Large Format Mixing Consoles
Last month I wrote about the uses of small format consoles in churches. So, it would only make sense for me to write about large format consoles this month.
Actually I will be writing about large and mid-sized consoles. For the purposes of this article I am going to assume that you are looking to purchase a bigger board for your worship house. One with more channels, more aux sends, more features and generally more bells and whistles. My personal definition of a mid-sized board would be any console sporting 24 or more channels in a frame that is 48 inches or less wide. My rather random definition aside, the reality is that in the digital mixer age many digital boards fall under 48 inches wide and can offer dozens of channels. That said there are still a lot of mid and large format analog boards in use in worship houses across the US and the world for that matter.
So, let’s talk about the advantages of a bigger board. The most obvious advantage is that you have more channels to play (or work) with. If you need 20 channels to properly mix your worship band, choir and preacher and your church console has only 16 channels the problem is obvious. Of course you will use your 16 channels but the overall mix will suffer.
However should your house use a 32 channel board and you need only 20 channels for a proper mix the advantage is equally obvious. As a guy who has been mixing in houses of worship for over 2 decades, I can tell you the more channels the better. Along with the additional channels, larger boards have more features. You can expect additional aux sends, and better EQ (or at least a wider range of EQ features) and sub groups (or additional sub groups).
There are a variety of mixing console manufacturers that use the same components in their small boards as they do in some of their mid or large format models. For example; a small format, rack mountable Mackie Onxy board has the same pre-amps, EQ and faders (only a shorter throw) as the mid-size Onyx board. Yamaha and Midas also use some of the same components in many of their consoles. I know that there are more manufacturers building consoles using the same quality components across their models lines so forgive me if I did not mention your favorite manufacturer. Let’s get back to some more advantages of using that big console.
I occasionally mix at a church in L.A. that uses an Allen and Heath 40 channel GL3300. The church seats about 600 but the building is actually used by two different church groups. The groups are completely separate from each other but they use the same stage and the same sound system. With the Allen and Heath board, one church worship group is set up on the first 20 channels and the other worship group is set up on channel 21 to 40. It really works out seamlessly even though one service is in English and the other is in Spanish. However I did lock up the front of house graphic equalizers just to keep things consistent from week to week.
Those are some of the more obvious advantages of a mid or large format mixing console. However the real question is are you really planning on acquiring a new console? If so then there are more things to consider.
How many channels will you actually need? If you think you will need 24 then I suggest you find a 32 channel board. If you need 32 channels, go for a 40 channel board etc. Will you need a lot of aux sends? If you have an in ear monitor system for your worship band it is nice to have a couple of extra aux sends. Will you need 4 or 8 sub-groups? Will you be using your new board for recording or broad casting? Do you want to go digital or analog? And of course how much money do you plan on investing in your new console? Generally speaking the digital board will cost more dollars than its analog counterpart but you will have a lot of your outboard gear already on board.
There is one more thing to consider and that is do you plan on purchasing a new console or a used one? The prevailing thinking in most churches is that a new board will have no problems and a used console is going to have potential issues. That said you can get some amazing deals on a used analog console these days. So many organizations (churches and otherwise) are trading in their analog boards for digital ones. Of course buying a used console takes some knowledge and skill. You will have to get your best audio tech involved with the process and every aspect of the board must be tried and tested. The Allen and Heath GL3300 I mentioned earlier was purchased as a used console. I was not involved with the acquisition but the board works beautifully and sounds awesome. Apparently that house of worship went through the proper steps including praying a lot before they purchased their Allen and Heath console.
Once you get your new console you will have to make room for it. Whatever format size you decided on you will need an appropriate sized area from which to mix. That may just mean you will be setting up your new console in the old mixing location or you may be finding an entirely different place in your sanctuary to mix from. I think that in the near future I will write something on console locations in churches. To tell you the truth most churches have an uncanny knack for putting their consoles in less than desirable mixing locations. But as I said that is another story for another time. Until then good luck with you console. Whether it is small, medium or large. Not to mention analog or digital.