Shure Beta Series

Dynamic & Back-electret Microphones

Published in SOS July 1996
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Reviews : Microphone

Shure have recently updated and augmented their 7-year old Beta microphone range. PAUL WHITE assesses the newcomers alongside the rest of the range.

 

Just like the manufacturers of Coca-Cola and their world-famous 'brain tonic', mic manufacturer Shure have to be very careful of any changes they make to their classic SM58 dynamic mic -- otherwise hordes of purists rush to say that it's no longer as good as the original. The dynamic models in the latest Shure Beta range of mics are based on a Neodymium magnetic system which promises a higher output level and an extended frequency response when compared with other dynamic mics, but other than that, Shure seem to have tried their best to keep the family sound intact.

BETAS NOW EVEN BETTER

The Beta series hypercardioid mics were originally launched in 1989, but Shure have recently updated the range by making minor alterations to the design of the Beta 57 and Beta 58 dynamic mics (resulting in the addition of an 'A' to the model number of these two mics). In addition, there are two completely new mics, the Beta 56 drum mic, and the Beta 52 bass drum mic. We received a complete set of Beta series mics for review, which comprises the four above-mentioned mics plus the odd one out, the Beta 87. This differs from the other, dynamic mics in that it is a back-electret capacitor mic intended for hand-held vocal use or studio recording. Cosmetically, all the mics have a family styling with heavy cast bodies finished in metallic blue/grey paint and matt-chromed mesh grilles sporting a light blue trim. All have balanced XLR outputs, supercardioid response patterns, and none are fitted with on/off switches. Soft carry cases and standmounting clips are provided as standard.

THE BETA 58A &57A

The equivalent Beta to the classic SM58, the Beta 58A, is exactly the same shape as the regular SM58, the main outward difference being the blue trim and the bluish tinge to the body colour. A pneumatic shockmount is used to minimise handling noise, and the frequency response is designed to suit close-miked vocals, though some engineers also like to use 58s on electric guitars and even drums. With a useful frequency range extending from 50Hz to 16kHz, the mic has a falling bass response below 500Hz to compensate for the proximity bass boost that results when the mic is used up close. The top end features a dual peak presence rise at around 4kHz and 10kHz which helps to produce a sound capable of cutting through a loud backing track. Because all these mics have a supercardioid pattern, they are slightly more sensitive to sounds coming directly from the rear than cardioid mics, so stage monitors are best placed between 60 and 30 degrees off axis.

Almost as famous as the SM58 is the SM57, and this too has its equivalent in the Beta 57A. Designed for miking drums (mainly toms), amplifiers and brass/woodwind, the 57A also holds its own as a vocal mic, making it an excellent choice for somebody needing a high quality all-rounder. The frequency response is very similar to that of the Beta 58A, and the mic can be distinguished by its barrel-shaped grille.

THE BETA 56 & 52

The Beta 56 has a slightly less pronounced presence peak than the Beta 57A, but is again a general-purpose model especially suited to drum and instrument amplifier miking. The mic has a very short body and an integral swivel stand adaptor which makes it particularly good at getting into tight spots, such as between drums and cymbal stands. It is well suited to miking snares as well as toms and also works well with brass and woodwind.

Until recently, Shure haven't had a high-profile bass drum mic to compete with the likes of the AKG D112, but the new Beta 52 now seems to fit the bill nicely. Again equipped with an integral swivel stand adaptor, the Beta 52 has a large body, and can accommodate the very high SPLs encountered inside kick drums. The maximum SPL is calculated as being 174dB at 1kHz -- evidently Shure couldn't find anything loud enough to actually test it with! The frequency response plot extends from 20Hz to 10kHz and shows this to be anything but an honest mic -- it is specifically designed to bring out the deep kick and the high-end impact sound of the kick drum. Used up close, the proximity effect results in a hefty boost in the 30 to 50Hz region, and the top end features an almost violent presence peak at 4kHz which really helps bring out the head impact 'click'. This, coupled with a lower mid-range dip results in a very confident tone, with bags of edge and minimal 'muddying'. No doubt somebody will want to use this as a vocal mic because of its looks, but my guess is that it's best reserved for miking kick drum or bass guitar amplifiers.

THE BETA 87

Finally, there's the back-electret Beta 87, which has a barrel-shaped grille similar to that of the Beta 57. Like the dynamic mics in the range, this model has a robust capsule suspension system and manages a useful frequency range of 50Hz to 18kHz. The presence peak is similar to that of the Beta 58, but because of the extended frequency response, the sound is noticeably more 'open' than you get from a dynamic mic. A phantom power source of between 12 and 52V can be used to power the microphone. The maximum SPL when running into a 150(omega) input is 134dB. Surprisingly perhaps, the Beta 87 isn't a great deal more sensitive than the dynamic mics in the range, but as it's designed for close use, perhaps this isn't a bad thing. It does, however, make the mic less suitable than some other capacitor and back-electret models for recording acoustic guitar. On the plus side, this mic has a rich warmth which combines the punch and presence of a dynamic with the top end clarity of a capacitor.

SUMMARY

Overall, this is a well-designed series of microphones which combines quality of sound with seriously heavy-duty construction. The range is obviously designed primarily for live performance, but all the models would be equally at home in the studio. The Beta 87 is a strong vocal performer, while the Beta 57A and 58A deliver the classic sound but with a slightly enhanced edge. The Beta 57A is a fine tom mic, and if I had to choose an all-rounder from the range, it would probably be the 57A. Having said that, I'm glad to see Shure building mics like the Beta 52 and Beta 56 for specific drum applications, especially the Beta 52 kick drum mic.

Finally, if you decide to go for one or more of these mics, be sure to check it out carefully to make sure it's exactly what you want -- because knowing Shure's build quality, it'll still be going strong in 20 years' time!

 

pros & cons

SHURE BETA MICS £187/£382

pros
• Tough construction.
• Classic Shure sound.
• A model for virtually every application.

cons
• The Beta 87 capacitor mic may be too insensitive for making quality recordings of quiet acoustic instruments.

summary
A sensibly compact range that covers virtually all live applications and meets a number of studio requirements, especially in the areas of drum miking and instrument amplifier miking.

 

info

£ Beta 52 £264.38; Beta 56 £205.63; Beta 57A £186.83; Beta 58A £229.13; Beta 87 £381.88. All prices include VAT.

A HW International, 167-171 Willoughby Lane, London N17 0SB.

T 0181 808 2222.

F 0181 808 5599.

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