This beautifully engineered system reaches the parts other mic stands can’t...
Regular SOS readers will know that I get disturbingly passionate about the engineering of one of the most mundane studio peripherals: the microphone stand. But I’m sure everyone has experienced the frustration of drooping mic stands, or stands that wobble or topple over at the slightest provocation. Sometimes these problems are caused by ‘operator-error’, setting up the stand incorrectly or misusing it, but often it’s just because some mic stands are very poor designs and can never work well or reliably over long timescales. Inevitably, a well-designed and well-made studio stand — one which will genuinely last a lifetime — is never going to be ‘cheap’. But if the cost is amortised over 20 years or more it will probably work out less expensive than replacing broken stands every year or two, and will give you far greater peace of mind knowing your mics are supported securely and reliably!
For the manufacturer, a benefit of a higher-cost stand is that the engineering can be much more developed and far better executed. This is certainly evident in the design of the Triad-Orbit mic stand system — and it really is a ‘system’, with all manner of compatible elements making this probably the most versatile mic stand system I’ve seen to date. Every aspect has been developed and optimised in America by a group of professional musicians and experienced audio engineers to deliver a ‘no-compromise’ modular mic-stand system that’s both incredibly versatile and extremely robust, but still easy to use — exactly what every mic-stand user wants!
Every element in the Triad-Orbit system is compatible with every other element, and stands can be constructed in a mix-and-match manner to meet any specific requirements. The core of the Triad-Orbit world comprises four sizes of basic vertical mic stand. The TM (mini), T1 and T2 all have one extendable section, while the range-topping T3 and T3C have two extendible sections. The ‘C’ suffix indicates the attachment of (removable) three-inch locking castor wheels, to create a rolling studio stand.
There’s something available to cover every normal studio requirement, and I’m sure more will be added in time. So rather than list myriad mind-boggling dimensions here, I’ll leave you to check the company’s web site for the minimum and maximum heights, as well as the weights and folded sizes of each stand variant. It should be noted that these stands are all unusually heavy for their sizes, and that most of the weight is kept low in the base, to maintain a very stable centre of gravity. It takes a considerable effort to topple one of these stands! Of course, the weight inherently also adds to the retail price when shipped to the UK or Europe.
All of the core mic stands have a familiar-looking three-legged base arrangement, and the legs are replaceable should they become damaged (which seems unlikely). The folding tension can also be adjusted using a couple of supplied Allen keys (or ‘hex wrenches’ if your English is of the US variety!). Naturally, the legs can be folded down completely for storage, but they can also be positioned and locked individually via a foot-operated latch at any of four intermediate angles up to 65 degrees. If all three legs are moved to one of these midway positions the stand’s footprint is usefully reduced with only a small reduction in stability, while the base clearance and overall stand height are both increased. Again, check the Triad-Orbit web site if you want full details, but hopefully I’ve been able to give you a feel for how this all works.
The ability to alter the leg angles to intermediate positions helps with interlacing stands among each other (or for storage), but also makes it easy to cope with uneven surfaces (eg. steps or low platforms). Unusually, it also allows the stand to lean in one direction, which proved surprisingly useful in gaining easy access to instruments or drums without having to use a boom arm — something I found particularly useful.
Moving up to the clutch grips for the extendable section(s), these are again of a fairly traditional design using a simple split-collet under the metal screw barrel, which is covered with a high-grip knurled rubber sleeve. The operation is familiar and easy, and felt strong and reliable. Another clutch grip is attached to the base section, allowing the legs to be slid along the lower tube to reduce the overall length for storage.
Perhaps the most attractive engineering feature of the Triad-Orbit design is the integration of a bespoke ‘Quick-Change’ (Q-C) coupler at the top of every stand. This comprises a hexagonal socket which accepts a short mating bar attached to a standard 5/8-inch screw thread. (A chunky metal 3/8-inch European thread adaptor is also included). The release mechanism is operated simply by pulling a knurled metal sleeve away from the top of the fitting, releasing the pressure applied by a steel ball-bearing inside. A new Q-C attachment can be pushed directly into an empty socket whereupon it locks instantly in place, as any effort to pull the spigot out causes the ball-bearing to cam tighter into the spigot. This is a very elegant and effective system that makes the Triad-Orbit system a joy to use and configure, allowing very rapid fitting and releasing of mics already in their mounts, or to allow other mounting accessories to be changed in seconds, including a variety of boom arms and other fittings.
Most Triad-Orbit users will require a boom arm on their stand, and there are two standard options, Orbit Mini and Orbit 1. Both have two clutch mechanisms, one controlling the extending part of the arm and the other the position of the arm within the stand mount (to vary the balance and/or reach). Again, the business end of the boom arm features another Q-C mechanism, and the stand mount is attached to the stand via a Q-C spigot. The two boom models only differ in size, with the Orbit Mini adjustable between 310 and 550 mm (12.2 to 21.65 inches), and the Orbit 1 spanning 530 to 950 mm (20.8 to 37.5 inches).
Setting the Orbit boom apart from its rivals is its use of a substantial stainless-steel ball-swivel mount attaching the boom arm to the stand mount, in an arrangement similar to many camera tripods. A large T-bar handle adjusts the tension and clamps the arm solidly in place once positioned. This configuration works very well indeed, and has the rather curious property of allowing the boom arm to be positioned off to the side of the mount, rather than always directly above it, which might be useful on occasions! Again, nothing here is lightweight, with the Orbit Mini weighing 1.93kg (4.25lbs) and the Orbit 1 a chunky 2.15kg (4.75lbs).
Among all this lovely engineering one trick does seem to have been missed, though, which is the absence of alternative counter-balance weights. The balance weight on each boom is secured with a grub screw, so could be user-replaceable, but as yet alternative balance weights aren’t available as accessories. I’d like to see this option introduced to allow easier counter-balancing of different mics and attachments — as some other manufacturers already do.
At this point the Triad-Orbit system diverges from the relatively conventional mic-stand paradigm and into a world of the weird and wonderful, as perfectly illustrated by the Orbit 2 ‘dual-arm’ boom. As the name suggests, this comprises two short boom arms, each with an extending section, and each attached via ball-swivel joints to the triangular stand hub (shown in this review’s main picture). This hub has a centre-pivoting action to allow an additional 72.5 degrees of tilt left or right, and attaches to the stand with the now-familiar Q-C spigot. Each arm can be extended between 420 and 660 mm (16.5-26 inches) from the ball swivel and, taking the width of the centre hub into account, that affords a maximum horizontal span between the two arm tips of 1487mm (58.5 inches). The Orbit 2 weighs 2.15kg (4.75lbs).
There’s also an Orbit 2x version, which is very similar but the arms are replaced with Q-C sockets directly mounted on the hub ball-swivel joints, and it is supplied with a pair of plug-in short arms (242-320mm/9.5-12.6 inches) and a pair of long arms (395-632mm/15.5-24.8 inches). Inevitably, while this arrangement greatly increases versatility, the extra joints also reduce the maximum load capability slightly, but the Triad-Orbit web site is quite helpful in providing the relevant shear and loading weight limits, and it’s more than strong enough for most typical requirements.
Although they look rather ungainly at first, the Orbit 2 and 2x boom arms are incredibly adaptable, with countless applications only really limited by the imagination. It’s a great system for positioning mics around a drum kit, for instance, or any situation where you need to support multiple mics without cluttering up the floor space.
As I hinted before, the Triad-Orbit system also features a number of accessories and adaptors which further expand system’s adaptability. For example, the OA adapter is a stand-alone swivel joint with a Q-C spigot at the base and a Q-C socket extending from the ball-swivel, allowing mics to be positioned at any desired angle very easily. Then there are the M1 and M2 Micro Orbital adaptors, which are intended as ‘hangers’ to suspend a mic below an overhead boom arm. These two models comprise a smaller version of the ball-swivel, and only differ in the length of the extending arm, which terminates with a 5/8-inch thread. The longer version gives greater clearance for large-diaphragm mics mounted in cat’s-cradle shockmounts.
There is also a variety of alternatives to conventional floor stands, such as a screw-down desktop base and a pipe-clamp, both with Q-C sockets to accept any of the boom arms and other adapters. A comprehensive collection of different Q-C spigot mounts are also available as alternatives to the standard 5/8-inch threaded adapter supplied with the stands and boom arms. For example, a heavy-duty version has a notched spigot which allows heavier loads to be supported, and there are two versions with 1/4-inch threads for camera equipment, one with an integrated lighting equipment stud.
If the Quick-Change release mechanism appeals but you can’t justify changing your entire mic stand collection, Triad-Orbit have a solution for that too, with the ‘Retro’ components. The IO-R, for example, screws directly onto a conventional mic stand or boom arm (and is locked in place with a grub screw) to bestow it with a Q-C socket, while the M1-R and M2-R do the same but with ball swivels and drop arms. If you need to mount an iPad or iPhone on the stand, there are adaptors for those as well (and the Orbit 2 dual-arm boom makes a great mounting system for a mic and iPad!).
When increased floor-stand stability is required, the optional Triad-Orbit GB-3 ‘Grav Bags’ can be filled with lead shot and attached with velcro tabs to the stand feet. And if additional height is required, the T-ES Elevator Shaft can be attached to any of the base stands to provide an extra 838mm (33-inch) of height, with Q-C fittings at each. When fitted to a T3 stand this makes a substantial and effective ‘Cathedral Stand’, raising mics above orchestras and choirs, or for organ lofts and the like. Finally, two variations on padded carry-bags are available to protect and transport complete stand systems, the deluxe version having roller wheels which make it a lot easier to transport a heavy stand system!
I found the Triad Orbit system a joy to use. The core components are strong and robust, and the clutches and clamps all provide very secure and stable positioning. As I mentioned earlier, I’d have liked an option to swap out the boom counter-balance weight — most stand ‘drooping’ and instability issues are caused by not balancing the boom arm correctly — but that issue aside the basic stands do a superb job and I’m sure would provide a long service life. The icing on the cake is undoubtedly the elegant and highly effective Quick-Change mount, which makes attaching and removing microphones a very safe and easy process; the ability to add Q-C mounts to legacy mic stands is a very attractive one. The rather wacky dual-boom arm proved its worth very quickly when rigging mics around a small drum kit, and I’m sure this unique facility will serve to persuade many potential customers of the many benefits of the Triad-Orbit system all on its own!
There’s no getting away from the very high cost of this system, particularly for UK and European customers, sadly, but for those that are prepared to contemplate such expenditure these stands are unlikely ever to need replacing, and are amongst the most robust and secure I’ve ever used. The Triad-Orbit system is also one of the most versatile and comprehensive mic stand systems I’ve ever used. I am very impressed with the overall engineering design, and these stands afford great peace of mind that microphones are supported safely and securely. That’s worth a lot in my book!
The Latch Lake MicKing stand system is equally sturdy and well-designed, while the K&M top-line systems are well-known as reliable and easy to maintain. I also like the Sontronics Matrix, which is an adapted lighting stand, and has the benefit of being relatively lightweight but extremely strong.
- The Quick-Change component coupling system is genius!
- Very sturdy clutches and clamps, providing very secure positioning.
- Unusual but versatile multi-angle folding leg facility.
- Bizarre but extremely useful dual-arm boom options.
- Neat ball-swivel mic ‘hanger’ accessories.
- No option to change boom counter-balance weights.
- High cost, especially in Europe (because of shipping weight).
An extraordinarily versatile and comprehensive mic-stand system, with a wide and unusual range of accessories and attachments, all designed to last a lifetime.
Unity Audio +44 (0)1799 520786.