After 50+ years, is the humble microphone stand facing extinction? Not exactly – but Triad-Orbit’s “quantum leap” forward in stand technology has changed what used to be an afterthought beyond all recognition, writes Jon Chapple
As a studio owner, you’d never consider skimping on audio gear, backline, acoustic treatments or furniture – so why do so many make do with cheap, nasty, not-fit-for-purpose mic stands?
That’s the question posed by Triad-Orbit, a US-based manufacturer which claims to represent “a quantum leap in the evolution of the microphone stand” with its range of premium, heavy-duty mic stands, booms and adaptors for studio, live and broadcast applications, distributed in Europe by Belgium’s FACE (Foundation for Audiovisual Commerce & Engineering).
“As a system, T-O constitutes three basic elements: Triad, a range of advanced, adaptable tripods; the Orbit series of orbiting boom arms; and Micro, which are smaller orbiting mic adapters,” explains Herschel Blankenship, managing director of Triad-Orbit parent Access Products Group. Each stand also includes T-O’s IO quick-change coupler.
Blankenship started his career in music retail, before moving into creating OEM products for the MI and pro-audio markets (“Chances are you own and use music products made by Access for one of our many partners”) and, ultimately, his own company. (In addition to Triad-Orbit products, Access also makes the eponymous brand of guitar bags and cases.)
His partner in Triad-Orbit is Andy Aldrich, who for over 30 years was the owner of American Music in Seattle, the largest MI retailer in the US’s Pacific north-west, before his retirement.
A popular configuration for a Triad-Orbit stand/boom set-up is T2–O1–M2: a Triad T2 standard tripod, Orbit O1 long single-arm boom and Micro M2 adaptor. This full solution has “now sold in the thousands”, says Blankenship, “but by switching out the O1 for our dual-arm O2 or the new O2X, we have seen steady growth and sizable numbers. Then you add the iOrbit iPad-/tablet-holder and IO-C clamps for additional arms and mounting points for extra mics, computers and lights, and it gets wild – it’s way beyond just audio.”
As well as offering new stands and booms, Access/Triad-Orbit also manufactures solutions to retrofit old mic stands with “Triad-Orbit innovation”. Dubbed T-O Retro, the range includes retrofittable versions of Micro adapters and the IO series of couplers (IO-R), mounting heads (IO-H), clamps (IO-C) and wall plates (IO-W). According to Blankenship, the quick-change IO-R – standard on all new Triad Stands and Orbit Booms – is “our number one-selling product”.
“We refer to the IO-R adapter as ‘the little gateway drug’,” he says. “This unique adapter is a coupler that attaches to any existing mic stand with a locking cam; now any conventional stand is transformed to our quick-release, reliable IO technology platform. These units sell to schools, churches, institutions, studios and sound stages in bulk to convert all mounting points of already owned and existing stands to IO… it’s just a better idea!”
Among the converted are producers David Kulmusky (“It belongs in every […] studio, over any conventional stand”), Russ Long (“they’ve changed my workflow in the studio and the way I work with microphones”), Neeraj Khajanchi (“I knew when I built my studio Triad-Orbit stands would the only stands I’d use”) and Glenn Rosenstein (“a work of art”), and user feedback is overwhelmingly positive: a Gearslutz.com thread on the stands quotes grateful user ‘rkopald’ as saying he “can start using my Regensburg Dom [U 47 replica mic] without having a stroke every time I have to move the mic stand”.
The T2 is also twice nominated for a NAMM TEC Award, and has won Pro Sound Network (the online presence of PSNEurope’s US sister titles Pro Sound News and Pro Audio Review)’s Par Excellence Award and Best in Show for NAMM 2014.
If Triad-Orbit’s solutions are as revolutionary as it and its endorsees say, why has it taken until now for someone to create a ‘premium’ microphone stand? Does it say something about the majority of engineers and musicians that they’ve put up with such poor quality products for so long?
Blame it on our throw-away society, says Blankenship: “Most stands have ‘devolved’ to commodity levels with low-cost imports and cloned repetition. When products become disposable, the market norm becomes ‘buy it cheap, use it, throw it away and get another’.
“As mic technology has evolved, […] the mass, weight and size, along with soaring prices, have increased the concern and demand for stable, secure tensioning and adaptable stands. Enter T-O: a design which is really a system of quick connect tools to build and configure an endless variety of support configurations for the largest and most expensive and precise microphones.”
All very impressive – but when a generic boom-mic stand can be had for, for example, £14.99 from Gear4music (as opposed to roughly £130 for a T2 tripod), how can Triad-Orbit make a vastly more expensive product a must-have for the recording industry as a whole?
By changing the game, of course (sorry): “The basic mic stand and tripod stand have been around virtually unchanged for more than 50 years,” says Blankenship. “There is no substitute for true innovation through original design.”
“T-O is a revolution in mic placement technology, with improvements in stability, adaptability, portability and reliability, and [we are] now developing converging parallels for AV, multimedia in lighting, video cameras and screen/tablet support with an all-in-one stand support system…”
(Pictured above, The Voice deployed a T3-02 stand system for Christina Grimme and Ed Sheeran)
One believer in Blankenship’s microphone revolution is Karel de Piere, FACE’s CEO (pictured, top). De Piere’s first experience with Triad-Orbit products was “in a hotel room at NAMM. I was invited by [4M4You founder] Mike van der Logt to check out a new brand. At first I wasn’t very enthusiastic – how many new stand brands does this industry need? – but when I did check them out I found myself still in the room four hours later. I was beyond intrigued.”
What exactly is FACE’s relationship with T-O? Reseller? Distributor? “It’s based on a joint-venture model,” de Piere explains, “a commercial partnership that resulted into a Triad-Orbit HQ for Europe. Ultimately we are commercial business partner for the brand.”
The convergence of traditional AV disciplines, mirroring the rise of bedroom producers, YouTube celebrities and their like, is something very much at the forefront of Herschel Blankenship’s plans for the future. “Our latest product developments are really focusing on the multimedia YouTube/podcasting online world,” he explains. “Individuals are becoming one-man bands as photographer–videographer, engineer, commentator, artist, editor and producer – that is real convergence, and with that comes shared technologies and the need to have portability and adaptability…”
However, the (vlogging) world is not enough, and Blankenship is already looking forward to a future where “all T-O products [have] the capability to inter-connect all new products with all existing products.
“In the longer term we are already transitioning T-O into different markets: consumer products; medical; interior architecture, both lighting and fixtures; marine; RV; sporting, etc. We just continue to discover new applications and opportunities…”
As for Karel de Piere, he’s in contact with Pinewood Studios about supplying a Triad-Orbit-based ADR set-up. “They had been looking for a clear solution for an ADR system,” he says. “[T-O is] fully customised for the application.”