3 Reasons To Own A Shure SM-57 Microphone

| Product Review, Tips

I don’t like to push gear if I don’t think it’s a helpful suggestion. Heck, I don’t even believe that gear is the solution to your recording or mixing woes. But gear is what we use to capture and mix audio and some if is necessary. The trick is to navigate the sea of advertising and find the best bang for your buck.

You likely have heard of the Shure SM-57 microphone (if you don’t already own one). It’s a super affordable ($99 new), super popular dynmaic mic. Today I want to give you three great reasons why (after purchasing your $100 condensor) every home/project studio should own at least one of these mics. Two seem typical and one might surprise you.

1. Great On Guitar Amps

The most popular use for the SM57 tends to be to record guitar amps/cabinets. As a dynamic mic it can take the loud SPLs of the amp without overloading. Plus as a very midrange focused mic it really brings out some of the best characteristics of the electric guitar.

On almost any amp the 57 right up on the grill seems to do wonders. If it’s too bass heavy, back it off an inch or two. If it’s two bright, slide it over away from the center of the cone or angle it 45 degrees to the grill. It’s almost impossible to not get a great guitar tone with this mic.

2. Classic On Snare Drums

The other place you will get great use out of your 57 is on the snare drum. Even with a minimal drum mic setup, an SM57 close miked on the snare can pick up the fatness and punch that you want in a snare sound without much fuss (or money spent). If you are already getting a solid snare sound in your drum overheads, then a 57 right up on the drum will bring in that pop that you’re looking for.

And lest you think the 57 is only good on snare, if you pick up a few more of these bad boys you can use them as tom mics. My last EP I tracked toms and snare, all with SM57s. They did a great job of picking up that punch of the toms, even the floor tom. I was surprised to say the least.

3. The Alternative Vocal Mic

The third reason why you should own an SM57 is to have an optional vocal mic that can handle crazy loud singers. Some vocalists have such a powerful voice that easily overpower your condensor mics. Dynamics can be a great choice for rock or rap vocals and the 57 is no exception.

I’m a huge Soundgarden fan and I know for quite some time lead singer Chris Cornell would use SM57s both on stage and in the studio in order to contain his monstrous voice. Sure you lose some of the shine and clarity of a condensor, but you gain a solid natural recording that will be distortion free.

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32 Responses to “3 Reasons To Own A Shure SM-57 Microphone”

  1. matt Baker

    Graham, its so funny that we start out buying all these mics and doing all this shopping only to realize down the road that once we get familiar with our gear and our work, we can make radio ready great records using 57s, proper mic placement, and a good pre. I know Bon Iver did.

    Reply
  2. Kern

    so true, so true, so true! A producer once mentioned that Chris Cornell used dynamics due to his powerful vocals. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Sad Panda

    The 57 (and its electrical twin, SM58) is undoubtedly a much-loved mic. When I bought my second mic, though, I went with an Audix i5. I was fortunate enough to be able to A/B floor models of each of them in-store, and my (admittedly somewhat n00bish) ears could not tell a difference. The i5 was about $30 cheaper at the time – it was on sale – though they generally run pretty close in price. Could not be happier with this mic on my guitar cab, though I’m sure I would say the same if I’d gotten a 57.

    Seems like every studio should have a $100 condenser and a $100 dynamic to start. :D

    Reply
  4. Frank Nitsch

    Hi Graham,

    the first two usages indeed are well known. Using an SM57 for vocals is not that uncommon considering the similarity to the SM58, which is intended to be used for this purpose. I once heard from a dependable source that the microphone capsules of the SM57 and of the SM58 would be identical and that the slight difference in sound would just be caused by the round windscreen of the SM58, which contains a pop filter, which the SM57 does not have. Have you ever compared an SM58 with unmounted round windscreen with an SM57? How close do they sound? Would it make any sense to get an SM57, if I have an SM58 already, from which I can remove the windscreen easily (to make it sound very similar to an SM57)?

    Thanx & take care

    Frank

    Reply
    • Smurf

      You can go here to read the answer about the 57 & 58 being twins from the folks that know, Shure…

      http://www.shurenotes.com/issue30/article.htm

      There is also a track on page 3 that was recorded with all 57′s.

      The problem with just unscrewing the ball from a 58 is that the capsule is not protected like a 57 is, so you take a chance of damaging the mic if you are not really careful.

      Reply
      • Frank Nitsch

        Hi Smurf,

        that’s a great source of information about my question. Thanx so much. Comparing the frequency response of the two mics I don’t see any difference. There is however a slight difference in the polar patterns for higher frequencies and of course the wind protection. Knowing that the mics are identical in almost all aspects just tells me I don’t need to get an SM57. Since I’m using it for micing guitars at home only in a safe environment, there is only a very little chance of damaging the mic.
        Would be interesting to know, if the grille of the SM57 fits onto an SM58. I could get one as a replacement part maybe and exchange the grilles as I need them. ;-)

        Thanx & take care

        Frank

        Reply
  5. Toby Baxley

    I used a 57 to record lead vocals on one of the songs on my album. It was the easiest song to mix. The vocal sounded just like I wanted without a ton of filtering.

    Reply
  6. Mitch Gonzalez

    There was a local studio going out of business and I got lucky and pick up 4 SM57, stands and cables for $260. All work great, I really like them vocals.

    Reply
  7. Andrew

    I love the Sm57! It is “The Swiss Army Knife” of recording in my opinion: always handy and you never know when your going to need it! =)

    Reply
  8. Alex

    The 57 really is a great all around mic. I was watching a video done in, I believe it was Acme studio’s in New York and they used 3 to mic the drums. They did AKG 414′s as overheads, then a 57 on the snare, kick (which surprisingly sounded awesome! Super punchy and still very deep), and lastly as a mono room mic. The drums sounded fantastic to say the least.

    Reply
  9. Arthur John Luay

    lol, even before i read this i knew a while back that i needed an SM57. Starting out when building my studio, it was always a thing of just trying to make it as cheap as possible without compromising quality. I got my sm57 for 20 bucks from my friends Church. ROCK! And i also got a Studio Projects B1 for 100 dollars, and i believe the quality is better than that of MXL with the same price.

    Reply
  10. Roddy

    i must concur. i have been using the sm57 on guitars forever, but one day many years ago, i was record a demo for kim karns (“betty davis eyes” from the 80′s)and she was the singer. i was very familiar with her distinctive voice but could find it. after put-zing away with different mics, she very politely said “hey guys, i usually sing into a sm57.” i looked at my second engineer, shrugged my shoulders, changed mics and…..there it was. one of my favorites moments in the studio:)

    Reply
  11. Evan Bradford

    Agreed that it’s an awesome mic… I remember seeing a few threads and maybe an article where people had recorded entire songs with 57s (more for demonstration purposes I think), and they sounded really good. I use them on guitars, top and bottom snare, and toms in my studio. Straight to tape, I think Sennheiser 421s sound better on toms, but they cost almost 4x as much, and with a little EQ, 57s sound pretty awesome.

    As far as mods, the impedance “gizmo” that GoDawg linked to is rad. It’s not at all difficult to make with a little soldering-savvy, and it does get rid of some of the high-mid shrillness that 57s tend to have, especially on guitars.

    Transformerless can be cool too, bearing it mind that it alters the sound quite dramatically. Definitely extends the top and bottom, and doesn’t sound nearly as midrangey and “57-ish”. I personally like them ok on guitar cabs if the sound is too aggressive with a regular 57, but haven’t found them as cool on snare drums. One thing worth mentioning is that getting rid of the transformer drops the output pretty significantly, so you’ll need more gain from your preamp. Doesn’t matter so much on screaming guitar cabs and snares, but you’ll need lots of clean gain if you plan to use it on quieter sources.

    -Evan

    Reply
    • Evan Bradford

      They’ll work in a pinch, but definitely aren’t ideal in my opinion. They’re very high-mid forward, which can make cymbals sound harsh. Also, their frequency response only goes to about 15k, so they won’t capture the “air” and detail of the really high end. I have seen a lot of people use them on hihats before (in addition to other overheads)… whether or not they’re transformerless would also make a difference in their performance in these applications.

      Reply
  12. Neemias

    Even though a condenser is the most appropriate mic to record acoustic guitars, the sm57 could be used for that?

    Reply
  13. Gabe

    Acquired one of these awesome mic’s yesterday, mainly because of you and Joe. Sounds great on just about anything. :)

    Reply
  14. ELias

    Hey! Well, I read comments about how the Sm57 and 58 are the same mic. I suggest you read the specs of each mic found in the shure website.
    They are NOT exactly the same.
    They have similar specs and frequency responses but NOT the same

    SM 57 http://cdn.shure.com/specification_sheet/upload/81/us_pro_sm57_specsheet.pdf

    SM 58
    http://cdn.shure.com/specification_sheet/upload/82/us_pro_sm58_specsheet.pdf

    Its not a big difference or anything but depending on your amps, guitars, preamps and stuff, you DO GET A DIFFERENT SOUND!

    Reply
    • Vincent Siméon

      You are right, The différence is due for a big part to the anti pop on the 58 (the sphere). All the rest is the same.

      PS : I know it’s not good to copy but for guys on a budget you can try the YPA m601. I have one and a real sm57 and after comparison, I can say that it’s a good choice… really ! not a twin but a good mic by itself for the price.

      And as always, remember that the placement of the mic is more crucial than the mic you choose ;)
      (yes I know, I’m a french Graham copycat ha ha)

      Reply
  15. Jerry

    I love the 57s. Mostly use them for snare and guitar cab but sometimes vocals as well. You cant really go wrong with them!

    Reply
  16. ozzy

    Hi I ran in to your site researching the sm57. I love the sound quality and versatility of this mic, it’s obviously great for micing amps and what I’ve heard from recordings of acoustic guitar it can really capture the rhytmical bass of Robert Johnson delta style playing along with the higher pitched picking (especially if you place it close to guitar). It also has that dynamic presence that sounds so sweet to my ears. Last but not least let’s not forget how great it is for harmonica playing, both cupped and on a stand. It’s a standard in every serious harpers gear setup.

    Now there is a slight quirk about this mic, and it’s the mics low impedance. It seems troublesome to run it through an audio interface, at least the cheaper ones I’ve looked at. You need to turn gain up until you start to hear hissing to get any volume to speak of. And it’s gard to know what inteface could drive this mic and which won’t.
    Now you seem to know a whole lot about home studio equipment, do you, or anyone else, know of any cheap (starting from like 100$) usb audio interface that could be suited for using with this mic? Only thing I know would be the shure x2u that us specially made for this mic, but it’s a little expensive new, can’t find it used and yes it comes bundled with the sm57 at a fairly good price but I’m looking to get the mic used and a used interface saving my money for a new guitar or some hot pickups and some more harmonicas.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  17. ozzy

    By the way I use a strat knockoff I got for free when I bought a new cellphone that I’ve adjusted perfectly to the last screw, I can make that baby scream or cream like santana (only problem is pickups barely pick up high e string) or melt like BB King (depending on technique and amp), smokey amp used for 10$, a vintage reel to reel with tube amp and built in speakers that sounds AMAZING I bought for $20, an old AKAI mic for 15$ that’s hotter than hell for harping and Marine Band harmonicas (each one costs 30$, more than any of my other stuff and I need almost all keys). My setup kicks serious ass, and I think you would love it so now I just need basic gear for recording.

    Reply
  18. ozzy

    Oh and I mustn’t forget this magic solid wood top, bottom and sides 65 year old parlor guitar I found for 100$!!! Perfect condition! Perfect! And a Yamaha c40 nylon acoustic I’ve had for 30 years. Sounds better than ever.

    Reply
  19. ozzy

    I can answer my own question now. If anybidt by chance stumble upon this thread, what you are looking for is the focusrite saffire 6.

    Reply

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