Shure sets the industry standard when it comes to professional recording equipment. From the famed Elvis mic to the beloved SE215 in-ear monitors, the company understands that audio quality and durability are top priorities. The Shure SM57 is no different. This tapered capsular microphone is favored by musicians of all genres for capturing midrange instruments. It’s not a question of “if you should get the SM57,” but rather a question of “when.”

Editor’s note: This review of the Shure SM57 was updated on October 2, 2020, to address an FAQ about if the Shure SM57 is still a good buy in 2020.

Who is it for?

A woman playing guitar and recording it with the Shure SM57 XLR mic.

The slim design makes it easy to place the mic without obstructing the performer.

Musicians should get the Shure SM57. If you’re just starting out in the music world and don’t know what to get, this is a great introductory option. It’s dynamic and doesn’t require external power to operate. It can handle extreme sound pressure levels, which means distortion should rarely be an issue. The cardioid polar pattern minimizes background noise recording and relays just the intended sounds.

What is the Shure SM57 like?

Straight on shot of the Shure SM57 XLR microphone.

A protective mesh cover shields the recording components.

The microphone is meant to record instruments, but works just fine with vocals. The shape differs from a conventional microphone. It’s not meant to be handheld. Instead, Shure provides a swivel stand adapter, which can be angled to your liking. That way, the mic capsule is always directly receiving instrumental soundwaves. Shure also provides a zippered carrying pouch. It’s fine, but unnecessary, seeing how the SM57 is lauded for its toughness.

It's highly unlikely you'll experience any sort of buyer's remorse from getting the Shure SM57.

And, boy, is this microphone tough. The die-cast steel looks and feels great. I’m not concerned about tossing it together with other recording equipment. It’s also built to handle loud sounds without issue: it has a sensitivity of 94dB SPL. For those without a frame of reference, this is louder than a commercial truck just 10 meters away. On the bottom of the microphone, you’ll see an XLR input. This mic is as no-frills as it gets and does its job exceptionally well.

Dynamic mic, cardioid pickup

An example of a polar chart detailing the pickup pattern of a cardioid microphone

A cardioid pickup pattern can record sound from the front and sides of the unit.

There are a few microphone types, the most popular being dynamic and condenser variants. Again, this doesn’t require the external power condensers do, and can be subjected to high sound pressure levels without introducing distortion. By nature of a cardioid pattern, the mic registers sound directly in front of it with some off-axis pickup. The biggest perk of this is that imprecise placement is ok and won’t impede your recording.

Requirements for the Shure SM57

  • Whether you’re recording in a studio or on stage, you’ll need a mic stand.
  • An XLR cable is also required. Those using a guitar amplifier need an XLR cable that terminates in a ¼” plug.
  • While it’s great you don’t have to worry about a dedicated pre-amp, you still need something to transmit the signal. Depending on your needs, an amp or USB interface is a must.

Sound quality

The Shure SM57 is deliberately tuned so recordings are easy to master without creating excess distortion. Sub-bass frequencies are attenuated. This is good for live music as you don’t want a kick drum or the fundamental note of a bass guitar to overpower resonant sounds. After all, those sounds are just as important as the initial oomph. It also means you may not need to apply a high-pass filter during post-production. The upper midrange and treble frequency emphasis ensures the transmission of harmonic detail. This applies specifically to string instruments and vocals.

Shure SM57 microphone demo:

Instruments sound fantastic with the microphone. I played around on an acoustic guitar for a bit and thoroughly enjoyed the raw recording. I did, however, notice that the microphone isn’t impervious to the proximity effect: when low notes are amplified too much, it soils the accuracy of a recording. This could pose an issue particularly for mobile performers. Be sure to keep a good six inches between your instrument and the microphone.

Should you buy it?

The Shure SM57 XLR microphone in full view, profile image.

Shure includes a microphone stand adapter with the SM57.

Yes. The Shure SM57 excels at being a durable mic that records clear audio. Its compact size lets you travel unencumbered, while its die-cast exterior proves drop-resistant. This microphone is a great entry-level option for recording instruments and should be seriously considered by amateurs and professionals alike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this mic still a good buy in 2020?

Absolutely! The Shure SM57 is a staple microphone that any musician can benefit from. Though it has been around for a long time, there is nothing about its technology that's out of date, and it still produces excellent recordings and live performances.

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Shure SM57