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What is a Shock Mount? – A Handy Tool!

Did you know that microphones require a special device in order to function at its maximum potential? Well, of course not all microphones need to have an external apparatus attached to them. However, some of the more sensitive ones, do require special attention. Want to know more? Then you need to learn what is a Shock Mount!

For today’s article, we will be looking at a rather simple mechanical tool that is not all too complex in design, but has enormous benefits when used in any recording situation. Although its use is very straightforward and simple, I still believe that there is much we can learn from observing its functionality and design principles. So, let’s start learning!

Shock Mount – Shockingly Beneficial!

A shock mount is used in a variety of applications (not just in audio), and is generally described as a mechanical fastener that connects two parts elastically. It is designed to isolate shock and vibrations. The bolts on a shock mount are usually fitted with rubber bushings (compressed synthetic rubber rings), in order to provide some isolation.

Condenser Shock Mount

Condenser microphone on a shock mount / Photo by Matthew Keefe / CC BY 2.0

Other types of shock mounts may have mechanical springs or an elastomer (in tension or compression), that is engineered to isolate an object from mechanical shocks and vibrations. In some cases, a specific form of dashpot (a mechanical device which resists motion) is used with a spring to provide viscous damping. Viscoelastic materials are also commonly used.

Microphone Applications

Shock mounts can be used to protect microphones from damage, but their primary function is to isolate microphones from noise that are transmitted mechanically. For example, noise can be induced by floor vibrations transmitted through a mic stand, or through touching of the microphone and boom poles (also widely known as “handling noise”).

MXL 990 Condenser

A microphone with its shock mount detached (on the right) / Photo by Jordan Colburn / CC BY-SA 2.0

It is important to take note that a microphone’s most sensitive axis is the one that is perpendicular to the diaphragm (the element that captures sound). Furthermore, there are microphones that consists of internal elements such as vacuum tubes and transformers, which may exhibit “microphonic” properties. These are usually shielded by internal methods, on top of external shock mounts.

Large “side-address” studio microphones are typically mounted on a “cat’s cradle” mount, which has fabric-wound rubber elastic features to provide isolation. Although these features tend to deteriorate and sag with time, some still favour the use of this mount. Newer designs, such as Rycote’s “USM” lyre, use plastic elastomers, and patented spring shapes to remedy this issue.

AKG Shock Mount

Two different shock mount designs / Photo by Hens Zimmerman / CC BY 2.0

For end-fire microphones, similar elastic features were used. But more recent designs uses “o-ring” elements, before the Rycote Lyre and Cinela Osix suspensions were introduced. These use spring elements that provides greater displacement along the microphone’s prime axis, while limiting it on the other two. This allows superb isolation while maintaining good control of the microphone.

We have come to the end of this article. Have you used a shock mount before? Do you notice any major improvements to your recordings?

Let me know your thoughts down below, and do share this article with your friends!

Farhan

When I'm not rocking out to great music, I'd prefer to be sleeping on a field on a windy day =)

4 Comments

  1. What an informative article about shock mounts. I have done some home recording and have a condenser microphone with a shock mount but didn’t realize how important it is.

    I also did not know about the different shock mounts available.
    Can you tell me the difference in the end product from using an inexpensive condenser microphone and shock mount compared to an expensive unit?

    • Hello Marty!

      Expensive condenser microphones very often comes with their own shock mount. I may be wrong, but this is usually the case (in my experience) with most major manufacturers. So, naturally you will be able to get your condenser microphone to perform at its maximum capacity, if its used with the shock mount that came with it.

      Do keep in mind that shock mounts help you get “cleaner” recordings like how I described in the article. As for the sound quality of the microphone itself, you’ll need to take a look at the reputation of the respective manufacturers, and also their product line. Typically, the more expensive ones will be of a higher quality.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

  2. I have one for my mic, and you do notice the difference between using a shock mount like this one and a regular mic holder….

    • Yeah, it does make a big difference to the overall recording experience. Thanks for dropping by!

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