TASCAM TM-AM3 Heavy-Duty Microphone Stand
Sometimes, not just any mic stand will do...
by Phil O'Keefe
M icrophone stands are a regular part of a musician's life. Whether you're a stage animal or studio cat, if you play music, you're going to come into contact with a lot of them on a regular basis. But not all microphone stands are created equally. There's a wide variety of different designs out there, including gigantic studio models with wheels on the bases to make them easier to reposition, inexpensive straight stands, stands with extendable boom arms, and of course there are a variety of different stand base types too. Recently the folks at TASCAM (which is, like Harmony Central, a Gibson Brand) announced a new mic stand with an interesting combination of features called the TM-AM3. Let's see how it measures up and how well it performs.
- TASCAM advertises the TM-AM3 as a heavy-duty mic stand, and while it's not the tallest stand on the market, nor does it have the horizontal "reach" of some of the largest (and considerably more expensive) studio boom stands, it's a much beefier stand that's capable of handling heavier mic loads than your average run-of-the-mill round base mic stand.
- The TASCAM TM-AM3 mic stand uses a folding tripod base design. It's not the same as the low-profile tripod base stands that you might be familiar with; it's more like the base of a tubular aluminum speaker stand, only it's somewhat smaller than most speaker stands.
- Of course, one of the big advantages with this type of design is that this mic stand folds relatively flat, making it easier to transport and store, without any of the awkward bulkiness of mic stands with round bases. Another advantage is that it's stable and sturdy, but still relatively light.
- The diameter of the leg tubing is 25 mm, or about 1", and the main vertical shaft is 30 mm (about 1.2") in diameter, while the vertical central extension pole is 25 mm in diameter.
- The legs each extend out about 330 mm (13") from the dead center of the stand, and the top of the leg attachment hardware sits about one foot above the ground when the legs are fully deployed. Rubber caps on the end of the tripod feet help to keep the stand in place on a variety of floor surfaces.
- Large triangular-shaped knobs are included for holding both the tripod base as well as the main vertical tube extension pole in position.
- Additionally, there is a metal "safety stopper" pin that is attached to the stand hardware with a lanyard (so it won't get lost); this is designed to be inserted into holes spaced in the main vertical tube of the stand, and will prevent the center of the stand from falling. There are a total of five holes, spaced about 4 3/4" apart. The center vertical tube height can be adjusted anywhere from 114 cm (44.88") to 162 cm (63.78").
- The boom arm uses a two-piece extendable design, and the secondary extension can be set to give you anywhere from 58 cm (22.83") when it's retracted to 90 cm (35.43") in overall boom length when it's fully extended. The smaller plastic-handled knobs (for tightening the boom arm and counterweight and holding them in the desired positions) inspire confidence because they grip well and don't slip.
- The key to the TM-AM3's load handling capabilities is the stable base, along with the boom arm's hefty counterweight. According to TASCAM the whole stand weighs 3.9 kg (8.59 pounds) overall, and while I didn't have a scale that could accurately measure it, the counterweight feels like it accounts for about a quarter to a third of that total weight. Adjusting the position of the counterweight either closer to or further from the center of the stand allows it to counterbalance some serious mic weight - I had no problem using this stand with my largest and heaviest tube vocal microphones.
- The business end of the boom arm is threaded for 5/8" clips. A 3/8" - 5/8" adapter is included, so you're covered whether you're using US or European mic clips.
- If you need extra confidence, the design of the legs makes it easy to drape a lead shot or sand-filled weight bag over the support arms to further increase stability and reduce the likelihood of the stand toppling or being knocked over.
- I wish the clutch for the main boom arm angle tightened a little more snugly. As it is, it tightens, but not quite enough to hold a heavy condenser mic in place by itself unless you have the counterweight properly positioned.
- While TASCAM includes one plastic cable retaining clip, it's designed for use on the boom arm. A second, large-sized clip for the main vertical tube would be a nice addition.
I really like the stability of the TASCAM TM-AM3 Heavy Duty Mic Stand's "speaker stand" style base. While it's visually a bit more obtrusive than a mic stand with a round base or a low profile tripod base, the top of the base is only about a foot above ground level, so it's really not that big of a deal, even for on-stage use. Of course, when you're working in a studio the appearance isn't going to matter, and the TASCAM TM-AM3 is much more stable than your typical round base mic stand, or even most low-profile boom stands with tripod bases. The lower parts of the support arms offer a convenient place to drape weight bags, and the arms of the base are also high enough that placement over and around drum stands and mic cables is still fairly easy. While the reach of the boom arm is fairly typical of smaller-sized boom mic stands, the TM-AM3 can be extended higher than a lot of run-of-the-mill mic stands, which makes it a good choice for use in home and project studios for placing your drum kit overhead microphones.
The main concern I had was the tightening knob for the boom arm. It doesn't seem to grab as tightly as I'd like it to, although with proper positioning of the counterweight I discovered it held tightly enough to easily keep things positioned where I put them, even with a fairly large and heavy mic mounted on the boom. While I wish the boom arm tightened a bit more, the inclusion of a counterweight makes it possible for the TM-AM3 to handle heavier mic loads than an unweighted stand could safely manage. Plus, it's a subjectively cool and beefy-looking stand, which may impress some clients, while keeping your mic safer from accidental damage from others. Its ruggedness means it's more likely to be in it for the long haul, and based on my experiences with this stand, I'd expect it to be durable and last for years. If you have a large diaphragm condenser, a big ribbon or stereo mic, or if you have some mics that you want to fly over your drum kit, or any other large, heavy microphone that you want to use on-stage or in your home studio, you really need a good mic stand to reduce the risk of things accidentally falling or getting knocked over, and to make placement and positioning easier. The TASCAM TM-AM3 is well suited to these tasks, and won't cost you an arm and a leg either. -HC-
Want to discuss the TASCAM TM-AM3 Heavy Duty Microphone Stand or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
TASCAM TM-AM3 Heavy Duty Studio Microphone Stand ($89.99 MSRP, $79.95 "street")
TASCAM's product web page
You can purchase the TASCAM TM-AM3 microphone stand from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.