Updated on Jan 04, 2021
The Shure SM58 is known as one of the most popular performance microphones used for gigs across the world. Whenever I think of the best microphone for vocals (live), the first thing that pops into my head is the distinct design of the SM58.
Unlike its sibling, the Shure SM57, this microphone is very much built for singing. Not only is it a handheld mic, but it also comes with a variation (for a $5 upcharge) to give you an on/off switch. This can prove advantageous for any live setting.
But what makes the Shure SM58 such a popular live performance microphone, and is that the only thing it’s good for? We’re going to take a deep dive into what I love about this microphone, and then we’ll analyze the bad sides.
Depending on what you’re looking for, it may not be the right fit for you. In that case, we’ll talk about the alternative choices that we would recommend.
The first thing to note about the Shure SM58 is not only the live capabilities, but the functionality as a budget studio microphone. While it could never compare to the sheer quality you’ll find from a condenser in the $100’s of dollars range, the SM58 allows for a noise-free & a warm vocal recording that you don’t often get from performance mics.
The cardioid response pattern reduces the noise picked up from the sides & rear of the capsule, allowing for a narrowed down audio recording. While advantageous for those who can’t build a noise & echo proofed sound booth, this will have the opposite effect found from the wide-frequency response in a condenser microphone. In layman’s terms, you will not be able to capture the same level of depth from your audio.
The other great part about that cardioid response pattern is reduced feedback. Feedback occurs when the audio recorded into the microphone plays out of the speakers back, into the mic, resulting in one of the worst noises known to the human ear.
Beyond that, the Shure SM58 has an internal shock mount, which reduces noise from movement or banging into the mic (and/or stand). Shock mounts are built to absorb vibrations, and you’ve probably seen them before acting as the seat for many studio mics.
The microphone capsule is surrounded by a pneumatic suspension system, which is essentially a soft rubber balloon that further reduces the handling noises mentioned above.
On top of all of this, as is common with performance mics, the SM58 has a built-in spherical wind and pop-filter. If you’re unsure of what this does, it will reduce jarring popping sounds made by letters like “B" & “P". You may have seen external pop filters used with condenser microphones, which can be recognized by their usual circular shape made with either mesh or metal to make a screen in front of the mic.
Evidently, the Shure SM58 has a lot of great features for protecting your sound, but it also produced clear and warm vocal audio. As can be common with dynamic microphones, it features a brightened midrange with a bass roll-off.
Due to the internal structure of dynamic microphones, they won’t be able to capture the full-body of your audio the same way condenser microphones, which feature a wide-frequency response would. Due to this, there’s an advantage for the narrowed midrange, which will give the illusion of bold audio, using the bass roll-off to keep it warm.
The Shure SM7B has a similar frequency response.
The Shure SM58 makes for the perfect live performance microphone & is the best wireless microphone on the market (extra components required). The noise blocking capabilities allow you to perform on stage without any feedback or other unwanted sound. The internal shock mount mentioned earlier allows you to move around on stage, mic in hand, without the risk of added "handling" noises coming through. These features allow for a seamless experience when performing live.
The Shure SM58 is definitely most commonly known for being a great performance mic. But is that the limitation?
If you’re just starting out in the vocal recording world, whether you’re making music, or doing voice overs for a YouTube video, or even when doing podcasts, the SM58 can prove more valuable than a low-end condenser mic.
Especially considering you won’t need phantom power, which means you won’t need to invest in a preamp, this microphone can make for a great alternative when starting. And if you’re not able to find a soundproofed room for audio recording, it’s definitely the smart choice.
Condenser mics, especially on the lower end, can pick up a lot of background noise due to their high sensitivity. Beyond that, any reverberance (echo) from the room you’re using can result in really dirty audio.
The Shure SM58 is a well-rounded performance microphone with studio capabilities. While not the fanciest mic, it’s pretty hard to come up with a good list of downsides.
For starters, the sound quality is definitely not the preferred standard for studio recordings. The mid-range emphasis on this one acts more like a band-aid than a solution.
When you perform live, the audio is supposed to be raw. When recording MP3’s, you’re going to have a lot more standards, and you won’t be able to produce the high-level quality you hear in modern recordings.
This is caused by both the mid-range controls and just the expected quality of a $100 microphone. When you record with a good studio condenser, the wide-frequency & the transient response has a rapid & accurate capture of the sound waves, offering an unmatched level of depth in your audio. As I stated above, the Shure SM58 will give off the illusion of this, but when you try to master the audio on your favorite DAW, you’re going to feel limited.
Best Used For
Now the Shure SM58 is not for everyone. Particularly for those looking for a good studio microphone that may be able to stretch their budget, we have some alternative options.
If this microphone is a bit out of your budget, we’d recommend looking into the Shure SM48. At less than half the cost, it’s perfect for beginners who just want something to perform with.
However, if you want something a little better, Shure makes another model, the Beta 58A Supercardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone that offers a higher standard of quality for a higher price.
If you’re looking for a comparable condenser microphone to use with your home setup, it may be worth looking into either the Blue Yeti (& Blue Yeti Pro) or the AKG Project Studio Series (Models P220 & P120). The Blue Yeti is particularly nice for desktop recording and doesn’t require phantom power. It makes for a very popular gaming mic and can be used for podcasting as well. The AKG will be more for studio recordings, whether for vocals or instruments.
If you’re looking for a good mic to place Infront of your guitar at gigs, then definitely checkout the SM58’s sibling, the Shure SM57. This microphone is the same price and was specifically built to be an equivalent for instruments.
If you just want another performance mic that may be of higher quality, look into the Sennheiser E935. Coming in at around $180, this microphone makes for a killer dynamic vocal mic used by professionals across the world.
The Shure SM58 is definitely a fine choice for those on a budget looking for a versatile mic to serve dual purposes with performing & recording. The engineering of the internal components offers a beginner-friendly noise control, whether it be from handling, feedback, or reverberance.
However, like just about any microphone under $100, there’s a lot that could be improved upon. You won’t find the level of depth needed to record master-worthy audio, and this microphone is not the optimal choice for instrument recording, but all-in-all, it serves its original purpose as a handheld vocal mic and will continue to be one of the more popular choices in that regard.
Posted on Sep 14, 2020
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