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SM57 Microphone Sets

CardioidShure SM57

Cardioid Dynamic Microphone

The SM-57 is a unidirectional (“cardioid”) dynamic mic that has been used in some respect on 75% of the recordings in your collection — from snare drum to vocals to guitar cabs to, well, everything. It is known for sounding pretty good on everything, and more specifically for its “carefully contoured presence rise,” sometimes less charitably known as “midrange honk.”

It is a utility mic, usable on just about any source in any context, and is probably the most popular microphone in history.

Fletcher - Mercenary Audio
My favorite microphone ever made is the Shure SM57. It’s rarely ever “genius” but it never ever totally sucks. You can point one in the general direction of a sound and you’ll get a pretty decent representation of that sound that can be recorded and pounded to death later.

  • Frequency response tailored for drums, guitars, and vocals
  • Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source while reducing background noise
  • Pneumatic shock-mount system cuts down handling noise
  • Extremely durable and rugged

Is the SM57 the same as a Beta 57?

The Beta 57A differs from the SM57 in numerous respects1, including:

  • The Beta 57A has a supercardioid pickup pattern.
  • The Beta 57A is 4dB louder than the SM57.
  • The Beta 57A is less sensitive to handling noise than the SM57.
  • The Beta 57A has a hardened grille.
  • The Beta 57A has a wider usable frequency response than the SM57.

Is the SM57 the same as an SM58?

The SM58 uses the same capsule as the SM57, aside from mounting differences2, and the input sensitivity is the same7, but the flat grille on the SM57 allows positioning so close to a sound source that proximity effect can cause low-end boost that the SM58 cannot reproduce. Further, the grille on the SM57 causes a boost above 5kHz3.

Is the SM57 the same as an SM7?

The SM7 capsule, like the SM57/SM58 capsule, is based on the “Unidyne III” capsule design, yet it is not identical to the SM57/SM58 capsule4. The SM7 capsule is p/n RPM106; the SM57 capsule is p/n R57.

Further, the housings differ, and the SM7 has no output transformer.

Is the SM57 the same as the 545SD?

The 545SD is physically the same size as the SM57, and uses the same Unidyne III capsule. Both are cardioid dynamics. The 545SD frequency response chart is similar, but not identical to the SM57; the 545SD would appear to have slightly more pronounced high-end response.

Are new SM57s as good as old SM57s?

Manufacture of the SM57 moved to Shure’s Mexican manufacturing facility in 1985. The company claims that microphone quality has, if anything, improved since that time.6

Shure has made no major design changes to the SM57 since its introduction, although “a host of minor improvements” have been made7.

That said, some engineers feel differently:

Jim WilliamsThe current crop of Mexican 57’s sound nothing like the classic American made Unidyne III models. Those older ones, if you can find a clean one, have much better top end clarity than the Mexican 57’s. The Mexican models sound nasal next to a clean Unidyne III model.

The reason for this is most likely that the dies and tools used to create the mics initially wore out and were replaced, and the diaphragm pieces created by the new tools do not match the vintage pieces. Despite the company’s position that the design has not changed, the sense of most people on the message boards is that the US-made SM57s sound better.

How can I distinguish a US-made SM57 from a Mexican-made SM57?

US-made SM57 mics were labelled “Unidyne III” on the ring near the mic capsule. Current SM57s show only “Shure SM57.”

Then, too, remember that US-made SM57s would be over 24 years old at this point, and would very likely show signs of physical age and abuse.

What are popular mods for the SM57?

  • Remove the transformer. This is a 15-minute mod that was described in detail in the Mar/Apr 2006 issue (#52) of TapeOp; essentially, use boiling water or a heat gun to soften the glue holding the transformer in the bottom half of the mic body (note: do not boil the capsule), then connect the wires from the XLR jack straight to the capsule.

    This mod is reported to extend the frequency range of the mic, especially at the low end. It reduces the midrange honk. Some modders claim it improves transient response. However, it lowers the mic’s output by about 10dB (perhaps making it unsuitable for quiet sources).

    Another downside to the mod is that transformerless SM57s may be damaged by phantom power… although subsequent analysis questions the veracity of this threat.

  • Replace the transformer. The easiest way to do this is to buy the replacement transformer designed specifically for this mod, from TAB-Funkenwerk (MSRP $89): TAB-Funkenwerk transformer mod for SM57/SM58.

    Terry Manning
    The stock Shure transformer version was more strident in the upper midrange and “sibilance” areas, and not in a pleasant way. This is one of the things that I often dislike in a 57, that almost artificial “twang” that often seems to happen.

    The AMI transformer did not exhibit this effect nearly so much. The AMI in fact had a noticeably smoother, rounder quality. The lows were also more pronounced, so that may have actually been covering up any upper mid stridency a bit as well. But the “extra lows” were not too much so, just fuller and more pleasing to the ear.

    The AMI had a much more pleasing sound on “s’s” and uncomfortable sibilance was reduced from what the stock trans exhibited.

    Overall I would give the new trans a quick thumbs up.

  • Drop the input impedance on the preamp channel used for the SM57, to around 500 Ohms. This can be done easily if your preamp has variable impedance selection, or by wiring a resistor across pins 2 and 3 of an XLR jumper cable.

    Paul Stamler, Recording Magazine

    [T]he SM57 in fact performed far better with a lower-impedance load… In short, the recordings at 500 ohms confounded everything I had ever experienced with SM57s.

    See the sidebar link to the SM57 Impedance Mod.

The Shure SM57 is also known as: SM-57a, SM57a, 57.

The mic was released in 1965.


Frequency Response - CardioidClick Graph to Compare!
SM57 Cardioid Frequency Response Chart
Pickup Patterns Pads & Filters
Cardioid (1.9 mV/Pa; 40 - 15,000 Hz)
Coil Diameter Impedance SPL/Noise
n/a 310 Ohms (Low) SPL n/a
Weight Length Max Diameter Interface(s)
284g (10.02oz) 157mm (6.18'') 32mm (1.26'')
  • 3-pin XLR male (1)
Power Specifications

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