Help plz: VERY portable "location" overdub vox recording

Hi - Because my opportunities to record audio (vox) at home will soon be limited for quite some time, I was thinking maybe I could get together some equipment that would allow me to quickly and easily set up for vox recording away from home (random locations, like hotel rooms, conference rooms, etc.).

The key issues would be portability, quickness/ease of set up, and lack of “looking conspicuous”. Re: portability, ideally a backpack and a box for my Reflexion Filter would be what I’d like. Absolutely I’d like to avoid anything that would require a wheeled dolly, I’d even like to keep it compact enough that I wouldn’t need anything as big as a smaller luggage bag if possible. One trip from the car - two thumbs up! :smiley:
Here’s my home set up currently:

  1. Cubase 6 on a Clarion home built computer.
  2. Delta 66 card built into an M-Audio Omni I/O breakout box (multiple ins (XLR, quarter inch) and outs - no MIDI connectors).
  3. AT-4033a mic. Reflexion Filter (original larger one). Mic Stand. Pop filter. Duvet. Beyer DT 880 Pro cans.
  4. Not relevant for this discussion (I don’t think): Yamaha Motif connected via Audio and USB-MIDI to the M-Audio Delta 66 breakout box and the Clarion computer, respectively.
    Here’s what I’d like to do musically:
  5. After laying down the basic piano backing to the track at home (using Cubase 6), maybe with the lead vox as well or not (probably mixing it all down to a single audio track/file for these purposes?) …
    • Travel to “location”,
      … - Set up “in an instant”, and,
      … - Record (24 bit/44.1KHz resolution) vocal overdubs via headphones to the track I brought from home. “Overdub” might not be the right word … I don’t need to incorporate the new vox into the existing track/file, I would be very OK with their just being recorded as independent audio files that I could then bring back home and sync up with my Cubase project.

Needless to say, perhaps, I’d need something that would have the equivalent of “direct monitoring” so that there is not a lot of latency between when I sing and when I hear my voice in the cans.

What I know I need?

  1. I’d like to use my AT 4033a on “location”. I’ll need a box to carry the Reflexion Filter (I’ve still got the original).
  2. Collapsible mic stand. I use the “SOS modification” of how to mount the Reflexion Filter so that it is more balanced, but even so I guess I’d need a mic stand of some substance rather than the thinnest portable one available…?
  3. Duvet - not going to happen on location :frowning: - no way to “hang it” quickly and easily.

What I’m not sure about:

  1. Do I need a laptop at location to do this? And some DAW-type recording software (Cubase Elements, or something else)?

Or … are there some “interfaces” that will allow me to play the backing track to my headphones (perhaps the backing track would simply be an audio mixdown made at home in Cubase 6?), and allow me to record audio at 24 bit/44.1KHz resolution?

I could go on, but I think I’ve done that perhaps enough already, so - any advice would be greatly appreciated - anything at all, from brand of collapsible mic stand to “interface” to logistical issues I probably haven’t even considered yet!

Thanks in advance -

I think your best option would be to find some sort of field recorder that will let you playback and record simultaneously unless you want to bring a laptop with you.

You could also look for a used mbox mini which has a monitor nob right on it (i use one for broadcasting over the internet) or equivalent that has phantom power to drive the mic so you could use your laptop with it and have full editing capabilities.

Build a road case or convert an old briefcase to fit mostly everything in and you are good to go. :slight_smile:

Thank you for that, Tom!

I will look at portable recorders , I’ve actually started doing that already (SOS reviews are my starting point). I’m not sure if the microphone responses would be as nice as my 4033a. At this point in time I’m aiming to not sacrifice audio quality for portability … understanding that a rude awakening to the realities of portable recording may be in my near future.

I don’t have a music laptop currently, so I’m looking at other options first. If I do go that route, I’ll probably go all in (i.e., look at one that can support a full version of Cubase, won’t have problems re: interrupting audio recordings, etc.) - a daunting search process, from what I understand.

Thanks again, Tom!

Do you have a laptop that you can try to install cubase on?

Hi Tom -

I have a work laptop that I’m supposed to keep “clean”, but I think I can get away with doing that … I’ll check the specs. I’ve read however it’s as likely as not that any given laptop is as likely as not to have problems with reliable audio recording. Is that accurate, or perhaps more of a problem in the past, not so much anymore?

Thanks -

Zoom R8
Reviewed here:
$ 299 US

Seens like it might meet the minimal requirements of recording with simultaneous playback (IF, and that’s a big IF, the preamp and A/D converter quality are good. I’d like to not sacrifice quality for portability - not that my home set up is anything top shelf, but I’d use the preamps and converters in my Delta 66 Omni I/O as a reference for comparison). I’d use my own mic, rather than the “built in mic” of course.

However, it has much more than I need for this task (I don’t need a drum machine, or for it to act as a hardware interface for my PC DAW, I don’t need 500 MB of loops, I don’t need to generate a CD, etc.) …

… so I’d look for something with less bells and whistles, and potentially more attention paid during construction to the quality of the preamp and the converter. Does anyone know a product that might be like that?

Well, the thing you have going for you is you can try the laptop with cubase. Load a heavier project and see what it can handle. Your VSTis are going to be the thing that will most likely bring it down. It doesn’t hurt to try first to see what direction you’ll have to steer toward.

Using a Zoom device (which I have read good reports on) may wind up being the ticket. It is all in how the files are handled and stamped. For instance, if you are comping a take on the road… How will the zoom perform and how could you get the takes into cubase and maybe comp it there.

I go back and forth with what I suggest to you… If it was me, I would like the laptop so I wouldn’t have to move files from two different recording systems, but It may be easy to do so… but… it is a step in the process you will have to do. What I will tell you is I use a old 2008/7 13" macbook white for my remote recording. I do bootcamp it into windows XP because XP’s performance was much better than OSx as far as latency goes. The XP installation on the same hardware (macbook bootcamped) was better and I needed it for live mixing and recording. It is a small compact laptop. The same laptop is used for the broadcasting I do which involves the mbox mini but this is for dialing in producers to coach voice over talent fro the other side of the country. That is all I have used the mbox mini for.

If you have a budget to do this, that would be helpful for me and others. If you could afford an laptop and a mbox, it may be the ticket. This would set you back 400-500 most likely. If you look at the white macbooks, look for the “core 2 duo” cpu ones not the “core duo” and check the system requirements of OS version that cubase needs to operate and when you look at used laptops on ebay, check what running OSx version it has.

If you lean toward laptops, look for a usb audio interface for it and get an external firewire hard drive box.

I’m sure others will have suggestions too, but that is how I would proceed. Your budget will be a large determining factor in this I think.

Now that you mention using Bootcamp, I guess I don’t really have a laptop, in practice anyway - my IT department would not give me a pass if I installed it on my work computer and something bad happened down the road. Also, I’m :blush: embarrassed I didn’t think of this to start with, I don’t have an interface to try it out with (my sound card is PCI-mounted in my home computer).

Reading the review, I get the feeling there is no recording in “Cycle Mode” using a device like that. Adding in the uncertainty of the preamp/D-A converter quality, I’m not as sure this is going to turn out to be a great option.

Used 2008 macbook, used mbox mini, load up Cubase 6 … maybe that will turn out to be the way to go.

$400-500 US - to buy a laptop and Mbox interface - for a laptop-interface combination that has been shown to work with audio!! - I could (barely) swallow that price. Gotta make music, and if that is least expensive option that works well (key phrase!), I can and would swing it.

BTW - re: “which OSx version it has” … what are the things to look out for there?

Just to clarify - you mean if I’m looking at laptops, but different from the combo macbook/Mbox mini that you described?

Thank you for the detailed responses, Tom!

Mac os needed will be 10.6 or 10.7

Since my usage actually recording and mixing was bootcamped and using a Lynx aurora 16 via firewire, I can’t vouch for anything really. I can’t use cubase 6 since my laptop is running mac os 10.5. Cubase 5 was loaded, but no longer on the mac side of the system. I can’t see why it it wouldn’t though.

I mentioned other interfaces as an option over the mbox because there probably are a number of them that will work.

You may need to post this in the hardware forum to get other feedback. There are probably other laptop/interfaces being used that will fit the bill too.

Right, thanks again, Tom. Crazy how many options there are to get something done, and how careful one has to be to do it right!

Another option I hadn’t considered, a “mini pc”: ?

The Rain one as far as I can see doesn’t have a PCI slot (only PCIe), so I think I wouldn’t be able to use it because I have a Delta 66 PCI card. The ADK has one PCI slot among its connections. I don’t see either kind of slot on the musicxpc mini computer.

It’d be nice to have a working laptop solution if possible (to avoid having to lug a computer monitor and keyboard around, though on the other side of the ledger is having to drag an interface around for a laptop). But those minicomputers look pretty cool!

I wonder how “road-worthy” they are, in terms of bumps etc., compared to a laptop …?

I’ve done exactly this. Here was my equipment list:

A laptop with Cubase.
A Tascam US-144 USB 2.0 audio interface.
A 2U road case with my headphone amp and Envoice MK-II pre / EQ.
2 powered monitors with 3" drivers.
Boom stand.
Pop filter.

It worked fine. As noted the VSTis may bog your laptop down, so you may need to mix down to a stereo WAV file before leaving your house and using that for playback during vocal recording.

The key to this whole thing is the Tascam US-144. It has a stereo 1/4" plug for headphone monitoring. You run that into the headphone amp which then lets you and the vocalist monitor what’s happening.

Signal chain was: mic > Envoice > Tascam > Cubase > Tascam > Headphone out to amp / powered monitors

Thanks, foolomon!

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Lenovo Think Tank.

Do you somehow bypass the preamps of the US-144, since you’re using an MK-II pre/EQ?

Several options. The laptop suggestions are best if you can do so. You can probably get away with not using Cubase if it’s too heavy on resources. say reaper, or even better Sequel ? for compatibility.

The best location tool I’ve found so far is the Roland Octacapture, which is a usb soundcard with midi. 8 in (combo connectors) 8 out audio (8 jack) phantom power switchable for each channel.
About 5.5 inch by 10 inch. Also can be configured to work as a live monitor mixer.

You can record anythng from a single vox to a drumkit. Only downside I found is it comes with Cakewalk.

This and a suitable laptop is good field recording kit.

THanks for that suggestion, Conman. I will look at the reviews/etc. on the Octacapture!

I don’t bypass the pre on the US-144. I didn’t realize it had one to be honest. :laughing:

The EnVoice has a dedicated EQ section so I focus on that to get the sound I want.