Who owns the title of “greatest microphone company in the world”?
Ask 100 musicians, and chances are, Shure is the name that comes up most often.
So why is Shure such a dominant force in the industry?
Well, if I had to guess…
It’s because, not only have they made many of the best studio microphones of all-time…
They’ve done so…keeping each and every one affordable to the average musician.
Which is perfect for the vast majority of us who make…well…less money than we would prefer.
And as you will see on today’s list of their very best mics, there’s not a single one over $400.
So let’s get started. First up…
1. Shure SM57
Undoubtedly the most famous mic of all time…
It seems that every pro studio in the world has a half-dozen or more of the Shure SM57.
But are they the absolute best sounding mics in their category?
Many critics will argue no, yet somehow, no competitor has rivaled its popularity all these years.
And that must mean something, right?
Besides its sound, the greatest feature of this mic is its durability. You can whack it with a drumstick, and even drop it repeatedly, yet they rarely ever break.
In fact, many people have owned their SM57’s for 20 years or more without any problems. And after all that time, they somehow still hold much of their value on the used markets.
Check it out:
Also check out the “beta version” of this mic, which some people prefer:
NOTE: All Shure “beta versions” add a special neodymium magnet for higher output, and a supercardioid pattern for better resistance to feedback.
2. Shure SM58
Perhaps equally as famous as the SM57 is its sibling…the Shure SM58.
Watch any singer perform live, and there’s a 50% chance this is the mic you’ll see.
Now for all intents and purposes, this mic is pretty similar to the SM57.
And there has been much online debate on exactly how they differ.
So rather than speculate, let’s go straight to the source to find the truth.
According to the Shure website, the only real difference between the two is the grill design.
- The SM57 grill allows for greater proximity effect because you can position the sound source closer to the mic diaphragm.
- The SM58 has a built in windscreen/pop filter to filter out unwanted vocal artifacts.
And that’s basically it. So now you know.
Also check out the Beta version:
3. Shure SM7B
Famously known as the mic used on Michael Jackson’s legendary Thriller album…
The Shure SM7B is the go-to dynamic mic for vocals in pro studios around the world.
And it should be the go-to mic for home studios as well, because it’s not that expensive.
While it’s particularly suited for rock vocals, it’s also extremely popular for all varieties of broadcasting.
Chances are you’ve seen one before in TV/radio stations, right?
One unique feature worth mentioning about the SM7B is its internal shielding which blocks electromagnetic hum caused by interference from computer monitors.
This can be particularly useful for anyone recording in a cramped home studio.
4. Shure Beta 52A
For kick drums, bass cabinets, and all low frequency instruments…
The go-to solution in Shure’s lineup is the Beta 52A.
Specifically intended for recording kick drums…
The Beta 52A enhances both the low end “thump” and high-end “click” that all engineers are looking for.
Besides its great tone, one feature that separates the Beta 52A from other bass mics is…
Its integrated stand adapter w/XLR connector, which simplifies mounting and holds its position even against the heavy vibrations of the inside of a kick drum.
All-and-all, it’s definitely one of the top mics in its category.
Check it out:
5. Shure SM81
As a top industry standard for recording hi-hats since back in the ’80’s…
And one of the most well-known small diaphragm condensers of all-time…
The Shure SM81 is one of those rare mics that’s equally useful in both studio and live settings.
And even though all the pros use it…the price is still within reach of most home studios as well.
Get a pair of them for your acoustic guitar, and you’re covered for pretty much all stringed-instruments and cymbals.
And fans of this mic will tell you, the best feature of the SM81 of is its exceptional ability to minimize colorization of off axis sounds.
Check it out:
In the category of “small diaphragm condensers”, two other notable Shure mics are the KSM137, and KSM141:
- KSM137 (cardioid) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
- KSM 141 (cardioid/omni) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
6. Shure Super 55 Deluxe
In my opinion, Shure Super 55 Deluxe is undoubtedly the sexiest vocal mic ever.
And most folks who’ve used it agree.
While the SM58 might be way more popular, put it side-by-side with a Super 55 Deluxe…
And you’ll see for yourself how much it really adds a singer’s presence on-stage.
As you’re probably thinking to yourself…
Yeah it looks cool, but I bet it sounds like shit.
The first time I encountered this mic, I assumed so as well.
But as you can see in countless online reviews, the vast majority of users not only prefer the look over the SM58, they prefer the sound as well!
Depending on your preference, the Super 55 Deluxe comes in 3 versions: cardioid, supercardioid, and the beautiful red limited edition version.
Check it out:
7. Shure Beta 87A
The fact is…some voices sound better with dynamic mics, and some sound better with condensers.
Which is why in the studio, engineers always keep several of each.
On-stage however, its not as easy, as condenser mics are far more susceptible to various issues, such as feedback.
Which is why you don’t see many handheld condenser mics for live performing.
However, there are a few, and on that short list, the Shure Beta 87A is quite possibly the best there is.
While all the mics on this list have great reviews…the ones on this mic are particularly impressive. Many say it’s the best sounding live mic they’ve ever heard.
Check it out:
- Beta 87A (Supercardioid) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
- Beta 87C (Cardioid) – (Amazon/GuitarC/MusiciansF/Thomann)
8. Shure Beta 56A
While definitely the least famous mic on this list…
The Shure Beta56 is worthy of a mention because it solves a problem that none of the others do.
The unique design of this mic is specifically intended for recording the following two instruments:
- drums (especially toms)
Now here’s why:
- small footprint – with an extremely compact frame, its ideally suited for situations where space is an issue.
- special stand adapter – which mounts directly to a mic stand, without the need for a separate clip.
- pneumatic shock mount system – which drastically reduces noise from handling and instrument vibrations.
For live settings in particular, once you try this mic and see how convenient it is, you might never use anything else.
Check it out:
9. Shure Beta 91A
For the last mic, I’ve saved the most unique one of all: the Shure Beta 91A.
Commonly known as either a “boundary mic” or “half-cardioid” mic…
Mics such as these are normally meant for recording meetings in conference rooms…
However, the Beta 91A is most commonly used for one specialized purpose: recording kick drums.
Not typically used on its own…the Beta 91A is more often used in combination with standard kick drum mics such as the Shure Beta 52A, which we covered earlier in this post.
These two mics together are actually somewhat of a “secret” miking technique that many professional engineers use to get that awesome kick drum sound you hear on studio recordings.
If you’ve never used one, I highly suggest giving it a try…