Gear Talk: Vocal Capsules Part 3

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been discussing the capsules I use for vocals where I work. In week 1, I talked about the SM58 and how it is definitely the standard to which all mics are measured against. Last week I briefly discussed the KSM8 and how it’s unique capsule design makes it a great mic for new vocalists as I test the waters. This week we are talking about the KSM9. This particular mic was probably the first vocal mic beyond the SM58 and SM87 that I ever got to use. Man was it a change from the norm in my mixing world. As I’ve said in the previous weeks, this series isn’t intended to be an advertisement for anything but my experience with these microphones. Feel free to reach out with a short post about a capsule you think should be included via email (

The KSM9 is a pretty heavily used microphone in my repertoire. I love this capsule because it has the ability to tame big female voices and it offers two patterns for use (supercardioid and cardioid). You can go to this page and check out the KSM9 specs (I’ve included a snap of the response for it in cardioid mode). The response as you can see is really similar to last week’s KSM8 in that it is very smooth (with the exception of the top end). I generally use it in cardioid but there have been a few circumstances where super was helpful. Probably one of the highlights for this capsule is the rear rejection. It is the most impactful and strong at right about the distance that stage monitors (or in my case front fills) are from the back of the mic (about 6ft and beyond). This comes at a trade with a loss of stage noise rejection but once again, but we are matching vocalists to capsules for specific events so I’d generally pair it with a strong singer so stage noise isn’t an issue. 

Practically this all translates to a mic that generally tends to smooth out harsh vocals. Because of its smooth response, it also has a big dynamic range. This makes it ideal for folks who tend to clip SM58s. Also, if I’m having to compress vocals pretty heavily or am having to really tune in the C6 in waves, oftentimes if I’m able, I’ll get out the KSM9 and just sit back and let it do it’s thing and naturally balance out the vocal range. I also love to use this with high alto or soprano singers so that the capsule is automatically balancing out their tone. This mic doesn’t seem to cover up the low mids as well as others which helps to even out the upper register. It’s for these two reasons that I usually pick the KSM9 over the SM58 for strong female background vocals. 

Well that is all I have about the KSM9. It is probably my second favorite capsule for vocalists and while it is a bit more expensive I truly believe that having at least one would be beneficial if it is able to be purchased. Next week I’m jumping over to the male side of things and talking about the SeV7. Because of its price we picked it up really quickly after launch and haven’t turned back. To make sure you don’t miss that post subscribe at this link, and you’ll get an email whenever a new post has been published. If you have any questions about what I said, just email me at and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Have a great week!

Gear Talk: Vocal Capsules Part 2

This week we are moving down the line with the vocal capsules that I’ll use with new or known vocalists. Last week I started with the SM58 because it is my utility mic. This week I want to talk about the Shure KSM8. Shortly after it was released we picked one up and have never looked back. The KSM8 has some unique features that help it really shine in a few specific areas. As I said last week, this series isn’t meant to be a sales pitch, these are just the capsules that I use. If you are heavy Sennheisser, EV, DPA users, reach out to me via email ( and we can work together to write a few posts about a wider variety of choices (reach out quickly and we can get those integrated into this series). 

The KSM8 is the first dual-dynamic cardioid microphone. There are actually two capsules in there that are doing some pretty cool things. The easiest way to explain it is this: the capsule closest to the source is doing what most capsules do, the other is capturing what we would want to be nulled out. This creates a rather large polar pattern that allows for a great range of mic techniques. This is really where this capsule shines. I’ve included 3 pictures for you to look at that summarize what I’m explaining in a more technical manner. The first is a diagram of what the inside of the mic looks like. The second is the response curve. The last is a representation of the more balanced response when mapped against distance. This is the page from Shure that explains all these pictures at greater length. A word of caution here though, don’t cup the microphone or cover up any of the port holes around the capsules. I know this is a pretty common caution for most microphones, but this one especially is pretty bad if you don’t allow both capsules to do their jobs. 

In real life this translates to some pretty neat results. I love to use this with new vocalists. No matter how they hold it, as long as it is somewhere in the vicinity of their mouth, it is full sounding and clear. Because the proximity effect has been minimized, and the response is balanced out, if that new vocalist is really quiet, really loud, or super dynamic, this microphone is the perfect companion because when the sound is captured, it’s already helping me out. This is what I aim for which every capsule I choose for my vocalists. What capsule do I have that will compliment the users tonality, even out response, and accurately capture without too much EQ. Beyond new vocalists I also find myself using this capsule with most female vocalists in general because of its’ response curve and good rejection that the capsule provides. When used with good mic technique I’ve found that it does a great job rejecting what I don’t want to hear in the mics. This allows me to be able to use it with a vocalist in front of the drums, near the PA, etc. These are also the reasons why I would normally use a KSM8 over an SM58 as it is just that little bit different and better. The biggest downside for me is that if you have a brighter than normal voice because of the upper end response, this mic might be a bit harsh for some. 

Hopefully you’ve learned a bit about why I love to use the KSM8 in various situations. Next week I’ll be talking about the KSM9 and the ways I use it in contrast to the KSM8. Do you use the KSM8? In the comments below or on facebook, tell me what got you interested in getting it or looking at it. If you want to be emailed when any new content goes live, follow this link, and subscribe to my blog. See you on the flipside!

Gear Talk: Vocal Capsules Part 1

In today’s world, we have quite the choice of capsules. Watch a lot of old concert recordings and everyone was using one of a just a few options. But today, there are multiple manufacturers making many different varieties of microphones. Whether your twisting the capsule onto a wireless transmitter or swapping out a wired mic, it certainly isn’t much easier to start tailoring your selection to your use case and hopefully to the person using it. That is the topic of this series. Over the next few weeks I’ll be taking a week and talking about how I use each capsule that I have. One of the downsides here is that I only own a subset of Shure capsules (with a few outliers). I’m not sponsored by Shure (though I’d like to be) and this isn’t meant to be a sales pitch but rather me sharing how I match capsules to singers on a weekly basis. If you are heavy Sennheisser, EV, DPA users, reach out to me via email ( and we can work together to write a few posts about a wider variety of choices (reach out quickly and we can get those integrated into this series). 

This week I’m going to talk about the standard: the SM58. I usually buy this head for every wireless mic I buy because it is the most multi-purpose mic that I know of. If you can’t at least make something or someone decent with a 58, you’re doing it wrong. For over 50 years this microphone has been used for so many popular artists like Martina McBride, Cheryl Crow, Rascal Flatts, Iggy Pop, Luke Bryan, and so many more. But what sets it apart? Most people cite it’s classic performance with a flat response except a brightened upper mid which gives it a warm but present feeling for most. But it’s also known to be so durable in fact that people seem ok letting it be run over by a truck. Shure claims each part, when received from their contractors, is put through military grade endurance testing and I believe them. I have held a broken or damaged SM58 microphones in my hand before but have never actually witnessed any just cease to even work a little bit. On top of that, you can get it for $99. So not only is it super durable and sound great with most people, it’s probably one of the most reasonably priced microphones on the market. 

So how do I use it? Let me tell you. For me, every mic is situational. Quite often new people walk across the stage I work with. Most of them are speakers so it’s a headset battle but with vocalists it becomes a full out capsule war. Now while I don’t usually start with an SM58, but if I’m just having a hard time matching the vocalist with a capsule, it will never be long before they’ll be singing into a 58 just to get back to a baseline. This is the biggest thing I use the mic for: getting a baseline. So many times I’m just not sure which direction to go with the rest of my arsenal so I’ll just pick up a 58 and use what I hear with this mic as guidance. How their voice sounds with little correction with an SM58 will guide the next step. On top of that, in at least most cases, the SM58 is not a bad choice for a microphone. But there are a few instances when I use it first. The biggest first use for me is for really quiet singers (or soft spoken speakers). The rejection for this mic is pretty great and it’s a cardioid microphone giving it a forgiving pickup pattern. As they gain confidence and in turn volume, I might switch off of it for a different capsule but maybe not. There is just something to be said about being consistent about using the same microphone with the same person so you can start building up memory about what you’ll need to do each time they sing. But, that boost in the upper mids can be detrimental, in my opinion, for female vocalists. Everything must be weighed when considering which capsule to use. 

Well, that’s about it for this week. But I want to hear back from you. In the comments below or on facebook, tell me the weirdest thing you’ve ever mic’d with an SM58. I want to know if my weird stories are the norm or an exception. Don’t forget to come back next week when I’ll talk about the capsule I use first on any male vocal and compare it back to our series baseline, the SM58. If you want to be emailed when any new content goes live, follow this link, and subscribe to my blog. You won’t regret it! See you next week!