Audio Streaming Solutions for Houses of Worship

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In this article, we’re going to cover how to set up an audio stream for your house of worship, so that you might reach people in their time of need. We will start by providing you options that let your congregation gather in the safety of their own vehicles in your parking lot—specifically, short-throw FM transmitters and networked solutions. Finally, we’ll cover ways to stream your service across the Internet as a whole, so you can reach your parishioners in their own homes.

Localized Broadcasting Solutions

Our first option involves FM transmitters with a short throw, which allow congregants to listen to your sermon from the safety of their own cars while ensconced in your parking lot. This transmitter works with your sanctuary’s mixer.

Rolls makes an FM transmitter called the HR70, which is more popular than ever right now. Why? Because throughout the country, people are driving to their house of worship’s parking lot, tuning their FM radio to a free channel, and listening to sermons. You can use this transmitter for this very purpose: post a sign in your parking lot telling parishioners over which station you’re broadcasting and tune your transmitter to that station.

Rolls HR70 FM Digital Transmitter
Rolls HR70 FM Digital Transmitter

In talking to people at Rolls, I learned that most of the phone calls they’ve gotten in the last few weeks concern this little device.

The transmitter offers RCA inputs, while most mixers have XLR or 1/4" balanced outputs. So, you’ll need the appropriate adapter cables, or a balanced-to-unbalanced signal converter, to make the connections work.

The transmitter offers a radius of about 150' around the antenna, but people have gotten a lot more mileage out of the system. It depends on how you set it up.

Rolls says its included antenna is tuned specifically to work with its transmitter, so no replacement or auxiliary part is necessary. Either place the transmitter near an open window or put it somewhere in the parking lot and run an audio cable long enough to go from your FOH mixer to the device. The transmitter’s designer told me this is an effective way to set up an antenna:

An effective antenna setup for the Rolls HR70 Transmitter
An effective antenna setup for the Rolls HR70 Transmitter

That’s just an old Atlas mic stand with a twig jammed into the middle, and the antenna is wrapped around the stick. You should place the antenna about 7 to 8' high so it can easily reach the antennae of the car radios in the parking lot. If your parking lot is rather large, get two HR70s and set up different zones in your parking lot.

Networked Audio Solutions

If you want to forsake the radio, you can also “parking-lot stream” over the Internet, thanks to strides in technology made by companies like Listen Technologies. Take its Everywhere system, for example. Simply route your audio to its RCA inputs and connect the Everywhere System to your wireless network. Now, it can stream via a proprietary app to smartphones and tablets.

Just tell your parishioners to download the app from the app store, and they’ll be able to pull into the parking lot, hook their headphones into their iOS or Android devices, link up to your Wi-Fi, and stream your service online. This method offers a variety of features that make it more flexible than FM transmitters, such as the ability to simulcast your sermon in different languages. Also, individual listeners in a car can adjust their own volume levels with their own devices; this is something that might benefit the hard of hearing.

As with the FM transmitter, you’ll need the right cable adapters to make your mixing console play nice with the RCA inputs of the system.

Internet Streaming

Whether your service consists of one person talking into a USB mic, or taking the feed off a front-of-house console, your options funnel down into the same essential tools: an audio interface, a computer, and a platform to broadcast the stream.

You have plenty of options for audio interfaces, mics, and USB mics (which are also interfaces). You probably know which computer is best for your purposes, as well.

Platforms to broadcast your stream on the Internet, however, are a Wild West. You’ve got video-based services that also do audio (Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Periscope). Then there are some podcast-based media looking to flourish in the live radio world (Podbean). Finally, you’ll find boutique websites that offer modular packages by monthly subscription (Shoutcast, Primcast, Sam Broadcaster, Icecast), with scalable solutions for people, businesses, and yes, houses of worship.

To unpack all of them is outside the scope of this article, but if you’re interested in any particular option, hit us up in the Comments section and we’ll try to sort it out for you.

There’s one other hurdle: the intermediary step between your audio interface and the streaming platform. In most cases, you’ll need an encoder—an app that can take the audio from your interface and pass it off to the streaming platform, doing so without hiccups such as weird echoes, cutouts, or feedback looks.

At present, encoders are also a bit of Wild West. But not the fun kind of Wild West, where you sing songs in saloons and pan for gold. These are more like Westworld, where extended time trying to figure out how they work can make you question the nature of your reality.

So, let me clear it up for you.

Rogue Amoeba Loopback Encoding Software
Rogue Amoeba Loopback Encoding Software

If you’re using a Mac, Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback should do the trick. It can route audio between your interface and your streaming platform; it is designed specifically to do that. For Windows, try VB-Cable Virtual Audio Cable from VB-Audio. The people at Rogue Amoeba consider it their Windows equivalent.

If you’re trying to coordinate many people streaming audio from many locales, you should look into an app like ListenTo from Audiomovers, which can coordinate remote recording from disparate locations. Everyone will need their own recording setup to make this work, and you’ll need to designate one person to be in charge of mixing the audio. That person should be able to receive all the remote audio streams and encode the mix for the stream.

One final note on Internet streaming before we move on to the next section: Try to avoid using Wi-Fi if possible. Instead, go hardwire—plug straight into your Internet connection, whatever it may be. Because your Wi-Fi router is probably handling a lot in your physical space, you may experience audio glitches and dropouts when casting over Wi-Fi. Better to take the Johnny Mnemonic approach and jack straight in.

And yes, I said Johnny Mnemonic, not The Matrix: it’s a better movie.

Routing a Mixer for Broadcast Mixing

If your service makes use of a mixer, you will need to route audio to your destination, whether it’s an FM transmitter, a networked-audio solution, or an audio interface. Luckily, your sanctuary’s mixer probably has bussing capabilities and auxiliary outputs.

You see, consoles often route audio to two main outputs—your stereo outs, but you can often send the audio on a “buss” to other outputs. I’ll explain.

Say you have a drum kit going to a mixer. The main outputs of your mixer feed the speakers in the sanctuary, so people can hear the drums in the building. However, drums are very loud, so they’re not going to need much amplification in most sanctuaries. Your audio stream will require more signal, and that’s where bussing comes in handy: You “send” each track of the drums to a buss, with signals that are different from what feeds the house.

On many mixers, the buss will correspond to a separate, physical stereo output. You can now route this output into the FM transmitter, the networked-audio solution, or an audio interface.

Do keep in mind that your broadcast or streaming mix should be different from your sanctuary’s mix. In the sanctuary, you’re mixing to the acoustics of the room; maybe the choir doesn’t need a whole lot of pickup, maybe the horns need none at all. You can’t think the same way when setting up a broadcast mix; you need to approach it like its own independent entity, because obviously, the listener isn’t in the room with you. In this case, you need to create the soundscape for them from scratch.

Click for a selection of USB mics for the “solo” sermon; and click again if you’re in need of a mixer for your worship band.

Conclusion

We hope this article helps. Again, if there are any specific setups you’re trying to make happen, please let us know in the Comments section.

2 Comments

Virtual audio software from VB-Audio is called VB-Cable or VB-Audio Virtual Cable. The Virtual Audio Cable (VAC) is a completely different product. Please correct the text.

Hi Eugene 

Thanks for catching that! We've updated the copy. 

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