Brian Gowing created this list around budgets and skill sets:
Do you load in and load out your system every weekend? Does your church meet in a school, movie theater, community center, or other location that requires the church to provide the gear?
There are three categories of portable audio system and there’s nothing wrong with being in the first one – everyone starts somewhere. Consider each a custom system:
- Bare-bones minimalist (1)
- Value-oriented (2)
- Future-growth optimized (3)
The differences between the 3 options are simple:
- Option 1 is geared to get something in the church with the knowledge that due to the extreme budget constraints, is only going to last until the church grows to the point where they can afford a proper system.
- Option 2 is geared toward a church that’s in the second phase of their development, which while having tithes coming in, doesn’t leave much room for equipment.
- Option 3 is for the decently-funded church that’s close to getting into a permanent space and wants to plan for the future or for a church that is looking to expand into a secondary venue.
You can make arguments that Option 1 and 2 are throwing money away but the reality of those churches in these situations is that if they didn’t get the most affordable option available they wouldn’t have a sound system. Also, keep in mind that as a church grows it will need more than one sound system so these options are geared to being re-purposed in different rooms.
OPTION 1: Bare-Bones Minimalist.
Budget: $1,000 – $3,000 (if you’re lucky).
Avoid purchasing used equipment. Used equipment means you’re rolling the dice. As tempting as it is to purchase, keep in mind that NEW equipment comes with warranties and you’ll definitely want those.
Portable Sound System (two types):
- All-in-ones such as the Fender Passport or Yamaha StagePass ($399 – $699)
- 8-16 channel Analog Board such as the Mackie VLZ, ProX, MIX, Yamaha MG, Soundcraft EPM, or A&H Zed ($299 – $499)
- Rolls PM, Behringer HA, Art HeadAmp
- Price range: $25 – $39 per monitor. Don’t forget the cables to go to the snake!
- Elite Core Audio, ProCo RM
- Price range: $209 – $500
- Shure, Sennheiser, Samson (incredible bang for the buck), Audix
- Price range: $49 – $99.
- Audio-Technica AT, AKG WMS, VocoPro
- Price range: $199 – $499
- Rack-mountable Furman or similar power distribution unit. You’ve got a lot of expensive equipment to protect. Plug everything in the booth into this. Don’t use it for the speakers but get a Furman on-stage surge protector for those.
Brand and Model Notes
While I would love nothing better than to recommend pro-level manufacturers and models, the fact is cash-strapped churches can’t afford them. So, in the interest of outfitting these less-fortunate ones, I listed several brands and models can be found in any online or MI (music instrument) store – I have experience with them and while they aren’t near as good as the mainstream pro-level stuff, they are solid enough and quality enough that they serve this model of church well.
There are brands and models I deliberately avoid recommending, even if they are cheap, because the build and sonic quality are as cheap as the prices.
One other thing that porta-churches fail to consider is that someone is going to be humping all the equipment in and out of a building every week. Think of it like you’re touring and every week you’re setting up and tearing down. Compactness and lightness are your friends. Get solid road cases for everything so the equipment lasts. Don’t get a big mixer because someone knows someone who has a used one for cheap. Setting that up every week will get old really quickly.