The Shure SM57 is a legendary microphone, with a history spanning over half a century. Renowned for its durability and versatility for both recording and live sound purposes, this dynamic microphone continues to be a best seller in the modern day.
Is the Shure SM57 good for recording acoustic guitar and vocals?
The Shure SM57 is good for recording acoustic guitar and vocals for several reasons. The Shure SM57 boasts a wide frequency response, the ability to keep noise to a minimum and handle high-pressure levels, making the Shure SM57 a great choice for capturing vocals and acoustic guitar.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the SM57 is its versatility.
This dynamic microphone is used for everything from speeches to recording snare drums, and everything in between! Recording acoustic guitar and vocals require clarity and attention to detail, qualities that are most commonly associated with condenser mics. However, in this guide, I’ll explain why the dynamic SM57 is a great choice for these applications.
Recording Vocals & Acoustic Guitar with the Shure SM57
There are many reasons that the Shure SM57 is a suitable mic for capturing acoustic guitar and vocals. One of the key factors is its frequency response, which covers all of the most prominent frequencies produced by vocals and acoustic instruments.
The frequency response of the SM57 stretches from 40Hz-15kHz. The general fundamental frequencies of a male vocalist are between 100Hz-300Hz, while female voices tend to be most prominent between 200Hz-400Hz.
Furthermore, an acoustic guitar produces its most prominent frequencies in the range of 100-500Hz, with higher frequencies reach up to 15kHz. As you can see, vocals and acoustic guitar fall comfortably into the frequency response of the Shure SM57, which is why it’s such a suitable mic for capturing those sounds.
The SM57 also has a natural presence boost in the mid-range frequencies, which is a key contributor to its renowned versatility. The slight boost increases the clarity of vocal recordings and helps the microphone to capture the finer details of an acoustic guitar, which as harmonics, the resonance from chords, or picking techniques.
Additionally, Shure’s flagship dynamic microphone also has the ideal polar pattern for recording vocals and acoustic guitar. Boasting a tight cardioid polar pattern, the SM57 is brilliant at isolating the sound source. It captures sound solely from the front of the capsule, rejecting any background noise in the process.
In terms of practicality, the SM57 is very easy to position when recording vocals or acoustic guitar. It can be used with a conventional microphone stand, with a simple clip mechanism. Moreover, it can be used as a handheld microphone, which is useful when inspiration strikes and you need to quickly lay down an idea for a vocal melody.
The suitability of the SM57 is due to a combination of sonic and physical qualities. It’s widely regarded as one of, if not the most durable microphones to ever be created. Recording acoustic guitar and vocals will inevitably lead to some wear and tear, so knowing that the mic is roadworthy enough to handle this is reassuring.
I have written an article on recording acoustic guitar in mono or stereo. You can read it here.
The SM57’s ability to handle high sound pressure levels is another reason it’s a good choice for recording acoustic guitar and vocals. Both of these sound sources are likely to vary in volume. Vocals could be soft and airy, then another song may require the notes to be belted out.
Likewise, the acoustic guitar can be played with soft fingerpicking techniques, or it could be played with a plectrum and strummed aggressively to produce a significantly louder sound.
The SM57 can handle loud sounds and sharp transients brilliantly, which is why it is often used for drums. This is also a great benefit when recording vocals and acoustic guitars.
Check out this popular YouTube video that reviews and also has some sound demos of the SM57.
Is The Shure SM57 Balanced Or Unbalanced?
The Shure SM57 is a balanced dynamic microphone. Understanding the difference between a balanced and unbalanced signal is very useful for ensuring you set up your recording equipment to maximize its effectiveness.
Balanced signals require balanced cables. The SM57 uses an XLR cable to carry the signal from the microphone, to a recording device, speaker, mixer, or amplifier. These cables have three conductors in their connector and three wires inside the cable, which is essential for carrying balanced signals.
The three wires inside a balanced XLR cable consist of two signal wires and a single ground wire. The role of the ground wire is to shield the signal wires, preventing interference from occurring. This explains why the SM57 can keep noise issues to a minimum.
By comparison, an unbalanced cable, for example, a TS guitar cable, only has two wires inside it. These two wires consist of a signal wire and a ground wire, lacking the additional signal wire found in a balanced XLR that you’d use to record an SM57.
The reason that TS jack cables are used to carry unbalanced signals is that each of their wires must terminate when they come into contact with the connector. The ground wire works in a similar way that it does in a balanced cable, shielding the signal wire and carrying a small part of the audio signal.
- The key difference between the balanced XLR cable used when recording with an SM57 and the unbalanced cables used for guitar, bass, or keyboards, is the way that the XLR makes use of its additional signal wire.
Both signal wires inside a balanced cable transmit a copy of the audio signal. However, these two copies have reversed polarity, which essentially results in them being canceled out by one another.
This may seem counter-productive, as canceling both audio signals will ultimately result in silence. In reality, this is an integral part of transmitting a balanced signal. This is because the receiving audio gear, such as an audio interface or amplifier, flips the inverted signal so that it returns to its original form.
As a result, the original signal is intact while the noise produced by the microphone or other piece of equipment is still subjected to polarity reversing. This is why balanced signals are considered to be clearer than unbalanced, and why almost all microphones like the SM57 carry balanced signals.
The table below shows which recording devices are balanced and unbalanced, and which cables they typically use.
|Recording Equipment||Balanced/Unbalanced||Cable Type|
|Condenser Mic||Balanced||3-Pin XLR|
|Dynamic Mic||Balanced||3-Pin XLR|
|Electric Guitar||Unbalanced||TS Jack|
How to Connect a Shure SM57 to a Computer/Laptop
Connecting a Shure SM57 to your computer or laptop for recording isn’t too difficult, but you will need some additional equipment. Thankfully, recording equipment is very accessible and affordable today, so you don’t need to spend a fortune on an analog mixing desk to make high-quality recordings!
The most reliable and common method used for connecting a Shure SM57 to a computer is by pairing it with an audio interface. Audio interfaces are devices that receive the signal from the microphone and transmit it to a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) on the computer.
You’ll also need a balanced XLR cable to connect the SM57 to the interface. On the front of the audio interface, there will be a balanced input, which receives the male end of the 3-pin XLR. The female end of the cable is then connected to the SM57.
Once the connection has been made via the XLR cable, you’ll need to check that the interface is receiving the signal. Some audio interfaces have visual gain meters so that you can see the signal as it is received.
The gain setting on the interface can then be adjusted accordingly to ensure that the signal from the SM57 isn’t too quiet, or too loud. If the signal is too loud, this will result in clipping.
Next, open up your chosen DAW and create a new audio channel. Make sure the input of the selected channel correlates to the input which the Shure SM57 is plugged into on your audio interface.
You can now do a test recording to check that the SM57 is fully connected to the computer or laptop. Arm the track in your DAW, then play acoustic guitar or sing into the SM57. You should see the waveform in the sequencer being created in real-time.
If the waveform exceeds the vertical distance of the channel in the sequencer, this means you need to reduce the gain. Otherwise, digital distortion will be present in the recordings you make with your SM57.
What is the difference between SM57 and SM58?
The SM57 and SM58 are two of Shure’s most popular microphones. The main difference between the two mics is that the SM58 is mainly for vocals, and therefore has a ball-shaped grille with a built-in pop filter. The SM57 has a smaller grille.
Does the SM57 need phantom power?
The Shure SM57 is a dynamic microphone, which means it doesn’t require phantom power. Only condenser microphones require the +48v boost that phantom power provides.
If you are unsure what phantom power is, or if you need it, check out this article.
Is the Shure SM57 good for recording electric guitar?
In addition to being a highly capable microphone for recording acoustic guitar, the Shure SM57 is also a great choice for recording electric guitar. It hones in on the details of the instrument and captures the sounds.