When travelling via plane for an audio recording gig, it's nice to be able to bring your gear with you. Microphones are the tools you need to do your job, and so it's important to know whether you can fly with them in carry-on or checked luggage.
Are microphones allowed on airplanes? Microphones are not illegal, and so they are allowed on airplanes. However, mics (like many audio devices) may look strange to security and raise suspicion. Therefore, it's important to be able to prove that your microphones are indeed microphones before boarding a plane.
This article will discuss tips to make life easier when travelling on airplanes with microphones (and other audio equipment).
Checking Your Microphones Versus Bringing Mics In Carryon
It's important to note that it's always best to bring recording equipment on a plane in your carry-on rather than checking it in checked luggage.
Checking your microphones and other audio equipment is never a good idea. Checked luggage goes missing far too often to risk losing your mics.
Additionally, checked luggage is often mistreated or, at the very least, thrown around. Depending on the fragility of your mics, checking them could result in requiring repairs once you reconnect with them at your new location.
Bringing your microphone with you in carry-on is a much safer option. This ensures they remain with you at all times and that you're in control of how they're treated.
That being said, microphones and audio equipment may present some hassle with security.
Getting Microphones Through Airport Security
Once your microphones are on the plane, there's no need to worry. The pressure inside the airplane cabin will remain fairly consistent, as will the humidity. The increase in altitude will not affect the microphones in any negative way.
However, getting through security with your mics may pose some issues. After all, microphones do sometimes resemble dangerous devices.
Here is a list of strategies to help get your microphones through security with as little hassle as possible:
- Get to the airport security line early
- Be patient and pleasant
- Place the mics and other audio devices in separate bins for X-Ray
- Bring documentation of the microphone(s) you're travelling with
- Bring other audio equipment that can prove that your mics are actually mics
Get To Airport Security Early
It's always a good idea to get to airport security well before your flight departs. However, when travelling with microphones, it's best practice to show up extra early.
In the chance that security really needs to check out your equipment, it could take some time.
There are plenty of stories of people who have missed their flights due to lengthy security checks. Showing up early will allow extra time (if need be) so that you do not miss your flight.
On top of that, if you're clearly in a rush, it may raise suspicion with security and cause needless slowing of the process.
Waiting may not be fun, but it beats missing your flight!
Be Patient And Pleasant
Another general tip for getting through airport security quickly is being patient and pleasant.
Do not be alarmed or defensive if security asks you questions about your microphones. Be cooperative. It's their job to be thorough, not to understand every piece of audio equipment.
Use Separate Bins For X-Ray
It's wise to place all microphones and audio equipment in separate bins for x-ray scanning. I'd go so far as to separate the recorder/mixers from the mics from the cables and accessories (if you're travelling with a kit).
This quick step on your end will help speed up the process. The rest of your carry-on will likely pass with no issues (unless it doesn't), leaving only the audio equipment to be questioned (if questioned at all).
Bring Mic Documentation
It's important to be able to prove what your microphone is, so bring documentation.
Microphone documentation could include:
- Specifications sheet.
- User manual.
- Picture of the microphone being used.
Be Able To Prove They Are Microphones
In the rare case that your documentation is not sufficient, you may be asked to further prove that your microphones are actually microphones.
Bringing a recording device and a short cable may add to the security process, but it is a great way to prove your mics.
Many times people travelling with mics will have recorders anyway.
Reiterating my previous point here. Be patient and calm if asked to prove what your equipment is. It will help you and your mics get to where you need to be safely and securely!
The Alternative To Flying With Your Microphones
If you're flying domestically, an alternative to flying with your microphones is to send them to your new location via mail.
In the United States of America, UPS or FedEx are great options, for example.
The idea here is that these postal services provide tracking information and insurance for your gear and microphones.
Send the equipment to where you're going before getting on the plane and gather it (with a signature) when you get to where you're going.
The extra hassle of packing, shipping, and receiving your microphones may be easier than the hassle at the airport. However, I would personally still do carry-on.
Of course, there is a chance that the postal service will be delayed in getting you your mics. They may even lose your gear. But with tracking and insurance, it's a much safer bet than checking your mics with the airlines.
When flying internationally, this alternative is not likely your best bet. The gear may very well get delayed at customs as it crosses national borders, which could result in you not having your microphones in your new location.
It's always best to bring your microphones in carry-on if possible!
Are microphones humidity-resistant? Passive dynamic microphones work with electromagnetism and are resistant to humidity (though not necessarily waterproof). Active microphones (notably condenser mics) have circuitries that do not perform well in humid environments. The heat from the vacuum tube in a tube mic will often keep the mic dry.
Do microphones behave differently at various atmospheric pressures? Microphones sense the small changes in air pressure caused by sound waves. Sound waves present small variations in a “baseline” atmospheric pressure. Changing atmospheric pressure does not happen fast enough to affect the mic signal, nor does it affect the mic's performance in any significant way.
Choosing the right microphone(s) for your applications and budget can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Microphone Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next microphone purchase.
Have any thoughts, questions or concerns? I invite you to add them to the comment section below! I'd love to hear your insights and inquiries and will do my best to add to the conversation. Thanks!
This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.