Many articles have been written on this topic, but it continues to be a popular issue among many touring live sound engineers.
Many live sound technicians travel with items that make their evening run more smoothly. Much like the musicians that hire you, there is an investment being made to the sound that is desired.
A guitar player will buy a special amplifier or guitar which is crucial to their sound. A sound technician should consider the purchase or rental on a per tour basis of microphones and related items such as headphones, mic stands, clamps and patch cables. Model numbers and brands are irrelevant at this point. These are all personal preference.
Using the same headphones and microphones every evening allows you to more quickly distinguish trouble spots in a sound system. In the event that trouble-shooting is necessary, you are able to start further down the chain because you are aware of your own gear, and it is less probable of breaking down.
After completing a tour with an artist, or during those down times, you can always use these “tools” with other artists. These items create a consistency, especially with vocal mics, where hygiene is also a consideration. No matter what the condition of the PA is, or if you are mixing on the fly, you know what your equipment is capable of.
Having your own tools becomes very handy in a support band situation, whether you are supporting or if a support band is in front of you. Your stands and mics are up and there is no question of supply from the club. The support band will get all the house mics and stands. Or, in a supporting situation, the headliner will be pleased to see you with your kit and instruments clamped, miked and ready to go. This will save a lot of worries for yourself, the band, and reduces change-over time, allowing your evening to flow that much smoother.
Trevor C. Coppen is a freelance sound technician based in Toronto, ON. He has worked with such acts as Hayden, Our Lady Peace and The Waltons.