Shure SM58 review

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The Shure SM58 has made a reputation for itself among musicians. This mic is the whole package: it’s durable, affordable, and reliable. In fact, there’s little this vocal microphone can’t do. Time to find out if this 15-year-old piece of hardware can keep pace with today’s competition.

Editor’s note: this review was updated on April 22, 2020, to include information about the Shure SM7b, Shure SM57, and Blue Ember XLR microphones.

Who should buy the Shure SM58?

Shure SM58 microphone next to a Zoom H5 handheld voice recorder.

Since the microphone doesn’t require phantom power, it pairs well with handheld recorders.

  • Performing musicians have been using the Shure SM58 since its release and praise its rugged construction and vocal-emphasized frequency response.
  • Podcasters will benefit from the cardioid pickup pattern which effectively reduces background noise and doesn’t require much effort for good placement.

Related: What type of microphone do I need?

What’s it like to use the Shure SM58?

The Shure SM58 grille detached from the microphone stem.

The grille is easy to remove and replace if it becomes damaged.

Two things are needed to use this cardioid dynamic microphone: an XLR cable and a recording interface, be it a voice recorder or multi-input guitar amp. If you’re using this for podcast recording or YouTube, you’ll need to go one step further and download recording software like Audacity. After that, you’re ready to record or jam out.

As far as build quality is concerned, the SM58 is a reliable piece of hardware. Its humble design communicates the importance of function before form. A removable steel grille makes cleaning and replacement easy. Beneath it lies a spherical filter which mitigates the harshness of plosives and fricatives, -p, -t, -k or -f, -th sounds, respectively. The tapered metal chassis has proven rugged, hence why it remains a must-have microphone over a decade after its release. It also has an internal shock-mount system to reduce vibration-induced noises.

The Shure SM58 is championed by musicians for its reliability and durability.

Accessories are sparse as you get just a zippered carrying pouch and durable stand adapter with a 180° swivel. The adapter is constructed from a thick plastic that feels impervious to breakage.

Are there power requirements?

The Scarlett 2i2 USB interface pictured from the front.

The Scarlett 2i2 Interface uses XLR inputs.

Since this is an XLR microphone, USB connection isn’t an option: you’ll need to pick up an XLR cable. As a dynamic low-impedance mic (150Ω), it doesn’t require any phantom power. This means you don’t need something like the Cloudlifter pre-amp. If you accidentally activate phantom power when plugging in the mic, it won’t damage it though. In order to record directly to your computer, you will need an interface with an XLR input. Our favorite is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. From there you’ll need a software-based interface to edit the audio.

What’s the best microphone placement?

An example of a polar chart detailing the pickup pattern of a cardioid microphone

A cardioid pickup pattern can record sound from the front and sides of the unit.

The Shure SM58 is a dynamic cardioid microphone. It’s easy to get thrown off by all the syllables but all this means is that it’s durable, doesn’t require phantom power, and performs best when recording what’s in front of it.

People generally use cardioid microphones because they’re versatile and forgiving in terms of placement. Off-axis rejection is useful, but too much rejection with not enough placement precision can lead to a disappointing recording. Cardioid recording patterns may register some ambient noise but effectively ignore quiet sounds behind the microphone.

To get the best sound from the microphone, speak about six inches away from the capsule. If you’re in a studio environment, be sure to properly treat the room to lessen any echoes or noise pollution.

Does the Shure SM58 produce good sound?

Shure SM58 microphone frequency response chart.

The bass roll-off is intentional as a means of combating the proximity effect.

The Shure SM58 is one of the best microphones in its class. Its frequency response (50Hz-15kHz) is tailored to highlight vocals, hence the sloping bass attenuation from 40-100Hz. This is to combat the proximity effect which is when the sound source is too close to the microphone causing bass frequencies to become exaggerated. Another benefit of the de-emphasized low notes is how you can easily edit recordings in post-production if you elect to do so.

One instance the frequency response may not be beneficial is when recording low-frequency sounds like kick drums or a bass guitar. If you do try and record these sounds with the Shure SM58, you’ll notice they sound quieter relative to vocals, guitars, and most piano chords. You can increase the loudness when editing, but you may run into harmonic distortion as the loudness increases.

If you’re using the microphone in a controlled environment, do yourself a solid and invest in a pop filter. The internal filter is better than nothing, but an external shield only costs a few bucks and will save you loads of time editing.

Shure SM58 microphone demo:

How does the Shure SM58 compare to the company’s line of microphones?

Shure offers a wide range of consumer and professional microphones, but let’s take a brief look at how the SM58 compares to some of its most popular models.

How does the Shure SM7B compare to the SM58?

A photo of the Shure SM7B dynamic microphone's' frequency response illustration on the back of the microphone. This is much more expensive than the Shure SM58, and is an endgame product for most users.

You can choose the frequency response mode from the back of the microphone which also depicts a graphic illustration of the effect.

Comparing the company’s top-of-the-line studio microphone to its more pedestrian offering is a bit silly, but let’s indulge. The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone that, despite its size, doesn’t require phantom power to operate. It has onboard switching, allowing users to quickly change the microphone’s frequency response on the fly. This may sound like a gimmick but it really works: the difference between the flat and bass rolloff profiles are stark.

For most content creators, the Shure SM58 is a better value as the SM7B is excellent but cost-prohibitive.

The Shure SM58 is meant to be tossed around and designed to be handheld or mounted, while the Shure SM7B is a bit more limited in its usage. Yes, both are dynamic are well constructed, but the ergonomics on the SM58 are much better than the SM7B; again, the latter is intended for studio use, not stage use.

Shure SM7B bass boost microphone demo:

Shure SM7B flat microphone demo:

Shure SM7B presence boost microphone demo:

Shure has manufactured some of the most iconic microphones of all time, and its SM7B is the king of the hill when it comes to professional recording, but its cost-prohibitive. For most consumers, the Shure SM58 will sound good enough and even better with a little editing.

Should you get the Shure SM57 or SM58?

A picture of woman playing guitar and recording it with the Shure SM57 XLR mic, which is often compared to the Shure SM58.

The slim design makes it easy to place the mic without obstructing the performer.

Musicians who invest in the Shure SM57 usually intend to use the microphone for recording instruments be it in the studio or on stage. Its shape allows the recording capsule to get rather close to the instrument without impeding a musican’s ability to play. The SM57 is also a dynamic microphone, meaning it can tolerate extremely high outputs before relaying any distortion. You can use it as a vocal microphones, and I’ve certainly seen some bands do so, but if you have the money, you’re better off getting the SM58 as a vocal mic and the SM57 as an instrumental one.

Should you buy the Shure SM58?

Yes, the Shure SM58 is one of the most popular microphones for good reason: it just works. Anyone tough on their gear will appreciate just how tough this microphone is. Whether you’re an open-mic performer or touring musician, the SM58 is a great mic to have in your arsenal.

If you only record in studios, get the Blue Ember XLR

If you want something reliable, this is a must-have. However, the Blue Ember XLR is a similarly priced alternative that’s even more portable. Blue’s pencil-shaped microphone is an easy way for professional content creators to take studio recording quality anywhere. It has its limitations, though, namely that it requires phantom power. sgreat for studio  Otherwise, be sure to read up on our lists of the best podcasting microphones and best mics for YouTube.

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