.

sheet Mon, 02/25/2008 - 19:30
A&H and build quality. That's something I thought I would never see in the same sentence. Kidding. They are entry level mixers for the most part. They have a sorted history of sending out crap that is deap, making the dealers fix it later.

Look. You have to look at where you are, see what money you have, and go for something. AH is a good starter. But don't expect it to last more than two years. That would be the same for any mixer in that price range, built with that much low strength metal and plastic.

Codemonkey Tue, 02/26/2008 - 05:44
Really! 2 years?

Even if (in our case) it's left untouched in a Church, used twice a week, and maybe once every few months, taken to some other venue for a 1 night concert?

Given care I don't believe it would die as quick as that.
That said, our old one which is probably a shade under the range of a mackie/A&H has been subjected to the above and worse. It's been dropped once, clunked around under tables (until we got it installed properly), stuffed into a car for a few separate gigs and it's still in one piece, albeit having lost channel 3. That's after one year.




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