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Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

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Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Wonks » Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:48 pm

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Behringer announced four new stage mics in November of 2019, and they have now hit the shops. There’s the SL 84C (SM58 alike) the SL 85S (SM58 alike with a switch), the BA 85A (Beta 58A style) and the SB 78A (Beta 87C style).

I’d seem some YouTube reviews of the BA 85A and the SB 78A, and despite an earlier statement of mine here on SOS, once I saw the prices, I decided to try a couple out. I was interested in getting the well-reviewed BA 85A but they seem to be popular and out of stock for several weeks (the current coronavirus situation in China not helping with stock replenishment), so I ordered a SL 84C and a SB 78A. I hadn’t seen any reviews of the SL 84C around.

Since they arrived a couple of days ago, I've been comparing them against an SM58 using my basic Alto TS310 speakers and Alesis Multimix8 USB FX mixer set up in my lounge. I also recorded their signals into my DAW using a speaker playing back pink noise. You can see dips in the same places on all the graphs, which is partly from having to position the mic 6" away from a monitor between the LF and HF speakers, and partly room influence, so the graphs need to be viewed for comparison purposes only. They certainly aren't to be taken as an accurate representation of the true frequency response.

I used the Melda MAnalyzer on a stereo group channel, with (normally) the SM58 feeding into on one channel and the comparison mic feeding the other. I've then adjusted the gain on one channel, so that the output levels are as close as I could get them at 1kHz ( a standard comparison frequency). The MAnalyser was set to normalise the overall levels, which is why they all peak at an indicated 0dBFS. I used 30 seconds of a pink noise 44.1/24 recording for each mic. The MAnalyser was set to average over the whole input period (to even out the random nature of the noise) and with a small amount of smoothing set for the display (1%, whatever that means) to take out the small spikes.

It should be noted that Behringer already have an SM58-alike in their mic range. It’s the £14 XM8500. I bought a couple of these when they first came out, quite a long time ago now (certainly over 10 years). Fairly well made and if you turned up the treble pot by about 4dB and turned down the bass pot by a similar amount, they sounded not unlike an SM58. I didn’t know if they’ve changed the specs at all in the interim as they now seem to get a lot of good reviews (but then I’ve read a lot of good reviews of cheap mics that turned out to be terrible). But I didn’t want to have to turn up the treble and turn down the bass (and my normal E/V mics proved to be very reliable), so they got donated to a good cause. So, firstly what do you get for a tenner?

The Behringer SL 84C Dynamic Mic.

Currently available from £9.99 in the UK.

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Construction is different to an SM58 in that the body is one-piece (instead of two) whilst the grille is two-piece (instead of one). The wire grille itself seems pretty robust (though I haven’t done any drop tests). Whilst the band around the middle of the grille has what appears to be a grey rubber insert, unlike the softer rubber on a Shure Beta 57 or Beta 58a, this rubber is too hard to provide any anti-rolling benefit when the mic is placed on a flat surface. The collar at the base of the grille is a separate item that simply slips over the thread the grille attaches to. It’s just black plastic that’s been sprayed silver. I have a feeling that the band round the grille and the internal mounting thread are both plastic items, rather than a metal alloy.

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The grille thread itself is just a very, very slightly smaller diameter to that of the SM58, so whilst you can fit a SM58 grille (slightly loosely) onto a SL 84C (though the longer capsule arrangement means that it’s then buried in the capsule foam), you can’t fit an SL 84C grille onto an SM58.

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Tied in with the handling noise, the SL 84C capsule mounting is a lot stiffer than the mounting of the SM58’s capsule, which deflects a lot more than the SL 84C’s one given the same amount of finger pressure.

Signal output levels are subjectively similar (near identical technical spec figures are quoted for both), though the RMS average of the pink noise recordings was 1.3dB down on the SM58. Feedback rejection was also similar to the SM58. With the same input gain setting, both the SM 58 and the SL 84C started feeding back at the same fader positions and stopped feeding back at the same fader positions. The Behringer seemed to have a slightly tighter polar pattern, as the sound from any source beyond 90° from dead centre, fell off rapidly.

Unlike a lot of low-priced SM58-style mics, the XLR output is wired for a balanced connection, with no connection between pin 1 and pin 3 and I measured a 260-ohm resistance between pins 2 and 3. It's a lot lighter than an SM58 (174g vs 313g for my example). But I’ve just noticed that the satin-black finish has already become scratched in several places from fitting it into its supplied plastic clip a couple of times, so it’s going to start looking tatty pretty quickly. The supplied stand clip comes complete with thread adapter, which is always nice at this price-point. The mic comes in a standard Behringer plastic mic case with a foam insert, which provide a good level of protection for it, but is rather bulky once you start to have a lot of mics with similar cases.

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SM58 (black) vs SL 84C (red)

It's certainly in a similar sonic ballpark to an SM58 (unlike a lot of budget SM58 look-alikes) but has poor handling noise (and at a more noticeable higher frequency), a fairly muddy bottom end and is a lot more sibilant. Rather painfully so, more than the frequency comparison graph suggests. As you can see from the graph, the bass end is slightly more extended than the SM58, and when singing right against the grille the mic seems to have more proximity effect than the SM58 (possibly due to the seemingly tighter polar pattern), which doesn’t help with the muddiness.

The Behringer Ultramic XM8500 Dynamic Mic

Resistance is futile. I had to compare the SL 84C with the XM8500 so I spent £14 on one just so I could try one out again.

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Apart from having an all-over dark grey finish, this is a closer physical SM58 copy than the SL 84C. It’s got a thicker, more substantial two-piece body and a single-piece grille. Overall dimensions are near-identical as are the weights. The grille itself is slightly wider than that of the SM58 and as a result, they are not interchangeable. The finish is tougher than that of the SL 84C but, it still got a few very small marks from just inserting it into the mic clip a few times.

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Handling noise is a lot better than the SL 84C, and very similar to (or possibly only slightly worse than) the SM58. It’s certainly at a similar sort of pitch compared to the SM 58 and is far less noticeable than the SL48C’s handling noise.

The capsule is again mounted on a resilient mounting, somewhere in between the SM58 and the SL 84C in terms of stiffness. The capsule is a different design to that of the one used in the SL 84C. There’s no real need for the two-piece body, as there’s no Shure-like transformer glued in the lower section. The XLR is wired for balanced operation. As stated on the side of the capsule, the capsule’s resistance measures as 250 ohms.

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It comes with the same plastic Behringer mic case, along with a mic clip and stand thread adapter.

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SM58 (black) vs XM8500 (red)

Sound-wise, this is very much as I remember my earlier version being. There’s more bass than an SM58 and a bit less treble. So, for most singers it’s a case of turning down the bass and adding a bit of treble on the mixing desk. There’s more overall output (about 3.2dB with pink noise as the input), partly due to the extra 6dB of bass lift. Use a high-pass filter on the mixing desk and the output difference reduces.

The Behringer SB 78A Capacitor Mic

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The name rather implies it's a copy of the super-cardioid Beta 87A, though the specs show it’s more like the cardioid Beta 87C (but I have no idea how it compares to a real Beta 87C).

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Unlike the Shure 87(A or C), it's got a hi-pass filter switch, which seems as effective as the 80Hz hi-pass filter on my little Alesis desk in getting rid of low-end muddiness. This is a useful feature for use with small desks without such a filter (the Behringer frequency-response graph indicates a 105Hz hi-pass filter with a 12dB/octave slope). The switch is well inset into the body, so you’ll need something like a ballpoint pen or small screwdriver to change its position. It certainly won’t get accidentally knocked.

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Construction appear to be more robust than the SL 84C. The grille comes off in one-piece and is of a pretty standard wire and alloy construction with a fine internal foam. The grey/blue metallic finish on the body seems to be more resistant to scratches than the SL 84C and on par with the XM8500, but nothing like as tough as that of the SM58.

Being a capacitor mic, it will require 48v phantom power, though there is no reference as to what its current draw is. The Behringer frequency response graph indicates it gives maybe 12dB more output than an SM58 for the same input SPL, whilst the pink noise RMS average measured 14.5dB louder.

The capsule is certainly of the small persuasion, with an overall diameter of approx. 13mm diameter, but the diaphragm inside it is obviously a bit smaller.

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So you are never going to get LDC output signal levels from it (at a similar distance from source), but you still do need far less desk input gain than with a dynamic. I noted no excessive sibilance or low-end muddiness, though I found that with my mouth positioned right next to the grille, using either the desk’s or the mic’s own hi-pass filter did improve overall clarity by reducing the effects of the proximity effect.

Feedback resistance seemed to be on a par with the SM58, though with the different output levels an associated different mixer channel gain settings it wasn’t possible to do a direct comparison, subjectively the sound levels achieved seemed very similar.

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SM58 (black) vs BA 78A (red)

The Behringer frequency response graph shows a pretty flat frequency response from about 150Hz up to about 10kHz, then the graph shows a fall-off of around 3-5dB above 10kHz but running up to around 18kHz before then falling off further. Certainly nothing like the big presence boost of an SM58. My measurement results show a similar fairly flat response, but from 70Hz and running all the way to to 20kHz. The low frequency response may run down even lower, but my monitor speaker's bass response is also tailing off in this area, which makes it hard to tell.

Extended low frequency response (which tends to be pretty much an omni pattern at these low frequencies, is not always a welcome feature of stage vocal mics, which is where the high-pass filter switch comes in useful. As you can see, the switch starts to have an affect from around 200Hz, with a -3dB point at approximately 120Hz.

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BA 78A (black) vs BA 78A with HPF switch engaged (red)

Tonally, it seemed very similar to an SM58 but with a bit less treble, which was backed up by the comparison of the SM58 compared to the BA 78A with the HPF selected. So it could make a reasonable SM58 alternative for people with bright voices.

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SM58 (black) vs BA 78A with HPF (red)

Being a capacitor mic with no pad, the maximum SPL at 136dB SPL (with no distortion level quoted) is less than the dynamics (all quoted as being 150dB SPL), and 3dB less than the Shure B87C, but never the less, is still a reasonable value.

Of course, you need 48v phantom power available, and if you bought several of these mics instead of SM58s because you are on a tight budget then there is a good chance your matching budget mixing desk couldn’t provide enough power to get them all working. Even some bigger desks may struggle with powering many capacitor mics.

Again, the mic comes in a standard Behringer plastic mic case with the foam insert, stand clip and stand thread adapter.

Conclusions

Behringer SL 84C

If you’ve really only got £10 in your pocket and desperately need a working mic (and enough left over for a 1p chew), then I guess that one of these will do. But if you are looking for a cheap SM58 alternative, then I’d really look elsewhere as you really don’t want the muddiness and the excessive sibilance, and the handling noise really makes it a mic to only use mounted on a stand.

Pros: Cheap. Balanced output. Reasonable feedback resistant.

Cons: Feels cheap. Muddy sound plus sibilance. Excessive handling noise.

Behringer Ultramic XM8500

As at £14 (or even slightly less ) , this mic is only £4 more than the SL 84C, and sounds so much better, I really wonder why Behringer bothered with bringing out the SL 84C. The XM8500 is certainly one of the best low-cost SM58-alike mics I've tried (and I've now tried quite a few). It's reasonably robust and its handling noise is acceptable.

Pros: Cheap. Balanced output. Feels sturdy. High signal output (more like a neo magnet mic). Sound is acceptable (rather than outstanding).

Cons: Rather bassy and less upper mids/treble than an SM58, so will work better used 'flat' on some voices than others. Generally needs more desk EQ than an SM58 to balance.

Behringer BA 78A

For £35, the SB 78A isn't a bad stage capacitor mic. Which is a long way it's saying its a good one, but it is £200 less than the mic it aspires to be. It's frequency response is pretty flat for a stage mic. That lack of any real presence boost or treble lift may not suit some voices that need a bit extra to cut through a busy mix, but for some singer/songwriter applications, it could be ideal.

The extended frequency response will also benefit those PA rigs with an extended top-end. The drawback being that the majority of single-box PA speakers have a HF response that tails off around 16kHz, so the HF extension on a stage capacitor mic is generally wasted, plus the extra transient detail of a capacitor is often lost unless it's a really good PA. And if you are using a high quality PA that goes up to 20kHz or higher, then you're using one that cost a a lot of money, and you'll normally be beyond needing to use £35 Behringer mics through it!

Given a choice, and with a female singer in mind, and with a decent sounding PA I'd currently spend a bit more and go for a £50 AKG D5 instead, which I know has an noticeably brighter character and doesn't need phantom power.

Pros: Low cost for a stage condenser. Flat and extended frequency response, smooth sound, low handling noise, low cost for a stage capacitor. Switchable high pass filter. Reasonable construction for the price.

Cons: The flat response may not suit all voices.

For the future...

I need to try these mics out in a band situation and with some different voices to mine to see how they sound with some proper singers (I have a face for radio and a voice for mime). Hopefully I'll get to do that soon and then I'll report back with an update. I've also got the Behringer BA 85A (Beta 58A-alike) arriving in the near future, so I'll also do a review of that.
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Mar 01, 2020 12:19 am

Excellent review Wonky, and worth asking how you would consider these when compared to the many SM58 fakes out there? Could it be that they are a safe, or at least consistent, alternative (surely nobody is going to fake a £14 mic)?
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Wonks » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:30 am

Well, I've only tested one fake SM58 and one fake SM57 and they were awful. Wired unbalanced, nasty scratchy sound and very prone to feedback.

The majority of the other cheap 57 and 58 copies are along similar lines. Handling noise is typically poor and unbalanced wiring is common, often with pins 1 and 3 tied together, which shorts out any phantom power.

You can of course, rewire for proper balanced operation, but you are still generally left with a rather thin sounding and overly bright sound.

The XM8500 is certainly my favourite 'very cheap' SM58-style mic to date, even if it is a bit compromised in the sound department, as the sound can be corrected on even the most basic two-band EQ mixing desks.
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Folderol » Sun Mar 01, 2020 9:49 am

Thanks for this. I'm not in the market for another mic, but found it very informative.
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Mar 01, 2020 11:38 pm

Very useful info if you are advising impecunious teenage musicians or other such. I had a couple of Audio Technica 'Midnight Blues' SM58 clones, reputable company and the sounded ok but, like the Berrys, were a bit over bright. Back then they cost £35 when an SM58 was approaching £100 and were a usable alternative if money was tight. As you say the Berrys sound like decent value if that is all the budget you have, and a much better bet than a fake SM58.
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Wonks » Mon Mar 02, 2020 12:00 am

I had a Midnight Blue capacitor/condenser and that was a decent mic.
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:59 pm

Most illuminating Wonks! Thanks for all your hard work.

I bought an 8500 about 6 month ago mainly because it was reported on a forum to have a really low output of -70dB/V (but no pressure reference?). I am also always on the lookout for cheap, balanced mics to use outside in all weathers. I was rather dubious that a mic with such a low sensitivity would be made..Especially when Behringers blurb says "high output for high performance" (or similar) However, Berry's own specc' gives the neg 70 figure!

I found the mic to be a bit more sensitive than my SM57 and on a speech check, sounding much the same. They are hefty and solid and I don't know how they do it for the money!

One point, they lack a transformer. The 250 Ohm capsule goes straight to the XLR.
This still gives a balanced output of course but I wonder if a transformer confers any other advantages? All I can think of is to allow the capsule impedance to be optimized and the traff used to get to 150 Ohms nominal.

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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby Wonks » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:09 pm

I'd imagine that the SM57/58 transformer is a carry-over from the old days of impedance matching on mic inputs. And that's how it was made, so it will continue to be made that way. Removing it does change the sound, but some people prefer the sound that way (especially on an SM57 for instruments) and you can buy modified mics (if you can't do it yourself).
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Re: Behringer SL 84C, XM8500 and BA 78A stage mics

Postby ef37a » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:33 pm

Wonks wrote:I'd imagine that the SM57/58 transformer is a carry-over from the old days of impedance matching on mic inputs. And that's how it was made, so it will continue to be made that way. Removing it does change the sound, but some people prefer the sound that way (especially on an SM57 for instruments) and you can buy modified mics (if you can't do it yourself).

Sounds reasonable. I had assumed all mics had transformers until a few years ago. There would seem to be no advantage in fitting one to the XM since at 250 Ohm you could only go down and lose signal?

I have just taken a Geloso M11/167 apart, must be close to 80 years old! Does not have a transformer but it is a lavalier mic and there is no room! The impedance on the side is 16 Ohms but the DC resistance is 23 Ohms. I have a Sowter 1:4 transformer in a tin I bought to boost an RB ribbon so I might see how it works through that.

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