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The Good Old SM-57

What goes inta might not come outta

Hi, faithful reader!

If you've seen my World Of Rock blog for any amount of time, you'll get to know a few things about me. Number 1: I don't know what I'm doing. Number 2: I don't take anyone's word for anything because the music biz is built on image. Behind the glitz and glamor, are hundreds of nameless engineers, like me, trying to make ends meet. And you're trying to sell a product nobody needs. Well, the fantasy ends when the dirty clothes pile up. Want to make money? Sell soap, not music!

But you can't record rock 'n' roll with soap. For that, you need a microphone.

So, when putting my own home studio together, and figuring out how to mic an amplifier, I challenged the legendary Shure SM-57 instrument microphone. I compared it to my AT2020 condenser mic. I found the SM-57 lacking in depth and clarity.

I'm not saying it's a bad mic. It does have some remarkable features that I'll point out to you here.

  1. It's a great filter. I placed the SM-57 against the grill of my Fender Deluxe II, a classic amp any serious guitar player should have for around $450 bucks. This amp is well loved by most guitarists. But it has a problem. High frequencies dominate what you hear. Putting an SM-57 against the grill dead nuts on the cone's center will filter these frequencies out. So you can turn an otherwise crappy hard rock amp into a good hard rock amp. That's very good to know, because the mic costs $100 bucks. So, no need to buy another amp. A great hard rock amp, like the legendary Soldano SLO-100 costs over $3ooo these days. So, while your head will split open from all the highs during your recording session, they won't get through the SM-57.

  2. Its unbreakable. As my approach to playing out is synonymous with a caveman's approach, I break everything I touch. I have a blackhole and sure as there is gravity, every piece of gear I own has been dropped, kicked and dropkicked. I've had this SM-57 for 20 years and it's survived better than any other piece of gear I've owned. Unlike most other things in this business, you can count on it.

  3. It rejects noise. Somehow or another, the capsule electronics make it such that it's most sensitive in front of the mic. That means it ignores most everything else. So, if your neighbor's sawing trees down with a chainsaw, no worries! SM-57's got you covered.

  4. It's not too sensitive. I'm not saying it's as numb as nuts, but you need some preamp to really get it to hum along. And in a loud room, no preamp at all can be your friend.

So, while my trusty AT202o overall is a better microphone, you won't see me taking it on the road. For that, I'll use the good old SM-57. As a dynamic microphone, sure, it needs a little kick in the ass to get it to respond. But, you won't find a more durable and reliable microphone for your guitar cabinet. And in case you don't know, I mix the AT202o and SM-57 together on the same track. You get the clarity of the AT2020 and the snotty middle finger of the SM-57.

And for a mic that's been around since 1959, it's a great mic for the price. But you know what costs the same and gives you more out of your studio? That's right the AT2020!

Perhaps there are folks out there that know better than me. See paragraph 1. I am a caveman trying to understand fire. Some else invented the damned thing, I'm just trying to cook my dinner and make it as tasty as possible.

I'll take the SM-57 on the road any time. But my studio mic of choice is the AT2020, by Audio-Technica as evidenced by recording my Fender Deluxe with the mic dead center on the speaker cone.

Love and Rockets


Getting things produced. Mixing, mastering.

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