Posted in materials on November 7, 2016 6:11 pm EST

The Gear of the Year

A church project integrator (and former church tech) shares his picks for the top 5 AVL products for worship space specification in 2016.

Allen & Heath dLive S7000











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TAGS: avl design, gear, integration, worship space,


By Shaun Miller

As an integrator, designer, or consultant in the church AVL field, I am sure it goes without saying that staying on top of the technology in this industry can be a full-time job.

I can’t believe we’re already beginning to look back on 2016. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 2017 will be here in a matter of weeks. As I look back at the conventions I attended this year, the product demos, and the installs I worked on, it was a good year for technology. Nothing earth-shattering; I think we’re in the season of improving what is out there. For example, LED is here, and now manufacturers are finding ways to make it better and less expensive.

As an integrator, designer, or consultant in the church AVL field, I am sure it goes without saying that staying on top of the technology in this industry can be a full-time job. Churches are constantly wanting to improve their experience while still being frugal with their limited resources. That is where knowing what is out there allows us to be creative in finding suitable solutions for their needs.

As an audio guy at my core, I’m starting with my audio console pick, and because it’s 2016, it has to be digital. While digital consoles have been around for some time, I think we are beginning to see a shift in them -- much like in the computer processor wars of years ago where Intel and AMD were going after each other for the fastest speed. Then the clock speed race stalled out around 3Ghz, and now it’s all about the cores. With digital consoles, when they first came out, the goal was to make them do many things and replace racks and racks of outboard gear. However, they didn’t sound their best and left diehards longing for more. That desire for digital mixers that sound amazing is getting here. Manufacturers like Yamaha, Digico, and SSL have worked on making great sounding desks. While all those are great companies, and I have no problem with any of them, even putting an SSL in my last church, my pick for this year is from Allen & Heath.

No. 1: Allen & Heath dLive Digital Mixing System

As I talk with growing churches that have a growing demand for flexibility, and yet need to be budget conscious, the dLive system from Allen & Heath keeps coming up. With the capacity for 128 mixable input channels and 64-channel output at 96k it offers the high channel count of the big boy desks, with a price point that churches can get behind.

No. 2: Shure KSM8 Dualdyne Vocal Microphone

Staying in the same vein, I’ll segue to another new favorite that I have been recommending this year: Shure’s KSM8 microphone. Available as a wired microphone or a capsule for their wireless transmitters, the KSM8 is unique because it’s a dynamic mic with dual diaphragms. The benefit of this design is how it eliminates the proximity effect (which is what happens when you hold the mic closer to your mouth, and the low end/bass gets louder). With churches relying heavily on volunteers to mix audio as well as sing in their worship bands, this microphone has become a favorite because it's more forgiving.

As an integrator, designer, or consultant in the church AVL field, I am sure it goes without saying that staying on top of the technology in this industry can be a full-time job.

No. 3: Ross Carbonite Black Solo Production Switcher

In video land, things have changed fast. I am in more and more churches that have control rooms that rival those of their local TV stations. Years ago only the mega churches had these abilities, but now it is becoming commonplace. Central to any video system is the ability to change what is being shown on the screens, and there are many options out there -- from little push-button selectors by Extron to full-blown switchers like Ross makes. Ross is a family owned company out of Canada. If you haven’t looked at them, you should, and I don’t get paid to say that. I had a Vision 2 at my last church, and it was my first venture with Ross. I honestly hadn’t heard of them before inheriting that switcher when I got hired.

They have many different options, ranging in various sizes and obviously prices, but the one I have been specifying the most is their new Carbonite Black Solo. The solo is a small-format switcher with nine inputs and six outputs and a built-in multi-viewer. It has many of the features that the larger format switchers in the Carbonite line have, but in a smaller footprint (and at lower price tag, as well).

It is an excellent entry-level product for a church that is serious about video. The thing I appreciate about Ross is you do not break the bank to get something that looks, feels, and operates as a professional piece of gear -- and that tradition continues with this new smaller product.

No. 4: MA Lighting dot2 Control Surface

I am not a lighting guy. Most of my wardrobe is black because it makes it easier to coordinate. I am not creative when it comes to lights, and I am jealous of those who are. So since that [fire] isn’t there, I have never put a lot of effort into getting familiar with all the various lighting consoles out there. It is, for this reason, I was the prime candidate to be the guinea pig during a demo of MA Lighting’s newest console, the dot2. With its four five-pin XLR connections it can handle up to 4,096 DMX channels out of the box -- which is what happened to me as I was given a brand new console and asked to patch a show. Me, the guy who can barely spell lighting console, had a show patched and lights were moving in five minutes. With the touch screens and setup wizard, that was amazing.

The other reason I am a MA fan and have recommended them to many churches is their visualizer software. You can import a representation of the church worship space and put the lighting fixtures in their place and create the looks and scenes that way without striking a single light. It interacts with the console and can allow for some easy offline programming. Oh, and did I mention they give that software away? It’s not an add on.

No. 5: Middle Atlantic DC Power Distribution System

Finally, the nerd in me found something to get very excited about, and that is everyone’s favorite topic: Power Distribution. Yeah, I know, you’re ready to high five your co-worker right now just reading this. But seriously, if you have spent any time online in the AV install forums you know how the inside of an equipment rack is judged.

It’s a point of pride for some or a cringe factor for others. As a former tech director and integrator myself, I have spent plenty of time inside a rack trying to dress it up and get all those power bricks and transformers out of the way. Depending what is on the rack, that can become quite the challenge. That is why [I was elated] when I saw Middle Atlantic’s DC Power Distribution solution. It’s a 1U rackmount power supply that covers various voltages and removes the need for those wall-warts. It comes in two options, a 45-watt, and a 125-watt version; they both offer connections for 5V, 12V, 18V, & 24V via screw terminal connectors for easy installation. I am sure you are already dreaming of the selfies you’re going to be taking with your next rack-of-art.

Wrap Up

There you have it, the five products I thought were worth mentioning from this year. While some are flashy and cool looking, others are revolutionary in their design, and others are never seen, but you know their existence makes you happy. I encourage you in whatever your role that you take time to stay invested in what is available out there. Branch out and take a chance on trying something new; it may become your new favorite device.





Learn more about the companies in this story:

Allen and Heath


Shure Inc.


Ross Video


MA Lighting


Middle Atlantic



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