By Doug Hood
The best mic choice “speaks” to communication style, first.
Some pastors are teachers who like to stay in a stationary position, either behind a pulpit or in one specific spot on the stage.
Some are roamers who walk all over the platform, and even out among the congregation. Some have a huge, dynamic range — from a whisper to a shout. Others will sing during sermon time.
- Making audio work — for everyone
- Special Section: Audio: Speech intelligibility
- Using technology to enhance, not replace, the church experience
All this is to say that a pastor’s mic preference largely depends on his or her style of communication.
Not too long ago, the lavaliere microphone was the mic of choice for most pastors. One reason was because it’s nice and small; inconspicuous. However, a big challenge with a lavaliere mic is “gain before feedback.” In layman’s terms, that means it can be tough to turn up these mics up as loud as needed without hearing a squeal through the speaker system.
Lest you think we’re just picking on the poor little lavaliere mic, let me assure you we’re not. In fact, there’s nothing inherently “bad” about a lavaliere mic; the trouble really stems from how far away this small mic often is from the pastor’s mouth.
A pastor can take the lavaliere mic and mount it anywhere — right up close to the mouth, down at the waistline, or anywhere in between. You can imagine the potential problems, then. If the mic is too close to the pastor’s mouth, it tends to work pretty well.
But, if it’s positioned far away, that’s where you start to have trouble.
For all these reasons, it’s easy to see why headset mics have become so popular.
Essentially, headset mics take a tiny microphone (like the lavaliere), but position it in a way that keeps it close to the pastor’s mouth. This allows the user to turn his or her head while speaking, but still have good response from the mic, since it’s always following the mouth.
In the early days of headset mics, some pastors complained that they were too big. Having a fairly large mic element right in front of the pastor’s mouth looked too much like [insert the name of your favorite 1980’s singer, here]. Understandably, pastors didn’t want to draw attention to the mic itself.
Those days are gone. Today, headset mics are very small. And, they’re widely accepted — even in the church community. Many different colors are available to match a variety of skin tones, so new headset mics really do perform great and blend in well, too.
Even so, a headset mic definitely isn’t for everyone. Some pastors who are very dynamic — those who need very high volume, and who incorporate music into their teaching — are sometimes served best by a high-quality hand-held mic.
In general, a hand-held mic will usually produce a more full sound, and is preferred by many pastors — assuming they don’t need both hands free for their style of teaching. Different than a headset mic (which is always a fixed distance from the mouth), a hand-held mic gives a skilled communicator the ability to “work the mic.”
In other words, there are times for a whisper, speaking very close to the mic. Other times, when the volume or intensity will increase, the pastor can back off the mic. This versatility can be quite effective.
A clear message
As you can see, it’s very important to identify the pastor’s communication style before just handing him or her any old microphone. A careful review of ministry style will ensure the message can be delivered with excellence — and that’s what every pastor wants.
Doug Hood is president/owner of Fort Wayne, IN-based Custom Sound Designs Inc. (CSD). He provides design and integration solutions for churches throughout the U.S.