It seems obvious, but always think about your needs in the future, not the present. Before you buy something, try to find someone who has one to let you try it out. These days I don’t think analog consoles are worth considering, unless you only need less than 12 channels. Digital consoles are SO much better, and the learning curve is not too bad.
The small church I attend was looking for an inexpensive console with at least 24 channels. There are a handful of good digital mixers in the $3 – $5,000 price range, such as the Soundcraft SI, Presonus Studiolive, Behringer X32, or the Allen & Heath iLive series. The Roland systems are outstanding, and they just released the Roland M-200i, which is an amazing mixer that puts the Yamaha LS9 to shame. My church ended up purchasing the inexpensive Presonus Studiolive 24.4. It’s a big improvement over the analog mixer, and I like the iPad control and virtual sound check. The downside is the lack of features compared to similar products. If you only need to control a few channels, check out the iPad controlled digital mixers such as the the Presonus StudioLive 16.0.2,, (but most of the Presonus consoles require a computer and router to use the iPad), the Mackie DL1608, (which requires an iPad) or the Roland M-200i.
In larger venues, there are a lot more options, and prices are coming down, with new products coming to the market all the time.
What speakers are the best? The quick answer is, … it depends. You should always consult a knowledgeable person who understands your church, your needs, and the acoustic conditions of your sanctuary. New technology is able to precisely focus sound, minimizing room reflections and maximizing intelligibility, but it’s always necessary to consult with a competent professional.
The Aviom system has been around for a long time, although the sound quality isn’t great. The Elite Core Audio PM-16 system is reasonably priced, less expensive than either the Aviom, MyMix, or the Roland M48, and might be a great way to get rid of floor monitors!
The PCs we’ve been using are getting old. I’ve been wanting to replace it with an Apple system, but the Macbooks Pros are just too expensive for our budget. Then I saw the Mac Mini. It seems to meet our needs, and they’re reasonably priced. The new models support multiple displays (up to three), so it would be great to use with ProPresenter.
One of my favorite toys/tools is a handheld recorder. They’re small, battery operated, and record great quality audio directly to an SD card. Some of them (including the Zooms) will work as a USB interface, so you could record real-time to your computer, or use it as a Skype microphone.
My experience with the inexpensive recorders is that the “Line In” does not work very well. The more expensive products work better, such as the Sony PCM-M10 (above), which has a line-input, making it more useful. Just connect an aux-output from your mixer, and you can record your mix directly to an SD card.