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Q. Will a Shure SM58 sound better on vocals than a condenser mic in a lively room?

By Hugh Robjohns

I have to record a vocal track in a fairly live–sounding room. I’ve got a couple of reasonable condensers, which I could use with a Reflexion Filter, but I’m considering using a Shure SM58 [cardioid dynamic mic], purely as it might pick up less room ambience. Is the drier sound I’ll get with the SM58 worth the slight loss of detail? And, for that matter, would the SM58 actually sound drier in the first place?

SOS Forum Post

Can a  dynamic mic like the SM58 really help tame room sounds when recording vocals? The answer may be yes — but probably not for the reason you’d think!Can a dynamic mic like the SM58 really help tame room sounds when recording vocals? The answer may be yes — but probably not for the reason you’d think!SOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: Plenty of big names record with an SM58 to get the right performance, so I wouldn’t worry too much about any potential for ‘loss of detail’. From that point of view, just try it out and see how happy you are with the sound you get. On the matter of avoiding the capture of unwanted room sound, working any mic very close will minimise room sound, simply because you’re increasing the ratio of wanted signal (voice) to unwanted signal (room). And as it’s easier to use an SM58 closer than most capacitor mics, it does seem to make sense. Of course, getting up close and personal with a cardioid mic like this will bring the proximity effect bass boost into play, so I’d advise doing a quick test recording. Like its bigger brother the SM7, the SM58 is actually designed to be flatter at the low end when used up close, with the bass response falling off the further away you get. An alternative would be to try an ElectroVoice RE20 — another dynamic mic that can be used up close, but one which has been acoustically designed to control the proximity effect in that kind of application. All this said, though, personally, I’d much rather tame the room with some well–placed duvets behind and to the sides of the vocalist — which will have a much more beneficial effect than using the Reflexion Filter on its own — and use a capacitor mic, provided it is the best choice for the voice and application in question.

Published December 2014