For many artists, audio engineers, and producers, recording vocals and getting a good quality recording is extremely important. Shock mounts can be a big help in the vocal recording (or even guitar recording) process, and I can attest to that. This article is meant to help you understand what a shock mount is, what it does, and all other shock mount related questions you have. Read on to find out more.
What is a shock mount? A shock mount is a piece of equipment that protects a microphone from mechanically transmitted noise. Sounds such as floor vibrations and vibrations from hands on the microphone stand are mechanically transmitted noises. Shock mounts can also protect microphones from basic damage.
That being said, they’re even more useful than you might think. There’s much more than meets the eye, and if you’re not using a shock mount, you could potentially be making a very big mistake. As microphones are extremely sensitive, a shock mount is pretty much essential for any good recording to prevent it from being full of issues that may end up causing some major problems after you’ve recorded.
What Else Can a Shock mount Help With?
Along with protecting a microphone from vibrations in the floor and vibrations from the microphone getting bumped, a shock mount can help in the low frequency areas of your recordings.
Since vibrations and rumble can be found in the low end of the EQ spectrum, they can hinder clarity in your voice. A shock mount can prevent rumble and vibrations from becoming an issue, which therefore gives your low end a lot of clarity.
Now, you might be thinking, “Why can’t I just use a low cut/high pass filter to take care of the low end and not use a shock mount?” Well, if you have extremely quiet rumble, you could use a low cut filter to get rid of it.
However, if you or whoever you’re recording vocals with bumps the microphone or microphone stand and you’re not using a shock mount, those vibrations very well may be loud enough to cause an issue with the entire frequency spectrum, thus rendering your recording useless.
Going into a bit more detail in regards to the concept of protecting the microphone, since a shock mount comes out away from the microphone for a few inches, and since it’s made of metal, your microphone has quite a bit of protection from damage. If you happen to knock the stand over, your shock mount will take the damage instead of the microphone. If you use a swivel stand on a desk, the concept is the same: if you move the microphone and hit something, your shock mount will protect it.
A shock mount can also provide a nice aesthetic to your studio. Of course, no one really buys gear based on what it looks like, but if you like to have that element of aesthetically pleasing gear added to your studio, there are some really nice shock mounts out there that look really great and also work extremely well at the same time.
How Do I Know if I Need a Shock mount?
Although shock mounts aren’t always necessary for recording, it’s an extremely good idea to use one anyways just in case something happens where you’ll be getting a lot of rumble. If you’re someone who might not have it in their budget to get a shock mount, though, you might get lucky because you actually might not even need one.
Technically, you only need a shock mount if you’re picking up vibrations and rumbling from your microphone. There are a few ways to tell if you’ll need one.
The first way is to set up your microphone and make sure your preamp, mixing board, or audio interface is set to a level that you’d normally use to record vocals. Begin recording and then walk in a circle around the microphone. Stop recording and play back the audio. If you can hear vibrations and rumbling in the recording from you walking around, that means your microphone is pretty sensitive and you’ll need a shock mount.
Another thing you can do is do this same method, but with other instruments. If you’re in a studio setting where you’re near a drum set, start recording with your microphone set at the normal level you’d use for vocal recording, and start playing the drums one at a time. Mainly focus on the kick drum, as it’s the one that has the most amount of bass frequencies in it. Play back the audio and see if you can hear any of the vibrations given off by the bass drum in your vocal mic recording.
You can do the same thing with a bass guitar and pretty much any other instrument. If you have a microphone that doesn’t seem too sensitive to low end vibrations, it might be helpful for you to experiment with other instruments that have fewer bass frequencies so you can see if any vibrations are transmitted in the mid to high range in the frequency spectrum.
Additionally, you can try messing around with the microphone stand itself. Hold the microphone stand, bump into the XLR cable that plugs into the microphone, and do any other subtle movements that you would normally do while recording vocals. These actions are more likely to cause vibrations because you’re closer to the microphone, but again, this depends on the microphone that you have.
What Should I Look for in a Shock mount?
When shopping for a shock mount, there most definitely is a way to get the wrong one for your microphone, because microphones come in different sizes. So first, take a look at your microphone. Does it have screw threading for connection? What size is the microphone’s diameter? This will directly affect your choice in a shock mount.
Most shock mounts have threading so you can screw the microphone onto the shock mount. Be aware that the threading comes in certain sizes, with ⅜” and ⅝” being the most common. Shock mounts also sometimes have holders or clamps on them that you can use to attach your microphone to them if you don’t want to or can’t use a threaded connection.
Some shock mounts are made solely out of elastic bands that you just slide the microphone into. These are less common, but they work just as well as the ones made from metal and synthetic materials. What type of shock mount you choose really depends on what you think would be best for you and what would fit with your microphone.
Some microphone companies make shock mounts specifically for their microphones. So if you have a microphone from Rode or Neumann, for example, they have compatible shock mounts for each model, which will save you a lot of time when it comes to looking for a shock mount. I suggest looking for one that’s the same brand as your microphone first so you don’t end up finding one that you’re not 100% sure will be compatible with your mic.
Not many shock mounts are made of plastic, but if you happen to find one that has a cheap type of plastic, I don’t recommend getting it. Stick to ones made out of metal and rubber, another synthetic material, or a higher quality plastic. I also don’t recommend getting a suspended shock mount that enables you to use your microphone upside down, unless you have a lot of padding in your studio/wherever you record vocals.
What are Some Good Shock mount Options?
For starters, I’ll go through some name brand shock mounts that are specific to certain microphone models. Although they’re brand specific, these ones are probably the highest quality shock mounts you can find for your microphones. If you end up getting one of these, they very well might match the specifications of other branded microphones, so be sure to check the dimensions.
Neumann’s microphone shock mounts are really expensive, but they’re extremely high quality. Since Neumann’s microphones are so expensive (and rightfully so), it only makes sense that they’d have shock mounts that match their high quality microphones.
Neumann has shock mounts available for their classic U-87 model, M-147, TLM-103, and TLM-193. The Neumann EA 4 shock mount sells for $130, the Neumann EA 1 and EA 1 MT models sell for $270, and the EA 87 model goes for $380. All of these models have elastic bands and a metal frame, and Neumann also sells extra elastic bands for $17-$20 if you need them.
Another good brand that carries brand specific shock mounts is Rode. Rode’s shock mounts are much more affordable, as are their microphones.
The PSM1 is a shock mount that specifically works with their Podcaster (USB) and Procaster (condenser) microphones, and sells for $40. Their SM2 model is compatible with a lot of their microphones, including the NTK, the NT1000, the Classic II, and the NTV. This one sells for $50.
Finally is Rode’s SM6 shock mount, which comes with a detachable pop filter. It’s the most compatible shock mounts Rode has, and fits the K2, NT1-A, NT1-A Matched Pair, NT1000, NT2-A, NT2000, and NTK. The SM6 sells for $60.
For some high quality, non brand specific shock mounts, I highly suggest the Rycote InVision shock mounts. They have clamp style holders so they’ll fit most microphones. They’re extremely sturdy. They’re not exactly cheap, coming in at anywhere from $40 to $80, but they’ll last a lifetime.
If you want some decent budget friendly options, check out the LyxPro MKS1-B shock mount ($23 on Amazon) or the Koolertron Universal 50MM shock mount (selling for $14 on Amazon). These ones should fit most condenser microphones and they seem to be pretty sturdy despite the low price tag.
What Can I Do if I Can’t Afford a Shock mount?
Obviously, a shock mount is the ideal situation, but if you really can’t afford one, there are some things you can do to make up for that.
Firstly, make sure you’re not close to any instruments or appliances or electronics that give off any sort of vibration. This includes computers, guitar amps, drums, speakers, and things of that nature. If you can set up a recording booth in a different room as your computer and instruments, that’ll be a giant help.
If you’re not in a room that has good floor insulation (for example, if your room has wood flooring or linoleum), invest in some thick carpeting. The more, the better. Slide it under your microphone stand and it should soak up some of the vibrations. Another really good option is rubber. Thick rubber mats or some sort of rubber padding can stop vibration really well.
Another option: try suspending your microphone from the ceiling. If you have a boom stand that drills into your desk or wall, mount it so that your microphone is hanging down from the ceiling. Since most vibration travels through the floor, you won’t have as much of an issue with it. I’m not too big of a fan of this method because it doesn’t always help, especially if you have an untreated room, or if you have a giant drum set in the same room that you’re recording vocals in.
If you can’t do any of those things, consider moving your recording setup to a room that has concrete flooring. Concrete pretty much stops vibration as a whole. If you combine the concrete flooring with a carpet/area rug or rubber mat, you’ll be golden.
If you want to try doing some hands-on, crafty activities, you can always try making your own shock mount with metal scraps or PVC pipes and some thick, synthetic elastic bands. I’d save it as a last resort, but with the right materials you can end up with a decent shock mount for a fraction of the price of a real one.
What are shock mounts made out of? Most shock mounts are made out of metal (usually something lightweight), sometimes synthetic materials (for example, Lyre, a thermoplastic made by Rycote), and sometimes cheaper plastic. Elastic bands and rubber are also used on shock mounts to soak up vibrations.
Why do bass frequencies cause more vibration than high frequencies? They don’t always cause more vibration. Bass frequencies have a lot more resonance because of how the sound waves are shaped, which then causes vibration. High frequencies can cause just as much vibration, but this usually happens at a higher level of volume.
What’s the difference between a condenser mic and a dynamic mic? A condenser microphone is much more accurate, sensitive, and has a wider frequency response range, making it suitable for a studio. A dynamic microphone is a lot sturdier and has a lower frequency response range and less accurate sound, making it more suitable for loud guitar amps and live vocals.