What constitutes a good sound system? There is no pat answer. The best system is one that is right for you, designed around your present needs as well as your plans for future growth.
Microphones. The heart of a good system is the mixing console, but the size of the console depends largely on the number and kind of microphones you will be using.
A pastor who stays in close proximity to the pulpit when he preaches will find a good pulpit microphone sufficient. The pastor who likes to move around on the platform should consider a wireless lapel microphone. But one who asks for testimonies from the congregation will find a wireless handheld microphone to be a good solution.
Should you choose a single diversity or true diversity wireless microphone? A single diversity system has one receiver rather than two. These wireless microphones will generally function well in rural communities or in areas without many other churches or convention centers nearby. If you are in a city or even a suburb, a true diversity system may be a better choice. It has two receivers and will be less likely to have a problem with "drop out" or outside interference.
A good handheld microphone with a cardioid pattern will suffice for soloists. Most have a proximity effect, meaning the singer can control the volume by holding the microphone closer or farther away from his or her mouth.
Having monitor speakers available will help both preachers and singers hear how they really sound, but these speakers can inspire unpleasant feedback signals. The cardioid microphone's focused pattern makes it much less prone to feedback.
Mixing boards. Let's go back to that mixing board, where all the various instruments and microphones are combined and blended into one sound. Each mike or receiver must have its own channel on the mixing board. And each channel has various tone controls and auxiliary options allowing the sound technician to contour each instrument and microphone separately.
You may choose to have multiple effects processors, controlling options such as reverb, flange, delay and echo, which give a more lively, natural sound. This is particularly important if your sanctuary has a drop ceiling or absorbent panels. The auxiliary control also is used to route the sound signals to the monitor speakers.
Amplifiers. Some mixing boards have an amplifier built right in; they are called powered mixers. They are especially useful when space and portability are a concern. If, however, you plan to use 16 channels or more, a separate mixing board and amplifier are recommended.
The size amplifier you need will be determined by the speakers you use. It's better to overpower than underpower the system because underpowering can damage your speakers as well as your amplifier.
Speakers. Get advice from a sound professional from the company supplying your equipment. Speaker placement and size depend upon many variables: dimensions and shape of listening area, ceiling height, carpeting and number of people in your congregation.
Recording. Use a high-quality tape deck that will connect to your mixing board's line output. Mechanical reverse decks are the least recommended as they must run to the end of the tape, stop, reverse themselves and then go past the leader tape again to resume recording. An optical reverse deck overcomes this problem.
When you record your services, tape players can continue to deliver that gospel message as far as the Lord wants it to go--perhaps even "into all the world and...to every creature." *
Johnny Berguson is founder of Kingdom Tapes and Electronics in Mansfield, Pennsylvania.