TapZone Distribution for Church Audio

One thing that complicates the running of church sound is the requirement for multiple mixes for different purposes. In addition to the output to the main speakers you often need a feed to the induction loop, a tape recorder and perhaps the crêche and other parts of the building. The requirements of each are slightly different, and to do this effectively you need more than just a splitter on the main outputs—some stereo, some mono, some with an “ambient” mic mixed in etc.
When looking at some church systems I was struck by the complexity and the involvement required by the operators. The most common arrangement I have seen for recording or a hearing-aid loop is complete separate mixes on auxiliary-sends. This requires the operator to be aware of two or more levels on every channel and, if they are doing it properly, monitoring each one separately each time something changes (even if you do have them ganged by using a post-fade auxiliary). There are too many opportunities for error doing it this way.

The “ambient” additions are what we use the last mixer group for (see my earlier post on Group Mixing for Church Audio). These are microphones for signals that you do not want to go out to the main loud-speakers and can include high level microphones suspended above the congregation to pick up the singing, perhaps a microphone or direct feed from the organ (because even an electronic one normally has its own speakers rather than go through the PA) and once I even had a radio microphone in the bell tower. This group is switched so that the “Send to Mix” button is not pressed and there are connections to the group output sockets.
There are other ways to achieve this result, for instance using a auxiliary-send (containing only the “ambient” channels), a direct-out socket if there is only one microphone or even a separate small mixer, especially if you have limited channels available on the main one.

So now you have four wires and you need to generate the right signals for your various destinations. When we first installed our system I built a custom distribution box using mixer modules and line drivers from a range of modular units sold by Maplin. This got to be less than reliable due to my poor construction skills and we had to find a better solution. When it became critical I discovered the perfect solution by browsing around the shops and internet—Citronic Z-5DMthe Citronic Z-5DM. It is small, in a 1U rack mount, very good quality not disturbing the signals at a critical stage, versatile and modestly priced. It is intended for background music in bars and hotels where two different stereo sound sources are required in up to five different areas but there is no harm in employing it for a different purpose. There may be other brands but I haven’t come across any and you may need to go to a specialist supplier to get one. There are similar devices called matrix-mixers which offer multiple inputs and outputs but these are often too complex and quite expensive.

The way it is connected is to take your main desk output, left and right, into the Line 1 inputs and the secondary “ambient” mix, left and right (or split from a single output), into the Line 2 inputs. You can then adjust the level of these for each of the five zone outputs independently, select stereo or mono for each and connect to your outboard equipment and amplifiers as required. The outputs will work balanced or unbalanced as required and, as each one is driven separately at low impedance, the loading from one amplifier will not affect the others and the distances can be quite long allowing the use of powered speakers for instance.
A typical arrangement would be

  • Zone 1 — Line 1 only, stereo, balanced outputs, to main amplifiers.
  • Zone 2 — Line 1 only, two mono, balanced outputs, to powered speakers in the side aisles and transepts.
  • Zone 3 — Line 1 and 2, one mono balanced output, to hearing aid loop amplifier. Adjust the relative levels to suit the user’s requirements.
  • Zone 4 — Line 1 and 2, one mono balanced output, to 100V line amplifier for distribution to crêche, chapel and other small rooms.
  • Zone 5 — Line 1 and 2, stereo unbalanced outputs, to compressor then on to tape and CD recorders. Preset the levels by monitoring the recording.

All the levels can be adjusted from the convenience of the mixing console area without having to touch anything in the amplifier rack, though once they are set they can generally be left alone. I am told that this sort of multiple output facility is now available on some mixing desks but what we have done here is a simple solution which can easily be retrofitted to an existing system.

Comments are closed.

^ Top