I recently attended the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville. Although the NRB is not known for groundbreaking debuts of audio equipment, amidst the myriad of broadcasters, satellite companies, and many missions organizations, there are always some gems to be discovered there by house of worship audio professionals.
I was pleasantly surprised to see A-T, and their booth, at NRB. After perusing their product line, including their latest products — the new BP4025 and AT8022 stereo condenser microphones — my eye was drawn to A-T's personal monitoring system, the M3. In itself, the M3 is packed with features associated with a higherend monitor, but it was the little accessory sitting nearby that captured my interest: the AM3, an omnidirectional condenser lavalier microphone designed to plug into the belt pack of the M3 (or M2). The microphone is designed to let in ambient sound from the listener's perspective, helping them discern what is happening in the room. I had a test drive on the convention floor; it performed just as advertised — I could maintain audio perspective while having a mix pumped into the in-ears. The system also serves as a talkback to the rest of the band, allowing a bandleader to give instructions from their lead microphone.
The Buzz? Duplication and Archiving
The buzzword in the world of duplicators was Blu-ray — not just for an obviously large storage capacity but also for the format's touted 50-year shelf life. At our church, we are continually sorting through old cassettes from the '70s and '80s, trying to restore them to digital, and trust me, although a 50-year shelf life may not seem that important, those who follow in our footsteps will be thankful for any efforts we take to best archive what is happening now so it will be available for generations to come. Microboards, Primera, and Spartan (Ily) are three of the manufacturers now offering Blu-ray duplication systems. They are backwards-compatible for CDR and DVD duplication. So, when the time comes to replace/upgrade/add a duplicator, I recommend considering the Blu-ray format.
Audio Science ASI6416 PCI CobraNet Sound Card
Audio Science offers a series of PCI and PCI Express cards, which have primarily been used for broadcast audio in the past. At NRB, a newer Audio Science model caught my eye: the ASI6416 PCI CobraNet sound card. This card can handle eight stereo inputs and outputs with a maximum of four cards per system. In a HOW, where CobraNet is already in use, these cards could be put into a computer with recording software and used as a multitrack recorder at either 48 kHz or 96 kHz sampling rates. Driver support is available for Win 2k through Vista as well as Linux. They also offer a 2-channel CobraNet card, the 5402; and an 8-channel version, the 5408.
Reaching the Masses
Anyone in the House of Worship audio field has, at one point, dealt with a challenging request from the Missions department. Missionaries are like the MacGyvers of audio: give them a string, a piece of foil, and an old Coke can and they can broadcast their message to an entire tribe in a third-world country. I had the pleasure of meeting a former missionary at NRB who once played MacGyver, but now has dedicated his talents to help others communicate in more modern methods: FM radio transmission.
Galcom offers solar-powered, fix-tuned radios for FM, shortwave, AM, or dual frequency. The radios are small cubes made of durable plastic. There is no tuner as the frequency is fixed, so the controls are very basic: just an on/off switch with fixed amplification and a headphone jack. These are designed to be given out to those in tribes or regions where the radio's frequency is either locked into the local Christian broadcast or to pick up the signal generated from Galcom's newest product, the Cornerstone transmitter.
This transmitter has a built-in 2.0mW output with optional 1W, 50W, or 300W (currently in development) amplifier to expand the broadcast range and built-in Ethernet card to enable remote control, monitoring or streaming of the audio signal when the infrastructure is in place. The interface for the Cornerstone is a backlit LCD touch panel with all controls readily available for the operator and two microphone inputs directly on the transmitter. Combine the transmitter (around $1,200 stock) with the fix-tuned radios ($20 each), and a missionary now has the ability to transmit audio to one village or an entire city with relatively low cost. It's a great tool to train and reach those who do not have the benefit of readily available radio signals.
Dan Wothke is media director at Belmont Church in Nashville, and he welcomes your comments firstname.lastname@example.org.