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Roundtable: The Must-Have-It Tools Of The Pro Audio Trade

Our panel of PSW veteran audio professionals discuss their "desert island" gear choices– hardware and software – to carry to events.

By Live Sound Staff October 8, 2018

What’s your “desert island” piece of equipment? In other words, if you could choose only one piece of gear – hardware or software – to carry to events with you, what would it be? Why?

Erik Matlock: My one critical piece of gear, that one thing I don’t believe I could function without, is my Gerber Scout multitool. I’ve carried one for about 25 years and feel lost when it’s not on my belt. Anyone who’s worked around me since the early 1990s knows the familiar sound of it snapping open.

Emergency repairs, cutting tape, tightening loose screws and nuts, yanking out bent cotter pins, cutting the ends off bad cables, defending yourself against roadies and raccoons… The list of handy uses goes on and on. And unlike the overrated and less-useful Leatherman, I can open and close it easily with one hand.

That’s a big deal when you’re hanging upside down, way up in the air, and need to cut a cable tie. (It happens more often than you might think.)

Also on my list are my Sony 7506 headphones, Schertler utility mixer, and (Rational Acoustics) Smaart software. Because, you know, audio.

Karl Winkler: Aside from the small electronics tool kit, box of adapters, roll of black gaff tape and Fluke multimeter that I always have in my gig bag, I would say that my beat up old Neumann KMS 105 condenser microphone (formerly belonging to Walter Becker) is the “magic bullet” that I never leave at home. I’ve used this mic on cello, vocals, piano, acoustic guitar and even an oud (a lute-type stringed instrument) with excellent results.

It’s not generally for loud “rock ‘n’ roll” situations, where the stage volume is super high, but when I need a mic with superior clarity that’s easy to place, this is the one. Several artists who were unfamiliar with it have remarked to me after gigs how much they like it and “didn’t know there was anything that good.” It’s easy to see why it has become a standard.

Check Out More Roundtable Articles On PSW:

— Wise Counsel: A Collection Of Advice For Audio & Life Success
Name That Tune: A Cornucopia Of System Test Track Selections
Bang On The Drum All Day: Tips For Optimizing The Kit In The Mix
All Wrapped Up: A Treasure Trove Of Advice About Cable & Interconnect

Scott Holtzman: That’s an easy one – my Back Jack. It’s a pneumatic stool that takes pressure off of your hips and back and allows long hours in an almost-standing position. You can’t work if you’re writhing in pain.

Jeff Porrello: An accurate SPL meter, and this is my reasoning: I like loud rock music, but I’ve been to quite a few concerts (over the past 10 years or so) where I really didn’t enjoy myself because it was so darn loud that it was basically just a wall of noise and bordering on painful. I was under the impression I’d paid to hear great music, only to learn I’d gotten a very good deal on decibels!

On the other hand, a year or two back we saw an AC/DC tribute band (extremely good) at a local casino in a fairly large venue and it was cranking, yet it was immaculately articulate, loud as hell, but totally enjoyable even way up front in the “mosh pit” area. I think it was some of the best concert sound I’ve ever heard going back to my youth on Long Island was at the “acoustically perfect” C.W. Post Concert Hall (now Long Island University).

There’s loud, and then there’s stupid. Yes I want to feel the bass drum, but I don’t want it to hurt. Wall of Noise? Please!


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