Top 10 Tips for Choosing Church DSP

The extensive requirements of contemporary worship – which often includes performances by sizeable live bands and choirs, as well as the need for crystal-clear audio for sermons and background music – mean that many Houses of Worship (HoWs) now routinely invest in sophisticated DSP systems.

Xilica has certainly been a beneficiary of this approach, with its Neutrino and Uno Series products proving to be popular choices for HoW applications.

With such an abundance of DSP solutions on the market, it’s important for each HoW to select a system that is capable of handling their present needs as well as affording capacity for future expansion. Partnering with a specialist in HoW audio can make all the difference to a project, and it was with this in mind that Xilica spoke to Mike Sessler, who is a Project Lead at Olympia, WA-based CCI Solutions and runs the ChurchTechArts blog, in order to compile the following ‘top ten tips’ to be borne in mind when selecting an HoW DSP…

1) Make sure you have the appropriate I/O. It might seem obvious, but ensuring that a DSP system affords sufficient I/O to support multiple audio sources is absolutely pivotal to the success of a project. In Sessler’s experience, “in most HoW projects we’re not only providing DSP for the main PA, but also ancillary spaces such as lobby areas, green rooms etc.”

2) Input count is not usually a problem – but ensuring there are enough outputs is critical. In this regard, the use of Audinate’s Dante media technology – which is supported extensively in the current Xilica product range – can provide an attractive way forward. “In many Dante-based systems using Dante to analogue output boxes is a cost-effective way to leverage DSP horsepower and still add more outputs,” says Sessler.

3) If you are using a digital network, a DSP with that digital interface can be very useful. For example, says Sessler, with more and more HoW projects incorporating Dante for audio signal transportation, “being able to plug the DSP into the switch makes audio routing very easy. It also saves on unnecessary DA and AD conversions.”

4) Don’t over-focus on processing power. The fact is that processing power is often a secondary concern given that most DSPs on the market today will have sufficient capacity to handle the system tuning and distributed audio requirements. It is only for the larger-scale projects where processing power will need to undergo greater scrutiny.

5) Not all software is equal. Some is much more intuitive than others. And at the purchasing stage, the ability to demo software can be extremely useful if the choice comes down to two or three units.

6) The ability to customise parameters is very useful. Many HoW customers will require standard presets that allow them to change basic parameters without the potential to cause disruption to the basic day-to-day operation of the DSP. “Speaking as an integrator I would opt for a software package that would allow me to build custom parameter set pages that let the customer see what they need to see without letting them break things!” says Sessler.

7) Effective control is a must. “Any DSP that cannot be controlled and completely configured via a computer software interface is not going to be considered. The ability to save, recall and archive configuration files is a must, so if a DSP can’t do that, it’s off the list,” says Sessler.

8) Avoid unnecessary conversion. Streamlining the workflow ensures that audio quality remains high and over-complexity is avoided. “A lot of people think that AES inputs and outputs are necessarily better because they’re digital,” offers Sessler. “But if you have to convert from something else to get to or from AES, it not only defeats the purpose but introduces conversions that don’t need to happen. Match the I/O of the console and amps to the DSP.”

9) Remote control capability is crucial. The ability to add remote control stations can be a significant bonus, particularly in larger HoW installations where audio is being distributed to various worship spaces, back-offices, and so on.

10) Engage specialist support from the beginning of the project. Successfully implemented, modern DSPs can bring tremendous flexibility to HoWs. Selecting a specialist installer or consultant can make all the difference, and fortunately the number of those with a focus on the specific requirements of HoW audio continues to grow.