My recording gear

Posted on 04 May 2016 in Hamburg, Germany

When preparing for this long-term recording project I sat down with my band and our producer to talk recording equipment. To capture my guitar and my voice on the road and to compile songs and ideas I needed a setup that would be convenient to carry for a backpacker while sounding good enough to be used for an actual release with my band Thank You George.

MacBook Air:

As I intensively use Ableton Live for electronic sound effects and loops as well as Guitar Rig for guitar processing I wanted to bring a laptop on my trip. This would certainly be less convenient than a tablet due to its size and weight. Nevertheless a laptop was the only choice considering the fact that I had my fully functioning setup installed on my MacBook and I didn't (and still don't) own a tablet. I quickly ruled out the possibility of buying an iPad and decided to invest the project's (non existing) budget on a high-quality recording interface (see below). As a compromise I traded in my 13-inch MacBook Pro with 8 GB Ram and a 2,6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor for my friend Anne's smaller and lighter 11-inch MacBook Air with 4GB Ram and a 1,7 GHz Intel Core i5 processor.

Yes, it does lack performance when working with a large amount of plugins and when editing videos. But I am sure that switching laptops will pay off when I am carrying a lighter backpack on my narrow shoulders. Plus Anne's laptop is a few years older and significantly cheaper than mine. This will make it easier to deal with the item being lost, stolen or damaged during my travels.

Update (23 May 2016): Switching laptops paid off big time! The machine's lower performance is hardly an issue while my back is thoroughly thanking me for saving a few grams and bringing my backpack below 14 kilos.

Apogee One:

Back in Hamburg I used a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40, a rack-unit-sized interface with 20 in- and 20 outputs, to do recordings and to go on stage with Thank You George. Bringing this massive device on the trip was obviously not an option. So I needed a new recording interface that was much lighter and smaller. If you find yourself in a similar situation you needn't worry. There are a whole bunch of interfaces out there that provide the quality and flexibility you need. When I was looking at the different options I was mostly concerned about the price, the size and the weight of the items while our producer Toby pushed for a high-quality interface. I finally decided to go for the 2nd generation of the Apogee One for iPad and Mac. The integrated microphone eliminated the need for carrying an additional microphone for vocal recordings and the overall audio quality was said to be excellent. For more details on the device, please turn to the Apogee website.

Update (15 May 2016): I have completed the first recording sessions using the device's microphone to capture guitar and vocals. The quality of the Apogee One is indeed excellent. First of all, it's insanely easy to use. Just one knob and a few flickering lights and you're good to go. When listening to your first recordings you will find that the untrained ear will probably not hear the difference between a high end studio microphone and the Apogee One's built-in microphone. On the downside the sensitivity of the microphone leads to capturing an amount of ambient noise which, under normal circumstances, would call for moving any recording sessions into a properly isolated studio room. So far finding appropriate facilities while traveling has turned out to be close to impossible. While this is not an issue for capturing ideas and making song layouts, it might make it difficult to use the recordings in an actual production. If nothing else works I might have to re-record my vocal- and guitar tracks once I find a decent recording environment. Hopefully this won't have to wait until I am back in Germany…

Update (23 May 2016): During the ten days I have spent in Iran I have come across multiple situations in which I could have recorded local singers and musicians. In these moments time was of the essence and setting up my Apogee One with my Laptop would have taken too long (apart from the fact that carrying the laptop with me at all times would have been both, a major inconvenience as well as a security issue). Unfortunately the Apogee One does not have a build-in hard drive or a slot for SD cards which makes the device pretty much useless in these situations. Sometimes I feel that I should have gotten a different interface. Small enough to have it on me at all times and equipped with an onboard or exchangeable hard drive to press record and be ready to go. However, the Apogee One is doing a more than solid job when recording in a more or less controllable environment. Therefore I am happy to stick with it for now and use my Olympus OMD-E-M10 digital camera to spontaneously capture sounds and music along with HD videos.


Please find below an example of what the setup described above sounds like. Quite literally this sets the tone for the recording project "The World Is Mine".