Today, the market for audio mixing consoles is ever growing and ever changing.
An audio console upgrade is a really exciting time, so look to embrace it.
Audio consoles seem to be practically getting cheaper by the week, while also improving their functionality and stability. When looking to upgrade your console, there are a few things to keep in mind as you sort through them. We will look at a few of these things, and I'll give you some examples from the recent console upgrade at Granger Community Church along the way.
As the primary factor, this should follow the vision your leadership has put in place. I say budget should be first, because it can quickly narrow down what you are able to afford. That being said, if your budget is not an overriding issue, you shouldn't just get the most expensive console on the market. Sometimes the best console for you can be the less expensive one.
Hopefully, as you are searching for consoles, you understand that this is money people have voluntarily given and that spending any amount of money should be taken seriously.
This factor is a big one, as it will either enable or hinder what you are capable of doing for as long as you have this console in place. When it comes to functionality, I tend to think about a few different things. Most importantly, are inputs and outputs (IO). Many consoles now have a stage box of some sort, with a varying number of inputs and outputs. The more inputs and outputs that you need, the more expensive it tends to become.
When we were looking at upgrading our console at Granger, it was extremely important for us to be able to handle whatever our leadership threw at us. That meant for us if we were going to do a large Christmas program with a full orchestra, then we needed to be able to handle this and then some. Next in line for importance are audio protocols. As you begin looking for a console, you need to keep in mind what kind of audio protocols you may need to integrate with. Dante? Waves? Ravenna? MADI? These are just a few of the different protocols that are available.
As you are trying to decide try to think of the long term vision for your team, realize that oftentimes, these are card-based systems that need to be installed on the console, so the more you have, again it typically adds up to a more expensive console.
Next is sound quality. I know that this is often different for everyone, so I'll make this quick. The big thing right now is sample rate, the difference between 96k and 48k. The honest truth is you need to listen to the console in your room for yourself.
At Granger, we run 48k, and the Lawo consoles we selected honestly sounded better in our room than any 96k console we heard. The system now features a mc²56 console for front of house, with a 48-fader frame, and a mc²36 console for monitors, with a 40-fader frame.
Fourth is connectivity. You will need to decide if the console will connect with any other devices outside of just audio. We knew going into the upgrade that we wanted the ability to integrate with different systems, so our stage boxes have a GPIO (General Purpose Input or Output) slot that we can use to fire cues to another device. Functionality is a huge part of what you will spend your time looking at as you decide to upgrade. Just make sure to do your research and plan for the future, not the present.
If your team uses volunteers to mix, then you need to keep them in mind. Oftentimes, if a volunteer is mixing the only time they will see a console is when they are serving. Our goal should be to enable them and empower them. On the flip side, if you're the only one mixing, then feel free to search out whatever it is that you're comfortable with.
An audio console upgrade is a really exciting time, so look to embrace it. Make sure you do your research and listen to each console that you are considering to upgrade to, in your room.
Your decision should support the mission and vision of your church and your team.
And don't forget that it's also often helpful to get the opinion of other people, as you narrow down your choices. Include the people around you in your decision making process, and have fun while doing it.