The world doesn’t need another Shure SM57 review, but I realized that I own 11 of them, have the Shure SM57 in my Bulletproof Recording Gear List , and didn’t have an actual review for the thing. So here goes.
Senseless Rambling On SM57 with EQ
More Nonsense with SM57 without EQ
Abhorrent Nonsense On ADK Vienna Without EQ
What Do These Clips Tell You?
Nothing! Everything! Whatever.
Microphones don’t excite me that much. I like the technology. I wouldn’t want to be without one. I just wonder if male nasty movie stars sit around in awe of the next guy’s tools of the trade. Do these guys get “gear lust” at what’s in the other guy’s rack? To me, drooling over gear and drooling over wieners has some parallels. What the guy creates is radically more interesting than the hammer who chose to make it with.
In all seriousness, my life wouldn’t be any, any, any different if I used an Audix i5, Shure SM57, or anything other dynamic mic for those dynamic-mic-friendly-sources in my studio ventures. There is one thing about the SM57 that makes it special. If you have the desire, you can buy 10 of them for $50 each. I just did that a few months ago on Ebay. You can always sell ‘em for $60 each. It requires a gun to break one. Is The SM57 Really Bulletproof?
So When Do I Use A Shure SM57?
I use two. I put one dead center. I put one on the edge of the cone. Done. I’ve owned pretty much all the great “electric guitar mics” (whatever that means) including the Royer R121 which I used a million times. The recorded sound always sounds like the amp whether you use a 57 or a 121. If you want to get wound up about certain quirks of one or the other I won’t stop you. Dealing with the potential fizz of the SM57 is no more dramatic than dealing with the potential mud of a ribbon mic in my view. Anytime an amp was really rocking, switching mics never seemed to add or take away anything. Just different. Just different doesn’t cut it anymore. ( You Need Eight Kick Drum Mics Says The Man In The Suit )
I tossed an SM57 on acoustic guitar after Dave Pensado was thrilled by an acoustic guitar sound and asked Tony Hoffer (M83, Beck) He said a single SM57. Hmmm.
I find the SM57 on acoustic guitar quite interesting. It’s radically different from the hyper pretty condenser sound. I still prefer the sound of a condenser for this most of the time, but I’m certainly not against the idea. I think it’s fair to call this a slightly lo-fi-with-potential sound. Sometimes that works perfect with a hi-fi vocal. Anyone who’s ever cheated on their significant other with an ugly person would appreciate the SM57 on acoustic guitar. SMILIE (How’s that for an audio buzzword/buzz-sentence?)
I use SM57s on top of toms now. I use ADK condensers on bottom. I cheat. I have foam things which I use to reduce bleed on the SM57. In theory this ruins the SM57. I don’t care. I just need the attack. The bottom mics do all the real work for me. I have no use for anything else on tom tops.
Kick Drum Beater
I’ve recorded a few guys who wanted to play metal with jazz drum kits. Putting the 57 on the beater side of the kick is a last recourse and a surprisingly useful one. The SM57 sounds like it was designed for this kind of abuse.
I’ve made myself use the SM57 on vocals. It’s…..well…..any of you who’ve held political office and cheated on your headstrong wife with a not-so-fit intern would like this. You hear stories of them being used all the time on lead vocals on songs that made enough money to buy Brauner (as in the entire company).
You’ve got to be careful of getting too close or you get a ton of 200Hz mud/muck. Back off and you get this 800Hz thing that just never seems to happen with condensers. Back off even further and 4k-8k sibilance is there. (I’ve got Boz working on a prototype solution that is KILLLLLL ARRRRR, for that btw.)
A did a live bar gig 10 years ago and recorded the Godsmack-like band multi-track. I X/Y’d the room mics right above the mixer. The room was good…if the smell of urine didn’t bother you…it sure didn’t bother me! When 40′ from a band, the 57s have no bottom. The proximity effect is too strong. That’s perfect. They worked exceptionally well in this case and I’d use ‘em again in a heart beat. For drum room mics (which love to be crushed with compression/distortion), the SM57 wouldn’t be my first choice because of the cymbals getting trashy, but I bet I could probably make it work with a low pass filter.
Just About Everything Else
The SM57 is almost always usable. Using an SM57 on just about anything will seldom get your bragging points with other engineers. It’s never overly sexy. I hate to admit it, but too much sex in a mix can be a bad thing.
What The SM57 Can’t Do
I’m leaning in the direction that you can EQ most mics to sound close enough to just about any other mic. I don’t mind EQ. The 57 is dynamic, though. It’s limited in the extreme top and extreme bottom. You can’t get a Deamau5 monster kick with a 57 without Sasquatch Kick Machine. You won’t get that super pretty top end without serious work, either. Other than that, you can make just about everything else under the son work.
Is The SM57 The Solution For Everything?
Does The SM57 Have A Sound?
Yes. It’s a tool I like having in my box. I like having 11 of them in my toolbox, actually.