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Do All Mic Stands Suck?

It seems that I’m always looking for a better mic stand.  By better, I mean something that will last longer than one or two years.  My usage will be for local corporate and non-festival sound reinforcement applications.  It seems I’m going to have to continue purchasing these important pieces of hardware much more often than I’d like.  Now….  with that being said and in all fairness to the many brands and models available, a few are better than the rest.  However for me, the vast majority of these stands are lacking.  Sure, you could say that I may be too hard on these stands and that I don’t transport them properly.  But those who know me understand that this is not the case.  I treat my gear with respect and try to get the most mileage out of my purchases.  Like anyone else, I’m always trying to find the best gear (or product type) for my hard-earned money.  Though equipment failures and expected obsolescence are a fact of any business, it seems that microphone stands just don’t hold up.  I guess I could complain to all who will listen and say “if we can put a man on the moon, why can’t someone build a better mic stand?”  But it’s true.

A few years ago, I did my research and concluded that the OnStage Model MS9701TB was suitable for my situation, running a local sound company and being a gigging musician.  And, with a street price of about $50 bucks, it seemed to be a great deal.  Retailers claimed that this stand was heavy duty and tour tough.  Well, once the stand arrived it was certainly heavy, but as time went on its duty was rather iffy.  Upon deployment, the first gig demonstrated that the stand’s height adjustment clutch was so tight that I needed a wrench to loosen and tighten it.  Conversely, it’s boom arm friction adjustment never would tighten enough to keep even the lightest mic from slowly descending to belt level.  Then after about 10 uses, its legs came loose (from a collapsed position) and would flop around. Lastly, a broken boom adjustment screw that had to be surgically removed, and stripped mic clip threads, added to my frustration and lack of confidence.  It seemed that I was constantly searching through my parts boneyard in hopes of making this product usable.

clutch won’t hold

These stands gave me no confidence that they weren’t going to fall apart during a performance (which happened a couple of times).  Damn, what would have happened if I purchased the cheap ones?  Though to be fair, I’ve seen that OnStage has updated the stand (MS9701TB+), and they claim to have addressed paint flaking and leg stability.  Time will tell if it’s any better.  I have one of these in route, and will report back later.

broken tightener

The other day I was checking out their website and noticed they had included a service section detailing parts that were available and could be ordered right away.  I thought this was cool and began to find the many parts I needed, all of which were replaceable.  I go to checkout and all but one part were back-ordered with no time frame shown as to when they may be shipped.  So that was a big waste of effort.

So what should you purchase?  The touring sound companies will tell you that the better products from K&M (Koenig & Meyer) are what they use.  The model 210/9 is a nice stand, considered heavy duty and is below $100.  It has a strong tripod base, reliable adjustment clutches and hardware, with a telescoping boom arm.  I’ve had a few of these in use for many years and they’ve had very few problems other than needing a little tightening of the leg screws.  Of course any stand you’ve had on the front lines for a long time is going to look scratched and beat up, but functional performance is what counts.  And, for about $75, it’s a great value.

Another stand I’ve used that deserves your consideration is the DR Pro Tripod Boom ($50).  It is solid with smooth adjustment hardware and a robust weighted base.  Unfortunately, your choices of where to purchase DR products are limited to Amazon and Guitar Center (which means it won’t be in stock when you hit the store to check it out).  Additionally, as with most any Chinese made stand, replacement parts can be very hard to obtain.  So in the event of a part failure, your ability to “MacGyver” a fix will come into play.  So in the end, plan on spending a few hundred bucks each year on new microphone stands, though these products from K&M and DR should be considered.  As always, do your homework, consider user reviews, check the warranty (parts availability) and consider your application.

Feel free to add your comments about microphone stands you’ve had success (or problems) with.

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