With having applied to the master's program in Edinburgh I've started thinking about the gear I'm going to need to have with me. Even if I don't get in, I've been feeling a little over-encumbered with the amount of stuff that I have. Relative to most people/studios/setups it's probably not that much, but my setup is definitely starting to feel a bit cluttered. Plus, what I've got at the moment is simply too big to traipse around with.

The other thing is that I see this jaunt to Scotland as the beginning of a journey of sorts, one whose aim is definitely not to return to where I currently am. Anywhere but here. My (highly romantic) idea is to become something of a traveling troubadour soundguy.

I can leave stuff with my parents, but I'm considering selling everything I don't need or use all that often (guitar amps, keyboards, multi-channel interface, &tc). Partly for the cash, but also to re-jig my setup so it'll be a little more streamlined.

What would you guys recommend for a compact, extremely portable setup?

I've got a 2008 MacBook Pro and an MBox 2 Mini which is nice and small, but it's old and noisy, and only does 48k. I've also got an H1 and an H2, and I'm considering getting an an Apogee Duet2. I don't really need fancy speakers at this point since the university is fully equipped and I've got a nice set of headphones.

Basically, the idea is to be able to pack my entire setup into a backpack and be able to whip it out and be ready to go by the time the computer boots up.



If I had it to do all over again, here'd be my field recording and editing kit:

  • 15" laptop. Smaller isn't powerful enough, larger is too heavy if your intent is to be portable.
  • 2.5" hard drive for backup purposes. Maybe two (one for archiving and one for bootable backup, or perhaps two identical backups, one onsite and one offsite).
  • Handheld recorder, like a PCM-D50. Stealthy, light, can be used alone or with items below.
  • Small 2-channel preamp to feel the handheld recorder, like a MixPre2. If you can live with 96kHz, can double as an audio interface. (If not, a USBPre2.)
  • 2 pairs of headphones: Either one open one closed, or one Sony 7506 and another that's truer/flatter
  • 1 pair of active near-field monitors, small
  • 1 good hypercardioid mic, 1 good stereo mic, 1 contact mic. First two need shock and wind protection, and pistol grip (one can be shared between both mics)
  • 1 boom pole (somewhat optional)
  • 1 tabletop tripod, like a Gorillapod
  • 1 portable control surface, even if it's a couple of the Korg nano series units. Ideally, one with knobs, keys, and pads.
  • Box of connectors
  • Only the cables I needed to connect the above gear together

I needed one kit for both home and in the field, and I couldn't afford to build a kit for each, that'd be my approach. Just my own approach, though, your, and others', needs may vary!

  • Thanks! I've actually got a lot of that already. The nano-korgs are a great idea, though I wonder if they'll be durable enough for a lot of moving around.
    – g.a.harry
    Apr 23 '11 at 0:22
  • If you go for something like the Korg Nano series, I'd say go for the Akai equivalent: their build quality is much better, not as flimsical as the Korg controllers (that's my experience at least).
    – EMV
    Apr 23 '11 at 0:36
  • Totally fair assessments. I was going for lowest-cost there...yeah, the Akai units are probably a lot better. Novation Remote controllers are awesome, too, and get better every year. Apr 23 '11 at 1:24
  • @NoiseJockey, What would you recommend for a good stereo mic? I'm putting together a budget and that one's my main concern. All I've seen that look appropriate are the Rode NT4 and the Audio-Technica BP4029, which is M/S stereo.
    – g.a.harry
    Jun 9 '11 at 2:21
  • Since this thread is about the Bare Minimum, I'd suggest a coincident XY mic. It's one of those tools that isn't great for a lot, but it's adequate for almost everything, with zero fiddle factor. For a SECOND stereo mic, I'd go M/S no question. THIRD, I'd go ORTF, FOURTH... ;-) Jun 9 '11 at 4:26

SoundDevices USBPre2! Great soundcard for up to 96k AND can use it in the field with a USB battery pack :) Replace your Mbox with that.


  • There's also the new mixpre-D (which makes whish i had waited a couple of months. sigh..) Apr 22 '11 at 22:32
  • USBPre2 does 192kHz, the MixPre-D only 96kHz. @sepulchra and I were wondering what battery units would power the USBPre2 well...lots of options, but mostly from sketchy brands... Apr 22 '11 at 23:15
  • @NoiseJockey, The USB power pack thing makes me uneasy. I've had the middle peg break off a couple of different units, and they were just sitting on my desk.
    – g.a.harry
    Apr 23 '11 at 0:36

Well if you're considering getting a Duet then you may as well cough up for another half decent mic to go with it. I take it you're thinking of using the Mac as a primary recording device in that respect? (as opposed to the Zooms?) Plenty of low/mid range mics to choose from. Try and make the most of the uni's gear too! But then again, field recording with a laptop had it's own strengths/weaknesses.

Speaking as someone who did a Masters in sound design I'd reconsider buying some monitors of some kind. I know on my course it wasn't always easy to gain access to the studios to work. And as yet you don't know where you'll be staying in relation to uni so you might not be keen to spend all the late nights there if you can work from home ;)mixing on headphones is a bit of a ball ache really! May sound good to you but you'll be in for a shock when it's played back in a proper environment lol

Good luck with the application anyway!

  • It's a question of funds, really. I've got barely enough to get through the year, so economy is paramount.
    – g.a.harry
    Apr 22 '11 at 23:06

i'd go the new macbook air i7, macbook pros are redundant after using these trust me, 11" rather than 13". sound devices mix pre-D (the new one) or an apogee ONE maybe, Duet2 (I have it) is disappointing man. I should have kept my DUET, oh well.

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