If there’s one technology component that your church needs to take its time and focus to decide on, it is the question of what audio mixing console should be used.
This decision can make the difference between ok sound and great sound, and it will definitely make a difference in the confidence (and even the size) of your sound team.
The main sound system controller at your church goes by many names: soundboard, audio desk, mixing console, mixer, etc. They all refer to the same thing.
Selecting the right soundboard for your church might be the biggest audio decision you make. After all, it’s hard to mix good sound without a good soundboard.
There are two main categories for soundboards and there are many different styles to choose from. The board that’s right for your church will depend on a few key variables.
The first question most churches ask when upgrading their sound system is if they should get a digital console.
Surprisingly, the answer is not always “yes.”
It’s true that digital consoles have a lot of great features like presets, effects, motorized faders, and flexible audio routing. But those features can come with added complexity for the average church sound tech.
Some churches absolutely need a digital console to ensure great sound for their worship services. But other churches can still get amazing sound quality from a simple analog soundboard.
(See some of the most popular church mixing console upgrade picks below.)
A soundboard is only as good as the person using it. Many churches make the mistake of upgrading to a new mixer, only to find that it is too complicated for their volunteer team members to operate.
The more complex the mixing console, the more training is required. Be sure to consider this when looking for the next church soundboard.
It’s likely that the complexity or simplicity of your mixing console will actually determine the size of your tech team and influence if potential volunteers even want to get involved.
It’s easy to count up the number of audio channels and microphone inputs needed for your current worship service needs. But it’s also important to consider your future growth requirements when choosing a new soundboard. A church should upgrade the soundboard to work now and to grow with their needs in the near future.
Do you have special services or events throughout the year that require more inputs than your current mixer has available?
Do you need more routing flexibility or outputs for live streaming, distributed audio, and assisted listening systems?
Will the new console properly connect with your other sound system devices?
Do you want the option to add digital stage boxes for more inputs and outputs?
Many digital soundboards include options that allow wireless remote control of the console from a tablet.
Remote control features can also be available for personal in-ear monitor mixes so musicians can control their levels on stage.
Different consoles will have different features and limitations for remote mixing control. Be sure to study the differences between the consoles you are considering.
This list represents some of the best church soundboard options based on price, features, and training requirements that will work for a variety of small and medium churches.
There are some great analog mixers that are perfect for small and medium churches, portable churches, or for backstage monitor needs.
The Allen & Heath ZED-series is rugged, dependable, and economical.
Mackie ProFX mixers are packed with solid features and are found in churches and venues around the world.
Presonus StudioLive AR-series consoles have a mix of analog functionality and digital recording features that can work great in churches.
Yamaha MGP-series boards come complete with onboard compression, digital effects, and built-in recording.
Many churches need a digital soundboard that is approachable for sound team volunteers and can be flexible enough for high-quality sound production needs.
Allen & Heath SQ consoles are packed with a lot of professional digital mixing features, but presented in a way that makes them easy to operate for most sound techs. The QU-series is also very approachable for churches on a budget.
Avid Venue S3L and S6L consoles are incredibly flexible and feature studio-quality effects plugins that can elevate any live sound mix.
The Behringer X32 is famous for making digital mixing affordable for churches. Several compact stage box versions of this platform make it easy to build a flexible system with lots of input and output options.
Midas M32 consoles are the more robust version of the Behringer X32. The M32 has better sounding preamps, more robust motorized faders, and a refined control surface.
Presonus StudioLive Series III digital mixers are very user friendly and an easy digital option for church techs used to mixing on an analog soundboard.
Roland M-series soundboards are compact and powerful, making them great for churches with a smaller sound booth.
QSC TouchMix consoles pack a lot of features into a small package. These are perfect mixers for portable churches or for those that want big digital features in a small format.
Soundcraft Si-series boards are found in a lot of small churches because they are affordable and easy to use. The larger Vi-series consoles are found in churches and venues requiring more professional workflows and add-on features.
Yamaha developed some of the first widely used digital soundboards. The TF-series consoles are great for churches on a budget and they are easy to operate without a lot of complicated menu options. The QL-series is a solid option for churches that want to have all of the professional features of larger digital consoles in a compact format.
Whether you upgrade your church soundboard with one of the options here or select another console, make sure you invest in the training for your team that will ensure the great sound quality your church deserves.
Note: this originally appeared as a guest post on the ChurchTechToday blog.
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