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October 2, 2001
157 x 32 mm
Shure often 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 instruments both on stage and in the studio. It’s not a question of “if you should get the SM57,” but rather a question of “when.” We spent a couple of weeks testing out the Shure SM57 and can tell you everything you need to know about it.
Editor’s note: This review of the Shure SM57 was updated on August 17, 2022, to update formatting, discuss the results of the microphone poll, add a buy widget, and address FAQs.
Musicians should get the Shure SM57, whether they are planning to use it to record instruments or amplify live instruments. 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.
The microphone is meant to record instruments, but works just fine with vocals. However, if you’re looking specifically for a vocal mic, the Shure SM58 is very similar to the SM57, but is meant for the voice.
What’s it like to use the Shure SM57?
The shape of the Shure SM57 allows it to be handheld as a vocal mic in a pinch, but Shure provides a swivel stand adapter, which can be angled to your liking. That way, the mic capsule is always directly receiving sound waves from the intended source. 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’s a dynamic microphone that has a sensitivity of 1.6 mV per Pascal (94dB SPL). On the bottom of the microphone, you’ll see an XLR output. This mic is as no-frills as it gets and does its job exceptionally well.
What kind of polar pattern does the Shure SM57 have?
There are a few microphone types, the most popular being dynamic and condenser variants. Unlike condenser mics, the Shure SM57 doesn’t require external power, and it can be subjected to high sound pressure levels without introducing distortion. By nature of a cardioid polar 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 okay and won’t ruin your recording.
- Whether you’re recording in a studio or amplifying instruments on stage, you’ll need a mic stand.
- An XLR cable is also required. Alternatively, the SM57 can be used with an XLR cable that terminates in either a balanced or unbalanced 1/4 inch jack plug.
- While it’s great you don’t have to worry about a dedicated pre-amp, you still need something to receive the signal. Depending on your needs, a mixer, amplifier, or USB interface is a must.
How does the Shure SM57 sound?
The Shure SM57 is deliberately tuned to keep vocals and instruments clear and present. 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 mid-range 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 clear transmission of important details, which applies particularly to string instruments and vocals.
Instruments sound fantastic with the Shure SM57. I played around on an acoustic guitar for a bit and thoroughly enjoyed the raw recording. I did, however, notice that the microphone does exhibit noticeable proximity effect: when close miking means low notes are amplified too much, it affects 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.
Shure SM57 microphone demo:
How does the microphone sound to you?
As of August 17, 2022, 53% of voters selected that the Shure SM57 sounds “Good” and 23% voted that it sounds “Perfect.” For a studio microphone, these are results we expect.
Should you buy the Shure SM57?
Yes, you should buy the Shure SM57. This mic 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 about the Shure SM57
The Shure SM58 is the vocal mic version of the Shure SM57. Both are dynamic microphones with a similar build and shape. The SM58 also has a built-in spherical pop filter to help reduce plosives (harsh ‘p‘ sounds) and fricatives (harsh ‘f‘ sounds). If you want to record both vocals and instruments but can only afford to buy one mic right now, it’s best that you opt for the Shure SM58.
Whether you should be using a condenser or dynamic mic really depends on the type of instrument you are recording. In general, recording acoustic instruments like guitar is best done with a condenser mic because its high sensitivity means it will pick up even the slightest of sounds, such as your fingers pressing on the strings. This level of detail can add richness to a recording. If you’re recording an electric guitar through an amp, though, you’ll generally want a dynamic mic like the Shure SM57 because a condenser mic might distort the sound due to how loud it can get.