Wholly Holy Audio Streaming Solutions for Houses of Worship

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In these challenging times, people need to turn to something. Maybe it’s their favorite podcast, maybe it’s their friends, over Zoom. For some people, the power that connects us is a “higher” one. 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.

Now hold the phone—audio stream? Wouldn’t you want to broadcast video for your virtual congregation? Not always. Video streaming is not always preferable. Some people only have the bandwidth to listen right now, as they deal with marshalling bored-as-heck children or looking for new employment in a depressed marketplace. 

If you do want to embed killer audio into your video streams, you’ll want to check out this article, and specifically look at this option and this option, which offer switchers that handle audio inputs. 

Now, on to the topic at hand. 

A service of worship can resemble many things. It could comprise a few speeches or sermons, or it can offer a big musical production. 

If you’re broadcasting one person preaching from their home, a USB mic will suffice—and there are many credible options out there, from the wallet-friendly RØDE NT-USB to the hi-fi Antelope Edge Go. If it’s more than one person, it gets complicated.

Most commonly, a house of worship will have a mixing board for the sanctuary, anything from a Behringer X32 to a Soundcraft Vi1000. The console normally has bussing and auxiliary outputs. 

Consoles often routes audio to two main outputs—your stereo outs. But you can also 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 some sort of audio interface. The audio interface will be an essential part of your audio stream. 

If you’re trying to coordinate many people playing in 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—and you can browse different setups here. You’ll need to designate one person to receive all the remote audio recordings and encode the mix for the stream.

Internet Streaming

Whether you’re juggling one USB mic or 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, USB mics (which are also interfaces), and computers. Platforms to broadcast your stream are a bit of 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 and whether or not you want to live. 

So, let me clear it up for you.

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 Virtual Audio Cable from VB-Audio. The people at Rogue Amoeba consider it their Windows equivalent.

One 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 in to 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. 

Localized Streaming Solutions

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

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; demand is high, so get one now. The transmitter offers RCA inputs, so you’ll need the appropriate adapter cables, or even a balanced XLR to unbalanced RCA converter (such as this one) to make sure the signal stays pristine.

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 specifically tuned 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

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. 

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.

Conclusion

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

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