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Need help with church recording setup.

Ok folks, I need some help choosing a setup for recording church sermons and ultimately placing them on our website.

Here is the set up I have going now:

I use an Olympus DS-2 portable recorder with the line-in coming from the PA system, it records at 64kbps WMA.

So then I have to convert it to MP3 to edit it. The problem is, 64kbps MP3 is too much for some people to stream, mostly dial up users. So I make another version of the file that is 20kbps WMA that sounds ok, but makes life miserable for a few Mac users.

Heres what I would like to see:

A small recorder that uses a lapel mic that the speaker can stash in their pocket or even wear on their side if necessary.

Something that records in MP3, so I can avoid conversion.

Something that records in good quality at a low-bitrate. Ive seen other church sites playing good sounding streaming audio with bit rates as low as 6kbps.

I just need some help, the setup I have going now works, but I cant get the low-bitrate MP3s to sound tolerable at all, if I make them 20kbpsWMA it actually doesnt sound too bad, but 16 or 24 MP3 sounds terrible.


anonymous Mon, 10/06/2008 - 12:42
I believe it's best not to record sermons. The transient nature of values is a good thing. Also recording it enables people to have religion beamed at them which negates all the positives of church. The chance to congregate once a week, receive an esoteric lecture then have a good old gossip on the front steps or in the adjacent building whilst enjoying a nice cup of tea and some of the worlds best home cooked treats. It's an 'ealthy community gathering.

I don't go to church however and wouldn't want to listen to broadcast sermons in any case.

However, if you are going to do it, do it with style.
Get something like the Korg MR1 and connect a quality Lavalier mic to it. Then convert later.

anonymous Mon, 10/06/2008 - 14:07
Record it from the lapel microphone coming through the PA. No more extra stuff for your pastor to worry about.

You can use the insert on the lapel channel, or an Aux send to give you more flexibility. An out board compressor is nice as there are normally some pretty large dynamics, and you want to keep these from clipping while keeping your noise floor low. If you record into a computer it will give you the most flexibility. Audacity works great for this. Because you are not multitracking, the on board sound card should be fine. However if you get an external audio interface your noise floor will be lower, and you could record in 24 bit without the outboard compressor. Just make sure your input level is -10 or -20 dB if you don't have a compressor.

anonymous Mon, 10/06/2008 - 17:40
Well right now we don't have a lapel mic, the pastor uses a handheld wireless mic and then the audio is recorded from the line out on the PA, which also means that anything else that comes through the PA gets recorded as well, such as music, etc. But thats not really a huge issue.

The thought of recording on the computer already occured to me, and I tried it once and it didnt work out well at all, but I came to find out that because of their placement, my hard drive interferes with my sound inputs and outputs, causes all sorts of fun noises. So unless I got a USB of PC Card based sound input, thats not an option.

Gecko, I didnt understand most of the last portion of your post.

Im wondering if it would be better to bypass the PA system entirely, its an older system, and although it works for us, Im afraid it might introduce some bad noise into recordings. But thats mostly speculation.

On the same note, Im afraid if we used a lapel setup, it would produce an echo effect because it would pick up the speaker speaking, then pick it up again coming out of the speakers.

I looked at the Korg, its a little more than wed like to spend. Something in the 200 dollar range would be much better.

Do you think ultimately we would be better off getting a good computer setup? Or keeping it portable? The computer setup is entirely feasible, but like I said, I would need to get some additional goodies for the laptop, because I dont feel like the current setup does a good job.

Codemonkey Mon, 10/06/2008 - 19:07
I do this too :D with a computer, funnily enough. So far I've recieved no funding to get any goodies and everything is largely fine.
Currently I use 48Kbps mp3 (available as a download a few hours after the sermon is over).

If I knew that people could play it, I'd use OGG, or maybe (probably) Speex as a codec. Most games use Speex which goes as low as 4Kbit/sec I believe, or there's a GSM codec too.

But I don't know if the average computer can play these.

anonymous Mon, 10/06/2008 - 22:02
What do you use to record? What program I mean...I like Audacity, and Ive recorded with it before on other machines. Just not my laptop.

I guess I could try getting ahold of a USB sound card if there is such a thing and give that a try. My onboard sound is just not good for recording because of the interference it gets, poor design I guess.

Is there another format I could consider using for the lower bit-rate stuff? Im amazed at the difference between a 20kbps WMA and even a 24kbps MP3, the WMA is so much better sounding. But, it makes it difficult for anyone with a Mac, or any other non-Windows machine to play them.

Its just very important to us that the site be friendly to dial-up users as far as streaming goes, because we are in a rural area, and thats all a lot of people have. Ive been in positions where I cant listen to certain audio things because I have dial-up and I dont want anyone who comes to our website to have to deal with that.

Codemonkey Tue, 10/07/2008 - 06:01
Btw, we don't stream anything. It's just a download. If the program fancies streaming it then it streams, otherwise it just downloads.

I use Kristal. Audacity will work for you, but I hate it. I also don't like Kristal much. It is however, a step up from Audacity if you want to process the audio in any way.

There are millions of programs that record audio. So long as the program doesn't crash then you'll be fine, regardless of what it is.

I'd be tempted to go with WMA and to hell with macs, but I might be a bit biased. Just a bit...

I'll assume you're encoding to mono mp3 and not Joint Stereo (which sounds so infinitely bad on low bitrates it makes my ears ring).

anonymous Tue, 10/07/2008 - 10:43
We like to have the stream option, downloading first wouldnt be so bad on high speed, but with dial up it ends up taking 2 hours of your time to listen to a 1-hour sermon if you have to download it first haha. It took me forever to figure out how to get the stream to work, then I discovered the amazing mms: prefix.

I converted an existing file to 16kbps mono MP3, and it was tolerable for me personally. But the WMA is still better haha.

I wont lie, Im tempted to screw MAC users as well, but I dont want to leave anyone out.

Is there a way to get Audacity to export in mono instead of stereo? I think the computer recording would be easiest, because then you can edit before you ever export at all. There would be no need for conversion either because you can just export in the format you want.

What features does Kristal have that make it better? Is it free as well? Because thats my favorite part of Audacity, especially since Im like you and dont have an expense account at church or anything haha.

anonymous Tue, 10/07/2008 - 16:39
Can anyone recommend a good conversion tool. A free one would be great, Im using a free one now, it seems to be able to do a lot, but I dont know how good it is.

Remy, I converted a few different kinds of files to the format you specified, and it doesnt sound too bad. The only thing I dont like is it makes seem like people have a lisp. It seems to do weird things to certain "ch" and "tion" sounds to name a few.

anonymous Tue, 10/07/2008 - 16:46
littlehoov wrote: It seems to do weird things to certain "ch" and "tion" sounds to name a few.
That would be the lack of sibilance. 11kHz sample rate only allows frequencies up to 5.5kHz. Sibilance is generally around 8k. It may be a sacrifice worth taking for the file size. Try the same compression with 22kHz and 44kHz.

anonymous Tue, 10/07/2008 - 17:13
Yes thanks, I tried it with 22kHz and it sounds much better.

The WMA files still sound just a tad clearer, but I guess thats because they are still stereo where the MP3 files are mono.

But I guess as long as its tolerable to listen too, such as no echoes, or garbled speech or anything of that nature then it will be fine.

I suppose to focus should be more on what is being said than how it sounds, but I like it better if it sounds good haha.

Thank you all so much, you've definitely helped me at least find a good low-bitrate MP3 format I can work with.

RemyRAD Tue, 10/07/2008 - 18:24
The reason why you had problems was due to lack of proper filtering before conversion and/or over modulation from collapsing a stereo track to Mono which increases the gain by 6 DB. Something about that Nyquist thingy always getting in the way. So chances are your conversion was not through a decent use of software like Adobe Audition which has the Microsoft & MP3 Pro codecs. The software takes care of the filtering when conversion is executed. Believe me when done properly, it's beautiful sounding and gives you very small file sizes.

MP3 101
Ms. Remy Ann David

Codemonkey Tue, 10/07/2008 - 20:57
I love [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.erightso…"]Super[/]="http://www.erightso…"]Super[/]. Not so hot GUI/design etc, but it gets the job done and is largely better than Audacity.

Kristal is free, doesn't export to mp3. I export to wav and then compress to mp3 later using Super, above.

It allows use of VSTs (pretty easily), I can give you some links to ones I find nearly indispensible.
The editing isn't so good (Audacity's volume envelope is good) but Kristal does multitrack.
It has a few flaws with ASIO but I have no problems with MME devices just recording the sermons.

JoeH Wed, 10/08/2008 - 06:52
Don't be a schmuck and record anything important at low resolution. You'll hate yourself later. :evil:

I know this syndrome all too well: ten years from now, when you're making this guy's legacy for the vaults, you'll be bringing some poor studio sap all your low-res audio files and begging them to "Clean them up" or "Make them sound GREAT!". It's the same thing with folks who would always use "Normal Bias" cassettes instead of chrome, and shut the recording off the moment the song is over, trying to save a few pennies on tape and running time.

Media is cheap. Record at full resolution (16k 44, at least) in stereo if you want options (like two mic feeds) or in mono, if you have to, for space. All the processing and restoration tools work better in post if you have more to work with. All those lo-res files don't respond well to manipulation. (GIGO: Garbage in, garbage out)

Ditto for trying to edit MP3 files. Like dither, these should be done last.
You should keep your full-res files for posterity, and do the super-lo-res conversions for the website as separate files. Keep everything saved on a hard drive somewhere separate from the recorder. (Again, think long-term, and legacay/preservation for this sort of thing.)

You can do batch conversions or hit "save as" (or export, render, convert, whatever your software calls it) while you go have a cup of coffee or take a break. It's a few minutes of extra time in post, but you'll be glad you did it.

Here's what I'd suggest if you're really strapped for cash: Hold a special donation for a week or two at your services,, telling the congregation it is specifically for a recorder to capture the good words of your minister. (Or whatever wording that gets the point accross).

Then go buy an M-Audio MicroTrak II for $289.00 (at Sweetwater or Musicians friend, etc.) and get a 2, 4, or 8 gig chip. (4 gigs seems to be the best value for this sort of thing at around $30-40, depending on what's on sale). You'll have plenty of room to record multiple sermons if you have to (esp in mono) and you can easily dump the data in mere seconds off to your computer for editing & cleanup.

Once you get the hang of it, transferring the data from the chip to the computer, normalizing levels and tweaking the material will be a breeze. Create a work template in your software so you don't have to re-invent the wheel each time, and this will be as easy as you want it to be each week.

Good luck

anonymous Thu, 10/09/2008 - 07:49
We use an ikey:

It works fine for us with the feed from the lapel mic (or any other mic) taken straight from an aux send. The ikey records straight to a usb memory stick as mp3 that you can then shove in any computer you like to edit later. You can record at a range of bit-rates (we use 192kbps I think).

We use Audacity to cut superfluous noise start and end (avoiding gurgling water and shuffling papers!). It's very simple to do.

I realised a day or so ago that the girl who does this hasn't been using the compressor in Audacity - but she will be doing from now on! Only takes a few seconds and makes the recording easier on the ear, particularly as most people will listen to it on various types of cheap in-ear headphones (e.g. ipod phones).

I realise I'm presuming here, but if your PA system is old then I'm guessing you're not looking for broadcast quality recordings. In which case this will do the job well for you.

You can hear the output if you want (google-bash Community Church Putney, and choose 'sermon archive'). You might even hear me on it from last week! (Remember no compression on these but there will be from now on!).

If you go this route then a recommendation is to use a better quality memory stick than the free one that comes with it. ours overheated - cheapo freebee!. But when replaced we've not had a problem since (used every week for many months).

anonymous Fri, 10/10/2008 - 09:34
How does one of those Ikey contraptions run? It looks like an interesting solution, but I couldnt even find one for sale anywhere online. Nearest dealership was 66 miles away it said.

I dont guess were looking for broadcast quality, just something that is tolerable to listen too. As I said, I think whats being said is more important than having broadcast sound quality.

I think the next hurdle is to find a good microphone. Oddly enough the cheapo wireless mics we use sound better than the corded mics we use for singing at such, as far as speech is concerned anyway. But they make a lot of noise in the hands of certain speakers, they transfer a lot of noise from the hand and such. I'm a speaker myself, and probably one of the worst at talking with the hands, so my tracks always have a lot of mic noise. Its probably something no one would notice unless they were scrutinizing the recording. But hey, that's my job haha.

RemyRAD Fri, 10/10/2008 - 10:55
You may not need broadcast quality but you want your speeches to be pleasant to listen to. And in general, I find tie tack/lavalier microphones work best for pastors sermons. Unless one has a podium style arrangement with a small capsule quality condenser microphone like you see on awards TV programs. Other types of handheld microphones are just not practical for people that don't know how to use handheld microphones. Yeah, handling noise, improper placement and lack of microphone technique make for lousy sounding "messages" which will do more to irritate than to gravitate and I reiterate on that take.

Amen, Awoman & Amicrophone
Ms. Remy Ann David

Codemonkey Fri, 10/10/2008 - 18:52
Our minister has a voice with not much high content really, I find that compressing him up against a microphone sounds good. Sort of has this broadcast tone to it - the feel imparted by the stupid compression settings....
But I don't do it, it only sounds good for 2 minutes and the sermons are at least 10.


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