I was recently asked about how I set up my configurations, and I realized I’ve never really documented the setups. It all fizzles around in my brain, never quite settling down. When the time came to send some pictures to someone, I decided it was time to at least get one or two variants documented that I could send folks to. I hope this proves useful for y’all!
SPACED QUAD STANDALONE RIGS
Often called “drop rigs” or “stashes”, I’m not really fond of either label. The idea of “dropping” my gear somewhere leaves me a bit squeamish. I prefer to rest things gently on the ground and take time to orient it all. I know no one ever “drops” the gear (well, most probably are not), but the term has always left me wanting.
There are a couple main variations I use for this, one for a Sound Devices MixPre -series recorder, one for a Zoom F series. They’re essentially the same, but some of the attachment components vary between the two. I find the F6 to be a little more compact for a tight fitting array, but the MixPre6ii is a lot easier to mount.
A few caveats ahead: thin rubber or leather washers are great to have between joints to help minimize transmission noise. They also help give some flex to the attachments so you can twist components a little more or less so everything looks pretty. Also, This isn’t a full guide, just the attachments, so I haven’t put the windhovers on the LEO-20 mic balls pictured or connected any wires. That’s for another day and outdoor pictures in-situ. Perhaps I’ll take the time for prettier replacement pictures here, too!
Top-mounted MixPre6ii and F6
Side-mounted MixPre6ii and F6
Things you’ll need
This is fairly simple, just a bunch of bushing fittings and thread adaptors. First of all, it’s really handy to get yourself a little kit of bibs and bobs and possible fittings and adaptors you might need in the field. I’ve collected mine over the years, but you can easily start off by buying something like one of these: ooooo, aaahhhh, cooolll
Next, you’ll need shafts for mounting your mics. A few years ago I bought a bunch of different selfie sticks and presentation pointers off Amazon and tried them out. Selfie Sticks are great as they collapse to a small package, are lightweight, and usually have at least one thread post. I settled on Insta360 for the sturdiness of the overall design and the fact that they have two 1/4″ threads: one fitting and one post. The extension sliders are also about 6.5″/ 16.51cm. More about that shortly. You can use whatever kind of stick you prefer, of course, as long as it’s sturdy enough.
Bringing it all together, you’ll need a multi-thread adaptor with at least four faces. A Manfrotto Dado ball is great and highly adaptable, but for someone on a budget it can be a bit pricey. They also seem to be frequently out of stock. Since my goal is a Quad recording, I settled on a Leofoto CF-8. It has 1/4″ fittings on all four sides, a 1/4″ post up top, and a 3/8″ cutting on the bottom. Mine is nearly always attached to an Arca-style plate for quick-mounting on a tripod (2nd image), so I had to work hard to twist it off. You’re welcome.
Why extendable selfie sticks are useful
Spaced Quad microphones arrays are, if you think about it, just four AB pairs: Left Front and Right Front, Right Front and Right Rear, Right Rear and Left Rear, Left Ear and Left Front. (There is also Let Front and Right Rear and Left Rear and Right Front, but when thinking about the soundstage, those two are rarely of concern). There are several common distances for AB spacing, but for practicality in the field somewhere between 70-100cm are most common. When an Insta360 stick is extended to 4 stops, the length is about 71.1cm. Using a little bit of grade school Pythagorean Theorem where the sum of the square of the sides is equal to the square of the hypotenuse, we can see that results in a distance of 100cm (okay 100.55cm) between any of the four pairs. Full extension is out to 165.5cm between mics. and a little less than 3.5 stops is 70cm between mics. Yay for math!
Putting it together
Grab a selfie stick and 1/4″ turnaround. Fit the turnaround into the bottom of the stick, and fit that on the multi-thread adaptor.
Repeat a few times and you’ll have this:
Sound Devices MixPre series have flush-fitted threadings, so you can just attach it directly to the CF-8
Zoom, on the other hand, in their infinite wisdom have strap-mounts that get in the way of flush mounting, so you’ll need some of those bibs and bobs from earlier. If you have a 1/4″ thread to 1/4″ post extension, then lucky, lucky you. Otherwise, you can make do with a 3/8″ thread to 1/4″ post with a 1/4″-3/8″ bushing like so:
It looks like a weird hovering spaceship. Be aware of the weight imbalance. Zoom put the thread way off center, leaving the whole job feeling weak.
Lately, I’ve been side mounting my recorders. It started with an injury that made squatting down to look in the front of a recorder annoying, but I kept doing it. Most — but not all — modern tripods have a side thread on the center-pole support collar. Usually it’s between two legs, but I’ve seen a few that were just over one.
The position of the side thread leaves little room for even the MixPre to fit without an extension. For this I use a barrel turnaround with two threads: one 1/4″ and one 3/8″. If you happen to have a 1/4″ to 1/4″ barrel will you send it to me? I’ve lost the one I had. I use a 1/4″ to 3/8″ turnaround to make the post side fit into the tripod. The MixPre has a handy built-in 1/4″ post that you can use with the magnetized Allen wrench beneath the SD card slot. That goes into the open 1/4″ thread of the barrel.
It’s a little hard to take a picture of…
But it fits nicely:
Again, Zoom’s wonderfully mis-placed thread makes reliance upon sandwiched adaptors necessary. For this we need three: a 1/4″ to 3/8″ threaded barrel, a 1/4″ to 3/8″ post turnaround, an d a simple 1/4″ post turnaround. You can buy long 1/4″ to 1/4″ post turnarounds, which would be great, but they’re usually weirdly expensive. Making one out of three fittings this way is around 1/10 the price at most.
The recorder sticks out a bit from the stand. Interestingly, it makes for a great handle to pick the rig up by for short transport!
For attaching the mics, I use Rycote InVision mounts and Lyres. They have a 3/8″ thread, so I use a 1/4″ bushing to make it fit. You can probably get something similar — but I dare say not as compact — from Røde. Radius, a new company by the former owner of Rycote, may have something coming soon that will compete well.
It’s handy, again, to use a rubber or leather washer (not pictured) between the stick and the mount. Not only does it minimize transmission noise, it also acts a stabilizer when spinning everything so it will all look pretty. Without a washer, the microphones may end up pointing at different angles each, and that looks ugly.
Just to remind you what all this is for…
DONE ALREADY? ENJOY.
I hope this has been helpful! I look forward to showing off more in the future. I’ll leave you with a few in-situ/ in-the-wild pictures. There are dry bags covering some of the recorders and batteries, and the full windscreens are on, so don’t get too excited. Looking closely you’ll be able to see that how I’ve attached the mics has evolved over time, from pipe-ing mics lashed to the arms both parallel and perpendicular, up to the current mount+lyre version. Experiment! Try! Fail! Repeat!
A few links to an assortment of recordings made with all this stuff: