Recording Sermon Audio
Mixer or No Mixer?
In choosing a recording method, it is important to know if your church already has a mixing console. All but the smallest venues have some sort of found reinforcement, basically microphones, a mixer, an amplifier, and speakers. If your church does have this setup, usually the easiest thing to do is to plug your recording device into this mixer. Sometimes, this is not possible or practical. If it is not, you can use the methods designed for churches without one.
With a Mixer – Getting Connected
Whether or not you have a mixer, you will need some way to record the sermon. I recommend recording digitally. If you record digitally, you will save a step. If you record in an analogue format, you will basically have to re-record into a digital format, so it is best just to skip that step.
There are basically two categories of recording devices, computer-based and stand-alone. [There is actually a third category – recording directly to compact disc. If your church is already recording to CD using a CD recorder, scroll to the bottom of this page for an explanation of how to upload those recordings to the web.]
Either way, you will need to find an output on your mixer and plug it into your computer or recording device. Depending on your mixer, this might be simple or complicated. Depending on your mixer and how it is set up, there may be an “audio out” jack that you can plug into it. The audio output will likely be in XLR, RCA or 1/4 inch. XLR and 1/4 inch are 1 channel mono. RCA is 2 channel stereo. The input on your computer or recording device will most likely be 1/8 inch. That 1/8 inch computer input will be in stereo. Some higher end recording devices may also have RCA or XLR connections but you won’t likely need a high-end recorder for this application.
In most cases, you are going to need an adapter. This is where you might need some help from someone who knows a little bit about audio. Below are some various setups that will get from your mixer to your computer.
With a Mixer – Recording Devices
Many churches I talk to are already recording sermons to a computer for publishing onto compact disc. Since this is a digital format, you may be able to repurpose this ability for getting your sermons online. You will need to check and see if your current software will allow you to save your audio to a .wav or .mp3 file. Eventually, it will need to be in .mp3 but it is easy to convert from .wav.
If you are not already recording to a computer but have one available, all you need is a sound card and software. Most PCs and all Macs come with a sound card pre-installed. Just check your computer and see if it has an audio input (usually found on the back of a PC. Newer Macs use the headphone jack for input and output.) Unless you already have recording software, I recommend Audacity. Audacity is a free, easy to use recording platform that will also help you with editing later in the process. If you are using a Mac, Garageband will also work quite well.
If you don’t have access to a computer for recording or that is not a practical option, you can also plug a standalone recorder into your soundboard. You are still going to need access to a computer at some point to edit and upload the audio but this will free you from needing that computer to be at the sound console. For under $100, you can pick up a high quality, portable digital recorder that can be plugged right into the sound board. You may find one as low as $50 but, I recommend spending a little bit more to get something more reliable. For churches on budget (99% of the churches out there), I highly recommend two units, the Tascam DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder and the Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder. Both of these are easy to use, offer high-quality recording and record to a microSD card. The microSD cards make it easy to get the audio to your computer. You don’t have to hook the recorder up to your computer. You can just pop out the microSD cards, slip it into its adapter and slide it in the SD card reader on your computer.
Without a Mixer – Recording Devices
There are some alternatives if your church does not have a mixer or it is impractical to plug a recorder into a mixer. In fact, while you may lose some sound quality, the process of getting started will be simpler.
The Easy Way
Scroll back up and look at the Tascam DR-05 and the Zoom H1. You will notice they both have microphones. In fact, they have really good microphones. If you find the right place to place one of these, you can easily record great sermon audio. Please keep in mind that someone will have to actually press the record button on the recorder. That shouldn’t be a big problem though. With the size of the SD cards and the battery life, someone could start it 5 minutes before the service begins and turn it off after the service is over. You will have to edit the audio to get just the sermon but that can be done easily. This is also a less effective method if you have a pastor who likes to walk around. But that can be fixed with a minor upgrade.
Without breaking the bank, there is a way to improve the quality of these portable recorders. Just add an external microphone. Audio Technica makes a great, inexpensive lavalier microphone that works well with portable recorders, the ATR3350iS. The lavalier microphone can be clipped onto the speaker and connected to the recorder. If you have a pastor who likes to walk and talk, the recorder can be slipped in a pocket and the whole thing becomes completely portable.
If a lavalier in not practical or if the recorder needs to be a little further away, consider using a shotgun mic. A microphone like the Audio-Technica ATR-6550 can be mounted on a mic stand and aimed at the speaker.
Note: Already recording to a CD recorder?
You can skip everything else and use the audio from the CD to upload. All you need is iTunes (free for Mac and Windows.) Just follow this guide and be sure to change your import settings from AAC to MP3.