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SM57 as a vocal mic

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by TheJackAttack, Dec 31, 2009.

  1. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member


    For those new ones that can't believe that we keep recommending 57's, there is ample precedent back when singers and bands actually performed and didn't lip sync.

    And of course labeling the mic with colored tape to prevent band mischief!
  2. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    Pure Classic!
    Just one more example of absolute talent using the equipment of the times.....it's not just the equipment is it...
    Sometimes I fear we're going backwards not forward!

    Thanks for that Jack!!

    Happy New Years!!
  3. Kapt.Krunch

    Kapt.Krunch Well-Known Member

    I've used them, and have seen them used, by many people as vocal mics.
    I use an old AT ATM27 in the band for my vocals, now, because it just fits my voice, and I couldn't quite get an SM57 or SM58 to sound the way I like it. Our main vocalist uses a Sennheiser of some sort, our drummer, an SM57, and our other guitarist uses some Peavey mic that fits him. Very little board EQ tweaks from straight up center on any, whereas before we'd have to boost or lower this or that.

    The rest of the SM57 and SM58's are seeing drum/guitar cab duties.

    But, yeah, they can be just fine for about anyone, if the guy mixing knows what he's doing.

    BTW, Kerry Livgren is recovering from his stroke of last summer. Still can't play guitar, but he says keyboards are the best therapy he can have to try to get his motor functions improved. Says he can play some left hand, some right hand...but has problems playing both at once. But, he remains positive, and that's an inspiration.

    Speedy and full recovery to you, Mr. Livgren.

  4. Using an SM57 is essentially applying a radical EQ via a lo fi instrument. the problem with doing that in today's ultra high fidelity world is there is then no way to ever recover the lost frequencies if you ever wanted them for any reasons. I'm not saying you shouldn't take this approach, just consider the downside.
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I agree with you on "radical EQ" but "a low fi instrument" is, if not inaccurate, at least misleading. A 57 or 58 certainly has a "radical" EQ response compared to the flat, full-spectrum response of top SDCs by the likes of Schoeps, Earthworks, et. al. I guess that because of their deliberate roll-offs one can call them lo-fi, but I think it is better to reserve that term for equipment with high self noise and nasty transient response. The EQ curve of a 57 is a feature, not a bug.

    The context of the original post is that we regularly get posts asking, "I have a budget of $150, which of these condenser mics should I buy?" A lot of us suggest a 57/8 instead. I know it is not what you said, but one can interpret your post to suggest that it is better to get the $150 condenser (with a more extended (but dirtier) response than a 57) and apply appropriate EQ, than to buy the 57. I'd very much disagree with that.
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    It's not EQ necessarily; it's response/accuracy due to the type of microhpone; a 57 and 58 et al are DYNAMIC microphones, in that it's a moving coil in a magentic field, completely different that a polarized plate/diaphragm of a condenser mic.

    They sound different from each other and have different purposes.

    A cardioid mic also exhibits a "proximity" effect - bass boost in the low end for a "warmer" sound when used closer to the mic. There's also a presense boost in the upper mids in the 57s and 58s, but it's hardly radical, and easily reversed with some channel strip EQ if needed.

    There is a natural "Compression", for want of a better word, with most dynamic mics, due to their ballistics (loss of a bit of dynamics via the servo effect of a moving coil) this is one reason why they're not the best choice for classical percussion, for example, vs. a rock/pop/jazz snare drum mic. (very often an SM57). Ditto for using an SM58 as a vocal mic for a hard-charging rock/pop/rap singer, vs. a classical recital. You'd want something completely different for the latter. Different styles call for different mics.

    Well maintained 57s and 58 's are WONDERFUL microphones, in the right hands, with the right windscreen (internal for the 58 ) and the right preamp. (Go try an SM57 or 59 with an AEA TRP ribbon mic pre, with the right impedance setting, and get back to me. You'll be STUNNED to hear what they can do and how "open" they actually are.)

    For most of his live shows in the 70's, Bruce Springsteen used an SM57 mic with the Shure Windscreen (model # escapes me at the moment), and there's a hex/allen wrench to tighten the black plastic ring and keep the windscreen on tight. Many others did as well. (Not sure, but Tom Petty might STILL be using that mic; it was his mic of choice for many many years for live work; sans the shure windscreen.)

    I recently did a live recording (for NPR radio broadcast in Nov 09) of Jazz singer Kurt Elling with a Shure Beta 58, running through a new Schoeps VSR 5 preamp. It was gorgeous; and both the live PA and recording feeds sounded perfect for his voice. (Kurt knows how to work a mic!)

    There's a reason why these classic mics have been around for so long.
  7. djmukilteo

    djmukilteo Well-Known Member

    I think Jacks point wasn't directed at the specs of an SM57 and I certainly don't think Kansas had any problems using it as a vocal mic as was evident from the vocals in the video....which was much more to the point.....
    If you are capable of sounding good on a SM57/58 you certainly will have no issues with something better...if you suck with a SM57/58 no amount of money spent on a microphone is going to help you...unless you like the sound of autotune!

    Any new talent out there should cut their teeth on an SM57/58 and make it sing!
    It's still the talent and not the equipment!
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    What 'ultra high fidelity world' are we talking about here? MXL? Bere*&^%$#@ger? (other cheap gear)??? If we're talking the 'ul-
    tra high fidelity world' of something like Neve, UA, True Systems, Focusrite Red, etc etc.....then I challenge you to tell me the SM57/58 mic would be distinguishable from any [{realitively high-end condenser}...edit: I meant low-end condensers as a point in fact to the price point and the point of 'low fidelity'.....sorry, the Ducks were getting beat....] with these particular manufacturers pieces doing the amplification of the signal.

    Joe alluded to this in his post.

    There is a reason that these mics continue to be used by major recording studios with many other choices at their disposal after more than 30 years since their inception. I'm not talking just live or because of familiarity. Theres somethat magically happens to these little workhorses when the signal path isnt degraded .

    And so, those of us who have hung their hats on this basic mic for so many years continue to tout its abilities to the younger bunch. I would rather have a 58 for ANY singer than some peaky ringing half-assed cheap condenser. Theres just a basic solidity to tracks on these that cant be denied and for the less experienced to grow their ears, this is the place to start.

    And when they are able to attain petter pres and signal path, the 57/58 usually will shine even brighter.

    Lo-fi? Not on your life.
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Whoooah Mr. Dave. If we do a mic shootout, we will all be able to distinguish differences. And the 57/58 will have some of the most extreme rolloffs and presence bump. Of course, it's a great distinctive sound. But we certainly can distinguish it.

    I disagree Juliet's general point of keeping things as flat and broad spectrum as possible. But it's not crazy. Pretty common in the classical world. Not my thing. I'll take color where I can get it.
  10. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I should edit my post...I meant "low-end" condensers. Relative to price point. Yes there will be much difference in high-end condensers...of course. I own them also....

    My point being what part of 'ultra high fidelity world' are we talking about.
  11. expatCanuck

    expatCanuck Guest

    a modest SM57 vocal sample

    My singing may not be fully in tune, but here's a sample of an SM57, vocal track with harmony:


    SM57 --> Used Symetrix (with one good channel :wink:) --> Delta 44 --> homegrown computer with 5-year-old AMD processor running Audacity.

    Given that it was a relatively low recording level, I think it's reasonably quiet with adequate 'air'.

    - Richard

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