Celebrating 50 years of the Shure SM58 microphone
Introduction to the Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 was originally produced in 1966 by Shure Incorporated and continues to be manufactured today. A professional, cardioid dynamic microphone the SM58 has stood the test of time and has been the choice of many vocalists (and musicians) for over 50 years.
The microphone has a solid design, is durable and rarely breaks. Available for around £70 in the UK ($100 in the US) the SM58 allows the user to experience excellent sound quality at a low price.
As well as the corded version of the SM58, Shure also manufacture a wireless version - the Shure BLX24-SM58.
What is a 'cardioid dynamic microphone'?
A cardioid microphone has the most sensitivity at the front and is least sensitive at the back. It isolates from unwanted ambient sound and is much more resistant to feedback than omnidirectional microphones.
Because of these qualities the SM58 is particularly suitable for loud bands or stages which is why it remains such a popular microphone to use live.
Who uses the SM58?
There's probably no one who been around love music who's never seen and SM58. As the worlds biggest selling microphone it can be found on stages and in studios throughout the world. It's so diverse that even the BBC still use the microphone for live coverage of Glastonbury (amongst other live events).
Many bands use the '58 including Kasabian and The Who.
The SM58 does have a proximity effect which means that the closer the noise source (i.e. your mouth) the more bass you will have in the overall sound.
That can be great for many vocalists, but it can also lead to feedback problems, especially in the lower ranges.
One of the most important aspects of the SM58 is it's strength. The moment you pick up the microphone you can instantly feel the quality. At just under 300 grams it isn't the lightest mic on the market but that adds to the feeling of quality. The turned aluminium shaft is one section and very sturdy, and the minimal parts mean less to go wrong. All of these aspects add to the overall quality of the microphone and is one of the reasons that they rarely fail and last for literally decades if looked after.
Check out this video below. It shows the SM58 getting dunked in saltwater, driven over by a truck and burned - it still worked afterwards. That's pretty cool.
Shure SM58 Durability Test
Although primarily intended as a vocal microphone I've seen SM58's in all kids of roles. It's an excellent mic for picking up ambiant noise in acoustic sets, I've seen them used as overhead mics for drummers and even drum 'n' bass MC's use them.
From garage bands to Wembly stadium, the SM58 is can be seen in use in almost any live musical setting.
But what about the SM57?
The SM57 is the SM58's little brother. Although the '57 looks just like a '58 with the grille removed, the microphones are not the same. The SM57 has flat mid-range and sweet top end which makes it a much better microphone for recording instruments such as acoustic guitars.
However, the two microphones are very similar in way they sound. Yes, the two microphones were designed with different intentions but they can both do the same job. So yes, you can use an SM58 to record instruments.
Just beware that the SM57 doesn't have a very effective blast windscreen so you're likely pick up plosive sounds (those P and B sounds that blast air into the diaphragm of the microphone).
Beware of counterfeits.
Buying a counterfeit SM58 will not give you the quality of a genuine unit, despite what some people will tell you.
Not only is the sound of a fake SM58 noticeably inferior but so is the build quality. Cheap, counterfeit mics are noticeable lighter, made from cheaper materials, use smaller wires and have an inferior transducer (the part this converts your voice into electrical current). Some estimates believe that these cheaper mics cost less than $1 to produce.
If you buy a counterfeit mic it won't last, it won't sound good and you'll end up having to buy another. As my old granddad used to say: buy cheap, you buy twice!
Where to buy
As the world's most popular microphone there's no shortage of companies selling the SM58. However, you should always ensure that you buy from a bona fide source to ensure that you're getting the genuine article.
I recommend that you buy an SM58 from Amazon. Amazon are an approved retailer. You'll get a microphone with clip and carry-case and it comes in a sturdy box.