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Best Shure microphones
If you’re looking for recording equipment, few companies out there have as many or as diverse a field of products as Shure does. Founded in 1925 and the manufacturer behind most of the microphones used in presidential addresses, live concert venues, and radio, there’s no more ubiquitous fixture in music than Shure microphones. If you’re looking to kickstart your podcast, band, or even just up your conference call game: give one of the oldest American microphone makers a shot.
It should be pointed out that not one, but two microphones in the Shure lineup have won our Editors Choice awards for representing microphones that we personally use or recommend to our friends and family. That’s a very difficult thing to do, and only Sony shares that distinction for audio products as a whole.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on March 7, 2022, to expand the buying guide and add more information about each microphone.
The best Shure microphone for most is the Shure SM58
For most people, we recommend the Shure SM58 dynamic microphone. Arguably one of the most popular Shure microphones of all time, this model has been in production since 1966. This is primarily used as a vocal mic and needs a USB interface or portable recorder to function as a recording mic due to its XLR output. However, it’s capable of capturing good vocals without requiring the use of a gain booster, making it a very straightforward and easy-to-set-up mic.
Many people looking to record vocals at home gravitate towards this mic because of its price and ease of use. Additionally, because the SM58 is dynamic in nature, it is an excellent choice for live performances since it can reproduce high sound pressure levels without distortion. And its cardioid polar pattern allows it to reject the sound of audiences cheering, so only the singer’s voice is amplified.
Shure SM58 speaking demo:
Shure SM58 singing demo:
Shure SM58 acoustic guitar demo:
Shure SM58 electric guitar with amp demo:
If you only have $100 USD to spend and need one microphone to rule them all, we highly recommend the SM58 for budding musicians and professionals alike.
The best overall Shure microphone is the Shure SM7B
Of course, no list of Shure microphones would be complete without the Shure SM7B dynamic mic. Largely considered to be the gold standard in vocal mics alongside the Electro-Voice RE20, the Shure SM7B has seen a recent resurgence in popularity now that podcasts and YouTube have made recording at home a viable entertainment media strategy.
You get a handful of effective onboard frequency response filters, as represented by the mic demos below, and internal noise rejection, thanks to the air suspension shock apparatus inside. With just a cardioid polar pattern to record with, you’re bound to get great off-axis rejection too. There’s no software with this XLR microphone, and you don’t need phantom power to use it, but you will need an external audio interface or mixer.
Shure SM7B demo (Flat response):
Shure SM7B demo (Bass rolloff):
Shure SM7B demo (Presence boost):
This is an expensive option at around $399 in the US, so we often steer beginners away from this unit in order to meet most people’s stated budgets. However, if you absolutely must nail your session and cost is no object, this is an excellent microphone to have on hand.
If you record instruments, get the Shure SM57
The SM57 is one of those historic models of Shure microphones, having been in production for decades—and for good reason. It definitely ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for a sub-$100 USD option that can handle a lot. However, it’s slightly inferior for vocal work compared to the SM58 and SM7B.
Shure SM57 guitar demo:
Shure SM57 voice demo:
The die-cast steel construction makes this a great mic to take with you on tour or to lug from studio to studio. You don’t handhold the SM57 to use it, instead place it directly in front of the instrument you’re recording (or your mouth if you’re in a pinch). This means you’ll most definitely want to pair this microphone with a dedicated stand and some kind of amp or interface, depending on where your intended use.
Related: How to write a song
The Shure 55SH Series II is great for singing or speaking applications
The Shure 55SH Series II is another historic microphone, emulating the old car-grille style of early 20th-century microphones. If you’re trying to kit out an open mic setup or small live venue, this is one of those microphones that’s instantly recognizable and adds an air of legitimacy to a recording space.
This is just another Shure mic that doesn’t require phantom power and that has a robust die-cast build, so you can toss it around without worry. You can easily position the mic to your mouth, since its swivel mount grants 125 degrees of motion. A big draw to the 55SH Series II is its design, but you’re going to sacrifice weight. This thing is hefty at 626g, so perhaps not the best for travelers.
Shure 55SH Series II microphone demo:
This dynamic mic has a cardioid pickup pattern, so its another great option for live performances. While it’s a more than competent microphone, it’s not for all uses, so be sure to click on through to the full review if you’re interested in its looks.
YouTube vloggers may want to get the Shure MV88+
Videographers are acutely aware that the best piece of equipment you own is the one you have with you at any moment. Consequently, anyone who is a mobile filmmaker or even if you just want better audio for a family video, the Shure MV88+ mic is a really good way to get a compact solution into your pocket just in case you need to start shooting quickly.
This condenser microphone plugs into your phone via its appropriate connector (Lightning or USB-C). The all-metal build is sturdy, and you get a roll-up carrying pouch for transport. It can record high-res stereo audio from 16-bit/48kHz to 25-bit/48kHz. This gives you plenty of wiggle room when it comes time to edit your audio.
In order to get the most out of the MV88+, you’ll want to download the ShurePlus Motiv and ShurePlus Motiv Video apps. With the latter, you can control the video quality and frame rate along with audio-related settings like gain adjustment and bit-depth/sample rate options. The former gives you the option to choose from a handful of recording patterns (stereo, mono, cardioid, bidirectional, raw mid-side), choose what kind of audio file you want to save, and apply certain filters to the audio. You can do a ton with these apps which are freely available on iOS and Android.
Shure MV88+ microphone demo (60-degree stereo, speaking):
Shure MV88+ microphone demo (90-degree stereo, flat):
While the MV88+ doesn’t compete with any of the microphones on this list here, it’s definitely the most portable option, as it can use its USB-C cable to connect to your phone.
The Shure MV7 is similarly high quality, but with some extra features
The Shure MV7 is versatile. It has both a USB and XLR output that can be used simultaneously, which means keeping backup files has never been easier. The mic only has a cardioid polar pattern, but with the ShurePlus MOTIV app, you gain full control over the mic’s frequency response according to your recording environment and use case. The MV7 reproduces vocals extremely clearly. Though the touchpad controls on the mic are a little inconvenient to control, it is overall an excellent alternative to the Shure SM7b if you want something more versatile and modern.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know about microphones
Before we go any further, we want to make sure you’ll get the most out of your mic. Nine times out of ten, if you buy a microphone and can’t get the results you want from it, you might need a little instruction. Be sure to catch up on some recording fundamentals first. Essentially, in order to record people, you need to know.
Once you have all of this under your belt, you’re ready to use your microphone. However, not all mics can do everything. Be sure to read up on each model listed here in the reviews, as some like the SM57 are more suited to being instrument mics than vocal mics, and the SM7B can work just about anywhere (but is too expensive to buy a lot of, so make it count). A little bit of research goes a long way to saving money you don’t need to spend.
Condenser vs dynamic mics: What’s the difference?
A condenser microphone requires external power (i.e., phantom power) and is much more sensitive than a dynamic microphone, which doesn’t require external power. The benefit of a more sensitive microphone is that it can pick up more nuances, which is great for singing and certain speaking applications when in an acoustically treated environment. Dynamic microphones, on the other hand, are less sensitive and can withstand a much louder audio input before any kind of distortion makes its way into your recording.
Related: What type of microphone do you need?
A condenser mic isn’t better than a dynamic one in the same way a dynamic mic isn’t better than a condenser. It really boils down to your use case. For those who plan to record in a controlled environment like a studio at all times, a condenser mic offers many advantages, but you’d never want to use one to perform a rock concert.
How do you connect a microphone?
When shopping around for microphones, you’ll mainly come across USB and XLR mics. If it’s an XLR microphone, you usually have to go out and purchase an XLR cable yourself, though some manufacturers may include such a cable. In the case of USB microphones, the manufacturer almost always provides a compatible cable. With technology advancing, we’re seeing more and more USB microphones that house USB-C ports, whereas it used to be microUSB to USB-A or something similar. This varies depending on your microphone, but you can learn more about audio connections in general here.
Sometimes, you need an external audio interface or even phantom power. If that’s the case, you’ll want to look at something like a Scarlett Focusrite interface for computer work, or an amp for performances.
What is a recording (polar) pattern?
A recording pattern is meant to illustrate just how your microphone responds to surrounding sounds. There are a few popular recording patterns to watch out for, all of which have their place in certain instances.
An omnidirectional recording pattern means your mic will equally pick up sounds from all sides. This is great for picking up ambient noise, and you’ll find it in lavalier mics.
The cardioid polar pattern is one of the most popular options, and if you mic has this, it means it can record in a heart-shaped pattern around it. Cardioid pickup patterns are great because you can place the mic pretty freely while still recording good, clear audio. A directional pattern like this rejects off-axis noise, mainly behind the recording element.
Other patterns include hypercardioid and bidirectional. You can learn more about these in this microphone polar pattern guide.
Why does it matter if you buy Shure microphones?
It doesn’t, really.
Shure is just another company with a product to sell, so don’t feel like you absolutely have to buy a Shure mic if you can find a better price on a competing model. There are plenty out there that can do a similarly good job in many situations. However, the company stands behind its products—which is why many musicians swear by them.
By that I mean, Shure offers a limited warranty against product defects from one to two years after purchase (product depending), and will service your equipment should a problem arise. Of course, sometimes repairs might not be covered by warranty (or you’ll have to pay for damage not covered), but at least you know that you don’t necessarily have to buy a new mic should something happen to yours.
Read next: The best microphones for recording
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Frequently asked questions about Shure microphones
This all depends on the polar pattern of your microphone. A polar pattern refers to the direction(s) that a microphone picks up sound from. For example, a microphone with a cardioid polar pattern picks up sound best from its front and slightly to its sides, rejecting sounds from its back. Therefore, it would be most effective to point a cardioid microphone directly at the sound source.