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The Traveling Synthesist

chysn

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The Traveling Synthesist
« on: November 08, 2021, 07:57:01 AM »
I'm now of an age where my wife and I no longer need stuff, and so we're increasingly spending our disposable income on travel. My wife loves to travel, far more than I; therefore, I expect to travel more and more as the years go on. :)

So I'm starting to plan a travel "studio," something I can sit around with and play music on, say, a Jamaican or Dominican seashore or resort room balcony.

The next trip is in the summer, so I have some time to consider things, and try things out. Right now, everything is on the table, from a just an iPhone (although that seems a bit dull) to an OP-1. Pretty much the only things I'm ruling out are things that must be plugged into a wall outlet during use. Also, this would be some combination of controller and voice generation.

Does anybody here have a travel studio that you've been pleased with?
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jok3r

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2021, 12:36:44 PM »
What about that?

https://www.thomann.de/intl/akai_mpc_live_ii.htm

Seems to run on batteries and has build in speakersÖ

I donˋt have personal experience, but I watched a lot of videos about this whole platform and it seems to be pretty fun.
Prophet Rev2, Novation Peak, Arturia DrumBrute Impact, Korg Kronos 2 88, Kurzweil PC 361, Yamaha S90ES

chysn

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2021, 12:50:36 PM »
Yeah, the MPC Live is a very attractive choice, and would play nicely with my Pro 3.

One thing that I have to put thought into is whether a big LCD is going to be washed out in the tropical sun. So when it comes to standalone production systems, I'm looking at Circuit Tracks, which does a lot of the same stuff but with no screen, at about 1/4 the weight.

The screen issue applies to iPads, as well.
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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2021, 06:44:37 PM »
I like this topic. Itís fun to help spend other peopleís money :) I donít fit the criteria since I donít have first hand experience with your target situation. But I have thought about it some, so Iíll add to the noise. Iím pretty sure that if I were setting this up for myself, I would choose soft synths just because of the portability and infinite variety. With a MacBook Pro (or similar) you could have a pretty amazing selection of instruments including some fantastic acoustic piano options. You can basically take an entire recording studio with you in a small bag. (It of course ignores the entire issue of visibility in the sun Ö but I have done my share of software development on a Mac in the outdoors Ö the screen is not bad).

Assuming that software synths are an acceptable solution, it seems to me that the bigger question is what kind of controller. My choice would probably be a LinnStrument. Iíve never even seen one in real life, but it seems portable, very musical, and would give me an opportunity to learn something new.

jok3r

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2021, 12:26:46 AM »
One thing that I have to put thought into is whether a big LCD is going to be washed out in the tropical sun. So when it comes to standalone production systems, I'm looking at Circuit Tracks, which does a lot of the same stuff but with no screen, at about 1/4 the weight.

If you want to go the Novation way, I would add a Bass Station to the Tracks... the bass player in my band is using it for some synth basses and it sounds very good, for the little price. It can do pretty nice leads, too. I played with it some hours myself and think about buying it, too. A lot of synth, for not so much money, especially considering the last firmware upgrades.

And: using a powerbank it can run on batteries, because it can run USB powered. So one of your midi channels in the tracks could be a bass station. Furthermore you would have a small keyboard controller this way...
Prophet Rev2, Novation Peak, Arturia DrumBrute Impact, Korg Kronos 2 88, Kurzweil PC 361, Yamaha S90ES

LPF83

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2021, 04:16:04 AM »
Usually when I travel with my girlfriend its for only 2-3 days at a time and since the point of the excursions are a break from the normal routine, I never take anything music-creation oriented with me (although I have been known to get out the iPad and noodle around with the Korg Polysix app or similar).

If I did travel regularly, there is no question what my minimum setup would be -- a powerful laptop with a larger screen, a MIDI controller, and headphones.  For extended stays 49 fullsize keys would likely be my minimum but that sort of detail would need to be worked out with consideration to how frequently I would be packing things up and moving to the next location, etc.  I would make sure I like the knobs on it because that would be my primary control surface.

The selection of plugins on the laptop as I would set it up is a subjective thing, of course depends on the type of music / sound one wants to make.  The entire Arturia V collection is a great place to start.  Beyond that I would try to choose plugins that meet a specific niche very well, for example DS Thorn for heavily modulated modern sounds, u-He Repro for Pro One and Prophet emulation, Softube Model 84 for Juno emulation, Dune 3 for that Virus-like VA sound, etc.  Just as important would be the selection of FX plugins -- I would miss my pedals but not bad enough to lug them or other cabley gear with me.  A lot of the Cubase 11 Pro FX is outstanding and already integrated into the mixer with low CPU consumption, but when it comes to FX I like a lot of variety, so I would have all my Valhalla and Eventide plugins, Raum from NI, Stardust 201 from Cherry Audio.

The CPU choice in the laptop would of course be one of the most important choices, as all of the above would be limited by a weak CPU.  Battery life would not be a consideration, I'd stay plugged in so trading off performance for battery life would be a bad thing.  As someone with multiple Macs (I used to use Logic and also developed iOS apps for a while), I went back to Windows/Cubase for music making and software development needs, not only because of the price/performance proposition but also because MS is excellent with maintaining backward compatibility while Apple tends to reinvent their hardware every few years.  Not to suggest that my choices would be right for everyone... if I was more proficient in Logic than Cubase, and was already heavily invested in the Apple platform I would definitely stay on that platform, though I would search for a machine that has good *sustained* performance over a long duration and good heat dissipation, something MacBooks have traditionally not been good at (the M1s are probably better in this regard)... by sustained performance I refer to systems that do not release heat well, thus often throttle down, degrading performance over long sessions.
My current laptop is an LG Gram which is great as a general purpose laptop (great 17" screen in a 15.6" form factor, very slim/light/fast, etc.) but I didn't purchase it as a music-making system so I'm not sure how it would fare thermally under heavy load.  I might even be more inclined to get a compact desktop machine for a travel music production system, just to have proper fans and cooling options available on it.  A larger computer would be less convenient to lug around for sure, but in a completely ITB setup the CPU performance matters enough to begin to justify it.  The other advantage would being able to easily open up and repair or upgrade it compared to limitations of laptops.  Setting up a DAW, with all my settings/templates/shortcuts etc. takes forever, so being able to do that maybe only once every 8 years on a PC is very appealing.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2021, 04:23:36 AM by LPF83 »
Prophet 10, Prophet 6, OB-6, Prophet 12m, Prophet Rev2-16, Toraiz AS-1, Moog SlimPhatty, Hydrasynth desktop, Korg Minilogue XDm, Roland JP-8080, Roland SPD-30, Roland SPD-SX Special Edition, Roland KT-10, Maschine, Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen + Octopre, Strymon Pedals, Cubase Pro 11.

chysn

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2021, 08:18:30 AM »
Thank you for the thorough reply. I won't be traveling with my MacBook Pro, though.
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chysn

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2021, 07:27:44 AM »
Hopefully, I have decades to completely figure this out. So for my summer trip, I'm going to start with QuNexus and an iPod. I know that QuNexus is very playable, small, and durable, and I already have one. The thing that only slightly bums me out is that it doesn't do Bluetooth. If that turns out to be a real-life problem, I'll look at alternatives later.

As for software, I don't know yet. I may just begin with Garage Band, although I also have Gadget.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2021, 07:41:42 AM by chysn »
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chysn

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2022, 02:46:41 PM »
Six months to go until the trip (Covid willing). I decided that I don't really want to bring an iPad with me. I plan on keeping the QuNexus around for other projects because it's just too good to give up. But now I plan on traveling with Circuit Tracks.

Yes, staying in the ol' Focusrite family!

Circuit Tracks is a blast. I returned a recently-purchased Modal Skulpt Synth SE to get it. Skulpt has an interesting synth engine, but the physicality of it was cumbersome and a bit flimsy. Tracks is sleek and solid, and I suspect it will travel well. It doesn't have a screen to get washed out in the Caribbean sun. It's powered by an internal battery that should last a few hours. That keeps the instrument super-thin.

In addition to that, it will be nice for my minimal "studio." It can sequence my Pro 3 with its full-size MIDI jacks and external sequencer tracks. It has audio ins for the Pro 3, with a mixer and effects (delay and a nearly-usable reverb), so I no longer need my Mackie, as long as I don't go too crazy with synths.

You need a computer to really dig into the synth engine and add samples, but I have plenty of time to build up a patch library. It would be nice if it had a built-in audio interface, but with all it does do, that seems like asking for a lot. The Roland MC101 (which I also considered) has an audio interface, but it lacks audio inputs. So that's sort of a wash.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the thing.
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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2022, 04:32:03 PM »
I recently did a week long trip out to Grand Canyon country with the extended fam (Flagstaff/Sedona).   In the months leading up to it I prepared a fairly compact setup to take...  I experimented with a Circuit, but ended up selling it, and going with:
Akai Force
Arturia Keystep
Adrenalinn III Effects
Shure SM7B Mic
Traveler EG-1 Guitar.   

I spent several days playing around with the setup before leaving home, to confirm it would provide a versatile array of synth sounds, drums, samples, etc  (Force, with all the latest plugins loaded and external sample libraries can pull off a wide array of sounds) - and the mic and Traveler EG-1 guitar for additional input.   

Also, got a compact speaker and powerbank that can provide 3-5 hours of usage without AC.  It's really a pretty versatile setup for starting an idea from scratch and being able to flesh it out.   So I was really excited to bring it along! - and I fit it all within one padded travel case + padded travel guitar case... pretty compact.   

Got out to Flagstaff/Sedona - aaaaaand - didn't break it out even once during the whole week.  doh!  Every day we ended up having some activities during the day exploring Northern AZ and Grand Canyon country,... then did big dinners with extended family at night, and then the kids/nieces/nephews were all over us until bed time.   (without kids we probably would have found time, as my brothers play music as well)  I had grand plans... but never panned out.   

This isn't the first time I've brought music equipment on vacation and not ended up using it.    Anyways, that's just my experience, and as mentioned, has a lot to do with just kids sucking up all free time until we're all exhausted at night.  I don't recommend them if you want a music-ation. ;) The idea of sitting on beach or balcony in a tropical location sure sounds nice though :)  Hope you have fun on your adventures!
« Last Edit: January 07, 2022, 04:50:03 PM by creativespiral »

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chysn

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Re: The Traveling Synthesist
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2022, 06:47:50 AM »
Akai Force
Arturia Keystep
Adrenalinn III Effects
Shure SM7B Mic
Traveler EG-1 Guitar.   

That seems like a nice setup, especially if you know you'd have time to use it. I'm not too worried about time (kids are staying home), but I don't check luggage, so everything needs to be thrown in my carry-on.

I looked at Force as standalone DAW-type device, and it looks pretty impressive.
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