The benefits of using a microphone stand
Los Angeles-based producer, composer, and audio engineer Dave McKeever has over 25 years of experience in the recording world, which has given him boundless insight into the nuances of this often-overlooked equipment. Here’s what he says are some of the key benefits of using a high-quality mic stand.
- Precise mic placement. “When you’re recording someone, whether they’re speaking or singing, your microphone placement can totally change the sound,” Dave says. “By carefully positioning your mic boom arm, you can lock the microphone into just the right spot to capture the sounds you need.”
- Protecting your microphone from falls. “Always use a high-quality mic clip to secure your microphone,” Dave says. “You also ideally want a stand with a weighted base so it doesn’t tip over from the weight of your mic. Between these two things, you should have good protection for your microphone, which probably cost you a pretty penny.”
- Cable management. In most cases, your microphone will attach to the rest of your home studio setup (or field recording setup) via an XLR cable, which can be long and unwieldy. “A mic stand doubles as a great cable management tool,” Dave says. “Gently wrap your mic cable around your microphone boom arm, as well as the main shaft of the stand. This keeps it out of your way and eliminates a tripping hazard.”
- The ability to add shock mounts and pop filters. A shock mount is a flexible mic holder that keeps the device steady in case the stand gets jostled, and a pop filter is a thin fabric membrane that blocks the popping sound caused by plosives on consonants like “p.” Mic stands allow you to easily use both. “You can add these extras to a mic stand and then never have to think about them,” Dave says. “Just set it up right the first time and enjoy the benefits.”
- Freeing up your hands for other tasks. “Whenever you’re recording, there tends to be a lot of things going on at once,” Dave says. If you attach your microphone to a reliable mic stand, you can leave the mic in place and direct your attention to other matters that come up.
5 types of microphone stands
You have a number of choices when it comes to microphone stands. Here are five common models you may come across in your recording work.
- Desktop stand. Podcasters and DJs often use desk-mounted microphone stands. These attach to a table with a metal clamp, which leads some people to call them a clamp-mount stand. Desktop stands typically have two or three joints, which lets them hover over a tabletop and sit right in front of a person’s face. You will usually use a shock mount clip with a desktop stand.
- Straight mic stand. This model is very common for vocalists. It sits on the floor, using either a round, weighted base or a folding tripod base and a vertical shaft that can be adjusted for a person’s height. It doesn’t have an adjustable arm, so you generally need to position yourself to it instead of the other way around. These mic stands pair nicely with dynamic microphones like the Shure SM58. Typically you will use a hard plastic clip to hold a microphone on a straight mic stand.
- Telescopic boom mic stand. These microphone stands look the same as a straight mic stand until you get to the top of the unit. At this point, a boom arm extends from the main shaft of the stand. This boom arm can get longer or shorter, and it can pivot 360 degrees. This type of mic stand is popular on stage because it allows a microphone to extend to a person who is playing an instrument, letting them sing and play at the same time.
- Overhead mic stand. This type of mic stand operates on the same principle as a boom mic stand, but it’s a lot taller than a normal microphone stand and its boom arm extends much farther. You can use this type of mic stand to suspend microphones above what you’re recording, like when you’re recording large groups of people all at once. In most cases, you’ll want to pair this kind of mic stand with an omnidirectional microphone — that is, one that records sounds from all directions.
- Low profile mic stand. This category describes microphone stands with short shafts. They sit near the ground or can be placed on a tabletop. You will see these kinds of mic stands used to record kick drums, guitar amps, bass amps, and people sitting at a desk.
What to look for in a microphone stand
You want to pick a microphone stand that naturally fits the space you’re recording in. Use these criteria when picking the microphone that is right for your needs.
- Compatibility with your microphone. “Microphone stands are not one-size-fits-all,” Dave says. “If you’re using a heavy microphone like a Shure SM7B, you need a strong desktop clamp-mount or a tall stand with a weighted base. If you’re using a large-diaphragm condenser mic, you probably want a shock mount stand.”
- Something that fits your intended usage. “Think about how you’ll be using the microphone,” Dave says. “Will you be recording a drum kit? If so, you probably need an overhead stand or a boom stand with long arms. Will you just be sitting across a desk, interviewing someone? If so, you probably just need a low profile stand to get the mic at mouth-level.”
- A sturdy base of support. “I have definitely seen delicate mics get destroyed because they tipped over on a flimsy stand!” Dave says. “Given how much you probably spent on a fancy condenser mic or ribbon mic, it would totally suck to have it break because it tipped over on a stand.” The way to avoid a catastrophe like that is to get a microphone stand with a weighted base. They’re heavier and a bit harder to transport, but they’re very reliable.
- Reliable clamps and fasteners. “The metal in most mic stand shafts is going to be pretty decent, but high-quality mic stands have high-quality clamps and fasteners,” Dave says. “Cheap stands have terrible plastic clamps that break or really bad metal nuts that strip out. It’s because of these parts that you should avoid the cheapest stands on Amazon or eBay.
The 5 best microphone stands for recording
Resist the urge to buy the cheapest stand on the market. Cheap ones don’t stay locked, and they eventually fall apart. Plus, a mic stand with a flimsy base will easily fall over and potentially damage your microphone. Here are five reliable models that Dave says you should consider as part of your search.
- OnStage MS7701B. “On the low end of the market, the most affordable brand I can recommend is OnStage,” Dave says. “This boom mic is going to last you a long time, and its base is substantial enough that it won’t fall over.” Pick the OnStage MS7701B if you’re on a budget (it retails for roughly $40) and want a collapsible tripod stand. But if you have any concerns about a stand being knocked over, you need a stand with a weighted base instead.
- K&M Microphone Stand with Telescoping Boom Arm. “K&M is an extremely respected brand for mic stands,” Dave says. “If you’re looking to go up a level from OnStage, this would be an excellent stand to check out. All the screws and clamps should last for a long time, and the base is strong.” Get this model if you can afford a bit more (at roughly $80, it’s about twice the price of the OnStage MS7701B) but also don’t want to break the bank.
- Atlas Sound MS43E. If you need maximum support for a valuable microphone, choose this model from Atlas Sound, which comes with a meaty weighted base. “While it’s a bit too easy to knock over a tripod base mic, you really have to be trying if you want to knock over a stand with a big, heavy base,” Dave says. At around $120, the MS43E doesn’t come cheap, but it has a lot of heft.
- K&M 25950 Extra Low Profile Tripod Base Boom Mic Stand. At more than $100, “you may be surprised by how much this little stand costs,” Dave says. Still, it’s a stand worth considering. “Because it has a low profile but also a really good boom arm, it’s going to cover a lot of your needs, whether that’s sitting it on a desktop to record an interview, or sticking it on the ground in front of a kick drum.” The K&M’s tripod base is sturdy enough to support any kind of microphone without tipping over.
- On-Stage DS7200C. Last but not least is a simple and affordable desktop option. The On-Stage DS7200C is a tabletop mic stand with a weighted base. It has a straight shaft (no boom arm), which means it isn’t terribly versatile. At most, it extends 13 inches high. It’s also only about $20. “For such a simple and low-profile design, you don’t need a fancy brand,” Dave says. If the low profile is what you need, this one will support your mic just fine.