The Shure SM58 has made a reputation for itself among musicians. This mic is the whole package: it’s durable, affordable, and reliable. In fact, there’s little this vocal microphone can’t do. Time to find out if this 15-year-old piece of hardware can keep pace with today’s competition.
Who is it for?
- Musicians have been using the Shure SM58 since its release and praise its rugged construction and vocal-emphasized frequency response.
- Podcasters will benefit from the cardioid pickup pattern which effectively reduces background noise and doesn’t require much effort for good placement.
What’s it like to use the Shure SM58?
Two things are needed to use this cardioid dynamic microphone: an XLR cable and a recording interface, be it a voice recorder or multi-input guitar amp. If you’re using this for podcast recording or YouTube, you’ll need to go one step further and download recording software like Audacity. After that, you’re ready to record or jam out.
As far as build quality is concerned, the SM58 is a reliable piece of hardware. Its humble design communicates the importance of function before form. A removable steel grille makes cleaning and replacement easy. Beneath it lies a spherical filter which mitigates the harshness of plosives and fricatives, -p, -t, -k or -f, -th sounds, respectively. The tapered metal chassis has proven rugged, hence why it remains a must-have microphone over a decade after its release. It also has an internal shock-mount system to reduce vibration-induced noises.
The Shure SM58 is championed by musicians for its reliability and durability.
Accessories are sparse as you get just a zippered carrying pouch and durable stand adapter with a 180° swivel. The adapter is constructed from a thick plastic that feels impervious to breakage.
Related: What is an audio interface?
Since this is an XLR microphone, USB connection isn’t an option: you’ll need to pick up an XLR cable. As a dynamic low-impedance mic (150Ω), it doesn’t require any phantom power. This means you don’t need something like the Cloudlifter pre-amp. If you accidentally activate phantom power when plugging in the mic, it won’t damage it though. In order to record directly to your computer, you will need an interface with an XLR input. Our favorite is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
Best microphone placement
The Shure SM58 is a dynamic cardioid microphone. It’s easy to get thrown off by all the syllables but all this means is that it’s durable, doesn’t require phantom power, and performs best when recording what’s in front of it.
People generally use cardioid microphones because they’re versatile and forgiving in terms of placement. Off-axis rejection is useful, but too much rejection with not enough placement precision can lead to a disappointing recording. Cardioid recording patterns may register some ambient noise but effectively ignore quiet sounds behind the microphone.
To get the best sound from the microphone, speak about six inches away from the capsule. If you’re in a studio environment, be sure to properly treat the room to lessen any echoes or noise pollution.
The Shure SM58 is one of the best microphones in its class. Its frequency response (50Hz-15kHz) is tailored to highlight vocals, hence the sloping bass attenuation from 40-100Hz. This is to combat the proximity effect which is when the sound source is too close to the microphone causing bass frequencies to become exaggerated. Another benefit of the de-emphasized low notes is how you can easily edit recordings in post-production if you elect to do so.
One instance the frequency response may not be beneficial is when recording low-frequency sounds like kick drums or a bass guitar. If you do try and record these sounds with the Shure SM58, you’ll notice they sound quieter relative to vocals, guitars, and most piano chords. You can increase the loudness when editing, but you may run into harmonic distortion as the loudness increases.
If you’re using the microphone in a controlled environment, do yourself a solid and invest in a pop filter. The internal filter is better than nothing, but an external shield only costs a few bucks and will save you loads of time editing.
Shure SM58 demo:
Should you buy it?
Yes, the Shure SM58 is one of the most popular microphones for good reason: it just works. If you want something reliable, this is a must-have. However, the Blue Ember is a similarly priced alternative that’s even more portable. Otherwise, be sure to read up on our lists of the best podcasting microphones and best mics for YouTube.
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