by Jason McCoy 

Updated May 2020

Last month I took a week-long vacation to the mountains.

It was GREAT family time.

We did some hiking…sat around a campfire…and even made s’mores.

The entire trip was really relaxing (except for the day when I received this text):

Unable to Deliver?

That was a problem!!

Before I left for the trip, I had promised a client that I would deliver one really important voice over job while I was away on vacation.

To be honest, I haven’t worked on vacation or from the road since kids came along.

Years ago when I’d work on vacation I would pack up all my studio gear in a suitcase and bring it with me.

But I never liked the idea of traveling with my Neumann microphone and other equipment.

It was a pain.

I didn’t like taking my studio gear apart.

I didn’t like the risk of damaging the equipment.

And the worst part was having to put it all back together when I got back home.

So I wasn’t going to do it this time.

This time my plan was to have all new recording gear delivered to the vacation home we rented.

It was a good plan! Until that “unable to deliver” text came in.

So today I’ll go over:

1) Why that plan didn’t work out as expected (luckily it was easy to fix)…

2) Each piece of voice over gear I used in my travel setup (and why)…

3) An audio sample using the travel gear setup and….

4) voice over vacation checklist to help you prepare for taking time off yourself.

I was a little late buying the travel gear so I ordered everything on Amazon and had it shipped next day to the rental house where we were staying.

So when I got the “Unable to Deliver” text, I had to figure that out immediately.

It turns out UPS turned the package over to USPS, and vacation rental homes don’t receive mail delivery.

Luckily, I saw the text and called the local post office. They had the package so I was able to stop by and pick it up.

After I got the gear, I set it up and was able to record the voice over job I promised even though I was on vacation.

Here’s how it looked when I first set it up:

Simple, right?

When I was picking out the travel gear, I kept two important goals in mind:

1) Most importantly, I wanted the setup to have a clean studio quality sound.

2) I wanted each item to take up as little space as possible. For this setup, I was going for small and basic.

Here are the six main components of my voice over travel setup (and why I chose them):

Microphone $170

For the microphone I picked the Audio Technica AT875R ($169 on Amazon).

I’ve never owned a shotgun microphone before, but I chose it because of the size, the great reviews and the low price. At $169, if something did accidentally happen to it, I wouldn’t be as heartbroken as if it happened to my Neumann TLM 103.

The AT875R mic comes with a windscreen. Since I’m not planning to record in any windy locations anytime soon I ditched the windscreen for a pop filter.

Pop Filter $55

I’m a big fan of the Stedman Proscreen XL (costs about $55 on Amazon) pop filter. It’s the same pop filter I use in my home recording studio.

The screen is made of a metal like material instead of fabric, so I don’t have to worry about ripping a fabric mesh when it’s put in a suitcase. Plus the screen is really easy to clean.

A smaller option would be the Nady Spider Shockmount.

Mic Stand $8

For a mic stand, I went with an adjustable desktop tripod microphone stand.

It’s really small and it folds up. It fits perfectly on a desk. It’s lightweight. It doesn’t take up much space… all of which make it perfect for traveling.

Audio Interface/Signal Adapter $99

In my studio, I recently downgraded my mixer to the Behringer 1204 Mixer. I went with this mixer because my older Mackie just took up too much space. The Behringer is smaller and it actually has a USB out, which would have been perfect for this travel setup.

I considered just taking the mixer or buying a new one, but even though it has a smaller footprint, it’s still larger than what I wanted to travel with.

So instead, I went with an X2U XLR-to-USB Signal Adapter by Shure (goes for $99 on Amazon). This adapter also has a headphone jack and offers phantom power. Both of which I needed.

My decision was based mostly on the small size of the X2U but also because I’m a Windows user.

I did consider the Apogee Mic, which runs for about $200. But it only works on Mac as far as I could see.

I like the size and simplicity of the Apogee Mic, and the reviews for it are excellent. It’s basically the mic, mic stand and the signal adapter all in one.

If I used Mac, I may have gone with the Apogee Mic.

Using the X2U, my mic’s XLR cable was converted to a USB which I could then plug into my laptop.

Laptop

Now I needed a computer in order to record the voice over.

I used a laptop I already had to do the job. Though, it could really be anything, as long as it has the inputs you need for the mic and some recording software.

I considered using a tablet (in order to save some space and decrease fan noise) but I prefer using a mouse to edit.

One issue with using a laptop is that the fan is louder than I’d like it to be.

To get around this I created some distance between the mic and the laptop with a 10′ XLR cable.

Recording Software

I used Adobe Audition on my laptop (same software I use in my home recording studio). Each license comes with 2 users so I use one in my home recording studio and the other on the laptop.

I also copied over all of my presets and functions from my home setup to the laptop so it’s identical to what I’m used to.

Those are the six main components of my voice over travel setup.

I could get by recording voice over with just those items but I like to be prepared for any work space I encounter.

So my travel setup has a few extra accessories on hand (just in case I need them):

Power Extension Cord $9

It’s hard enough finding a quiet place to record, you don’t want to be limited to the nearest power outlet.

I’ve stayed in a few places in the past where I cannot find an outlet or it’s across the room from where I want to record.

So, I picked up a 10-foot power extension cord for about $9. Just in case I run into that issue.

Surge Protector $14

The great thing about this setup is that it only needs 1 power source which is for powering the laptop. Even so, it’s a good idea to protect the equipment with a surge protector so I went with a mini travel charge surge protector.

You could go with a regular larger surge protector that comes with the cord attached to it. But the mini surge protector saves a lot of space.

XLR Cable $8

I also bought a 10-foot XLR cable.

It wasn’t absolutely necessary, because you can plug the Shure X2U XLR-to-USB directly into the microphone. The weight of the X2U seems to put too much stress on the mic input though.

Also, in cases when I want extra distance between the mic and the computer, I can easily move further away with this XLR cable.

Wireless Mouse $12

Working with a touch pad on a laptop really slows down my process (especially audio editing). So instead I use a wireless mouse.

I ordered this wireless mouse for about $12.

Recording Space

Without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of recording while traveling is that you don’t know what kind of space you’re going to be recording in.

You could be in a big room or a small room. You could be competing against loud noise from heating and air units, neighbors, airport noise, etc.… it’s really difficult to plan ahead for that.

One great benefit of this travel gear setup is that you can record anywhere. Since everything is powered through the laptop, as long as the laptop battery has a charge you don’t need to be plugged in.

So, you can use it to even record in your car!

I briefly tried recording in the car but thought it sounded too boxy.

So here’s what I ended up doing…

I stacked up pillows in front of me, and placed a large blanket/comforter over the top of my head and microphone.

That really gave it a good studio sound.

It isn’t the most comfortable way to work (and it started to get warm), but it works well.

I’ve seen other things, like the Kaotica Eyeball and SE Reflexion Filter.

However, based on reviews like this, I haven’t been as impressed with those as I have with just blankets and pillows.

The Audio Sample

That’s all the equipment I used to record voice over on the road.

It all comes down to the sound of course. Here’s a quick sample so you can compare what it sounds like using my travel gear setup, and what it sounds like in my normal recording studio:

Click here to listen to the audio sample.

The first two takes in that sample are using the travel setup and the last two takes are using my normal studio.

This setup is small and simple, but it still provided a clean, studio-quality sound for around $350.

It’s everything you need to record while traveling and it could even make for a decent home studio setup if you’re working with a limited budget or you could use it as an emergency backup if something fails in your main studio.

It’s always good to get time off from any kind of job. Even a job you love (like voice over).

This travel gear is nice to have if a voice over emergency comes up or there’s some small project that you know a client needs while you’re away.

But I don’t plan to work non-stop on vacation.

I believe a vacation should be spent relaxing and doing things you can’t do at home. This way, you’ll come back refreshed and inspired with new ideas to help your voice over business grow!

Of course, there are many other ways that you can set up your gear to record voice over while you’re traveling.

What gear do you use in your voice over travel setup?

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  • Hi, Jason, great article. One question regarding the Belkin 3-Outlet SurgePlus Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB Ports (2.1 AMP / 10 Watt), BST300. Why does it have to be 2.1 instead of 1? I use a 2015 MacBook.

    • Jason McCoy says:

      Hi Vee, You can use any mini surge protector that works with your setup.

  • Great info, thanks.
    For my 10 days at the beach…I stumbled myself into a travel set-up that works great.
    Apogee Mic 96, mic stand….and my macbook pro. Oh, and the headphones.
    I hung a blanket behind me in the laundry room, and recorded facing the stacks of folded towels!
    I can send a pic 🙂
    Brad

    • Hey Brad, I’ve heard great things about the Apogee. I’d love to see the pic and hear a sample.

  • Story time: I read this right before going to a conference for my day job. My agent e-mailed me about a last minute audition. I ended up using pillows and a blanket to forge a makeshift booth in my hotel room. I don’t know if I got the gig; but the audio came out quite nice

  • I hope you enjoyed your vacation as much as I did the article. One question to make sure, you used the at shotgun to record on your vacation. the sound was great on the mp3. Does that mic have a lot of self noise? I use an at2020 XLM and it has some self noise.
    Thanks for the article.
    Hubert

    • Thanks Hubert. It’s great to get away!

      I would consider the AT875R to have low self noise. Here’s a sample of silence at a normal recording volume (from :00 to :06) and I’ve amplified the recording 20db (from :07 to :14).

      Hopefully that helps.

  • My portable rig includes a Shure PG27USB mic – it’s got a built-in attenuation pad for bits where I have to scream for louder characters, and also a built-in USB monitor soundcard so you can hear high-grade audio back from the laptop. Which is nice because I run a little Core i5 Acer laptop/tablet hybrid with Linux and record under Reaper or Audacity when on the road.

    The trick is getting somewhere where there’s no room reverb – not having a booth can affect the sound quality more than a different mic will. (In a hotel room, you can strip the bed and line the closet or the luggage cubby to good effect, and when visiting relatives, just stuff yourself into a coat closet and drape a quilt behind you, and over the door)

    Bear in mind: it’s WORTH it to take your stuff when you travel. I learned that lesson the hard way. I was in Ireland for 10 days and we were on the move a LOT.

    I imagined that I’d gotten tired of hauling my audio stuff around (it really wasn’t that big a deal) so when we shipped to stuff back along with the souvenirs to lighten our load, I sent my mic and gear along with. THAT VERY NIGHT I got a rush request for a pretty good paying gig and I had to turn it down. Would have taken less than 45 minutes from recording to cleaning to sending. T_T

    P.S. If you’re setting up a higher end portable rig, I’d suggest a Scarlett (Focusrite) 2i2 or 2i4, and for XLR mics, Oktava makes the MK-105 which stacks up pretty favorably against MUCH cashier mics like the Neumann U-87 (Sure you can tell the difference in a side-by-side comparison, but once the sound engineer’s done, your radio/tv ad or video game character is gonna sound GREAT.) It’s not a commonly seen mic, but it’s worth checking out.

    • Sounds like you’ve got a nice and simple setup Duffy.

      I’ve also had that happen – where I really wished I could do a job for a client but just don’t have my gear with me. Oktava MK-105 looks nice I’ll have to check that out.

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