How do you know when its time to upgrade?
Alright guys, who doesn’t love new gear? I know there's no way that I’m the only one who spends at least a little time each day, day-dreaming about what gear I wanna buy next! While it would be nice to get new gear all the time, we know that's not how it usually works. Part of our job is to be able to know when we actually need new gear. So how do you know when you do need that new console, microphone, compressor etc.?
Here are a few of the mile markers that I’ve learned can show you when it really is time to go and ask for that upgrade.
1. When you have physically outgrown your gear
This landmark is probably the easiest to know when you’ve hit. There comes a point when you actually outgrow the number of channels a mixer offers you. Or you outgrow the space your speakers cover. Ideally, you can see in advance when you’re nearing the point of outgrowing your gear and you can have a conversation about it with your leadership. If not, you may get stuck running at full capacity for awhile and that means you have 0% flexibility which is a place no one likes to be in. Do your best to see this one coming and have the conversation before you actually do outgrow your gear. This doesn’t apply to just consoles, this could mean making sure that you don't exhaust your entire stock of XLR cables, so that when you have to add that extra vocalist last minute…you have cables for it!
2. You already know the gear like the back of your hand
One common mistake I see fairly often is churches upgrading to the next newest and best thing before they have fully understood and utilized their current setup. Many times when I am called in to help out a church, the team has already made up in their mind that a new console would solve all their problems. But after a look around it’s clear that their current console can do the job, they just haven’t learned how to use it. I am a firm believer that you shouldn't resort to buying new gear to fix a problem unless you have learned all there is to know about your current setup. There are SO many resources out there on the internet for you to learn everything about what you have. Between youtube, case studies, manufacturers website and yes even the manuals, there is no excuse to not become an expert on the gear you own. It's actually quite fun to hunt down as much information as you can!
3. When there is a weak link in your signal chain
Sometimes there is one piece of gear in your signal chain that could be limiting the quality of all the other gear in the chain. For example, lets say you have top notch microphones, high quality XLR cables, a brand new digital console running 96khz, all coming out of some age-old speakers that look like Noah hung them after he got off the ark…Something tells me that you’re not really going to hear the full quality of your mics and console and killer musicians. Let's say you’ve got a great full range speaker system, a killer band and brand new console but only sm58’s to mic your entire drum set…you see my point. Sometimes it is easy to spot the weakest link in your signal chain, if it's hindering your ability to fully utilize the rest of your system…it might be time to upgrade it.
4. If you spend most of your time finding gear hacks
We’ve all been there at some point, at the present time there is no budget so we just have to find ways to make things work. While this is a skill that many church sound guys need to possess…it is also a sign that an upgrade really is needed! I have not only been to many churches where this was the case, but I have been caught in this myself…we have so many complex work-arounds going to make a console do something or to get signal from point A to point B…it really is worth to just spend the money and get the right piece of gear for the job. If you are down to using the dry output on your analog FX unit as another direct output for your monitor system…it just might be time to upgrade (true story)!
I hope this finds you well and that it was helpful in distinguishing the things that really need upgrading, and the things that are going to have to stay in our daydreams for now. Happy mixing guys and gals and as always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to shoot us an email!