The Shure SM57 is a popular microphone in the world of audio production, particularly for musicians – but is it any good for podcasting? Let’s find out!
Who Is It Suited To?
The SM57 is the brother of the Shure SM58, a microphone famed for its affordability, and the fact that it’s practically indestructible.
There are actually very few differences between the SM57 and 58, but one such difference is the head on each one. The 58 has a rounded pop-shield style head, whereas the 57 does not.
This makes the 58 a bit more popular when it comes to recording speech, or vocals, whilst the 57 is more commonly used when recording instruments. Part of this might be that the SM58 has a pop shield built into the rounded head, which makes for a good in-the-field mic where pop shields are pretty impractical.
If you’re in the studio, though, and add an external pop-shield, the SM57 does as great a job at picking up vocals as it’s brother mic.
The SM57 (like the 58) is a dynamic microphone, meaning that it will only really pick up the sounds that are quite close to it. Dynamic microphones are ideal if you often have to deal with lots of external noise coming from other rooms in your house, or even from outside, and you want to minimise how much of these are finding their way into your recordings.
The Shure SM57 is a tough, durable microphone. This makes it ideal for podcasters who do a lot of recording on location. If you’re often heading to events and conferences with a bag full of audio equipment, then you won’t have to worry about your SM57 getting broken or damaged. Even if you left it in a freezing cold car overnight it would be totally fine.
How Does It Work?
You can’t connect an SM57 directly into your computer, as you would with a USB microphone. To use one of these, you’ll need a mixer, a preamp or a good digital recorder, as well as an XLR cable for connecting them together.
If you have (or once you get) any of these bits of equipment, your SM57 will connect to them via the XLR cable. You would then connect your preamp or mixer to your laptop/computer or recorder. Alternatively, you can connect the XLR cable to the digital recorder directly if it’s XLR capable.
If you’re recording on your computer, you will want to go into your editing/recording software and make sure you’re set up to record through the correct input. Most software packages have audio ‘Input’ options in their ‘Preferences’ menus. In Audacity, the ‘Input’ option is available as a dropdown menu in the middle of your home screen.
Be aware that it’s usually the preamp or mixer name/model that you’ll need to select as your input, and not the actual name of the microphone. For example, if I was recording through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 preamp into Audacity, I’d select that from the ‘input’ dropdown menu on there, as you can see in this screenshot.
It’s advisable to use a microphone stand or boom arm when using the SM57, as holding it in your hand can cause a lot of rumbling and handling noises, which can spoil your recordings. This is something the SM58 does a little better, actually, being designed for a fair bit of lead signer abuse!
How Does It Sound?
Here’s a completely unprocessed recording of the Shure SM57 through a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 preamp.
How Much Does It Cost?
The SM57 is often slightly cheaper than the SM58, but not by much. In the US, you’ll pay around $93 for the 57, whereas the 58 is usually nearer the $100 mark. In the UK, you can pick up a new 57 or 58 for around £80.
At these prices, the 57 is excellent value for those in the market for a quality microphone in the ‘$100/£100 or less’ range.
The Shure SM57 is a top quality mic and possibly a slightly lower cost alternative to the SM58. Consider how valuable the in-built pop protection is to your recording context. If you’re always in-studio, with pop shield to hand, then the SM57 is a good option. But if you’ll be doing on the move interviews or recordings, you might want to upgrade to the SM58.
- Extremely tough and durable
- Offers great vocal audio quality (when used with decent preamp or mixer)
- Won’t pick up too much external noise from other parts of your house, outside, etc
- Can’t be used without XLR cable, or preamp/mixer
- Susceptible to ‘plosives’ when used without a pop-shield
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