HOW-TO Sound Workshops and Lab.gruppen have been touring the US to show the nation’s churches how to achieve the very best sound whilst wasting minimal electricity.
Having started his career in the pro audio industry over 40 years ago, HOW-TO Sound Workshop’s chief instructor Mike Sokol has witnessed great advancements in the world of worship audio. Yet, while the technology in use across the country’s houses of worship continues to develop, he believes that the training available to those running them has somewhat stagnated. And in his bid to enhance today’s levels of audio training, Sokol has been utilising Lab.gruppen’s E Series amplifiers. “We want to showcase technology that wastes less electricity, sounds better and has more headroom,” he explained. “I have a number of Lab’s Contractor Series and they’re fabulous, but for smaller churches the E Series are a better fit in terms of wattage, performance and size.”
Dedicated to providing audio engineers and worship teams across North America with the requisite skills to optimise the experience they offer congregations, HOW-TO Sound is a particularly hands-on ministry. “Imagine a cooking class, where somebody is showing you how to whip up a frosting, or whatever, that’s what I do,” Sokol commented. “I have a full FOH system, powered by two Lab.gruppen E 12:2s and one E 8:2. I have a Sony pan-tilt-zoom video camera over the console and up to thirty separate mixers connected by a digital snake. I turn on the camera and students see my hands on one of the [large-format] FOH consoles on a six-foot wide video screen. I mix either a full praise band or pre-recorded multi-track musical examples through FOH at full volume and get them to reproduce that mix on their consoles and in their headphones, then I critique their mixes.”
According to Sokol, the E Series also offers a number of key benefits, including Lab’s IntelliDrive Energy Efficient Amplifier (IDEEA) platform, which utilises an auto-power down function and temperature controlled fan to save substantial amounts of energy. “The fact that they shut down after 20 minutes of activity and that their parasitic draw is only one Watt is fantastic. I’ve haven’t driven them full- tilt boogie for hours yet, but if I did, I’d bet you they’d still run cool. The more efficient the amp, the less power you pay for running them and the less you pay for air conditioning. Plus, the more amps that you can route off of your service without major rewiring.”
The E Series’ compact footprint is also a plus for portable churches. “Lighter is better when you’re moving gear in and out every Sunday morning, and it’s bordering on insanity how light these are. When I first got the boxes I was literally thinking, ‘are there amps in here?’”
Sokol also noted that for him the most important factor is sound quality, stating that as soon as he received the amps he immediately took them on the road for a workshop in Lima, NY. “I’d done all of the patching ahead of time and didn’t have a chance listen to them until I fired the system up, but when I did, it sounded incredible – like a big hi-fi. Amplifiers may not be the sexiest part of a system, but they’re the weightlifter of your gig and have a lot to do with how your system sounds. It used to be the pastor would shout from the pulpit. Now people expect a very high level of intelligibility and CD-quality music.”
In addition to the overall sound quality, Sokol was also quick to express his appreciation for manufacturers such as Lab.gruppen who pay close attention to detail. “I don’t like Phoenix connectors; either the wires pull out of them, or they get stuck, but the E Series have these cool little tabs so you can tie the wires down,” he noted. “It’s little touches like that that show Lab.gruppen really have their act together."
HOW-TO Sound’s approach is essentially based on demystifying the details for sound engineers and church volunteers; from helping them establish what equipment they need, to demonstrating outboard gear, such as TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive Rack mic channel and vocal F/X processor, that is designed to help make their bands and choirs sound bigger and better.
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