Why is the Shure SM58 so popular? Why is the SM58 considered the best microphone for live vocals? Is it worth it? Can you use it for recording? Find out here.
We can almost guarantee that you’ve seen the Shure SM58 before. If you’ve ever been to a live gig, watched a stage show, or ever seen anyone hold a microphone while speaking – you’ve likely been looking at a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone. Everyone from Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Run-DMC to Henry Rollins have championed this mic. It even has its own day of celebration on May 8th. You’re not only in good company when you decide on one, but you’re essentially joining the “big leagues” in terms of live sound.
But why is the Shure SM58 so popular? Why does everyone use it? Why does every stage have one and what else can I use it for?
In this article we’ll discuss the key benefits of the Shure SM58, answer the question “why is the Shure SM58 so popular?“, and provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions and FAQ’s around the SM58. We’ll show you why it’s worth it, and why every musician, public speaker or theatre owner/operator needs to own one of these incredible live microphones.
Why is the SM58 so Popular?
The SM58 is so popular among musicians and speakers alike thanks to its versatility, rugged construction, built-in pop filter, cardioid polar pattern that rejects unwanted noise, transparent sound and balanced frequency response. Not to mention extremely high SPL and replaceable parts. In a nutshell, it’s the only live vocal mic you’ll ever need for a career in live music or speaking.
Did we mention the price?
For reasons we’ll get into further down below, the SM58 is an essential live vocal mic that can also be used in the studio for recording and even podcasting. Although it shines in the live arena, it’s a microphone designed to grow with your musical needs. Certainly, worthy of PMT Legend status!
7 Reasons You Need the Shure SM58 Microphone
Here are the 7 reasons we think you’ll love the Shure SM58 in your live set-up and why it’s worth every penny:
- Dynamic Type
- Cardioid Polar Pattern
- Steel Grille And Built-In Pop Filter
- Frequency Response
- 1 Mic For Any Career
- Low Price
The Shure SM58 Is a Dynamic Microphone
The major benefit of the Shure SM58 is the fact that it is a dynamic microphone. This means it can handle a really loud sound source, like a screaming vocal or brass instrument without the capsule distorting.
Dynamic microphones are also less sensitive than condenser mics so they’re not going to start breaking up in sound quality the louder you get. In fact, the Shure SM58 has a max SPL of around 150-180dB which is the equivalent of a space shuttle launch. So live vocalists and engineers will appreciate that they can push the vocals and the mic a little harder onstage.
Dynamic mics, such as the Shure SM58 can often withstand a lot more wear and tear as they have what some might call a more “rudimentary design” owing to the fact they don’t have a condenser capsule which can be highly sensitive to knocks and bumps, whereas ribbon or tube mics can break at the slightest hint of damage if you’re not careful.
This leads us to our next point…
Almost Indestructible Design
Reliable, robust, hardwearing, industry-standard – these are all qualities associated with the Shure SM58. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that it looks, well, boring at first glance, but behind its humble and slightly understated design is a workhorse of a microphone complete with a detailed capsule, impressive frequency response and high SPL that can handle a jet engine taking off, all wrapped up hidden inside the almost indestructible, ergonomic handle.
The solid die-cast steel body is weighty, yet not so much that it becomes cumbersome, and houses an internal shock mount system that protects the capsule and reduces noise from mechanical vibration. This means that even if you hit the mic with your teeth (it happens) or you hit the mic stand, you’re far less likely to hear it through the PA.
Again, the SM58 is (supposedly) where the term “mic drop” came from, as it’s a mic that you can drop, pick up, and use time and time again. Swing it, throw it, drop it or push the grille with your thumb (like Henry Rollins) and the mic will keep performing. This is one of the major benefits of the mic – it can withstand decades of (ab)use and not fail on you mid-song.
The XLR connections are also neatly tucked inside a small cavity for a solid connection.
Top Tip!: Tape the XLR lead in with a bit of electrical tape if you’re the type of singer who likes to roam the stage. Or completely wrap it in duct tape just like Taking Back Sunday’s lead singer.
Cardioid Polar Pattern
Another major benefit and a key reason the SM58 is so popular is down to the cardioid polar pattern. This polar pattern effectively rejects off-axis noise, which makes it ideal for live singers and vocalists as it rejects all the sounds around and behind the mic, focussing solely on your voice. This is especially useful in the live arena as the mic won’t pick up the drummer or guitars around you, allowing the engineer to effectively mix your vocals. It also helps reduce monitor feedback too.
The cardioid polar pattern also makes it a great microphone for recording vocals in the studio. Although it’s not as sensitive as something like the Shure SM7B (which we looked at in greater depth here!), it will still provide a great recording experience by rejecting any noise coming from behind the mic – say a clock or the hum from your computer.
The Shure SM58 is not as sensitive in terms of frequency response as some other studio mics, but that’s a good thing. Clocking in at 50Hz-15kHz, this is a deliberate design feature designed to bring out the best in vocals in all applications without too much top-end detail. The bass attenuation of 40-100Hz reduces the proximity effect or “boominess” which sometimes creeps in when you are too close to the mic. This is why you see a lot of vocalists rest their mouth on the Shure SM58 when they’re singing – it can handle it, whilst providing a fairly flat transparent tone that doesn’t bring out any frequency in particular. It just does the job it needs to do and is very forgiving!
Steel Grille and Built-In Pop Filter
One of the key reasons the Shure SM58 is so popular in the live vocal arena is down to its steel grille and built-in pop filter. For live applications, this is extremely useful for 3 reasons:
- The steel grille gives your mouth somewhere to rest while you’re singing
- It protects the capsule
- The built-in pop-filter does a great job in reducing plosives
Now we would always recommend adding an external pop filter if you were to record vocals or podcasts with this mic. The pop filter does let some plosives through, but in the live setting, you’re not going to hear them thanks to the fact you have one built in the SM58.
If you ever damage the grille or need a replacement SM58 pop filter, you can easily get hold of one, but we doubt you’d ever need to replace it unless it became too dirty from years of use. This brings us to our next point..
1 Mic For Any Career
Thanks to the internal shockmount that protects the capsule, hardwearing chassis and replaceable steel grille and pop filter, the SM58 is going to last a lifetime. If you’re a live singer, you’ll probably only ever need this one microphone. It’s THAT good.
If you’re a home recording enthusiast, you can certainly get away with recording high-quality demos at home or enjoy the top-quality podcast and vocal recording if you add an external pop filter.
It's essentially 1 mic for any career in music or public speaking. This will grow with you and your career. Yes, you’ll likely collect more microphones, especially if they’re for recording at home but the humble SM58 is always there ready to help out when you want an extra layer of loud guitars, or you need to record a snare or brass instrument.
Plus – you certainly don’t want to be sharing microphones on stage with other people after they’ve spat all over it, do you? It pays to have your own microphone for hygiene purposes alone!
Last but not least, we have the price. The low cost of this mic is a key reason the Shure SM58 is so popular, as let’s face it, as musicians we’re not getting paid a lot for gigs. We need a mic that won’t let us down that we can actually afford.
Shure has created an industry-standard microphone, just like the SM57 that won’t break the bank and will provide professional-quality sound for a lifetime with one small investment.
Is The Shure SM58 Worth It?
Yes. If you want a professional level live microphone that can also be used in the studio when needed for a price tag under $/£100, the Shure SM58 is worth it. It’s basically a microphone that every musician or public speaker needs, like dinner plates or chairs in your house – you won’t ever regret buying one if you’re gigging.
Built like a tank, designed to withstand the abuse of heavy touring schedules, high SPL, sensitive yet forgiving frequency response and good off-axis rejection: it’s an essential live microphone you need in your set-up.
It’s world-class quality at beginner prices.
Shure SM58 FAQs
Is the Shure SM58 good for podcasting?
Contrary to popular belief, the Shure SM58 is pretty good for podcasts too. You reduce any boominess or proximity effect at close range thanks to the bass reduction but retain the low-end quality. It’s not as sensitive as say the Shure SM7B so perhaps not ideal for voiceover work, but if you add an external pop filter and boom stand it’s a great podcast microphone.
What is Shure SM58 good for?
Any application where you need live vocals either on stage, at rehearsals, for public speaking or home recording. Although it’s a live microphone first and foremost, you can use it to record anything, including loud sound sources.
Does The Shure SM58 Need Phantom Power?
No. The Shure SM58 does not need phantom power as it is a dynamic microphone. Nor will phantom power damage it. If you have an audio interface that automatically applies phantom power, you won’t damage the Shure SM58.
Is the Shure SM58 Good For Recording Vocals?
Yes. The Shure SM58 is perfectly fine for recording vocals thanks to the cardioid polar pattern that rejects off-axis sound and the fairly flat frequency response. Although it is not as detailed as the SM7B which is recommended for recording vocals, it will certainly provide a lush, vocal recording full of bass and high-end detail. Just move back a little and crank the gain on your audio interface.
Does the Shure SM58 Need A Preamp?
Yes. The Shure SM58 needs a preamp with around 50dB of gain to accurately capture sound. This isn’t a problem if you have an audio interface as the gain setting will allow you to turn up the signal.
Can You Use A Shure SM58 For Recording?
Absolutely. The high SPL makes it ideal for recording loud instruments such as guitar cabs and drums, the frequency response is perfect for recording all types of vocal performances and the cardioid polar pattern rejects off-axis noise so you can even record live takes that sound great. Again, just add an external pop filter for podcasts and some gain through your audio interface when recording at lower volumes and you’re all set.
Final Thoughts On the Shure SM58..
If you want a hard-wearing vocal microphone for live shows that you will never have to upgrade, the SM58 is a classic option. Should you want greater detail, it might be worth comparing it to the Shure Beta58A (which you can do here!) but this is an essential piece of kit every musician should own. Turn up, plug in and play, confident this mic won’t let you down.