Let's face facts in a post-factual world: it's really hard to travel with your 85-inch UHD TV, even if you are lucky enough to score one of those lay-flat seats in First Class. It just is. The good news is that we can in fact travel with a full complement of AV toys that can keep us engaged while suffering the indignity of traveling around this fine nation of ours or pounding it out at 24 Hour Fitness on the elliptical machine for 45 minutes.
I will never forget back in the days of AVRev.com, I got a medium-sized white shipping box from Edelman PR (a big firm) with a little note in it that said "if your publisher will allow you to keep this product, please accept it with complements from Apple Computer." Since I was the publisher, I found it in my heart to give myself permission to open the box and keep the contents, assuming I liked what was inside. What was inside the shipping box was from a little company called Apple Computer and it was their new product called the iPod. Holy crap, did that change my life. With one swipe of a Staples Premium box cutter, my AV enthusiast world would never be the same. I could take a ball-peen hammer to my battery-eating, clunky-ass portable Compact Disc player. I would also never need to separate my physical media from their comfy jewel case homes nor would they ever risk being lost or damaged while earning frequent flyer miles. The introduction of the Apple iPod messed me up badly and changed the game for my travel rig forever. 500 songs in the palm of your hand with battery life that could easily get you from Los Angeles to New York City was over-the-top as compared to a CD or, God forbid, cassette tape/Walkman setup.
I gave the iPod Product of the Year that year at AVRev.com and never looked back, but that was a long time ago and things have changed. What hasn't changed is the idea that we all need a bad-ass travel rig and thankfully mobile AV technology paired with modern computing allow for just that. Here's some of what's in my rig today and some other products that I've played with that are super-cool that you might need to own.
Apple iPhone X (~$1,200)
Because of the canyon that I lived in for 10 years, it was literally impossible for to own an iPhone for its first five years on the market. Oh, the agony for an Apple fanboy like me not to own an iPhone back then, even if today's are so much more advanced. On Sprint, I had two top-of-the-line Blackberries and hated every minute with them. The awful keyboard and tiny screen were so sad. The agony of making the phone synch with my Mac Pro or any kind of CRM (fancy contact and sales lead program like Daylite, Zoho, or Salesforce.com in modern terms) made other people's love-affair with their Crackberries hard to understand. I even reverted back flip phones at the time because that was the best Sprint had to offer that wasn't from Blackberry.
Today, an iPhone X (or 11 if you want the camera upgrade) is an expensive phone by all standards, but I look it more as a hand-computer capable of keeping me in the game for work email, texts (I hate texting), streaming music, onboard music, access to entire seasons of television shows in HD, feature movies, and more. While the current iPhone has limited hard-wired headphone access, it isn't that hard to find a pair of wireless headphones that you like. Oh, and with me now switched over to Verizon, I've got nearly seamless coverage and can use the iPhone as a hotspot, which has made my Verizon 4G hotspot unnecessary. Lightening things up a bit help, too.
Apple iPad (from $279 to over $1,000)
Most of us have some form of smartphone in our pockets, but when it comes to travel, the gym, or other non-home theater environments, a tablet is a wonderful way to enjoy media on the go. And the Apple iPad is the king of the hill when it comes to tablet category, even if Steve Jobs himself reportedly wasn't a fan of the technology. Today's iPads have fantastic battery life and range from medium sized screens to downright massive ones on the iPad Pro. I find the iPad Pro tablets to be the slickest and they have the biggest hard drive, but they're a little big for my tastes. I have a middle-of-the-road sized iPad that fits nicely into a leather case that also has a place for a half-sized legal pad and a pen inside. I first started using this setup at AV tradeshows like CES and CEDIA so that I could break out my Keynote (Apple's version of Power Point - I told you that I was an Apple fan boy) for clients.
But Keynote isn't the fun stuff. Loading apps like Pokémon Go, my air hockey game complete with a crack-induced, multi-puck "insane mode," AW Craps (my craps game simulator), Angry Birds, or any number of other goofy games/apps makes for a true time-killing machine right in your hands, lap, or tray-table. With today's modern iPads, you might want to buck up for the bigger hard drive so you can travel with a full season of a TV show or two and/or a few movies to watch. I heard that some airlines are looking at taking out the in-flight entertainment screens as they say it saves weight, but that's BS. They're doing it to save a few bucks. With your iPad loaded with the latest and greatest TV, music, movie, and gaming content, though, you'll have nothing to worry about.
Sennheiser HD1 Wireless Over-the-Ear Headphones ($399)
I've reviewed damn-near every wireless headphone in the luxury market today and have a list of ones that I like the best, but at the top of the heap and well entrenched in my travel rig is the Sennheiser HD1 over-the-ear headphones. The Sennheisers have the most "audiophile" sound to my ears, but are also lightweight, have excellent battery life, and don't get as hot as others in the high performance over-the-ear class. They have good styling and connect pretty easily to your Apple and other devices.
Others in the category that I liked included Bose QuietComfort 35s, which have the best noise canceling in their class but don't sound as good or look like anything other than cheap headphones. I used Bowers & Wilkins P7s for years as my reference, which are great looking and have that more audiophile sound in the wireless world, but aren't quite as light and comfortable as the Sennheisers.
Etymotic Research ER4SR Studio In-Ear Monitors ($349)
Etymotic Research's ER-4s have been a staple of mine since the 2000s. They are in-ear monitors that for many people can be comfortable when using one of a selection of tips that mold to the inside of your ears. I went one step farther by going to an audiologist to have custom ear molds made for mine, which for a travel rig can be very worth the investment. This is an odd process where you also should have your ears professionally cleaned (wow, is that any eye-opening experience) and then they will make molds while you sit in a specific type of seat. The resulting plastic molds can be buffed down to fit your ears perfectly, and when you "twist them in" they cut down on the outside noise but a large margin - say 25 to 35 dB - which is a lot.
So, when that 10-month-old baby is crying in the row behind you or the pig next to you chews with his mouth open, you can tune all of that out and be in your own little disconnected world. Note: these are wired headphones, thus to make them work with say an iPhone 11 you need an adaptor, which Apple offers. The weight and cost of these headphones can be worth adding to your rig. I've never taken them out of rotation, although I use my Sennheisers 9.5 out of 10 times.
I also have a pair of the very high end, Ultimate Ears Capitol Records Studio Monitor in-ear-monitors, which are closer to $2,000 in price and are used by mastering engineers as a way to eliminate external acoustic factors when listening to mixes as they travel from studio to studio. Ultimate Ears are the choice of musicians for on-stage IEMs and protect their hearing nicely, but if you are going to use them for travel or gym use, you will want to order them with different cables (they are interchangeable) as the stock ones are designed to run down the back of your neck and be hidden in your costume. Now, I am quite the clown, but I rarely wear a costume (even on Halloween) so standard cabling is key. Ultimate Ears also require professional fitting.
Other Goodies to Consider for Your Travel Rig
One item that is heavy for my bag but has saved my butt a few times is an Anker rechargeable device. They come in all shapes and sizes and an argument can be made that you might want a bigger, stacked-deck-of-cards-sized one like the $49 one that I travel with, but just know that the more charging capacity you carry with you, the more there is to carry. These suckers can recharge your laptop a few times, your headphones, and all of your devices before they need to be recharged themselves. Anker also have much smaller chargers and there is an argument that these more lipstick-shaped ones are better for travel. Maybe you want both?
For the audiophile, an external DAC can improve the sound of your mobile rig. It requires more cables and complications, which is why I don't travel with one anymore. The AudioQuest DragonFly is one good choice, though, with prices ranging from $99
to around $299.
Carrying an extra wall-charger for your USB devices is a cheap, light, and smart choice. Today's iPads and power-hungry devices often need more voltage and/or amperage than you get from the USB port built into your laptop even when it's plugged into the wall. It was taking more than a day to charge my new iPad using this connection. For less than $20, I bought a two-pack of charging cables with wall outlet connectors, and problem solved.
So, now that I've shared with you what's in my rig, tell us how you travel in style and why you pack what you do. We want to know what's in your rig and why/how you chose it. What do you plan to buy next? How has changing mobile technology changed the way you enjoy media on the road? Let us know in the comments section below.