A Peek at Audio in Portable Churches
Portable churches may not need a lot of space, but the sound doesn't have to suffer.
By David McLain

When thinking of a church, most people conjure images of a building with chairs or pews, carpet on the floor, maybe some stained glass. The loudspeakers hang in a cluster near the front and there’s a sound booth in the back. Down the hallway are the nursery and the church office.

While that describes the majority of churches, a growing number of churches are forming that don’t fit that description.

Churches that do not own a building are becoming more common. They just rent a building for Sunday mornings and maybe for Wednesday nights. The church office may be rented professional space or, if the church is small, it may be in the pastor’s home.

Just because they meet in a temporary space does not mean these churches don’t value a high-quality sound system. Most new churches (the majority of portable churches) have contemporary services, often centered on a guitar-driven pop- or rock-flavored band.

There isn’t really a standard sound system for a portable church, because there really isn’t a standard church. Here are eight tips for choosing a sound systems for a portable church.

System Must be Easy to Set up
Front of house, including mixer, is all in one rack. The amps are either in the same rack or a similar rack onstage. Racks have a single AC cord with power distribution in the rack and a single “on” switch. Subwoofers are usually too complex, so 15-inch two-way speakers are on stands left and right of stage.

Cables are color-coded or numbered. Mic cables, instrument cables and direct boxes are all in the same storage container. In a larger portable system, multi-pin connectors become important to reduce the number of mic cables used.

Simple to Operate
Most churches, especially portable churches, have volunteers running sound. A 40-channel console with four-band EQ and eight aux sends may be more than a volunteer can handle.

Many portable churches, especially startups, get by with two or three monitor sends and a three-band EQ. A 16 or 24-channel console will likely be plenty.

Crystal Clear Audio
Congregation members won’t care if you can get 120dB in the back of the room. Can they understand the words clearly and without straining in every seat in the house? Loud is great, but only if it’s clear and clean. It’s more important to have 95dB or 100dB with crystal clarity than have a subwoofer that kicks them in the chest.

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