If you are a church plant, a mobile church, or some sort of ministry/band…you most likely need a portable PA system.
After helping multiple churches and ministries throughout the years in their mobile setups, I’ve had my fair share of setting up and breaking down systems on a weekly basis. Some setups were designed for full bands while others were for just a piano player and a couple singers. I’ve used both powered and unpowered speakers alike with a multitude of mixers ranging from an 8 channel analog mixer to a 32 channel digital mixer featuring motorized faders.
After years of doing this, I think I’ve found the best portable PA speaker/mixer combo to use that will suit the needs of [most] ministries. I say most because obviously…there is no “perfect” sound system that can meet the needs of every mobile church or ministry. This selection is geared towards ministries that need a sound system that is portable, easy-to-use, good quality & cost effective.
The core of any PA system is the soundboard and speakers. For this core, I’ve selected the Behringer X Air XR18 Mixer paired with Turbosound iNSPIRE IP2000 speakers. This setup is without a doubt the lightest in its class while being easy-to-use. That being said…this system is not conventional and does take time to get used to.
Why is this setup different?
The digital mixer has no physical buttons or faders.
Though digital mixers/soundboards have been mainstream for quite some time, many people haven’t made the jump yet. In the case of the XR18, you have no physical faders or buttons. You control everything wirelessly from a computer or tablet. This tends to scare some people who’ve never used them before. On top of this…the idea of relying on a wireless network to control your board alarms many AV people.
Why this mixer rocks: Once you get over the initial shock of having no physical buttons or faders, you’ll be relieved to know that using this mixer eliminates the need for a snake and external effects like reverb and delay (as it has great ones built-in). That’s a big deal when you’re having to setup and breakdown on a regular basis! Even if the idea of relying on a wireless network scares you, you can still control the mixer with a hard-wired Mac or PC. If you’re worried about its durability…just read the reviews to see other people’s experience with it.
Unlike conventional PA speakers with larger drivers ranging from 8-15 inches, IP2000’s are a culmination of many tiny 2.75″ speakers in a column paired with a 12″ sub on the bottom. They’re officially known as “column” speakers. Seeing the face of someone hearing them for the first time is always a treat. People are always amazed to hear the amount of sound that comes out of them. To be honest, it still amazes me too.
Why column speakers are great: Column speakers have a downright insane horizontal coverage angle. These particular ones can cover 120 degrees. To put this in perspective, QSC K10’s (arguably one of the best powered speakers), have a 90-degree coverage. Because of the coverage that column speakers can give, they enable you to cut out the need to use stage monitors. Seriously!
Because of how column speakers disperse sound, you hear what your audience hears. Sure you could plug in some in-ears or extra monitor speakers to an AUX on the board…but most will find it unnecessary.
Bringing it all together-
As I mentioned earlier, a good portable PA system needs to be portable, easy-to-use, good quality & cost effective.
Portable- This system weighs half of what a similar conventional PA system weighs. Between having a smaller footprint and no need for monitor speakers and a snake, you have less to carry and more space in your trailer/storage area.
Easy-to-use- Both the speakers and the soundboard have apps, extensive documentation and many youtube videos showing how to use them. Even people who have never used a mixer before find using a touchscreen on an iPad a familiar experience.
Good Quality- Just look up reviews on the speakers and the mixer and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any harsh reviews about the quality of these components.
Cost-effective- When you factor in the cost of a snake, extra monitor speakers, and subwoofers…this system can save you thousands of dollars. For smaller ministries, bands, and mobile churches… that’s a BIG deal.
How does it sound?
This is a big factor. The reason I waited until the end to talk about it is that the sound of this setup may not work for all.
If you are wanting to run a full band with a “chest pounding” kick and bass…this system will just not deliver it. These 12″ subwoofers cannot keep up with 15″ or 18″ subwoofers. Sure you can add additional subwoofers to them…but it defeats the purpose of using this system.
The other downside of these speakers is they don’t move much air in comparison to a couple 15″ houses paired with 18″ subwoofers. Because they don’t move as much air…they can sound a bit thin at times. An experienced AV person or an “audiophile” will notice the lack of fullness. But…if you’re not an audiophile or a seasoned sound person, you probably won’t notice the difference.
For a mobile church or a traveling ministry/band, this system may be your best option. Are there better options quality and sound wise? Absolutely! I’m a huge fan of the Bose L series and Yamaha digital mixers. But, they cost thousands of dollars more and are not as easy to use. Whether you’re running a full band, an acoustic with a cajon, or just using the system for public speaking….this setup will deliver.
One last thing…
If you don’t plan on running a full band frequently or will be using this setup in a very small space, you can get by with just one IP2000. I’ve personally used just one speaker for an “acoustic” set and it was plenty powerful enough for 150 people!