Recording to Go Portable Studio Gear

“Mobile recording,” like so many other aspects of recording, has a chameleonic definition that isn’t the same as it was many years ago.

Yes, you can take it with you—and with today’s gear, you’ll want to

“Mobile recording,” like so many other aspects of recording, has a chameleonic definition that isn’t the same as it was many years ago. Back in the day, mobile recording meant taking an expensive Nagra reel-to-reel out into the field, or having a mobile truck you’d wheel up to the arena where the Stones were performing.

But since the advent of the laptop, anything goes. Mobile recording can mean a setup you literally take on the road to do work, a portable setup that goes along on vacations, or in many cases, gear that spends most of its life on your desktop but from time to time, goes out for a night on the town.

Need to go to a rehearsal and record your band? Mobile recording. Sitting in a hotel room with your laptop, and you get a great idea for a song? Mobile recording. And about the school play your neighbor wants you to record because “hey, you’re into recording, aren’t you?” Mobile recording. We’re also talking about grabbing samples, getting inspiration from faraway locales, or something as simple as having a little setup in your bedroom to complement your “real” studio. In fact the mobile boom also means lower costs for anyone who wants an efficient, space-saving home setup, so this roundup truly addresses everyone.

We kick off with three audio interfaces that deliver pro performance at project prices, and it’s no coincidence we chose ones with overachieving mic preamps—crucial elements of any studio. And of course you’ll need to monitor what you’re recording, and here we have a couple twists as well: modeling technology that emulates the “speaker experience” with headphones, and earbuds that are more like in-ear reference monitors.

You probably won’t sling an 88-key weighted keyboard over your shoulder (last time we checked our subscriber list, the Incredible Hulk wasn’t on it), but as you’ll find out, that doesn’t mean you have to forego controllers as long as you have a laptop bag with a spare compartment. And to top things off, we look at a compact keyboard that only a few years ago would have been a complete MIDI studio—and cost you ten times as much.

Sure, these aren’t the best of economic times, but companies have risen to the challenge with gear that does more, costs less, and is more convenient than ever.

So, welcome to “recording to go.” You want fries with that?

Mackie Onyx Blackjack
PreSonus FireStudio Mobile
Focusrite Saffire Pro
Akai Professional
Korg microSTATION
Monster Copper Turbine