Lightning Rod: Opinions and Gear

When you are trying to solve a technical issue, where do you turn? For all the benefits of the Internet, there are many caveats. The opinion of someone with decades of experience and vast know-how carries no more weight online than a newbie with a camera and a vibrant personality. Knowing what to do and whom to trust is difficult. In worship technology, there are methods and products best suited to creating a successful experience and, unfortunately, some that end with a negative result. Here, then, are a few thoughts on how you can hone your art and craft by discerning the best advice and services available:

Understand there is no perfect piece of equipment. The Shure SM58 was introduced in 1966, making this its golden anniversary. Despite half a century of change and advancement in the audio industry, the SM58 has remained the first choice for live sound. However, such accolade does not mean the SM58 is a perfect mic. Its polar response is odd, it has an antiquated design and it cannot compete with modern stage condensers in many areas of performance. Since 1966, there have been vast improvements in construction materials, such as neodymium magnets and thin Mylar diaphragms, and Shure just introduced the KSM8 Dualdyne dynamic mic at NAMM 2016, so the bar has been raised yet again. The SM58 remains at the top because it doesn’t break easily and everyone knows how to use it and EQ it. It’s just that simple. In spite of its shortcomings, its ubiquity ensures its ubiquity.

All gear has an application and use. Many Facebook forums dedicated to live sound quickly devolve into nasty threads of insults and counterpunches revolving around a brand or product. The truth is all products have their place. The key is knowing it. A Behringer X32 console fits perfectly in a contemporary worship environment in a moderate-sized church or as a secondary mixer in the remote campus of a larger facility. To claim it has the same mic pre-amps as an XL4 is absurd, since excellence costs what it costs. But the X32 does have reasonable pre-amps designed by a good team using what they could within a highly constricted price range. The same principle holds true in video projectors, high frequency compression drivers, and LED lighting fixtures. Put the appropriate technology in each space and seek to maintain an equilibrium in and among the AVL disciplines.

Spock and Dr. McCoy were both right. Logic and emotion each play their parts in decision-making. There is no logical reason to choose one color of guitar over another; that is the role of emotion. Conversely, the aesthetics of a flown primary speaker are inconsequential since the cabinet will be too far away from the congregants for them to consider the finer points of its grille design. So, the key is to use the more relevant discipline each time and not use self-delusion to rationalize an unwise purchase just because “it looks cool”.

People matter more than gear. Every item we use in worship will one day turn to dust, but the souls touched by the gear will not. It makes sense, then, to focus our energy on what remains. As techs, our natural inclination is to retreat to the safety of the booth, thus avoiding as much human interaction as possible. However, it would serve our churches and us better to engage the people who complain about the volume and ignore our requests for a new processor. They respond out of their lack of knowledge, so it falls to us to educate them in a loving manner and to acknowledge their concerns. A little grace on our part can go a long way toward a new mixing console.

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