As regular readers may have gathered, I'm not very good at relaxing holidays, so I always take a basic laptop-based studio setup with me. I've pared this down to a 13‑inch MacBook Pro with an SSD drive, a couple of memory sticks, small headphones and a compact, two-channel audio interface. For live sound gathering I have a Panasonic flash recorder that outperforms the Revox A77 that I started out with in just about every way possible, yet it is about the same size as a two-finger Kit Kat [‘chocolate wafer confectionary bar’ for our overseas readers]. Jam Origin's MIDI Guitar software lets me write MIDI synth parts using a guitar rather than a keyboard, and the single microphone I need for odd occasions doesn't take up much space. Of course this might still seem somewhat old-school to our younger readers, as there are now some pretty serious recording systems that run on tablets or even phones, so why don't I use one of those instead to save even more space?
My entire studio will still fit in the overhead locker or underneath the seat in front of me.
In the case of phones, the limited screen size of even the larger phones is an issue for me, and I can't read anything on my phone without reading glasses anyway. Tablets make a bit more sense but as an Apple user, it would have to be an iPad and Apple seem to have made it their mission in life to make it as difficult as possible for you to transfer your own material from your iPad to your computer. Why can't they just build in a USB port so you can use a memory stick? And the screen is still smaller than a laptop, even if you shell out for a 12‑inch iPad Pro.
I don't really like working with a touchscreen as that's the way to arthritic thumbs (habitual texters take note) — I prefer a trackpad or mouse plus a proper keyboard. And no matter how tiny you make the recording system, the attached audio interface still has to be big enough to house a couple of XLR connectors and a few jack sockets. As I've observed on more than one occasion, once the recording system is small enough and light enough that it can be dragged off the table by the weight of the mic and jack cables attached to it, there's no practical advantage in further miniaturisation, but I will concede that a tablet or phone-based system can be useful in letting you do some work while on the train. Still, as I started out with a four-track open–reel studio system that could have filled the back of a car by the time I added the two-track recorder, mixer and cables, I think my 'old–school' laptop-based holiday system does a pretty good job. After all, my entire studio will still fit in the overhead locker or underneath the seat in front of me.
Paul White Editor In Chief