My point here is not to sell you on any particular manufacturer or model but to let you see how I went through my decision process.

You will have to do the same thing in one fashion or another. So, I suggest you do your homework and decide on what will best suit your church. To me, any mixer that can fit into a rack would fall into the “small consoles” category. That said, if your worship mixer is not in a rack, don’t worry about it. We still have plenty to talk about. If you are currently planning on purchasing a small format mixer for your church, there are a lot of reasons why a “rack-able” board is a good choice.

Let’s look at a few. A smaller board is more portable. Their size makes them easier to set-up in more locations in the sanctuary and easier to take to events outside of the worship room itself. Small mixers are less expensive than large boards (except in the case of some small format digital boards—see below). A smaller mixer has a smaller footprint and won’t take up a lot of worship room space. And for the most part they are easier to operate (again with the exception of digital boards).

A variety of small mixers come with their own built-in power amps. This type of board can be handy in a “two-main, two-monitor” set-up or if you plan on moving your board and speakers from location to location. Many small mixers sport on-board effects processors, compression and graphic equalizers. Yamaha, Mackie and Behringer (among others) all manufacture small mixers with on-board compressors. These are single knob compressors with fixed attack and release times. The knob controls the compression ratio (like many of the auto compressors out there). For what they offer, single knob compressors are very handy. 

There are those manufacturers that add effects processors to their small mixers. Yamaha installs some of the famous SPX effects into various models of their small boards. Allen & Heath, Mackie and Peavey also load some great sounding effects into their boards.  Another very handy feature on many small mixers is a USB port. Connect your mixer to a laptop and you can record. In some cases a direct multi-track of the inputs and in others a two-track the whole mix. Some manufactures include specific software with their boards but almost any DAW software will do the job of turning your mixer into a recording console. 

Obviously, I can’t cover all the features that all the manufactures offer but be aware that there are lots of small mixers that are packed with features out there. Your job now is to decide what features you want in the next small mixer you plan on purchasing. 


My Process
I was specifically looking for a rack-mount mixer with 16 XLR inputs. The number of available XLR inputs should be a main consideration when you are deciding on a mixer because the  number of mics you can use will be limited by the number of XLR inputs. My new mixer was going to be part of a sound system that I would specifically use for outreach events, small band gigs, speaking events, parties, etc. The system would also be added to my rental inventory. I did not need on-board effects or graphic equalizers as I already had two 31-band DBX EQs and a TC Electronic effects processor in my rack. I was not planning on doing any live recording myself but I considered a board with a USB port as a feature for potential clients who wanted to record their live events. I was also interested in on-board compression which can be very helpful when I have an energetic preacher. I have used the Mackie and Yamaha versions with good success. And of course I was looking for a good price.

I got my choices down to the Yamaha MG206c, the Allen & Heath WZ3:16:2DX and the Soundcraft Spirit GB2R-16 rack mountable mixers. Ultimately I decided on the Yamaha because of the on-board compression and overall price. That said I often lament that I didn’t go with the Allen & Heath mainly because I like those 100mm faders and the extra aux sends (six as opposed to Yamaha’s four) would be handy.

Digital Mixers

One of the main advantages of digital boards is that all signal processing is on board. EQ, compression, gates and effects processors are available for every channel (generally speaking). Also, digital boards should make for better recording boards. I know this is a matter of opinion but once the analog signal reaches the digital board, the recording stays in the digital domain until it reaches analog ears. I mentioned that a lot of small format analog boards also have signal processing on-board however in the case of digital mixers the signal processing is potentially better (at least cleaner because of the digital domain). As I mentioned earlier a small digital console will cost more money than its analog counterpart. But a digital mixer will offer more bells and whistles than an analog one. 

That’s about it my friends. I own a couple of small mixers myself and I think they have a place in any church arsenal. Of course now I will have to write something about large format mixers and I can’t leave out mid-sized boards.
Talk to you later.    

Originally posted 2012-10-23 12:46:20.