A variety of styles and musicians and a history of poor advice. HELP, please???
Hi everyone, and thanks in advance for any suggestions you can give me.
I am the music director for a fairly small church that meets in a non-traditional space that's more like a retail store than a typical church. We play a variety of music, with a good deal of borrowed folk, rock, and pop, as well as more traditional music. We have a decent Kurzweil keyboard, various acoustic guitars with built-in pickups, a Mackie 24-channel analog mixer (unpowered), and some Yamaha speakers well past their prime -- and monitors that were never much to begin with. Cables are mediocre... microphones are ancient Shures. Fairly new snake in good condition.
And our sound is lousy! We have gremlins and muddiness, plus hums and hisses and general messiness.
I am in the fortunate position of having a decent budget to invest in making this all work and sound much better! We don't require significant portability. The room has an acoustic tile ceiling and carpet, so it's not particularly live, but it's not a dead zone either. I think it has the potential to sound quite good.
I believe our mixer is in good shape, so I'm not planning to replace it (unless someone tells me I'm crazy not to). But I need recommendations for good monitors, excellent speakers which will sound good for the music AND a minister, good all-around microphones for singers (preferably ones which can also be used to mic instruments when we have pure acoustic stuff -- often have strings or woodwinds added to the mix), a better wireless headset mic for the minister (spoken word only), and other things that would give us better overall quality (for instance, do we need a compressor?) or flexibility.
I have a budget of $3,000 or so for starters -- I could probably stretch it to $4,000 if it makes sense to do so.
Any advice you wish to offer is greatly appreciated!
We had a similar exercise about a year ago to upgrade a small elementary school auditorium. You didn't say how large your space is or what kind of Mackie board you had, so I'm guessing it's either the 2404-VLZ3 or the Onyx 24x4. My suggestion would be to match that up with the Mackie Thump active speakers: say 2x TH-12As as stage monitors on their sides for the performers and then 2x TH-15As as the house mains suplemented by 2x SRM-1801 sub-woofers with pole mounts for the TH-15As. That along with the existing Mackie board should make whatever you put into the mics sound very good coming out.
Next up the mics: If the Shures you have are SM-57 (instruments) or SM-58s (vocals) you're probably OK for now. If not, then get a few of these. They take a beating but last forever and almost anyone who has ever stepped onto a stage has used them. You can certainly get better, but probably not for the price. If you feel you need at least 1 really good vocal mic, then invest $200-300 in one solid vocal condenser (Shure Beta 87 or SM87, or Blue enCore series, or one of the AKGs). If I were you I'd concentrate the rest of the budget on the wireless setup. We used the Shure ULX series because I had used them in previous work, but there are several good options out there now. Make the minister sound great and everything else will be fine.
Before thinking about any external processing (like compressors, etc.) see what the new setup sounds like using a good setup like above and just the tone controls on the board (the VLZ has a 3-band EQ and dual on-board FX loops if you do feel the need to add something into the mix & the Onyx has a 4-band Perkins EQ and a built-in assignable stereo compressor/limiter).
You also don't mention if you're using any computer with the setup. That could also change your options for effects.
I have run sound in schools and churchs for years. The best thing you can do is focus on basics and then biud on that foundation.
I would get some good self powered speakers. The QSC KW15/3 three ways are great for a system with out subs. Th9is would be the most costly item to start. I would put a dbx pa controller on it to eq the speakers.
You need direct boxes on all the instruments that are plugged into the mixer. Get ones with ground lift to kill buzzing ground loops. Make sure to do the key board also.
On your mixer at the top of each input channel has a low cut or some times called high pass button. make sure every channel this button is pushed in except on kick drum or bass channel. I turn it off sometimes on the key board when it is being played solo. This will clean up the low end and increase clarity. Also try roolling off lows on eq on everything. That is the bottom knob fin the eq section. Set it at about 10 or 11 oclock.
If possiable plug the sound board and speakkers (amps) into the same power circuit so there are no ground issues. If you are useing dimming lights make sure your not on the same circuit with sound system that will cause buzzing and hums sometimes.
For the pastor I would spend some money on a higher qaulity mic. We got our pastor to wear a over the ear countryman mic instead of a clip on his collar and the sound was inproved 1000 times. This could be 800 to 1200 bucks but it will be the best money you have ever spent. It was a hard change for pastor but clarity both live and on our recordings won him over and the people could heare so much better.
The only thing that would make a huge jump into the future would to get a presonus digtal board. It would make everything estreemly easy for you. Once you get it set up and the settings saved everything would be recalled and ready for live and recording. Watch some videos at the presonus web site about the studiolive mixers.
QSC KW153 X2 $2300
Sennhieser wireless $600
Countryman headset ?
direct boxes w/ground lift $35 each
Studio live 2442 $3200
I would for sure get the speakers and direct boxes and the mic for pastor.
You can not beat Shure 58 and 57 for the money and duribility.