While far more advanced microphones have been released as the years have gone on, with many now having a much more minimal appearance and a plethora of extra features, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.
The Shure SM58 may have been released in 1966, but that hasn’t stopped it from continuing to be a favorite among not only vocalists and performers but also podcasters and vloggers for just how well it stands up today and how reliable this classic microphone is in the long term.
With thousands of models being produced since the SM58 was released, while it remains popular, how does it really stack up to the competition today?
That’s what we’re going to break down today so you can decide whether or not this is a microphone you should look into buying.
What Is the Shure SM58?
When you pick up a Shure SM58, you’re not only purchasing a high-quality microphone, but you’re also holding an antique with a career that really is unparalleled.
Whether it’s vocalists like Mariah Carey or rappers and beatboxers like Jay Z, so many influential music artists swear by the SM58.
The main reason for this is because the SM58 is entirely dedicated to being a top-notch, high-quality vocal mic and has been a leader in this field for over half a century.
This popular vocal mic may have a deceiving appearance, looking like any ordinary black and silver microphone that were so prominent through the 1990s and early 2000s.
However, it actually provides some of the best audio quality in the industry along with a few more hidden built-in features that make this microphone such a classic.
While it’s definitely considered a legendary piece of musical equipment, before you go out and buy this mic, it’s essential to know how it stacks up today since there could be more modern and advanced microphones that could work better for your specific situation than the Shure SM58.
Since it is designed to be a vocal microphone above everything else, the Shure SM58 has some of the best sound quality in the industry with a frequency response from 50Hz to 15kHz.
This dynamic microphone also contains a bass attenuation from 40 to 100Hz in order to protect from the sound getting distorted due to the sound source being too close to the mic.
Vocal microphones are generally designed to pick up human speech frequencies, and the SM58 dynamic mic does an outstanding job. It has high sensitivity which allows it to capture loud or soft passages with ease and clarity.
Dynamic microphones in general are an excellent choice for live performances due to their reliability and durability, and the SM58 is no exception.
With a clean, balanced, and good sound each time the microphone is used, while it might not have that presence boost that is more noticeable in the SM57, you can be sure the SM58 will still provide accurate and crystal clear sound each time you use it.
The only real downside is that because the mic is primarily focused on picking up higher frequencies, at a lower frequency, it can cause the sounds to be more distorted and harder to hear in comparison to vocals.
Therefore while you will be fine if you only plan to use the mic for podcasting, interviews in a recording studio, or vlogging, using it for recording instruments can be a challenge.
Thus, if you intend to use musical instruments to record your audio, then it can be worth picking up a pop filter for handling noise to save you from needing to adjust the volume manually after you’ve finished recording.
The Shure SM58 makes full use of a cardioid pickup pattern, meaning while it is extremely sensitive to any noises produced right in front of it, it will negate and essentially block any background noise coming from behind the microphone and from the sides.
The cardioid polar pattern rejects background noise and is best for recording solo performers, like singers or speakers. It also features an integrated pop filter to reduce any unwanted plosive sounds when singing or speaking.
This is incredibly handy for many situations where you have a few people in a room or are recording outside or in a venue where you only want your voice to be focused on rather than the voices of others being amplified by the microphone.
However, while this does work incredibly well for vocalists and those who only need one person using the mic at all times, it’s not so optimal for those who plan to use the mic for a podcast or as an interview.
This is due to the front-facing polar pattern that makes it hard for listeners to hear what is being said by everyone, creating an uneven audio experience. For this, condenser mics with a wider pick-up pattern would be more suitable.
This is because a condenser mic is able to pick up a larger range of frequencies, and it has a wider polar pattern that can capture sound from multiple sources.
Sensitivity is a crucial feature to look out for when picking up a new mic since it can add so much to the overall quality of the audio depending on how easily it can pick out each and every voice up.
The Shure SM58 has a sensitivity level of -56.0 dBV, which is very impressive for a microphone that has been around for this long.
While there might be microphones now on the market that are far more sensitive, this can sometimes be more of a downside than a positive.
With the SM58, you can be sure that the mic is sensitive enough to pick up the noises directly in front of it clearly.
However, it’s not too sensitive to the point where it will amplify external or background noise you may not want if you’re recording.
Design And Build
While it may have some of the best vocal sound quality in the business, the other reason the Shure SM58 has gone down as such a classic is its lightweight, sturdy, and incredibly reliable design.
Standing at just 8 inches high and 2 inches wide, this popular vocal microphone might look relatively cheap and potentially outdated for many people, it is incredibly reliable and is a huge reason music artists swear by it so much.
The tapered metal chassis covering the microphone is incredibly rugged and is guaranteed to remain firm and stable even after many accidental drops.
In addition, the shiny steel grille covering the top of the microphone adds another layer of protection which is incredibly resistant to any scratches or dents that can really ruin the appearance of a microphone in the long term.
Vocal mics are known to last a long time if they’re properly maintained, and the SM58 is no exception. With proper care, this mic can last you many years so you can enjoy using it for years to come.
The materials aren’t the only form of protection however, it also comes equipped with a spherical filter which provides a good amount of resistance to plosives and fricatives, allowing audio to remain clear and precise and keeping the mic effective even after years of usage.
The internal pneumatic shock mount system also helps to protect against any annoying vibration-induced noises which can really break the immersion of the experience for the listeners.
With a solid die-cast steel body that has stood the test of time and is essentially guaranteed not to break no matter what is thrown its way, if you don’t mind its more dated and traditional appearance, the Shure SM58 is definitely the most durable studio microphone on the market that will serve you well for years to come.
This Shure mic uses an XLR connection as its standard rather than a jack cable which does help improve the audio quality even more than usual, however, if you only have jack cables, you can quite easily buy an XLR to jack lead from the majority of music retailers.
This can initially seem pretty limiting, however, it only helps to make the audio as crisp and clear as possible since each noise coming from the front of the mic will be far more precise than if you just used a jack cable as most microphones do.
If you don’t mind its more traditional and relatively standard design, the Shure SM58 is definitely worth the purchase, especially for its durability.
When you pick up an SM58, there’s a high chance it could also be the last mic you ever need to buy again since it is very well known for being able to stand the test of time thanks to its incredible build and design.
This doesn’t take anything away from the excellent audio quality however which is clear, precise, and perfect for vocal work.
The SM58 is definitely the best vocal mic Shure has to offer, and since it also doubles as somewhat of an antique considering its vibrant and lengthy history, it’s a microphone that any audio enthusiasts need to pick up.
Just keep in mind however that it may not be the most optimal mic for every situation, considering newer models are produced to be much more suited to things like podcasts and interview-styled discussions of a similar nature.
While its audio quality and small and compact design means it could be used for a podcast, its front-facing polar pattern can pick up all the voices equally if you’re hosting a show with a guest across the table from you or have a few people huddled around the mic.
Therefore, the Shure SM58 is the perfect choice for a classic vocal microphone, when you’re planning only to elevate or record your own voice, or for you and another person who are in close proximity to each other.
However, it will struggle to incorporate multiple voices at once, which can mean it lags behind more modern podcasting microphones that have multiple polar patterns built-in.
With that being said, when used as just a vocal microphone, the classic Shure SM58 is by far still one of the very best you can find still sold today.