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Spotting a counterfeit SM58

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by DonnyThompson, May 22, 2016.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As a public service to RO and its potential visitors, I thought I'd research this topic and post a thread explaining the differences between real Shure SM58 mics and counterfeit models. In the last few years, a serious number of fake 58's have hit the global market. This isn't a myth, these fake mics are indeed out there, so here are some things to look for:

    First off, feel the mic. Genuine 58's are solid, heavy. Real 58's weigh in at around 326 grams. Fake 58's feel light and cheap and weigh-in far less, sometimes as light as 180 grams.

    All genuine SM58's are now made in Mexico ( there are some real Shure models, such as the Beta, that are in fact made in China). But, if any Shure SM model mic says "made in U.S.A." ...it's a fake.

    On a real 58, the metal mesh on the ball will have a matte/dulled metallic finish. Fakes will often appear very shiny ... some fakes may even appear to have a chrome-like finish on the mesh of the ball.

    Just below the windscreen capsule/ball, a real SM58 will always have a wrap-around label with the Shure logo and model number. Fake 58's rarely have this.

    On a real 58, the silver trim below the ball will be beveled/contoured, on the fakes it is not.

    Opening the windscreen capsule, real 58's do not have a silver 'warning" sticker that describes voiding the warranty if opened, where the fake models do. Real 58's will have a sticker with a bar code, but no warning label.

    Real 58's will always use Yellow and Green wires on the inside; fakes will use Red/Black wires (although recently, some fakes have been found with Yellow/Green as well, but most fakes will use Red/Black).

    On a real 58, the circuit board on the lower half will have a quality control stamp in red lettering. This rarely, if ever, appears on the counterfeit mics.

    On a real 58, when you unscrew the ball, the threading is silver - on fakes, look for black or dark grey threading.

    On the bottom of the mic, where you connect the XLR cable, real 58's have both the Shure logo ( not just the word "Shure" but in the same font style as the logo) and the pins will be numbered ( 1/2/3); and the XLR section is one solid piece, whereas fake models will leave off the logo, or the pin numbers, ( sometimes both) and the XLR section appears as a separate "insert" piece inside the body of the mic.

    Real 58's will always have a serial number, which you can register for warranty on the enclosed paperwork. Fake 58's will often go as far as to include the factory paperwork and warranty card, but there is no serial number included/printed on the box or within the documentation.

    On a real 58, the bag which holds the mic will have the Shure logo embossed on it, which you can feel. On fake models, the logo is not embossed.

    Real standard 58's do not come with an XLR cable... (the only Shure microphone that includes a cable is the Shure SM58-CN). If the box includes a cable but isn't labeled with the proper model number, then you may have a fake mic. Also, some fake SM58's come with a switch attached; the model number for this should read SM58S. The "standard" SM58 (with no switch) will be listed as SM58-LC. These come with a mic clip, a strap, and a brass 3/8" clip insert, for use to adapt to any mic stand.

    Finally, know that some of these counterfeiters are getting to be good at copying the real deals, and are now covering many of the neglected details mentioned above... so in the end, use your ears... real 58's sound like, well, like a 58 should sound - full, rich, nice upper presence without harshness, and can take serious amounts of SPL before distortion ... fakes will sound brittle and harsh with even only low to moderate gain applied, will have a distinct lack of lows and low mids, and will distort easily.

  2. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Nicely done Donny, very thorough!

    For a mic that is so universally useful, they are such a bargain at $99 USD. It's not worth the gamble buying one at any price, whether it's new or used, from Craigslist or eBay.

    The first red flag should be a ridiculous low price. There can be subtle differences in boxes and packaging too. On newer SM series mics, the genuine Shure clip will say 'Shure' on it, and they include a black 8" velcro cable wrap with 'Shure' silk-screened on it in white. There are some excellent independent YouTube videos too, where they show real & fake specimens both side-by-side, for the more visual-learners.

    Of course the folks at Shure will tell you only way to be sure you're getting a genuine Shure, is to buy it from an authorized dealer. So stick to highly reputable online/catalog stores, or search for your nearest dealer with the Shure Dealer Locator. Naturally, I'd recommend buying it from your local dealer. They'll have it for the same price as the big-box store, and obviously depending on where you live, you might be surprised to find there's a dealer nearby you didn't know about.

    Even if you buy one second hand from the little old Sunday school teacher down the street, who's to say she didn't innocently buy a fake and now wants to sell it because it sounds terrible.
    kmetal likes this.
  3. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    They are also moving to Beta 58s, I note.

    Many years ago, I got some friends to compare their 58s, and I figured I'd found a quick solution - weight them, but it became clear that genuine 58s all weight quite different amounts. Not huge differences, but just weighing my own, I found a big swing in the weights - heavier tended to be 'older'. One big PA company last year had bought and entire batch of dodgy ones, and the give away was how prone to feedback they were when eq'd to sound nicer.
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I'm guessing the fakes may not also function as a hammer, like the true 57?
  5. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    The same goes with the Shure Beta 58A's...I recently viewed 3 listed together "as new" on the ebay Oz site and the first thing that caught my eye was the price.

    The price should have been enough of a red flag.

    The three were listed together for $300 AUD where at retail here in Oz they are anywhere between $249 to $349 AUD each... even with our exchange rate being $1 AUD to 0.73 USD we are still getting royally screwed on the price buying the real deal at retail here. (Hey, if your'e going to screw me, at least buy me a drink first...) ;)

    On a closer inspection these ones listed on ebay just didn't look right, from the color being slightly lighter than the factory finish (although it could have been the flash photography at work in this case, but I seriously doubt it) to the attention to detail of the badging looking a tad amateurish.
    Add the fact that there were no accessories such as the Shure mic pouch, mic clip, lead or velcro strap...or any warranty documentation whatsoever...just a box.

    Ebay actually have a warning page about counterfeit Shure mics that also have some helpful links to pages that have pics that show the difference between the counterfeit and the real deal, and what to look out for to avoid being caught out with a fake.
    They even admit there is a widespread problem with counterfeit Shure mics as well as other brands being copied and listed as the genuine article as well.

    But as stated above by my esteemed collegues, the counterfeiters are paying a closer attention to detail with product packaging, accessories and details such as the gold pins on the XLRs' to fool you into believing its the real thing.

    For peace of mind paying a few extra dollars at a retailer that is a genuine Shure dealer is a small price to pay for the guaranteed quality that comes with the real thing...
    - even if it does mean getting royally screwed here in Australia on price for the privilege.

    kmetal likes this.
  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I had no idea this was a real issue, with software piracy always being the main focus of fraud these days, I had no idea people would fake, what is essentially a budget mic. It's like counterfeiting a Honda Civic. But I guess the strength is in the raw numbers, and when you get into Neumann and AKG, those are mics, where you would/should register the seriel number.
  7. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Its not just limited to Shure mics, other recognised brands are also being copied although it appears Shure tend to be the most popular mic of the counterfeiters whose copies surface on sites such as ebay, most likely due to their brand popularity within the marketplace.

    The more popular the brand the more appealing it is for the counterfeiter to copy and also to sell to the end user who is duped into believing they are buying the genuine article.

    You would not believe how widespread the range of counterfeit products that come out of China and India alone. Its not just limited to such items as designer handbags or watches. One of the more alarming trends recently is pharmaceuticals, especially expensive medicines that are being counterfeited at an alarming rate and finding their way into the common market.

    Another example, here in Australia there has been a rush on baby formula bought off supermarket shelves in the last few months to be sent back to China by expat Chinese and sold on the black market, as there was a huge counterfeit baby formula scare in China recently.
    The counterfeiters were faking baby fomula over there with a substitute product that contained powdered melamine. That stuff is toxic.

    It got that bad here with how much baby formula was being bought up and sent to China by post that there has now been a limit on how many tins each person could buy at any one time...as soon as it was on the shelves it was gone...organised groups of Chinese shoppers strategically descending on supermarkets buying up as much as they could and blantantly loading into the backs of trucks in the supermarket carpark onto pallets to be wrapped and sent overseas on the spot.

    If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable.

    All because someone thought it would be a good idea to counterfeit baby formula in China with a substitute melamine product, now no-one over there trusts the local baby formula so a growing black market in formula sourced from places like Australia has emerged. Crazy stuff.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Man that's crazy. I gotta watch the news more. It's so scary because so much comes from there. Personally I'm still concerned about the nuclear meltdown they had in that area of the globe a few years ago. It's cooled off as an issue, but damn, the results of that accident will be felt for many many lifetimes.

    Your comment, reminded me of the first time I went to NY. Back in the mid 90's, you remember those bright yellow Sony Walkman Sports? They were like water resistant, they were the sh*t.!!! I always wanted one in the worst way, but got the rca, or Sanyo version lol. Back then $100 was a lot, especially for a 10 yr old. Anyway, we were walking down Times Square and every other window front had all of the counterfeit electronic look a likes. I was like pllllleeeeeaaaaaasssssssseeeeeeee mom?!?!?! No Kyle, those are bootlegs. Pleeeeeeaaasssssseeeeeee!?!?!? No. Lol. I haven't thought of that memory in like 20 years.

    I guess this is nothing new...

    Ya know man, those are the types of organizations, I would feel okay with using the US's absurd defense budget to fight. That's real terrorism. It's one thing to attack grown people, but to poison children. Nothing good about that.

    QC is crazy. Over here there's a huge lumber chain, lumber liquidators, and the import budget, flooring. Essentially that snap together hard wood 'pergo' covering. They got sued for having like 5x times the accepted amount formaldehyde on it.

    The American never admitted, but the Chinese plant manager said that they printed stickers stating falsely, that the formaldehyde was 'tested and safe'. Since it falls out of American jurisdiction, all was well for quite some time. I wasn't happy when I realized I had installed a couple thousand sqft of the stuff in the studios overt past few years.

    The more and more I learn the less and less I trust the mainstream. But the baby formula thing takes it to a new level. Aisan people buy canned air, and they also pay big bucks for used clothing worn by athletes, and not washed. Maybe they should consider the lives of children, ahead of these novelties. But who knows really who's exactly to blame.

    That's wild stuff Sean.
  9. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    here is some of the press regarding it


    Even the Washington Post ran this story

    All this is the consequence of a counterfeit baby formula racket in China. Counterfeiters will go to any lengths to make a buck besides counterfeiting goods like microphones.

    Apologies to @DonnyThompson the OP for getting off the original topic...but this highlights how widespread the trend is
    kmetal likes this.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I bought some fake Sennheiser 835 about 12years ago. The fake mics risk wasn't public as today back then.
    Bought an order of two and both sounded very different from each other (both different sounds of crap) even tho they were bought at the same time.

    We are all dreaming of the best deal. Please a U87 for 100$ !!!
    If it's too good to be true, chances are it's not ! ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  11. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    As a talking point I have in my theatre venue a free gift I got as a sample from one Chinese supplier. A shure SM86. I have a few of these and like them. The free one was half the weight and when I plugged it in, it sounded very thin. Then I discovered the phantom power was off. Screwing off the grill revealed a dynamic capsule! You have to be very careful. metal - Shire was a typo!
    kmetal likes this.
  12. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Lmao Paul, did they really spell it Shire?
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I knew there was a problem when the mic showed up with "Nooman" printed in Germanic script ....
    kmetal and Sean G like this.
  14. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I bought one of those....it was sold to me by this guy

    Brien Holcombe likes this.
  15. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Lmao.... "Hello Jerry..... Hello Newman" said with that classic snarl, from those classic greetings. "Maybe the real one got.... Lost in the mail ha ha ha" (<-----in Newman's Classic sisnister tone)
    Sean G likes this.
  16. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    He epitomises the term "Going Postal..."

    - Not that theres' anything wrong with that
    kmetal likes this.
  17. joey2000

    joey2000 Active Member

    Beat me to it. If you can't even afford $99 for a mic, wait until you can.

    Personally I would never buy any mic used and this is but one reason.
    Brien Holcombe likes this.
  18. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Bold statement...that puts a lot of classic original Neumanns, Telefunkens & AKG's out of the mix that are far superior to anything made now under the same name, if you would never buy a used mic...

    Its not like you can just roll up to your local Guitar Centre and buy an original U87...original ELA M 251E...or an original c414 with the brass capsule new over the counter now...

    "You have much to learn, young grasshopper...";)

  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'd have no troubles buying a mic used, ( I already have, several times, my U89i was used when I bought it) if it was from a seller that would be willing to back up the purchase.

    I don't think I'd bother with buying a used 57 or 58, because brand new ones are just so inexpensive to begin with; but for more expensive mics, or for mics that you can't get new anymore, then sure, no problem... if the price is right, and as long as the seller offers a MBG if it turns out that there's something wrong with it.

    As Sean mentioned, that scratches a lot of great mics off the list - Coles, Beyers, Sennheiser's, EV's ....

    You're not gonna find a new 414EB/CK12 Brass anywhere anymore, or an original U87 ... or, even if you wanted a simple but great sounding dynamic mic - something like a Senny MD409 with an original U3 cap - you'd have to buy a used model...

    You just have to make sure that the mics are in decent-to-good condition, that the price is fair for what you are buying, and that the seller is offering an MBG. Most sellers who have mics like these for sale have taken good care of them, are honest about their condition, and are willing to back up the purchase with some kind of guarantee; unless the seller is selling these mics for parts, or "as is", (which they will generally specify), those who have and are selling these types of mics have generally taken good care of them - and those buyers who are familiar with these mics expect there to be at least a little cosmetic wear and tear.

    You just need to use common sense, and do some research on what you are buying. Educate yourself on the models you are interested in, know the differences of the models over the years, know the average pricing.

    For example, unless there's been some kind of a mod done, there's no such thing as a 1985 414EB with a C12 Brass Capsule, and I'd even be pretty suspicious of something like a "mint condition" 1974 EV RE20, as well.

    Just use common sense, and be informed. ;)
  20. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    As somebody who buys quite a lot of Chinese product for resale, you have to understand that any advice on what to look for fails after the next batch is produced. Reviews of good Chinese mics often fail too, because the next batch will not be the same. From what I have seen, all the fake Shures and Sennheisers use identical components inside for short periods. A 57, 58, 835 and now the 900 series too will have the very same capsule - for a while. Then, the next batch start to use the current one. There are very few critical component factories - most Chinese products of this kind are assembled into the 'unique' things we buy.

    The latest product is the Shure 545 - the CN version with a switch. Clearly they don't realise it's an ancient product, so they produce it, but package it in the same zip case and box design as the latest 57/58s! It's been produced from photographs, not the original, so everything about it is wrong. Weight, alloy, finish, size. It uses the same capsule as the current 57s they produce. Clever idea, but rubbish, of course.

    I service one particular client where the microphones need to be there 24/7 for people to bellow through, but are easily stealable. Since May they've lost 7 or 8 and what they have actually lost are Chinese fakes, not Shure originals. They're disposable. The current 57s are actually quite good - a nice sounding capsule, the 58s not so hot, they seem to have the older capsule that is a bit spikey making feedback more of an issue. To keep my morals in order, I scratch out the 'Shure' on the wrap around.

    The trouble of course is that a huge proportion of Shure mics out there are not genuine, and while some are very obviously fakes, many are close enough that users don't notice. I know of a PA company who only discovered many of their new ones were fake when they had trouble with eq and feedback. No idea which supplier provided them - too late and all mixed up.

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