Gear Talk: Reasonably Priced Alternatives Part 2

This week, I wanted to do a comparison of studio and podcast mics. I’ve seen the whole gamut of mics being used by podcasters, streamers, friends, and pros. Some people are even just using the headset mics built into their headphones (don’t worry, I’m not stooping that low). The premier mic that I’ve seen used in the most places and with the most clout, is the Shure SM7b but the hard part came when I was picking a reasonably priced alternative. I looked at ElectroVoice offerings and even some other Shure products. But it came down to the price, what could I find that was both reasonably priced and still sounded at least decent to good. That was the Shure SM58. Yep, the 58 strikes again.

But before we go there, here, let’s start with the SM7b. It is a standard dynamic with a cardioid pattern that does a great job in rejecting off axis input. The mic ships with two pop filters to suit your needs but Shure really brags on its built-in “shock absorption” that really helps to keep your audio free of pops and mechanical noises that result from air and movement. Another great feature that Shure added to the SM7b is an extra layer of shielding that helps protect mic itself from hum and buzz from computers and other electronics that may be in your studio. Lastly the SM7b has some built in filtering options that might be useful in various applications to help it capture specific sources more effectively. Probably the only downside to the mic (also occurs in most of its direct competitors as well) is that it takes a lot of gain to power the capsule (this is likely due to the lack of transformer, we’ll discuss that later). In order to combat that you’ll need a Cloud-Lifter or a pre-amp with plenty of overhead. What people love about this mic and probably why it is so useful is so many different applications (I personally love to use it with guitar amps) is that the response curve is very flat for a dynamic microphone (link to spec sheet with response curves). If you take all of those features and combine it with Shure’s legendary reliability you’ve got a package that, in my opinion, is well worth it’s MSRP of $399 (be sure to check with your Shure dealer for better pricing!).

Then comes the SM58. On the surface, especially when you consider the price at $99, you’d think these mics are in completely different classes. But they are essentially different shells to very similar capsules. The SM58 has been a staple in the live world for decades and except for one thing is very similar. That one thing is the presence of a transformer in the SM58 that serves to boost the outgoing signal. That transformer however does change the response curve making it a bit less balanced and flat as the SM7b that we talked about above (link to spec sheet with response curves). You’ll also be without the added windscreens and extra shielding. While there is a small amount of shock absorbing inside the shell, it is far less effective. There are a couple videos on youtube you can watch that compare them (here is a link to one, the video will start at the A/B comparison) if you level match them, it will be hard to tell the difference, especially when the speaker has good mic technique. It may not be near as sexy as the 7b but it sure does sound good and if you’re on a budget, $99 is just about right. 

Whether you’re looking at starting a podcast, looking for a better-than-a-headset mic for streaming or zoom calls, the SM7b and the SM58 are great choices to accomplish either of those use cases. The great thing is that if you don’t have the money for the SM7b now you can get the 58 and upgrade later and because it’s the SM58, you’ll find a use for it elsewhere I’m sure. I’ve personally used both of these mics and can vouch for both, be sure to reach out with any questions you have to daniel@studiostagelive.com or in the comments here or on Facebook. Also, if you’re starting up a podcast and have any questions hit me up somewhere and I can share with you how we got ours going. We are continuing this series next week talking about touchscreens. See you on the flipside!

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