The term “microphone clip” gets used in all sorts of situations that involve audio. Depending on the situation, “microphone clip” could mean different things.
Microphone clip (disambiguation):
- A physical device that holds the microphone in place and connects to a mic stand. These typically do not provide any mechanical isolation.
- A distorted peak in the microphone’s audio, whether at the mic or recorder level. This term is generally reserved for digital audio.
- An audio clip (section of audio) that has been recorded by a microphone. This is rarely the way the term is used.
In this article, we’ll briefly discuss each of the above-mentioned ways the term “microphone clip” is used.
Microphone Clip (Physical Mount)
More often than not the term “mic clip” refers to a physical mount that holds a microphone in place.
As an example, Shure produces the A25D (link to check the price on Amazon), a microphone clip designed to hold its SM57, SM58, SM86, SM87, Beta 87A, and Beta 87C microphones:
Mic clips are designed to hold a microphone in place and attach to a microphone stand.
With the A25D, simply slide the microphone into the clip until it fits snug and thread the clip onto a mic stand.
The above-mentioned Shure mic clip works with many microphones since many microphones are modeled after Shure’s SM and Beta series.
A more universal microphone clip is often referred to as the clothespin mic clip. These clips can hold a wider range of microphone diameters but are typically not as reliable.
The Audio 2000s AMC4171 is a good quality clothespin mic clip. You can check these mic clips out on Amazon here.
Because microphones come in all shapes and sizes, so too do mic clips. We won’t get into all the different mic clips here but know that some microphones are designed with specific clips that hold them properly in place and attach them to mic stands.
Lavalier microphones also have mic clips in order to properly attach to clothing. These mic clips are much different than those of regular-sized microphones.
Check out these lavalier mic clips from Foitech (link to check the price on Amazon):
Microphone clips are common in live situations and for dynamic microphones. However, in studio environments where relatively sensitive condenser microphones are required, we may need more than just a mic clip.
Studio recordings typically require very strong signal-to-noise ratios, which means we should strive to reduce noise in a microphone as much as possible. Combine this fact with the fact that studio-grade condenser microphones are designed to pick up every nuanced sound in an acoustic environment, and our noise reduction task becomes even more difficult.
To learn more about signal-to-noise ratios in microphones, please check out my article What Is A Good Signal-To-Noise Ratio For A Microphone?
Mechanical noise is but one of the potential issues to address. The is the noise in the solids of the acoustic environment that finds its way up the mic stand and into the microphone. Mechanical noise includes traffic rumble; footsteps; vibrations from other sound sources in the studio (particularly bass instruments); and the Earth itself.
Normal microphone clips would simply pass mechanical noise to the microphone.
Microphone shock mounts, however, mechanically isolate the microphone while also fulfilling the same role as mic clips (to hold the microphone in place while attaching it to a mic stand/boom).
Microphone shock mounts do so with elastic bands or elastomer (a portmanteau between elastic and polymer). These bands effectively bridge a connector that holds the microphone to a connector that attaches to a mic stand while mechanically isolating the microphone.
Rycote is an industry leader in microphone shock mounts:
The Rycote USM (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent shock mount for both large and small studio microphones. It provides superb mechanical isolation, steady positioning, and has adjustable feet in order to properly fit a wide range of microphone sizes.
The Rycote INV-7 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent shock mount for shotgun/boom microphones. It is durable and provides superb mechanical isolation which is particularly needed when holding a microphone at the end of a boom pole.
For a deeper read on microphone shock mounts, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Is A Microphone Shock Mount And Why Is It Important?
Best Microphone Shock Mounts
Microphone Clip (Electrical Overload)
The term “microphone clip” can also be used to describe an instant where the microphone audio signal is clipped. What does this mean?
Audio clipping is a type of waveform distortion that occurs when an audio device (often an amplifier) tries passing an AC voltage (audio signal) beyond its maximum capability.
To learn more about AC voltages and mic signals, check out my article What Is A Microphone Audio Signal, Electrically Speaking?
Similarly, digital clipping happens when digital audio is pushed above 0 dBFS, at which point the tops and bottoms of the waveform are flattened.
Allow me to illustrate my point. Let’s imagine that this simple sine wave is the intended microphone signal:
But the circuitry cannot handle this signal strength, so it clips:
As we can see from the waveforms above, the clipped audio distorts the waveform.
In the simplest scenario (pictured above), clipping causes a sine wave to become more like a square wave. This drastically alters the sound of the wave, or, in other words, distorts the signal.
We can imagine this by picturing a loudspeaker in slow motion. A regular, non-distorted audio signal would, generally speaking, keep the loudspeaker diaphragm in motion, moving outward and inward to produce sound.
Clip the audio signal, however, and the loudspeaker diaphragm, for a moment, will full extend outward or inward and remain in that fully extended position before moving in the opposite direction again.
Therefore, the intended audio signal will not be heard as intended. It will be distorted.
When audio signals distort this way, we refer to them as clips, particularly in digital audio. If a microphone’s signal exhibits the same distortion, we can call the mic signal clipped.
Technically speaking, microphone clipping occurs within the microphone itself and not after the mic’s signal has been boosted by the mic preamp. However, to extend the definition, we could argue that mic clipping could occur along all gain stages of a microphone’s signal.
Here are a few ways to avoid microphone clipping:
- Keep the sound pressure at the microphone diaphragm below the microphone’s maximum sound pressure level.
- Do not apply too much gain at the microphone preamp level.
- When dealing with mic signals in digital audio workstations (or with digital mics and mic signals in general), keep the level below 0 dBFS.
*Points in italics happen after the microphone output and do not truly represent “mic clipping.”
To learn more about microphone distortion and clipping, check out the My New Microphone articles:
What Does A Microphone’s Maximum Sound Pressure Level Actually Mean?
What Is Total Harmonic Distortion In Audio And Microphones?
Microphone Clip (Audio Playback)
The final, least popular, use of the term “microphone clip” could mean an audio clip that was recorded by a microphone.
However, this is only a play off of the term “audio clip” and is not typically used in day-to-day discussions.
The term “audio clip” simply describes a section of recorded audio.
What is the thread size of a microphone stand? Mic stands usually have thread sizes of either 3/8″ with 16 threads per inch (tpi) or larger 5/8″ with 27 tpi. However, some stands use 1/2″ with 12 tpi or 1/4″ with 20 tpi. Fortunately, adapters (particular between the two most common threads) are easily acquired to connect one thread to another.
What is a mic boom? The term mic boom typically refers to a long pole or stand that connects to a microphone and allows for both vertical and horizontal positioning. Boom arms are common extensions for mic stands and as standalone mounts for mics (particularly in radio). Boom poles are common in film in order to position the mic without nearby vertical support.
For more information on mic booms, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Is A Boom Microphone? (Applications + Mic Examples).
How To Properly Hold A Boom Pole And Microphone.
Best Boom Microphones For Film.
Best Microphone Boom Poles.
Best Microphone Boom Arms.