Always prepared! I found the following items keep me prepared, safe, and less stressed. Being able to pack these items easily in some mic bags and thrown in a backpack allows you to travel super light yet prepared! This list is always growing — I’ll add more goodies as often as I can! I’ve linked to Amazon to make it easier for you to grab something you don’t already have. Outfit your sound engineer backpack to make sure you have all the audio punts for your next adventure!
A proper case!
The Pelican 1510. Small yet roomy enough for all of these goodies. Plus it has wheels and perfect for that extra step needed to get on that drum riser. Opt for the lid organizer to keep your kit tight!
Mark your Stuff!
First off, I can’t tell you how many items I’ve lost along the way. Give yourself a better chance — try a silver Sharpie, P-Touch labeler or Dremel.
TIP: My latest find thanks to fellow engineer, Rob Durkee, is the handy battery powered, bluetooth connected, print from your phone Epson LW-600P
I always have a handful of good ole’ 3M “foamies” for myself and friends. I use and highly recommend the higher fidelity solution of a set of custom Sensaphonics ER Musicians Earplugs which are molded to your own ear resulting in much better isolation than “foamies”. In addition, the amount of attenuation can be easily changed by just replacing the small filters — I prefer the 15db.
Tip: I just became a dealer for Sensaphonics — ordering through me could save you some cash. Just send me an email!
Simply essential. I’ve gone through many and have settled on the venerable, yet a bit bright, Sony MDR7506 which seem to hold up when crushed when someone sits on them (which unfortunately was the demise of two sets of my old favorite, Shure SH840’s) . Dave Rat carried out an exhaustive and quite entertaining review of many headphones — a great read!
Tip: In 2006 I came up with a simple solution to not loose that adapter — you know the one.. (I’ll post a link soon for you to make your own!)
The Jodi-Vac In Ear Monitor Vacuum
Primarily used to keep hearing aids clean, friends at JH Audio and many others recommended the JodiVac in-ear monitor vacuum to suck out that peskly ear wax from your in ear monitors! I use consumer model which seems to work just fine yet the pro model is also a great choice. Just be sure to keep the tip clear and verify suction.
IEM Listening Tube!
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to listen and test each IEM driver? I simply play pink noise into the IEM in question, then “probe” each hole to listen for proper function. This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with their ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to compensate not knowing the failure. Buy your simple & affordable listening tube!
Microphone with on/off switch
A microphone with a switch keeps you safe from “leaving the mic on” and not needing to pull down the fader or engage the mute. Switched mics are made by many manufacturers although I stick with a switched Sennheiser 835 or Shure SM58.
Yes, keep em’ sharp and always assume once you loan them to another human, the Sharpie will magically disappear. Save money and buy your Sharpies in the 12-count boxes. Using the “twin tip” is pretty helpful, too.
Tip: Writing on gaff tape dulls the tip of your Sharpie faster!
Mechanical pencil & Ink pens
Being able to erase a note or make a change on a stage plot or input list keeps the document looking tidy. I’m a big fan of the auto-advancing lead feature of the Uni-ball KuroToga mechanical pencil. An ink pen is also quite useful.
Yes, the ultimate tool and punt for our entertainment world. Endless uses including a safe way to carry a knife. (photo). “Gaff” tape, or Gaffers tape (reference to lighting grip uses) secures well without leaving residue (if used temporally and not sitting in the sun on on a mic cable for years…).Tons of color choices yet I stick with 2” black and white as well as 1/2” yellow/pink “spike”. Keep in mind the width can modified to any width you like on the roll.
Tip: A handy solution for getting off your knees while keeping cables, and people, safe on carpet is the GaffTech Tape Applicator .
Electrical tape —stick with the good stuff like 3M/Scotch #35. Grab the rainbow pack for endless labeling fun!
Yes, still a useful item in our digital world. 1/2” artist tape like Pro Art White Artist Tape seems to be perfect to mark mixing consoles, wireless sticks and packs, and other goodies.
Tip: Masking tape, painters tape and gaff seem to be inferior choices for the job.
Remember a cable is just a “pipe”. The gender of the “ends” can be adapted easily using this wonderful problem solver when working with XLR cabling. I always carry at least a few pairs of each gender.
Tip: Don’t forget to label these! Also, you can always make your own turnarounds.
I’ve referenced this handy device many times and I never leave home without a few. Great for splitting FOH and MON channels, adding a safe backup when using vocal FX pedals, and more! For best flexibility, make them yourself. If you’d rather buy them, I’d recommend these.
“Pin-1 Lift” and ISO
A “pin-1 lift” can get you out of trouble when faced with a buzz or hum. I make my own using a short mic cable and not connecting pin-1. A better solution is a proper in-line insolation transformer like a Whirlwind ISOXL.
Tip: I’ll also use the handy Whirlwind “IMP Splitter” which has a proper inline transformer output plus a split!
Essential. DIY or buy one of these.
“iPod/phone cables” with adapters
It’s inevitable that tunes will need to be played and pink noise generated. Having a handful of these simple cables fills the need. I tend to have 1/8” to XLR and 1/8” to RCA with a few RCA to 1/4” adapters. As usual, making them yourself is much more fun. If you’d rather buy, I’d recommend this (XLR) or this (1/4″). Whirlwind makes a nice in-line stereo-to-mono 1/8″ to XLR (keep in mind, MONO output).
Short-ish xlr cable
Because short ones can be hard to find when you only need 4 feet! Just make one. I’d recommend a bright color (like orange!)
Screwdriver — many-in-1
Having many sizes on one-tool fulfills our need to keep it light! The Klein 10-in-1 will last you forever — just engrave your name somewhere! For those of you that fly with your tools in your carry on, TSA limits the max length of any tool to 7 inches. (I’m sure there is a joke here…)
Pliers and the like.
A bit hard to find but a 7” pair of RoboGrip Adjustable Pliers is a great choice. Keep in mind the 7-inch TSA rule.
Local Cincinnati guru, Rob Junk, invented a great tool.
3-Way Power “T-Tap”
Grounded, rugged, UL rated, 15a capacity and solves the problem quickly of needing just a few more edison outlets.
Radina’s Speaker Dispersion Visualizer™
In 2005, I came up with this solution to help me visualize how higher frequency sound is dispersing from a speaker cabinet. Setting the unit to the speakers rated dispersion (60×90 degrees, 45×90, etc..), I can see the general coverage as well as limit reflections. Send me a email and I’ll reply with how to make your own!
A great tool to confirm audio of many flavors plus the ability to send 1K tone, yet my Whirlwind Q-Box broke a few years ago after a short fall onto a coliseum floor.
Tip: I’m working on an improved design! If interested, send me an email!
Flashlight (not your phone)
By the time it takes me to pull out my phone and find the torch/flashlight button, I can see what I need much quicker with one of these good ‘ole pushbutton flashlight.
I tend to stick with mechanic gloves which seem to fit well and last a while. I manage to lose the left-glove on a regular basis. I’m sure there are many, many right-hand gloves, once worn by me, scattered all over America. Tip: Mark your stuff!
- “Helping Hands” — Great for soldering. I use this helping hand.
Aspirin -Headaches happen
Hat & sunscreen– That fireball in the sky is lovely but…
Bug spray – Yes, essential.
- Ethercon Barrel
- Speakon Coupler
- Extra RF Whip antennas
Editors Note: This post was originally published in 2018 and I try to update as often as possible for accuracy and helpfulness.
New live sound classes!
By popular demand, I’m developing a series of smaller hands-on classes covering one specific topic such as:
- Monitor mixing
- FOH mixing
- Live Sound for Musicians
- Digital and analog console training.
If helpful to you, send me a note and I’ll keep you in the loop on when registration will be open!