Microphones – they’re a tricky thing to get right, especially when there’s no shortage of ways to keep them steady.
While for most, the traditional tripod mic stand will be the ‘go-to’, as the more creative sound-junkies will know, there’s numerous other ways to suspend your mic or even attach it to your recording desk. Heck, should you opt for something like a boom arm, you can even float your mic in thin air!!
Combine that with the fact that some mics come in a cage & that there’s a whole host of companies each trying to make the best type of mic support, & pinning down what’s the best mic stand for your recording setup can be quite the challenge. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s also the added bonus that not all mic stands are suitable for every situation. Some are best for live performers, yet others appeal far more to YouTubers or radio DJs.
So before you even think of buying a mic stand, keep reading…
Curious whether investing in a microphone boom arm is worth it? And if so, which type of arm is best? We got you covered.
Types of mic suspension systems outlined
- Traditional mic stands – These are what spring to mind whenever you think of a ‘mic stand’. A floor-mounted tripod with an adjustable boom mounted at (roughly) a 90 degree angle. And while the sheer height of these stands does make them pretty adjustable – they function well for all heights of people – most do tend to have an issue when it comes to achieving tight angles & aren’t the easiest to set up in a small space. Being tall, their high center of gravity also makes them liable to topple over + should you opt for a cheap stand, you’ll also find that heavier condenser mics can very easily strain the resistance mechanism in the stand too. Hardly ideal if you’re after a mic stand for long-term use!
- Desktop mic stands – The easiest way to think of these is a ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’ version of the stand above. They’re a mini tripod designed to sit on your desk & are mostly aimed at podcasting mics. And while these stands may prove to be inexpensive – you can pick one up for less than $20 – they’re not what you’d call flexible. With them resting on your desktop, they’re also liable to picking up interference through the desk too. Not to mention, easily being knocked over if you’re one to get expressive with your arms while speaking. All-in-all we’d say these stands come across as more of a gimmick, than a serious piece of kit.
- Ceiling mounted mics – If you’re into a bit of DIY, then you may also be considering a ceiling mounted mic. Certainly a cool addition to a production space, but nevertheless, quite risky. Being DIY, let’s just say that this form of mic suspension isn’t what you’d call the most glamorous mic rig, nor the safest. Having to tack a wire all the way out of an outlet & up your wall, could present a serious safety concern!
- Mic boom arms – As you’d imagine, mic arms are in effect a hydraulic boom that functions much like a human arm. Attach a mic, & you can freely position & suspend it wherever & however you’d like!! You’ll find most clamped to the back of desks in recording & radio studios – basically anywhere where sound quality is imperative to what they do. Something that more or less serves as proof that mic booms are the best method out there for achieving pro-level audio. Want to know why they’re an audiophile’s favourite? Keep reading…
How can a microphone boom arm help?
Really look at what a mic boom arm enables you to do, & you soon see why they’re so popular. So much so that it’s actually quite hard to figure why anyone would choose anything but a mic boom to suspend their mic. Here’s just some of the ways a mic boom arm can enhance your audio setup…
- Reduction of interference – Just 1 perk of the hydraulics you find in a mic arm is the dampening of interference; adjusting a mic boom arms is virtually noise-free. A huge advantage over the cumbersome (& noisy) screw mechanisms you find on a conventional mic stand. What’s more, with them being mounted to the rear of a desk, opposed to resting on the floor, they tend to experience a lot less in the way of unnecessary vibrations too. Most likely why they’re a favourite for radio DJs.
- Acres of adjustability – As anyone who’s used a conventional mic stand will know, you can only achieve so many angles. Something that’s FAR less of a problem with a mic boom, where the amount of angles you can achieve is virtually infinite!! Plus, even with a heavy condenser mic onboard, when you find a position that works, the boom arm should hold your mic there for a long period of time. Helping you to avoid the gradual droop that’s a known flaw of traditional stands. And then of course, adjusting a boom arm is also faster & smoother too. So not only can you get your mic placement more accurate, but you can also make so many more quick adjustments to best suit your present situ.
- Health & safety – Aside from functional, mic boom arms are also a remarkably safe way to suspend a mic too. Most feature cable tidy systems that prevent any sound outages, should anyone reach across your desk. They also work to funnel the electrics down the back of your desk, keeping them out of reach. A major issue with a traditional stand, where the cables just sort of hang wherever they please & pose as a real trip hazard. Not only that but this also helps keep the cables away from direct sunlight too, which could encourage the wires to perish + prevent accidental spillages from causing a major threat to safety. Let’s just say, drinks & electricity aren’t a good mix.
- Sheer strength – Despite their compact size when compared to a traditional stand, mic booms can actually be as strong (if not stronger). Meaning that you can actually use them with larger & more heavier mics + attach other accessories like pop filters. Granted, cheap mic booms may not be able to do such acrobatics, but in our experience, the more premium mic booms certainly can.
What type of person uses a microphone boom arm?
Even though the majority of mic booms will be used in some sort of serious recording situation, virtually anyone who uses a mic can in some way benefit from a mic boom arm. People who can commonly be spotted using mic booms as part of their setup include…
- Music producers
- Podcasters & YouTubers
- Radio DJs
- Recording/ voiceover artists
* Mic boom arms don’t just work great inside – for many singers & musicians they’re also a companion during concerts & live performances. Ever watch a keyboardist or someone playing the grand piano whilst singing? If so, they’ll likely be using a mic boom arm to get the best placement.
Buying a mic boom arm? Here’s what to look for…
With boom arms very much being the ‘in thing’ when it comes to suspending a microphone, there’s a LOT of audio companies out there manufacturing their own version. Heck, some audio companies have even specialised in making boom arms, so safe to say there’s no shortage of choice.
So to help you cull your options, here’s a couple of tips for choosing the best mic boom arm…
A largely metal build -When it comes to supporting a mic, metal is by far the best material. Not only is the most sturdy & resistant to knocks & scrapes, but it’s also far less likely to snap under the weight of a heavy mic. Yes, metal boom arms may cost a bit more, but in terms of everyday use, they more than make up for it.
Positive reviews – A HUGE indicator of a good boom arm is positive reviews. In fact, without taking reviews into consideration, we wouldn’t have come across many of the booms (+ other music tech) that we have today. By that we mean, don’t always judge on price. Because in many cases, some of the cheaper boom arms turn out to be actually quite good!
That it fits your mic – Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Some mics can be a bit awkward when it comes to boom arms, especially the incredibly popular Shure SM7B – the same mic that Michael Jackson used to record a good portion of his songs! With the XLR port for the SM7B being located towards the top, some mic arms can prevent you from having full 360 degree maneuverability. Hence why it’s important to check the compatibility of your mic before you buy.