Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How To Get Better Sermon Recordings [with examples]

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One of my responsibilities as Worship Leader at Garden Valley Bible Church is to consult on technology needs and implement necessary changes. I actually really enjoy this part of my job description. I'm sort of a gear nerd--especially related to audio--so this is right up my alley. I like making things work on a budget and re-purposing gear the church already owns. 

In the short time I've been at GBVC, we have:
  • Pieced together a portable P.A. system for outdoor and location events using components we had in storage (plus purchase of a road case)
  • Replaced an aged electronic drum set
  • Pulled unused crossover and EQ from our house system and replaced it with other EQ we had collecting dust
  • Salvaged older wireless bodypack systems for utility use
  • Re-configured our Aviom In-Ear Monitor System for more effective use
I am very blessed to have a Pastor and elders who are very supportive, encouraging, and not wedded to the status quo. They are committed to investing wisely in the worship ministry and I'm glad to be a part of that. 

The latest place project we've tackled is in the area of sermon recordings. If someone is checking out our church online (as many folks do) and wants to hear a sample sermon, we want that experience to be a positive one. We want them to be free of distractions caused by poor audio quality. This past weekend was the first Sunday to implement these changes. Please listen to the clips below and I think you'll agree that the change is drastic:


You likely noticed that the audio was muffled and you needed to turn up your volume to hear any definition in the words. Also, there was a low-pitched hum and a high-pitched whirringsound that is indicative of cheap analog-to-digital conversion.  


The audio is more crisp and clear and pleasing. The hum and whirring are gone. Also, you can hear a bit of the sound of the room, which gives the recording a sense of space without adding any artificial reverb.

This dramatic improvement cost only $30. Here's how:
  1. We bought and installed a USB sound device. The device in particular is the Behringer U-Control UCA222. It is a simple stereo-in/stereo-out device. It was simple to install on our less-than-up-to-date audio recording computer. There are no drivers needed. Then, I set the input device in Audacity to receive audio from the USB audio device.
  2. We used a direct patch off the input channel. Before, we were using the "tape out" stereo RCA jacks to send audio to the sound blaster card on the computer. Instead of this, I used the channel insert that most mixing consoles have to send a clear copy of the audio to the computer; bypassing the channel EQ, channel fader and any of the master section of the mixing console. It is important to note that these channel inserts are set up to send and receive audio when a compressor is to be inserted on a particular channel. In order to use it just to send audio to a recorder, make sure to insert the 1/4" plug only to the first click (not all the way in). I could go into more detail as to why, but it would be unnecessary to this post. If you want more detail, ask me in the comments section.
  3. We adjusted the gain to achieve a good level going to the computer. The device has no input level control and is completely dependent on the amount of audio being sent to it. We adjusted the gain (input volume) on the Pastor's mic channel so that we were getting a good constant level on the recording, but not so much that his voice was  overloading the device and causing distortion. Digital distortion is very unpleasant.
We discuss a lot of the "why" of worship, but some posts on the "how" can be helpful too. I hope you have found this to be the case. Please comment with any questions you have. Let's discuss!

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  1. Nice article. Please can you let us know how much Behringer U-Control UCA222 costs?

    1. Steve - Thanks for your comment. The UCA222 is $29.99 USD on


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