The World’s Most Iconic Microphone

Shure’s masterpiece stands the test of time

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2015 seems to be a good year for anniversaries; only recently we covered the fact that Martin’s famous D-35 acoustic had reached the 50 year milestone in its long, rich history. Well, this month that figure is bettered by perhaps the single most recognisable piece of musical equipment the world has ever seen. And it’s not a guitar.

Say to anybody, musical or not, to picture a microphone in their mind’s eye and you can guarantee that the vast majority would instantly think of a Shure 55 series. You might not know it by name but you’ll certainly know it to look at. On its dedicated birthday website, Shure makes the claim that it’s been photographed with more celebrities than any other microphone. That’s certainly true, when you consider that its remit spreads far beyond music and into broadcast houses, news rooms and radio studios the world over. It was into a Shure 55 series that Martin Luther King told the world he had a dream, and John F Kennedy brought news of humans landing on the moon. It was the microphone preferred by Elvis Presley, and its presence is felt no matter the genre or the era.

Why has it lasted so well? It came about due to a Shure engineer’s determination to rid the world of nasty, screeching feedback. Inside is a single dynamic element and cardioid polar pattern; what this means is that the 55 series are uni-directional, and feature the most sensitivity at the front of the unit, and least at the back. Essentially, if you are talking into the front, that’s all it will pick up. Simple really. By ensuring the focus was only on what was directly in front of the mic, the majority of background and ambient noise was, if not eliminated, then certainly drastically reduced.

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It was also, despite its considerable size, relatively lightweight, coming in at around half the weight of then-standard microphones. It could take a battering too, on account of its brushed steel exterior, which meant it backed up its quality and desirable characteristics with a strength and durability which is still at the top of the class.

In order to mark the occasion, Shure has released the limited edition Shure 5575, which is a modern representation of the old classic. It boasts the same technology as the older versions, and comes in a unique commemorative colour way with carry case and desk stand. It’s no show-pony though; despite its fabled looks and limited edition vibe, it’s still a superb workhorse of a mic and will light up your recordings for years to come.

Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.

Journalist, PR and multimedia specialist. Write professionally on subjects ranging from musical instruments to industrial technology.