Hey Guys,

So I am starting to do more live sound gigs, traveling the world-over.

I am going to be leaving my MacBook Pro at home from now on because I have seen a lot of them get bashed up on the road and I want something both easier to fit in a backpack and more road-worthy like an iPad or tablet perhaps.

But, I want to think this through thoroughly.

Of those of you who go to audio gigs (on the set or live gigs in venues), what type of electronic device do you bring along? A laptop? A tablet? And which one?

From your experience, which tablet has the most usefulness to an audio engineer on the set or in a venue for live sound? (for example, the most variety and usefulness of audio apps such as a SMART tool or some other type of frequency analyzer, etc.)

Thanks in advance!

  • @Utopia How'd you end up getting into the live sound gig? I'm thinking about doing it on the side but I don't have that much experience with live sound. Jun 4, 2011 at 5:33
  • @g.a.harry You're right. I should have worded it like this: "An ADR client of mine put in a good word for me and recommended me for a recent position vacancy for a gig doing live sound and I got a call a week later to apply for the job and I got it".
    – Utopia
    Jun 5, 2011 at 0:14
  • Ah, I was wondering how you got from ADR to awards shows. Well done + high fives!
    – g.a.harry
    Jun 5, 2011 at 7:07
  • @Utopia That's awesome man. Congrats on the new gig! Jun 5, 2011 at 20:03

5 Answers 5


I use an older Toshiba Portege' Tablet PC running win xp tablet. On it I run EAW SMAARt with a small m audio usb pre and audix tr40 as my test mic. I mainly stick with the tablet because one of the main consoles I use is the Avid Venue series which when hooked up to a router will allow control of the console via laptop and free software offered by avid. That combined with wireless control of my amps and processing, I have full control of the entire rig wirelessly. The tablet I use is larger than some out there, but for a couple hundred on ebay, it lets me control the entire rig and consoles, check email, browse the web etc. And if someone walks with it, its no large financial loss.

I very rarely do live recordings, but that tablet has been able to track 15 channels to nuendo with a pro fire 2626 on set without a problem, my ghetto cart setup haha. Generally if the band wants to record, we get a separate record rig and a 3 way splitter.

A friend of mine uses his macbook for Edwin Mccain. Running Max/MSP I believe where he has many different verbs and effects configured and then uses an IPAD via bluetooth to control it/tap tempos/mutes etc... That way he can put the IPAD on the console and keep the macbook out of sight and away from the dangers of drunk people. He keeps his ipad with him when he leaves the console. It seems to work pretty well for him.

As far as different apps, I use programs offered by manufactures of the gear I use, Then I use smaart for time alignment of the rig and then once the show is going the I put the display to rta and coherence graphs. I also have an fft program on my iphone called FFT by studio Six, also on the phone is an inclinometer and spl meter.

I know waves makes a live rack to put in waves plugins, but I have never used it.

Ill get you a specific model of the tablet once I get back to where it is.

  • @Michael I'm pretty sure your Toshiba Tablet is likely a bit more powerful and versatile than an iPad as well. That sort of goes without saying though. Jun 5, 2011 at 0:04
  • @Syndicate Yes the tablet is a bit more versatile, but also larger. I only have what I need for my live gigs on that computer, I have a separate Laptop to use for doing everything else. Jun 6, 2011 at 19:49

I'm often away on location, and the best thing I have ever bought (appart from my cherished sound gear) is an iPad. I used to have to lug around my computer and charger, which was a lot of added weight and worry.

Work is only a part of your life on the road, entertainment is important as well. Between airports, people, hotel rooms, weather, etc. there's a lot of waiting. The iPad really has everything you could want from that perspective. You can catch up on emails, invoice/quote, read, watch movies, play games, compose something in Garage Band, doodle with synths, listen to audiobooks, answer some questions on SSD ;-)

If you are needing some analysis tools, then there are definitely great stuff on iOS, such as the Faber Acoustical iOS apps. They are more than accurate for most needs.

If you need to plug into a bigger system, there's always apps like TouchOSC, which let you control software via OSC from your iPad.

P.S: I don't work for Apple, but if you know they are looking for someone point them my way :-)

  • Andrew, you rock. If I see anyone from Apple I'll show him your apps!
    – Utopia
    Jun 4, 2011 at 20:08
  • @Andrew - I've actually been seeing Apple post job ads for Sound Designers lately. If I come across the link again I'll send it your way. Jun 5, 2011 at 0:06
  • @Syndicate Please do! Jun 5, 2011 at 8:34

What kind of productions are you taking on? If you're doing multi-media heavy stuff and looking to control it as the show goes on you're definitely going to need something more processing capable than an iPad. The Max/MSP stuff is probably the best and most versatile bet. The major drawback is just the learning curve, which can be quite steep if you've got a limited amount of time to design a system and learn what the heck you're doing. I've never done anything that big, but I know from even trying to build little modules that it takes a while to get the finesse stuff down pat.

For analysis stuff I use AudioTools on my iPhone. I've only got the light version, but some of the add-ons are really sweet. All things considered they're not too expensive either. The fancy stuff is way more than I need at the moment since I don't do live sound any more, but if you're getting heavy into it I'd say it'd definitely be worth it.

However, I wouldn't stake my life on its accuracy (particularly 100Hz and down, which iPhones and iPads don't do well at all), but if you're planning to use it to just get a better idea of what's going on in the room re: RT60, FFT, and dBSPL, you're dancin'.

p.s. Carrying a tablet/iPad around a bar seems a little sketch to me. But, I could see it being fantastic if you're doing stadiums or even larger/safer rooms.

  • @g.a.harry yeah I rarely break out my tablet and smaart in a club, just not worth it. Arenas and Large rigs its essential to properly time align the rig when you have multiple delay towers, flown and ground stacked subs, etc. Jun 4, 2011 at 7:36
  • Thanks g.a.harry. It's mostly in large venue-type scenarios. I rarely do sound for bars and clubs. Mostly huge award shows and things like that.
    – Utopia
    Jun 4, 2011 at 20:09
  • Oh and by the way, at a show at the Nokia Theater my friend had his MacBook stolen right off his rig when he left to the BR for 2 minutes and it most likely was by someone from the union (no offense) who was working with him - so be cautious when working in bigger and better places than a bar - still dangerous to leave your stuff around.
    – Utopia
    Jun 4, 2011 at 20:34
  • @Utopia, Ah, i see. Big stuff. really big stuff. I feel like you've told me that before. -- Yeah, people are people everywhere you go. I've heard some sketchy things like that before, but I've never really done much work with union guys so I can't really say anything.
    – g.a.harry
    Jun 4, 2011 at 23:13
  • For the most part they are very very nice and I have a lot of good friends from different venues I frequent. But, in a large group there are going to be a few bad apples - let me assure you.
    – Utopia
    Jun 4, 2011 at 23:16

I'm still not completely clear - you're mixing live shows, or recording them?

For mixing, I'd recommend a good quality laptop, not a tablet. Mac Books are down to $1000 I think. I don't think you'll ever lament having too much processing power. I believe you can protect it on the road just fine. Get a Pelican case if you are concerned, but I think you'll be fine. Make sure you have a security cable so you can latch it down if you're in a venue.

I would also get a good measurement mic, if you don't already have one, for your acoustic analysis program. I love the Behringer ECM8000 - low cost, great quality. Only thing they make that's worth anything. You should also grab a Lectrosonics TM400 wireless system. It's non-companding wireless mic and will keep you from having to run cables all over the place while you're tuning/measuring the room.

Sounds like a cool gig...good luck!!


I am fan of spectrafoo by metric halo it does just about everything you need. I run my copy on a beat up 5 year old macbook that no one takes a second look at.


Opting for an old macbook means that I can use a Kensington lock to stop people 'borrowing' it.

Personally, I'd keep the Macbook Pro, buy a better protective case and a Kensington lock.

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