A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, and music.

Lightweight Mic Stands in the Field

Posted: July 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, gear
Small flashgun light stands make perfect mic stands!

Small photo light stands provide perfect mic support!

It’s always a struggle to take just enough with you into the field without being encumbered by gear that’s too heavy or too bulky, especially if you need to hike or schlep any appreciable distance to get to your location. My strategy is to ensure that everything I take with me is flexible, modular, and lightweight.

Being an avid photographer, I’ve been a longtime fan of David Hobby’s Strobist blog, where he focuses on maximum impact from incredibly portable equipment. Applying this knowledge to field recording has been not only easy, but some of the equipment can do double-duty. Hobby loves the Manfrotto 001B nano light stand (formerly the 3373) : It’s two pounds and collapses to 19″ in length. I’ve found it to be stellar for small flash units, so I decided to adopt it for audio recording as well.

I decided that the rest of my kit should be about the same length, as it fits perfectly in many bags that I own. I added a cheap On Stage telescoping mic boom, using a 3/8″ to 5/8″ adapter for mounting a pistol grip or windscreen, and a K-Tek KE-79 boompole. Finally, my Røde Blimp windscreen even fits into this range.

This kind of planning echoes some great backpacking advice I once got: buy your pack last, after you have everything else. All of these items now fit handily in a messenger bag or backpack, or you can even use bungee cords to strap it all together and throw it over your shoulder. Most importantly, though, they also fit inside most carry-on luggage. In high winds they might not be perfect, but I’m happy to sacrifice some weight for portability – besides, one can always weigh the stands down with one’s (now empty) bag, the field recorder itself, or your own fat arse.

The photo in this post features two Manfrotto 001B’s in a hyper-reverberant cow tunnel under Lucas Valley Road in Marin County, California…oddly enough, this is one of my favorite places to record (shown here at dawn, when there’s less traffic), and it’s about 1/4 mile away from world-famous Skywalker Sound. I set up my old Zoom H2 and a Røde NT4 stereo mic to compare their sounds. The NT4 (feeding into a Fostex FR2-LE,with which I had a tumultuous relationship) captured the crisp articulation of a rock being thrown in the tunnel (its original subtle phasing now lost to MP3 compression, sadly, but you’ll get the picture).


[Røde NT4 stereo microphone into Fostex FR2-LE field recorder]

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4 Comments on “Lightweight Mic Stands in the Field”

  1. 1 Noise Jockey » Blog Archive » Meet the Super Clamp: Rigging a Bicycle for Sound said at 7:55 am on September 1st, 2009:

    [...] posted before about photographic grip equipment for use in audio recording, but one little widget rises to the [...]

  2. 2 Music of Sound » Detritus 62 said at 2:25 pm on October 21st, 2010:

    [...] cable can do up to six track recording now… Am sorting out additional mics… Following Nathans advice last week took delivery of two light weight mic stands, a k tek traveller boom and some [...]

  3. 3 Music of Sound » Safe travel with gear 2 said at 5:28 pm on January 16th, 2011:

    [...] recording photos & video; they are the Manfrotto 5001 nano stands as reccomended by Nathan in this Noisejockey post. Despite them actually being lighting stands the native thread on the stands fits the Rycote pistol [...]

  4. 4 Music of Sound » Samoa Field Trip Debrief said at 10:27 pm on March 12th, 2011:

    [...] Heres whats in my mic bag – on the left & still in the bag are mic cables, that rain cover bag and the shiny silver box is a very handy device that Pelican make called the Peli Desiccant – its basically a reuseable Silican gel container that ‘drinks’ dampness and prevents condensation from trapped air when cases are opened in damp, high humidity climates – I bought two of them, one for each bag. The three mics are, as you’re probably sick of hearing by now, my Sennheiser MKH70, MKH816 and Sanken CSS5. Alongside them are three Manfrotto lightweight mic stands and a K-Tek traveller boom – all courtesy of Nathans great advice [...]


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