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Used by artists as diverse as The Sex Pistols, Bono, Buddy Guy, and more, the Shure SM58 is a legend in its field. A uni-directional cardioid mic, it offers a tailored frequency response, as well as a pneumatic shock-mount system to minimize mechanical handling noise. A built-in pop filter reduces breath and wind noise, meaning the mic can be used indoors or outdoors with a clear and bright signal.
For a microphone with its reputation, the SM58 produces an unparalleled sound quality. It’s a mic designed with vocals in mind, with rolled-off bass allowing singers to take advantage of the proximity effect. When you get up close and personal with this mic, it delivers a robust tone, emphasising your vocal bass tones. The isolation at this distance, combined with the off-axis rejection and brightened mid-tones produce a clear and strong vocal. As a cardioid, it naturally rejects sound from behind, and recording in a noisy apartment still yielded fantastic results. If you prefer a more natural tone, backing off the mic a bit lets a bit more of the room in, and singing slightly to the side will cut down sibilance in your vocal. Though it’s optimised for vocals, the SM58 is versatile enough to handle a wide range of instruments. Dave Grohl used the mic to record his drums up on early records, and the SM58’s peerless sound quality should fit a wide range of uses.
In one memorable Youtube test video, the SM58 is thrown into the sea, driven over with a pickup truck, and burnt on a barbeque, and survives through all of it. To say it’s durable is an understatement. The mic is 300g and 16cm long, so it’s not heavy or bulky, but it’s built like the Batmobile. As it’s been so rigorously tested by Shure, it’s practically indestructible. Not bad for a 50-year old microphone.
In terms of volume, Shure claims it won’t distort until 180dB (close to the noise of a space shuttle launch, which they also tested). Lacking any Apollo rockets to test it on, I settled for a small, loud studio setup where the SM58 handled as much noise as we could make easily. It’s one of the most road-worthy mics you’re likely to come across at this, or any, price point.
Considering a wide variety of cheap contenders, the Shure SM58 still manages to maintain a competitive price in the market. Its nearest equivalent would be the Sennheiser e835, which offers more high-end frequency response, but is less suited for high volumes. Most of the cheaper alternatives lack the quality and tone of the SM58 and are nowhere near as durable. What you’re getting for your money is a piece of music recording history, and a workhorse microphone that will really go the distance.
For a microphone with such a storied past and renowned reputation, the SM58 is a great value microphone. It offers a bright, mid-range focused sound perfect for vocals, but diverse enough to record other instruments. Lightweight and sleek, it’s still built to survive some rough treatment. You could drag it behind your tour bus, and it would survive to perform with you that night. Anyone considering upgrading their studio microphones would be hard pressed to find a better alternative that offers such terrific quality, great value, and unbelievable durability in one unmissable package.
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