If your church has a mixer or soundboard as part of your sound system, it is usually best to record a signal out of the board. You can read more about these options on the page, “Recording Church Sermon Audio.” If your church doesn’t have a mixer or soundboard, or if it is not practical to connect it to your recording device, I am going to show some options to get the audio recorded.
Without a signal from a board, you will need to either find a recording device with a built-in microphone or attach a microphone to the device.
To learn about connecting recording devices to soundboards and mixers, check out my page, “Audio Cables and Adapters.”
Connection: XLR, 1/4″
Connection: XLR, 1/4″
Tascam DR-70D 4-Channel Portable Recorder
This unit is a serious price bump from the first two I mentioned but long-term, it is a great investment. This is the big brother of the Tascam DR-05 I wrote about above. There are a number of advantages to this unit over the DR-05. It records to four separate tracks and stores them as four separate audio files. It has two built-in microphones that can record while you have external sources plugged in. The levels of all four tracks are independently adjustable. And, it accepts XLR connections and provides phantom power. One of the reasons I love his device for the work I do is that it allows redundancy. In a typical setup, I might have a condenser lavalier mic connected to channel one. Then, I might have a shotgun mic plugged into channel two powered by the onboard phantom power providing a little room sound to make the recording sound more natural. Then I have channels three and four recording from the built-in mics. This has saved me more times than I can count. Sometimes microphones stop working for no apparent reason. Sometimes connections go bad without warning. With four tracks of audio, I can usually salvage something. It may not sound as good as I have originally planned but sometimes, “okay” audio is better than no audio.
Cost: $299 (Amazon)
Connection: XLR, 1/8″
For Stand-alone Recorders and USB Interfaces
This is another item I keep in my bag, especially since it comes with an adapter that allows you to plug it into the headphone jack on a smartphone.(Unless you have a new iPhone, in which case you need an adapter to plug the adapter into.) I have been able to capture nearly studio-grade audio with this plugged into a Tascam DR-05.
The trickiest part is getting it connected to the person you are recording and to your recording device. The cable is 20′ long which is long enough if your pastor isn’t prone to wander. If you are using the Tascam DR-05 or the Zoom H1 you can put it in the pocket of the person speaking. I have done exactly that. Clip the microphone, hit record, put it in their pocket and pick it up at the end of the service.
The thing I like least about this microphone is that it is powered by an LR44 button battery and there is no battery gauge. That means there is no way to tell if the batteries are dying. There is also no light to tell you that it is on so I have left mine on and killed that battery more times than I can count. The good news is, if you remember to turn it off between uses, you can get quite a few hours per battery and the batteries are cheap. But, if it is tucked in someone’s pocket, there will be no way to know if the battery dies.
Cost: $29 (Amazon)
Power: Supplied by battery.
If it just isn’t practical to put a recorder in the speaker’s pocket, and money is an issue, this device will drastically improve the sound over a recorder’s built-in mics. This is a shotgun mic. That means, if you can get close enough and point it at the person speaking, it should pick up the sound. Unfortunately, if the speaker moves a lot, the mic may have to move too. Also, if the acoustics aren’t great and the speaker turns away from the mic, you will get muffled sound. The ATR-6550 has two modes, normal and tele, allowing you to adjust for the distance. You will need a microphone stand but, since the mic only weighs 4oz, you can get away with a cheap one from Amazon.
Cost: $69 (Amazon)
Connection:1/8″ (with 1/4″ adapter)
Power: Supplied by battery.
Shure MX418D/C Condenser Microphone – Cardioid
If your pastor is in the habit of standing still at a pulpit, lectern, or podium, a gooseneck or podium mic is a great solution. I hesitated to recommend this type of microphone because of the price. There are inexpensive versions out there but I have yet to hear one that was worth even the limited investment. The Shure MX418 is a favorite of churches that use this style of microphone. It was essentially designed for this use.
Two things you need to know about this microphone: 1. It needs phantom power. 2. It connects via an XLR cable. This will be no problem if you are using one of the USB interfaces listed above or the Tascam DR-70D.
Power: Phantom required.
If none of these microphone options seem right to you, I highly recommend you talk to someone who specializes in microphones and audio. If you don’t know anyone, Sweetwater Music (Sweetwater.com) is a great place to start. You can talk to a real, live expert who can hear what you are trying to do and make a recommendation. They also have highly competitive prices and
If you want to plug your microphone directly into a computer with purchasing a USB audio interface, your options are somewhat limited. USB microphones are basically regular microphones with built-in USB interfaces.
There are two obstacles to deal with in this case: One is that you are going to need your computer to be close to where your speaker is standing. USB cable runs can’t be overly long without spending additional money on extenders. Two is that your speaker is going to need to stand right in front of the microphone (at the pulpit or podium) and speak directly toward the mic. That will work great for some situations and not so great for others.
This is an amazing microphone for the price. It is a favorite of podcasters and the mic I use for just about everything I record on my Mac. It is actually three mics in one with three internal condensor capsules. You can set the pattern to pick up only the sound right in front of the mic, from the front and back or all the way around. It comes with a 10′ USB cable to connect it your computer. It has a sturdy and heavy stand to keep it in place. It would be hard to hide it on most lecturns but, if your speaker is willing to face toward it, you will get some great sound.
Cost: $129 (Amazon)
Blue Snowball Condenser Microphone
This is the Yeti’s younger brother and is about half the price. It has dual capsules so it will pick up sound directly in front or all the way around. It lacks some of the other features of the Yeti but it is also smaller and less obtrusive. This is also a really popular choice and I have one at home for video conferencing and the occasional video voice over. The stand that comes with it is not as sturdy as the Yeti but it is more likely to work on an uneven surface.
Cost: $64 (Amazon)
You will find some cheaper options out there but you get what you pay for. At this budget level, I wouldn’t likely waste my money on something cheaper. I bought a $20 USB microphone for my son. Even the most untrained ear can hear the difference in sound quality between that and the Blue Snowball.
Once you have decided on equipment, you will need to hook it all up. For help, read “Audio Cables and Adapters for Recording Church Sermon Audio.”
Once you have your audio captured, you will need to edit and prepare for upload. To get started with that, check out “Church Sermon Audio Software.”
Stay tuned for more resources.
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