It’s often described as a Swiss Army Knife of mics – here are four great uses for a SM57 to prove it…
In the world of microphones, the Shure SM57 is highly respected by just about every producer and engineer in the world. This is because, when pointed at just about any audio source, the result will be, at the least, very usable, but more often than not very good.
There are some situations where it’s difficult to beat it as a mic choice, too. Here are four great uses for the SM57.
Recording Guitar Amps
Recording electric guitars, or more specifically guitar amps, is one of the most common uses for the SM57. This is in part due to the unique voicing of the mic- it is particularly sensitive to mid frequencies.
The 57’s cardioid polar pattern also helps, as it has very good rear rejection (i.e. it won’t pick up very much from the rear of the mic).
The flat-topped design means that you can get very close to audio sources, and, as a cardioid mic, this usually results in the ‘proximity effect’. This means that when placed close to a source, the bass frequencies will become more exaggerated. When recording a guitar amp, placing the SM57 right up to the speaker grille (usually pointed at the edge of the speaker cone, slightly off axis) takes advantage of this.
The tone is very detailed, with a mild compression when driven hard that can make mixing more straightforward…
The SM57 was pitched as an instrument microphone when launched, and is tailored to this purpose via the frequency response and high maximum sound pressure level (SPL) -effectively the maximum decibel level of sound before it starts to distort.
Both of these characteristics make it a great mic for use with brass sections. Whether live or in the studio, the 57’s bright, mid-focussed voicing is great on trumpets, saxophones, and brass in general.
If you’re looking for an ultra-luxurious sound, with ‘fairy dust’ high frequencies, well, this isn’t the microphone for you. If you want a classic, easy-to-mix, brash brass sound, the SM57 is just the job.
Recording Snare Drums
The high max SPL, great rear rejection and mid focused tone make the SM57 a great microphone for recording snare drums. Aside from these characteristics, the SM57 is great at capturing very fast transients (the ‘attack’ part of a sound).
When used to capture the batter sound from the drum head, in combination with overhead mics, the 57 captures the ‘crack’, and definition, whilst rolling off some of the top end, whilst the overheads capture the low frequency ‘weight’, and more of the high-frequency content.
If you want to use two mics on a snare, the SM57 is great to mic the snare side, too.
Surprised to see this here? Well, in actual fact, the capsule in the SM57 is the same as that in the SM58 vocal mic. Again, the mild compression when recording loud sources can result is a very pleasing recording (and a far easier mix).
The mid focused sound centres on the frequency range of the human voice, and the cardioid polar pattern with good rear rejection making this a mic surprisingly well suited to vocals. The ‘middley’ response can result in a sound that is slightly ‘lo-fi’ on some voices but can suit others perfectly.
Not convinced? Well, Bjork, The Black Crowes, Bono, Bruce Springsteen and many others have all recorded through an SM57.
The Shure SM57 is worthy of a place in any microphone collection.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.