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How To Setup Audio Effects

Send and returns are additive functions of mixing sound and setting up effect units can be confusing. However, after reviewing this article you to can master the advances of adding sweet effects to your entire church sound. Using audio sends and returns, on a soundboard, is very helpful in adding features such as; compression, reverb, delay, gates and many other effects. There are various ways of connecting each send and return to your soundboard and knowing the right way to do so, on your mixer, is important to the quality of your church’s audio and the worship experience.

How To Setup Effects Through Sends

One of the easiest ways of hooking up channel effects is through the use of auxiliaries. Here you can decide how much of that single instrument or vocal will be sent to the effect unit. In church worship, the most common effects used are typically reverb and delay units. Some higher end soundboards have actual send and return knobs on each of the channels. If this is the case, then set up is just a matter of plugging in the effect units in the plugs provided on the board. However, most churches use auxiliaries to send the signal to the effect units. It is usually preferred to use the bottom, last auxiliaries and keep the top few aux’s open for monitor channels. Now by using the auxiliary’s master output, you can ‘send’ those channel signals through to the input of the effect unit, most likely by using a quarter inch cable (patch cable). This is the ‘send’ portion of the process. Now that you have your send worked out, you can now work on returning that effected signal back to the soundboard so it can be mixed.

How To Setup The Return

Sending returns back to the board is relatively easy. Now, by using the output on the effect unit, plug (using a quarter inch patch cord) the ‘return’ signal into a desired, unused channel. A common preference in returning signals to the soundboard is to put it on the far right hand side of the mixer. Now that the return is being returned to a channel, you can bring up the channel gain and level to a desired spot. As well, the freedom to equalize that effect is now available. Make sure that you don’t loop your auxiliary. For example, if your are using your 4th auxiliary for a reverb unit, make sure that when you plug your auxiliary into your board as a mixer that you turn auxiliary 4 down all the way. If not you will be looping your effects; creating a horrible sound that is no longer an effect.


Setting up effect units for church sound, will not only improve the praise experience, but will also provide the sound engineers, a higher understanding of sound in general. Make sure when hooking up your effects that you check to see if the chain is complete. That the wanted instrument signals are being sent to the effect unit (using auxiliaries) and that the effect unit is returning a signal to another, empty channel on the soundboard. With those steps in mind, mastering the send and return process will only be a mater of time!


How Audio Compressors Work

A compressor is a very important item to have in your sound system arsenal, especially in a church or worship environment. A compressor is a device that controls the dynamic range of your input (guitar, vocals, piano, bass, etc…). When engineering sound for a church, you will note the dynamic differences that each song and song style may be. For this reasons, compressors come in handy big time. They can be used to add some extra punch to the instrument/mix; as well as some back bone to some looser sounding instruments, like the bass drum or piano. Also, a compressor can add sustain to instruments like guitar, or vocals. This can help enhance the realism of the signal. Setting up compressors can be a little confusing, but after you understand all of the required elements a little more you should have no problem.

How many Compressors should you have?

Ideally, you want to have as many compressors as you can get. Having each instrument and each vocalist compressed will even out your sound a lot. Being in control of every instrument is ultimately what every sound engineer is shooting for. However, if you do not have access to that many, you will want to compress your most important instruments first. If you only have two, a great start is by compressing your lead vocalist (worship leader). Regardless what you do after this, make sure he/she is compressed. This way you have control of the most important aspect of worship. Another instrument to start with is either the drums or the guitar. Both of these have a mixture of highs and lows that need to be controlled. If you have only one compressor, you can do one of two things. You can either compress the leader, or you can compress the whole mix.

The Compressor

A compressor has the same controls as gates do; the Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, and Output. Each control affects the next. The Threshold controls the point in which the compressor starts to reduce the audio level. You should always start at zero, and adjust from there. For example, if you set this to -10, the compressor activates sooner, which will compress sooner; giving you more control of your audio. Ratio is what adjusts how much compression takes place as the signal passes through the threshold. There would be no compression with a ratio of 1:1, because 1 DB of input would equal 1 BD of sound.
So say we change this to 3:1, this would mean it now takes 3 DB of sound to equal 1 DB of output. A good starting point for your vocal input is 4:1. The more you adjust the ratio, the more the compressor becomes a limiter. Eventually you will turn the dial all the way to Infinity, a spot on the dial that limits all input volume to produce 1 DB of output.
The Attack dial on the compressor determines the speed the compressor compresses the signal as it passes through the Threshold. There will be LED lights that display this in an easy to read layout. The Release dial controls the speed the compressor returns the sound back to its original level. This is where you can add sustain to a vocalist or guitarist. Great for special equalizing! The last dial is Output. This measures the amount of output the compressor gives. With this, you can cover for the loss in volume you may have due to the compression.


This may seem like a lot of information to obtain, but it is all rather simple. There is no exact rule for setting up compressors, each church, auditorium, or sanctuary has different acoustics and instruments. Each sound tech must experiment with their own set up and find what works the best. Compressors are excellent for controlling dynamics of vocalists. They are also perfect for controlling the bottom end, (lower frequencies) of the bass drum, bass guitar, etc… If you can afford them, they are a great asset to have in your sound system! Experience and knowledge can be helpful by someone who can show you how its done.


How Audio Gates Work

Using Gates in a church sound system is highly recommended. With worship team bands, you may have a large variety of instruments playing on a small stage; this is where gating becomes a top priority. Gates are very similar to compressors; they both limit the amount of input and control the amount of output. In an ideal world, every sound system would contain both gates and compressors, however the costs of these units can be pretty high, and you may only be able to get one or the other. A gate is best used on drums, or bass guitars, where there are a lot of excess buzz and noise produced from the other instruments and monitors. Gates are fairly easy to understand, and can be grasped in a few short minutes of experimenting.

The Gate Dials

A Gate will have similar dials to the compressor, Threshold, Output gain, and ratio. They work similarly too. The Threshold controls the amount of input required before the gate turns on. This again should be started at 0 DB and adjusted from there. The Ratio dial adjust the amount of gating that takes place. You can adjust this form gentle gating to hard gating. Lastly, the Output gain dial will adjust the amount of output volume you get from your gates.

How To Use Gates

Gating is best used on Drum kits and Bass guitars, like I said above, because there is a lot of access volume and buzz produced. This is where your gate comes into play. Let’s use a drum kit as an example. Say you have a fully mic’ed drum kit. When you play your drums each mic is supposed to pick up the drum it’s positioned to. However, most of the time the volume produced by other drums will “bleed” into the surrounding mics, resulting in a poor sounding mix that cannot be equalized or mixed properly. Stage monitors can also add unwanted noise through the system. Plugging your microphones into gates will limit the amount of input received by each mic.
Set your Threshold to a certain level, this is now the cutoff level for that mic, meaning any volume below the Threshold will not be heard, while any level above the Threshold will be heard. With your drum kit, you will want to set the levels so each mic picks up the drum it is assigned to only, cutting out any other drum or sound bleeding into the mic. When done correctly, each channel will be clean and clear for equalizing and adjustment. Setting the Ratio on the gate will control how powerful the gate is. By setting this, you are controlling how powerful the gate cuts of, or limits the sound below the
Threshold. Infinity would virtually cut off any sound from the output. Watch out though, because too much gating will result in a “choked” sound, meaning the instrument will sound too controlled, and have very little sustain. This can be used on any signal coming in, bass guitar, drums, and piano; however, vocals should stick with a compressor only, because vocals generally have the most dynamic level. Gating your vocal input will hinder its sound, resulting in an unnatural voice. Make sure you keep a close eye on your gates; as they can result in great sound, or poor sound quality to your mix.


On a stage with many monitors, instruments and other sounds; microphone bleeding is bound to happen. The only way to stop this from happening is by using gates and compressors. They are a great tool to use, and should not be overlooked when building your sound system. If you can only afford a few gates, make sure you use it appropriately, by mic’ing the instruments that need it the most – the drums. They are not hard to use, and can be set up in no time! Like compressors, there is not guideline to perfect sound, each set up is different and must be looked at individually. Make sure you play around with your sound until you get the best overall mix from your church! If you are in need of a more detailed breakdown on how gates work and how to optimize your church audio system.


How Stereo Systems Work

Having a true stereo system, in your church’s sanctuary, is very good for providing a more sensible and enjoyable experience in worship. The term ‘stereo’, in Greek, means ‘solid’ and this is the reason why a stereo system is an important feature to have in your praise environment. It will provide a 3-D experience to your music and will also give the sound techs more freedom for special effects and mixing.

The Importance Of Stereo Systems

Ever notice when you are listening to a MP3 or CD, through headphones, that there are two different sounds coming through each of the phones. This is because, when the song was being mixed, the studio split selected tracks to go in the left channel and other tracks to go in the right and sometimes in both. This helps illustrate realistic effects on the listening experience and also enables the observer to distinctly hear all instruments. This same principle can be used when mixing sound at church.

How Do True Stereo System Work?

In order to achieve a true Stereo sound, the following must be in place:

  • A Stereo Soundboard
    • This is the least of your worries because most soundboards have left and right master outputs. However, most churches only use one of those outputs. Check to see if your soundboard has the ability to support stereo.
  • Two Separate Amps or a Multi-Channel Amp
    • This is where the change in your system will be to attain stereo. Most amplifiers, these days, have two separate channels. If this is the case with your amp(s) and only one of the two channels are being used for your masters; you can simply run another output from your soundboard (provided that it has left and right master outs).
  • Separate Speaker Channels
    • It is also likely that your church has more then one individual speaker. However the trick is to see if you are not running parallel feeds from one speaker to another. If this is the case, and both speakers are in fact feeding off of the same cable, then some installation of one other feed (from your amps to your speakers) maybe required.


Having a stereo system, in your praise environment, will help you achieve a pleasurable and much more realistic vibe in your worship. Through checking some of your church’s setup, you can discover if your church has the capabilities of a stereo system Check out this article, Using Stereo Systems To Your Advantage, for more information on what stereo systems can offer for your church.


Using Stereo Systems To Your Advantage

Stereo systems are great to have in your church praise environments because it adds a heightened level of realism to your mix. First, in order to start mixing stereo signals; you must be running a true stereo system. Check out, How Stereo Systems Work, to see if your church is running stereo and has the capabilities to do so. Playing CD’s in full stereo is also great because then you are enjoying the music as the intention of the artist’s.

Instruments That Can Be Mixed In Stereo

Some instruments can sound amazing when miked and/or mixed in stereo. Adding compression, delay, gates or reverb to one of the two signals can make for great dynamics and mainly, control over your individual instruments. Stereo signals can also be used with audio effects.
The first, most common instrument that sounds amazing in stereo, is the synthesizer. Most synthesizers have a left and right output, which is usually located on the back of the synth. From here you can run two separate signals from the synth to the soundboard. Most effects on synthesizers have stereo sounds. Now you can supply your congregation a stereo effect in your mix.
Electric guitar amps and the effects, often support stereo signals. If you have an extra microphone or a ¼ inch jack and would like to run the electric guitar in dual channels, you can. If you are setting up microphones for electric guitar amps make sure you know how.
Mixing drums in stereo can make for a really neat effect. I would only suggest fooling around with the rack (or tom) mics. A common, yet easy stereo effect you can create is by panning the left tom about 75% left on the panning knob. For the right tom, to pan about 75% right. Now when a drummer is doing a fill along the toms, you will distinctly hear the different drums through the left and right channels; and thus, you have created a very impressive effect. Using gates on your drums will help control your drum mix.

Mixing Stereo On A Soundboard

Mixing different sounds, effects and channels on a soundboard in stereo signals, is rather easy. However, it can take an artistic ear to make them all sound great. So with some experience and practice you can take your stereo system to a new level. On a mixing board, the panning rotary knob is how to send the different signals through the different speakers.


Using the stereo (panning) features of your system will increase the pleasure and ‘wow’ of the mix. However, be careful when using your panning knobs, as you could send sound through one channel; when really wanting a balanced sound (like with vocals).



More articles like this can be found at http://www.learnchurchsound.com/articles/

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