Audio Mixing Consoles: Focus First On Channel, Mix Bus Count

Give some serious thought to the real channel and bus count that you need now in your worship space and what you anticipate in the future.

Audio Mixing Consoles: Focus First On Channel, Mix Bus Count
A member of the tech team works the Allen & Heath digital mixing system console during one of the first services for Christian Life Assembly in Camp Hill, Pa., following the completed install on July 21, 2016.

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With the overwhelming array of audio consoles available today, let’s take a closer look at the most important purchase considerations.

I won’t be making any specific console recommendations, of course, but major manufacturers like Allen & Heath, Avid, Behringer, DiGiCo, Midas, PreSonus, Roland, Solid State Logic (SSL), Soundcraft, Studer, and Yamaha all make products that fit a wide range of applications.

One must account for the important considerations, not necessarily the most fun ones. So we’ve got to make wise choices above all else.

What type of audio console would be the best fit for your church? The easiest specifications to begin with are probably channel count and bus count.

Some mixers don’t penalize you for the number of channels when using a stereo source, which has a tremendous impact on the real value of a given mixer.

Channel count is the number of actual inputs that a console can mix at one time. It’s important to remember that this may not be the same as the console’s number of physical input connections. Most mixers have more input connections than they can actually use at once, which allows you to have extra sources physically patched for use later.

When determining an ideal channel count, there is an important consideration in how the various consoles handle stereo inputs.

If a console feature list says that it can handle 48 channels, we need to know what that really means. For some mixers, that means that it can handle 48 input paths total. Knowing that a stereo source requires two input connections - and thus 2 input paths of processing in the mix engine - such a mixer could handle up to 24 stereo sources.

Some mixing consoles, though, are much more generous in their definition of an input channel. For those consoles, when using a stereo source, it may still only count for one console channel. Such a “48-channel” console will be running 48 inputs, each in full stereo, to where it’s actually 96 input connections. This obviously has a tremendous impact on the real value of a given mixer.

The mix buses require the same consideration.

Mix buses, in case you’re not familiar, are a console’s way of providing specialized mixes for use in sending content to destinations like monitor wedges, in-ear monitors, “aux-fed” subwoofers, and effects processing, to name the most popular uses. To be fair, the main mix bus, usually called “LR”,  “stereo,” or “main,” is also a pair (left and right) of mix buses, although we often leave that out of the bus count conversation, since they’re a given.


More About Brad Duryea
Brad Duryea is an audio engineer based in Houston, Texas, where he is the director of audio technology for Lakewood Church. He can be reached via Twitter: @bradduryea.
Get in Touch: brad.duryea@gmail.com    More by Brad Duryea

Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.


Article Topics

Technology · Audio · Team Management · Budgeting · Team Development · Audio Consoles · Channel Count · Connections · Consoles · Inputs · Mix Buses · All Topics

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