Stand Off Clip-On Mic Stands
A new range of easily fitted microphone stands that provide a viable, space-saving alternative to conventional models.
Anyone who has ever miked up anything, either in a studio, or for a PA, will be only too aware of the problems associated with microphone stands. Firstly, the standard mic stand has two potentially weak points. The first is the grip in the stem, which enables the mic stand to be raised or lowered. The second is the universal joint at the top of the stem by which the boom is attached and manipulated. Both these joints seem to have a fairly limited life on the vast majority of conventional stands, due it must be admitted, to fairly vigorous treatment. The net result, however, is that if a stand is set in position, particularly if the boom is extended, it is not always certain that it will remain there.
The next major problem, assuming your stand is in perfect working order, concerns the ergonomics involved. For instance, miking up a drum kit might involve ten or more stands (snare drum, bass drum, three toms with one each, hi-hat, a couple of cymbals and two ambience mics). The end result of all this is that not only do all these stands take up a considerable amount of room, but all too often, it is impossible to place the mics at their optimum position, because there are other stands or the drums themselves in the way.
This problem carries through to a lesser extent, in miking up instrument cabs. The stands get in the way of controls, or worse still, are knocked out of alignment, so that only half the sound ever reaches the microphone. The traditional method of avoiding this, namely that of hanging the mic in front of the speaker cabinet means, particularly with directional mics, that the gain on the mic has to be noticeably increased in order to get a decent signal level, giving rise to problems of noise and possible feedback.
However, a new solution to all these problems has appeared, in the shape of the Stand Off range of shock mounted units, marketed in this country by Connectronics. Basically these consist of four small clip-on mic stands, and one unit which reflects sound towards a microphone contained within it. I shall endeavour to explain further.
Three of the units are variations on one concept. This is best described with the aid of a diagram (see Figure 1). Basically, designed for use with a drum kit, the Stand Off relies on the fact that any drum skin is connected to the shell by means of tension rods. A vinyl coated hook is slipped around one of these rods, two vinyl feet are placed against the side of the drum, and the whole unit is screwed to the drum, held on by the hook and braced by the feet.
The body of the unit consists of a three inch neoprene shock mount and stress relief washer, designed to eliminate unwanted noise, and is, it is claimed, virtually indestructible. From this washer, a small steel tube protrudes, to the top of which is screwed a conventional microphone adaptor.
There are two variations on this design. The first features a larger hook, allowing the unit to be attached to a normal microphone stand (or cymbal stand) so that acoustic guitars, cymbals, saxophones and what-have-you can all be miked up. The second (the Stand Off II) has a third washer located between the vinyl feet and the body, allowing the stand to be pivoted from left to right, making precise adjustment possible. In addition, it is possible to purchase an extension arm (appropriately enough called the Extendor) which replaces the mic adaptor and enables microphones to be placed inside drums, tom-toms or bass drum for instance.
The fourth unit in the range, the Silencer, consists of the main three-inch shock absorber and mic adaptor. Instead of the hook and feet arrangement though, there is an internal thread designed to screw on top of a normal mic stand, with the intention of preventing floor and stand transmitted vibration.
The Reflector, the fifth in the series, is rather different (see Figure 2). It consists of a brushed aluminium rectangular tube, about two and a quarter inches in diameter, inside of which is a foam isolator with a hole through it. The microphone is pushed through this isolator, then by means of a velcro strip an angled plate is fixed over the top of the mic. The mic is then suspended upside down in front of the speaker cabinet to be miked, with the Reflector holding it away from the front of the speaker, and reflecting sound waves from the speaker into the microphone.
So much for the description. The point is, do they work? Regarding the shock absorbing properties; that is, the ability of the units to prevent transmitted vibration reaching the microphones, in the absence of any equipment capable of giving some sort of scientific analysis, I can only say that the stands appear to do all that is claimed of them. I have been using the Stand Off range for some weeks now, mainly when miking up drums, and although visually, the mics seem to bounce around when a drum is struck, audibly there is no evidence of anything untoward occurring. It is a question of disregarding what your eyes are seeing, and believing what your ears are hearing!
As far as the Reflector is concerned, I admit that at first I was openly sceptical. Once again though, I was proved wrong. When using the device, not only was it possible to cut the gain on the input channel considerably, but external noise was substantially reduced. All this and more room to move around!
Now to come down to earth. Firstly, I have a couple of worries regarding points of construction. I am not sure that the velcro arrangement on the Reflector is as long-lasting as it could be. Time will tell on that one. As far as the clip-on units are concerned, the act of bracing them against a drum shell bends the two plastic legs outward, especially with the swivel models, where more pressure is required to keep the arm in position. As with the velcro strip, these legs might or might not stand up to constant use. Having made the point, I will reserve judgement.
Now though, for the big one. I can wax lyrical about the shock absorbing properties of these units. I can rave about the way the mics maintain a fixed distance between themselves and the instrument. I can turn cartwheels in the space vacated by the now obsolete mic stands. What I cannot understand, however, is why the stands appear to fit only about half the drum kits I have had to mike up, and only about a third of the snare drums.
Basically, the design hinges on the fact that every drum has tension rods around the rim. What does not appear to have been taken into account though, is the fact that some drummers will actually want to tighten the skins by means of these rods. Since this involves turning them, it follows that the tighter the drum head, the more the rod is screwed down, and the shorter the available length becomes. Since the Stand Off units require the rods to be at least an inch and a half long, tightening the head beyond a certain point makes it increasingly difficult to fit the stands on to the drum.
At the same time I should point out that internal miking of drums is practically impossible, since the only way to access the inside of a drum is to remove the bottom head, and with no bottom head, there are no tension rods to fix the stand to. You can use the top tension rods, but even then you must use an Extendor, and this is only possible on fairly shallow toms. It could be argued that you could cut a hole in the skin large enough to admit a microphone and leave the rods in place; indeed this is often done on the bass drum. However, as a studio engineer, I would not like to be the one to tell a drummer that he must slice up an expensive drum head!
In principle, I have nothing but praise for these little mic stands. Running a crowded studio myself, space is at a premium, and any device which helps create easier working conditions is a godsend. In practice though, although the units do an excellent job when fitted, small design points make the fitting difficult, at least in certain cases. Given this, I cannot help feeling that they are marginally overpriced for what they are.
In all fairness I must end on a positive note. Although fitting has at times proved difficult, it has so far never proved impossible (though sometimes the microphone position is something of a compromise). Even being aware of the problems I would still buy and use them in any situation where space is at a premium, simply because there is nothing comparable currently available. If you are about to rush out and buy a few though, a quick word of warning - you don't actually get a mic adaptor when you order the units. You have to buy that separately! Sneaky huh? Ah well - beggars can't be choosers!
Prices for the models are as follows: Stand Off £19.95; Stand Off II £22.95; CS Stand Off £19.95; Extendor £5.95; Silencer £15.95; Reflector £19.95.
Further details from: Connectronics, (Contact Details).