Peavey Sanctuary Series S-24 Mixer
Mar 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By John McJunkin
Easy mixing for houses of worship.
How many times have you been in a public setting with an unmanned sound reinforcement system? I'm talking about church services, conventions, and other public engagements. Levels fluctuate wildly. Feedback runs rampant. Distortion abounds. It can be just as bad when there's an untrained individual in charge of the mix, despite his or her strong desire to make it sound good. Houses of worship are particularly notorious for a lack of competent help vis-à-vis audio engineering. There may be one or two brave souls in the congregation who will make a valiant effort to learn how to “run the board,” but for all their honest attempts, the sound could still be a lot better. When a group of musicians comes in from elsewhere to play for a service, they may bring in a competent engineer who can help make sure that the system is at least appropriately installed and calibrated. But when that engineer leaves, “the board” usually winds up back in its same sorry state within a few weeks. Audio for worship has been crying out for a solution that simplifies operation and improves sound quality. Enter Peavey's Sanctuary Series S-24 mixer. This is a cleverly designed console that can be used easily by non-professionals and experts alike. Let's check it out.
The first feature that simplifies operation is auto-mixing on the first four channels. Specifically, all four channels are monitored by circuitry that “intelligently” mixes them. Any channel not receiving signal is automatically attenuated, and channels receiving signal are given priority. This is particularly handy for situations where the primary speaker (typically the pastor) is using a wireless mic, whether handheld, head-worn, or lavalier. When the speaker is using the pulpit mic, the signal blends with the wireless, out of phase, creating comb filtering. The S-24 allows for priority assignment of either mic (usually prioritizing the wireless), which causes it to become dominant. The pulpit mic is attenuated, eliminating the comb filtering. The first two channels are intended for a wireless and a pulpit mic in exactly that configuration. The third and fourth channels are also intended for fixed mics in the pulpit area.
Beyond the initial four channels, there are 14 more monophonic channels (5 through 18) available for fixed choir mics, soloist mics, or musical instruments. Phantom power is available on all mic inputs. There are also three stereo channels (19/20, 21/22, and 23/24) intended to allow input from a CD player or video playback system. These have some very clever features that I'll cover shortly. All channels have mute switches and an LED that glows continuously when the channel is muted and otherwise indicates peak input. The four auto-mix channels also have LED indicators for signal presence, auto-mix priority status, and compressor activity. These four channels each have a compressor with a threshold control to reign in hot levels during particularly loud speech. I found this compression highly effective, ranging from subtle to brick-wall limiting.
There are several busses through which signal may be routed. The first two auto-mix channels are hard-wired to the pulpit buss (sending it directly to the main output buss), and the third and fourth channels can be routed to either the pulpit or the “solo” buss. The term “solo” in regard to this console refers to a buss, not to channel soloing, which takes some getting used to for old hands. Channels 5-18 can be routed to either the solo buss or to the choir/instrument buss. Both of these busses have noise-reducing downward expanders, soft-knee compression for gain control, and a single button to mute the entire buss. This is nice for muting musicians and choir members during a sermon.
Each of the first 18 channels has a gain knob, two monitor sends, and a send to the console's internal reverb processor, which has four different room sizes, a return level control, and a mute button (to mute reverb for speech). These first 18 channels also have an EQ section that appears to have three bands. This isn't exactly true. The high EQ is a shelving type, fixed at 10kHz with boost or cut of 15dB. The low EQ is also of the shelving variety, fixed at 70Hz with 15dB of boost or cut. The middle “band” is quite clever. Turning the knob left cuts frequencies centered around 225Hz, and turning it right boosts frequencies centered around 4kHz. The cut at 225Hz is intended to reduce muddiness (which it does quite effectively), while the boost at 4kHz is intended to add intelligibility. This in essence renders an easy-to-use middle EQ band that is simple and useful for multiple-mic applications, particularly worship services. An untrained operator can be instructed how to remove muddiness or boost intelligibility easily.
The three stereo inputs do not have effects sends, but rather a knob labeled “monitor blend.” A three-position switch on each channel allows the user to select right (mono), stereo, or left (mono) inputs. This is intended for use with Sound Trax commercially produced CDs in which music resides in the one channel and vocals on the other. This way, the music channel can be sent by itself to the mains while allowing a blend of music and vocal to be sent to the monitors. According to the user's manual, this is particularly handy for children's choirs. The children can have a vocal guide in their monitors (which has the effect of compelling them to sing up), and the mains have the music track and only the children's vocals. Very clever!
Peavey's proprietary Feedback Ferret circuitry is included to help suppress feedback automatically, and I found it quite effective. The solo buss also features a low-cut filter to reduce rumble and mic-handling noise. The choir group has no such filter, allowing full bandwidth. A special high-frequency enhancement circuit is also employed to improve the definition of vocals and lend a pleasant improvement to the overall mix. For applications where the sound reinforcement system is monaural, the outputs can be configured for dual-mono, allowing either channel to feed the amplifiers. The S-24 also has stereo outputs for recording or broadcast and a monaural auxiliary output that is intended for feeding lobbies, nurseries, and cry rooms. Both feature a switchable auto-level circuit to present reduced dynamic range for recording or distribution. A mutable ambient mic input allows inclusion of a congregation mic in the mix.
The S-24 was designed with a very specific goal in mind, and the design accomplishes the goal handily. This console is usable by professionals and non-professionals alike, and achieves quality sound with very little hands-on effort. It really doesn't even require an operator if only the first four mic inputs are being used. This set-and-forget mentality is quite nice if a competent audio professional is not always available. This mixer will be very welcome in houses of worship worldwide.
Company: Peavey Electronics; www.sanctuary-series.com
Product: Sanctuary Series S-24 mixer
Pros: Easy to use for non-professionals.
Cons: Some features may feel strange to professionals.
Applications: Houses of worship.
Price: $1,999.99 MSRP
Inputs Mic: 150Ω balanced XLR Line: 10kΩ balanced 1/4in.
Outputs Main, Aux: 600W balanced XLR and 1/4in.
EFX: 600Ω unbalanced 1/4in.
Record: 600Ω unbalanced RCA
Headphone: 8Ω unbalanced 1/4in.
Signal-to-Noise Ratio Master L/R: 104dB (all faders down); 89dB (master fader nominal, all channels muted); 84dBu (all controls nominal, mic gain min.)
Frequency Response Mic input to L/R output: 20Hz to 20kHz (+0dB/-1dB)
THD <0.05%, 20Hz to 20kHz mic to L/R output
EIN -129dBu (input terminated with 150Ω, max. gain)
Crosstalk >80dB adjacent input channels; >70dB left to right outputs
CMRR (mic input) 60dB min. (20Hz to 20kHz); 70dB typical at 1kHz
John McJunkinis the principal of Avalon Studio Services in Phoenix and consults for both studios and live sound applications.