The Basics of the Church Sound System – What Every Pastor Should Know

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I was 16 when I became a Christian and converted to Christianity in 1979. In my community, I was already playing professionally on bass guitar. (Yes, I got paid.) It was a great experience I never imagined would be beneficial when I became a pastor. It gave me a better understanding of the basics of the church sound system.

Today, I want to share my knowledge with others so that every pastor who visits this site will have at least a basic understanding of how a church’s sound system works and its equipment.

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How do Church Sound Systems Work?

A church sound system must follow four steps to produce the sound from the mouth and the sound from an instrument. These are …..

  • Conversion of sound into an electric signal
  • Mixing the signal after conversion.
  • Amplifying mixed signals
  • Converting amplified signal into acoustic sounds

Each step will be briefly described.

Converting the Sound

The acoustic sound from the speaker, singer or instrument is converted into an electrical signal using microphones or electronic picks. This allows the signal to be transmitted by wire (called the snake) to a mixer, which can adjust the volume, tone, and other characteristics of the signal.

Mixing the Signal

The mixer controls the adjustment and alteration of the signal. The signal is very low when a microphone or instrument picks up the signal and sends it to the mixer.

A mixer boosts the signal, so there is more to work with. This is done with what is known as a preamp.

The sound travels from there through what is known as an equalizer, which adjusts the sound’s tone. To make the audio sound the best, the bass, mid-range, and treble settings are made.

The signal is then balanced with all other sounds coming into the mixer to create a harmonious mix of all instruments being amplified.

Amplifying the Mixed Signal

The mixed signal is then sent through the snake to a power amplifier. This amplifies the signal enough to power the speakers and convert it into an acoustic signal. A mixer produces a signal measured in milliwatts. A power amp increases that signal to watts (1/1000th watt). These power amps can be as low as 10 watts up to 1000 watts.

Converting the Sound Back into Audio

The boosted signal then goes to the speakers. There are many types of speakers. The main speakers are sometimes called mains and are pointed toward your congregation. You can also find monitors that are pointed at your musicians. Sometimes sub-woofers are also available that can handle low-end frequencies.

You will now understand why your bass player feels the sub-woofer is blowing the next time he says it.

church sound system mixing board

Essential Equipment For A Church Sound System

To understand the basics of church sound system basics, you must be familiar with a few pieces. These are ….

  • Microphones
  • Snakes
  • Mixers
  • Amplifiers
  • Speakers

Types Of Microphones

As we all know, a microphone is something you speak into. Your voice then comes out of the speakers. Most people are unaware that two types of microphones are available for church sound systems: condenser and dynamic.

There are many more options if you look deeper into each category. There are at most ten wireless microphone variations.

The power supply is not required for dynamic microphones. They are strong and reliable, making them the most popular in the industry. They are less sensitive than condenser microphones. They are also usually less expensive.

Condenser microphones have a higher level of sensitivity. They pick up a wider range of sounds. They need power to accomplish this. Condenser microphones can either use batteries or phantom power from the mixing board. Due to their added electronics and sensitivity, they are less durable than dynamic microphones.

Snakes and cables

Two types of wires are used in church sound systems. These are the xlr and telephone cables. Three pins make up an xlr cable. They are connected to a left, right, and ground.

Phone cables look like headphone cables. They measure 1/4 inch in diameter and can be either mono or stereo. Mono phone cables are used for most instruments, such as keyboards and guitars.

A snake combines phone and xlr cables bundled into one long wire. These are used to carry all sound signals from your church’s front to the soundboard at the back. It runs the signals from the instruments and singers and sends the signal back to the power amplifier from your mixer after it has been processed.

The number of signals a snake can transmit from the stage to the mixer is what usually makes them classified. Each signal is known as a channel. A 24-channel snake can handle 24 signals from the stage to the sound booth.

Types Of Mixers

You can choose from three types of mixers for your church’s sound system. There are three types of mixers: powered mixers, digital mixers, and analog mixers.

Analog mixers adjust and mix electronic signals using the analog signal from the snake. How your mixer is set up can usually tell if it is analog. An analog mixer doesn’t have many screens or view meters. You will find many dials and sliders.

The latest technology is digital mixers. They convert an analog signal and send it to a digital mixer using digital signal processing technology. This mixer can adjust the sound signal in a way that an analog mixer cannot. They are, however, more difficult to set up and use correctly. Some preset once they are set up so your volunteers can hit a button to set the sound mix.

Powered is a combination of an analog mixer and a power amplifier. These are ideal for portable sound systems or church planting sound systems that require easy setup. They are not recommended for permanent church sound systems.

Power Amps

There are three types, with two being hybrids. I have already covered the types of mixers and will now cover the other types of speakers.

The only type of pure power amplifier is a standalone. In a church sound system, you will usually use 2 to 3 of them. One amp powers the main speakers. One amp powers the monitors. In some cases, the subwoofer can be powered by one amp. These are the basic amplifier units.

Recall your teenage years and the power amplifier you purchased for your car stereo. This is a power amplifier!

Different types of speakers

Two types of speakers are available for church sound systems. There are two types of speakers for a church sound system: passive speakers and powered speakers. To be heard, passive speakers need a power amplifier. An amplifier is built into a powered speaker.

Many church sound systems use passive speakers as their mains, sub-woofer, and monitors. If they want to pipe their audio into the nursery, cry room, or other areas of the church, they may use a powered speaker.

Final Thoughts on These Basics of the Church Sound System

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There you have it. Although this isn’t going to make your church sound system expert, it will give you some basic knowledge about church sound systems. Yamaha offers a beginner course on sound systems if you are interested in more information about church systems. Let me know if you found this helpful. This is my goal and why I put so much effort into this website.

Further Resources