Two of the most popular microphones ever produced, the Shure SM57 and Shure SM58 can be found on stages and in studios around the world. Both are cardioid dynamic microphones. Let’s break that down. Dynamic microphones operate somewhat like a speaker in reverse – converting sound waves into electrical energy. By nature of their design, dynamic microphones are extremely rugged and resistant to moisture, traits that both the SM57 and SM58 share. Dynamic microphones do not require their own power supplies. A cardioid pattern is the “heart-shaped” polar response which means that most of the sound captured is from the front of the mic. Both the SM57 and SM58 are cardioid microphones.
Both the Shure SM57 and SM58 are solidly built and can be counted on to perform well night after night. So what is the difference between the two? Let’s review them in regards to design and purpose.
The Shure SM58 – Star of the Stage
The SM58 is known as the “go to” live vocal microphone. It has a built-in spherical filter that minimizes wind noise and vocal pops. The afore mentioned cardioid pattern helps to eliminate unwanted background noise. The frequency response of the SM58 is especially suited for vocals with a bright midrange and bass rolloff.
Although you are almost guaranteed to see the Shure SM58 on stage at your local club or concert hall, chances are you will find it your local recording studio as well. While condenser studio mics are more likely to be used to record vocals, a SM58 may do the job just as well, depending on the vocalist. It has been widely noted that Bono of U2 has recorded some vocals using an SM58.
The Shure SM57 – Recording Studio Standard
The SM57 was designed as an instrument mic. While built on the same cartridge design as the SM58, the SM57 utilizes an integral resonator/grille assembly – in fact, the grille is actually part of the cartridge. This allows you to do extreme close miking which gives a pronounced proximity effect – great for recording instrument speaker cabinets and drums. This grille design gives the SM57 a slightly higher output than the SM58 above 5kHz, delivering sharper highs and robust bass.
While it can be used as a vocal mic, the SM57 is best suited for recording instruments. It can be very effective used to record not only drums and amps, but as a mic for woodwind and brass instruments and for acoustic piano as well. The limited frequency response of the SM57, along with its ability to deal with high sound pressure levels makes it a great choice for live recording of high-output sources such as guitar amps and drums.
Here’s a look at some specifications and how the two compare:
|Type||Dynamic||Dynamic (Moving Coil)|
|Frequency Response||40 to 15,000 Hz||50 to 15,000 Hz|
|Pop Filter||N/A||Built In|
|Weight||10 oz||10.5 oz|
The truth is that like all microphones, the SM58 and SM57 can be used for just about any purpose and experimenting with them can give you some surprising results. That being said the SM58 was designed for vocalists and is a proven performer in that regard, while the SM57 is legendary for recording instruments, especially snare drums and guitar cabinets.
Here are some audio samples recorded with the Shure SM57 and SM58 microphones:
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