Sometimes the entire sound system is portable. Or maybe there is a portable system available for special events like outdoor services or kids camps.
Selecting the right components for a portable sound system depends on several important variables. Choosing the right options can mean owning a system that sounds great and lasts for years. Spending money on the wrong products can be costly in time and money.
Here are some tips that can help you prioritize the right portable sound system components for your needs. (And it's not all about speakers and mixing consoles...)
This is all about the size, shape, weight, and portability of the sound system.
A portable sound system should break down into several easy to manage components that make it convenient for loading and unloading the gear.
It is important that all of the gear will fit in the vehicles or storage locations available.
The size and weight of the different components matter too. A hand truck or dolly can be very useful for moving heavy equipment.
(Note: many of the links in this post are for portable sound system products that can be found on Amazon.)
Road cases are extremely important for protecting audio gear. Even loudspeakers can benefit from a padded slipcover to protect the finish from scrapes and dings.
The mixing console should definitely have a sturdy case, as well as amplifiers and microphones. These are sensitive (and expensive) electronics that can be easily damaged by a bump or drop.
Cases for microphone stands and other hardware can be handy as well. A separate case or bin for cables is a must.
For outdoor events, it may be wise to invest in a gear tent and a folding table. These don’t have to cost a lot, but they can prevent potential gear damage in the event of a rainstorm (or very hot direct sunlight). A set of speaker covers, tarp, or large garbage bags can also be very convenient for covering gear quickly when there is a sudden change in the weather.
Speaker Volume & Coverage
One of the most important portable gear choices is the selection of loudspeakers that can adequately cover the listening area.
Pay attention to the specified coverage pattern listed for the loudspeaker (this will be listed as a horizontal angle and a vertical angle, like 60˚ vertical x 90˚ horizontal).
Most conventional loudspeakers will have a 90×90, 60×90, or 40×60 coverage pattern.
Some line array towers can provide a 20˚ vertical by 120˚ horizontal coverage area or more, making them great for certain applications.
Add a subwoofer if there is a need to feature quality full-range music at the service or event.
Inputs, Outputs, Expansion
It is possible to build a portable system from separate components, mixing and matching whatever gear works for the purpose. But it is also possible to get systems that are built with an all-in-one approach. These can work great for an ultra-portable setup.
It’s critical to consider the number of inputs required for the worship team, pastors, or other presenters.
Some compact all-in-one systems include a mixing interface. Others do not. It is important to ensure the sound system supports the type of inputs and outputs required for the application.
Some portable churches like the convenience and portability of digital stage boxes and iPad mixers. Other churches may prefer the simplicity of analog equipment.
Powered loudspeakers and monitors can also allow for great flexibility and performance. Just remember to supply the right audio and power cables for each speaker.
Need wireless mics?
Some systems come with wireless mics already installed in the portable cabinet and mixer configuration.
And it is also possible to add wireless mics and connect them to any standard mixing console. Just be sure to include a good case for the wireless receivers and mics so that the gear doesn’t get damaged during transportation.
What about monitors?
Some portable systems will support standard stage monitors or in-ear monitor systems and offer a separate mix option, while others are designed to act as both the monitor and main loudspeaker (like portable line array tower systems).
Will multiple systems be connected together?
Some systems can be expanded, others can’t. It really depends on the electronics provided and how flexible the arrangement is.
For this reason, it is important to carefully consider the number of inputs and outputs, as well as the type of connectors or audio signals being used.
Electrical power is something that is often forgotten about or overlooked with portable sound systems.
Quality extension cords are an important component for any portable sound system. 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge) or 12 AWG cable is recommended for most common applications, but 16 AWG will also work if the cord length is not too long. (The longer the cable, the more voltage drop, which can lead to under-powered equipment.)
Use the appropriate power distribution and conditioning for the sound system as well. A $3 power strip may work fine for powering multiple wireless mics, but it is probably not suitable for distributing power to a 10,000 Watt amplifier rack.
Some portable sound systems can even have their own battery pack or run off of an inverter, making them ultra-portable for any application.
The Right System for Your Church
It’s true that there are many options when it comes to portable sound systems.
The three most important things to consider are:
1. Where will the system be used?
2. Who will be operating it?
3. How much flexibility is required?
Consider the type of room or space where the system will be used. Will your system provide the right sound quality and coverage for that space and acoustics?
Your sound team and any setup helpers should also be able to transport, set up, and take down all of the system components easily and safely. Be sure to provide proper training for your tech team.
All-in-one systems can be very convenient and compact, but separate components can provide greater flexibility.
Price can also be a big factor when deciding what type of system to buy. When it comes to portable sound equipment, purchasing quality-built products will always save you money in the long run.
The right portable sound system for your church should provide years of service and quality sound.
Note: this post originally appeared as a guest post on the ChurchTechToday blog.