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SM57 ...overrated?
Old 7th September 2012
  #1
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
SM57 ...overrated?

I record mostly acoustic instruments and vocals. BUT, per building my mic locker, I picked up a couple SM57's because EVERYONE said you need to have at least a couple.

Now, I realize that they are the staple for recording electric guitar amps and even have their place on acoustics in a live scenario. However, I've got to say. 1) the noise level on them (at least the new ones) are HUGE. When compared to bringing the levels up to match other mics. I do understand that their use is normally in front of high volume instruments, however, the other thing I noticed is that the quality is SO low that everyone sounds very different from one another. So, when people say "use an SM57"...it's seems a bit misleading to me as, they're just not consistent. Sure, I can use them and get a descent sound...not a problem. But it just seems like there are better choices out there for the same $$.No?

I'd be interested in hearing others thoughts on my particular observation.
Old 7th September 2012
  #2
Gear Addict
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
What better choices? The SM57 does need a bit of gain for quieter stuff, but the stock pres on my interface can handle it. The SM57 works well for snares, toms, guitars, vocals, and even kick drum. I don't think you can say that about the Audix i5. Sure, the i5 is good for snares and guitars, but I wouldn't be too confident with it on vocals. I don't know of any dynamic mic that costs 100 dollars that can fulfill more than three of the aforementioned purposes.
Old 7th September 2012
  #3
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NoVi's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Don't recognize your issues concerning noise and low quality, maybe something wrong with mic/ cables?
Old 7th September 2012
  #4
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edva's Avatar
 
26 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
The old ones (Unidyne) sound better to me too. With regard to the recent one, it is a decent mic for the price. The frequency response and general tone have become "classic" by their own universality, quite a feat. Once in a while, it can be the right mic for the source. But there are at least several other dynamics, and ribbons, that are much better, albeit much pricier, mics, and loads of condensers likewise.
The question is, do you have more than $90 to spend on a mic? If not, the 57 is a good choice. If you are a staunch "traditionalist", the 57 is a good choice. But if you have a bit more, and want a bit better, I'd keep looking. IMHO, and YMMV.
Old 7th September 2012
  #5
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Enlightened Hand's Avatar
 
16 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
I record mostly acoustic instruments and vocals. BUT, per building my mic locker, I picked up a couple SM57's because EVERYONE said you need to have at least a couple...
I'd say the first problem is buying anything based on what "everyone" says.

I really appreciate the SM57, not the old ones. The ones you can buy right now from the store. They sound fine in the right context. But if you don't know what that context is then they don't fit. It's not like they are somehow a magic device that just works every time. It's up to you have the experience and wisdom to know when they work.
Quote:
...Now, I realize that they are the staple for recording electric guitar amps and even have their place on acoustics in a live scenario. However, I've got to say. 1) the noise level on them (at least the new ones) are HUGE. When compared to bringing the levels up to match other mics...
The noise you're hearing is probably your preamps not having enough clean gain to boost a 57 to the level it needs to sound right at the distance you're mic-ing from. Change the distance or get a more capable preamp. I've never heard any significant noise with a 57 besides the noise of the room and that of weak preamps.
Quote:
...I do understand that their use is normally in front of high volume instruments, however, the other thing I noticed is that the quality is SO low that everyone sounds very different from one another...
They are highly directional and even a bit off axis the sound changes dramatically. It's most likely your placement isn't exactly the same in each case, which would come into play. I have 5 sm57s and they all sound the same. I bought them at totally different times and they are interchangeable to me.
Quote:
...So, when people say "use an SM57"...it's seems a bit misleading to me as, they're just not consistent. Sure, I can use them and get a descent sound...not a problem. But it just seems like there are better choices out there for the same $$.No?

I'd be interested in hearing others thoughts on my particular observation.
When "people" on GS (and on the internet in general) say ANYTHING know this: IT IS MISLEADING, because the VAST majority know NOTHING AT ALL of what they speak.

The 57 is useful precisely because it's so consistent. I've heard old Unidyne bla bla bla versus the new stuff and actually, I like the new ones. But it ain't no big deal either way (unless one makes it a big deal). The whole talk of old versus new 57s to me is a non-issue. The 57, if it's an authentic 57, is pretty much always the same deal and it pretty much works in a wide variety of circumstances, depending on the desires of the user. That, combined with it's low price and high durability, makes it a good buy. If you don't like it's sound then that's perfectly reasonable to see happen from time to time. But it's not like there's a hype about them. They are simple, useful mics, even the new ones. It's just a matter of knowing when they work for you. Maybe that's never, depending on what you like to hear.
Old 7th September 2012
  #6
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TobyToby's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
You have bought them from a regular Music shop?
There are to many fake SM57's on the market, new and used ones, mostly offered via the internetz/ebay.
They look the same and they smell the same as the original SM57 but they do not sound the same
Old 7th September 2012
  #7
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soypancho's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
My opinion- it is rare for the 57 to sound amazing on something but it's even more rare for it to sound bad on anything. They're good to have because when nothing else works, it will. And yeah, occasionally it will really surprise you. I rarely see it touted as more than that.
Old 7th September 2012
  #8
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Kaoz's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by soypancho ➡️
My opinion- it is rare for the 57 to sound amazing on something but it's even more rare for it to sound bad on anything. They're good to have because when nothing else works, it will. And yeah, occasionally it will really surprise you. I rarely see it touted as more than that.
This.

And I honestly can't think of another mic for less than double the price that can do the same job on such a wide range of applications.

I honestly think I'd be entirely comfortable recording an entire album with nothing but 57's.
Old 7th September 2012
  #9
Gear Addict
 
1 Review written
🎧 5 years
ditto^^
Old 7th September 2012
  #10
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
You said that you bought a couple, do they all exhibit the same issues? I own about twenty SM57 microphones, both the Unidyne and the more modern versions that are made in Mexico and I only ever had one problem with one of them which had a lack of low frequency response.

Dennis
Old 7th September 2012
  #11
Lives for gear
 
rksguit's Avatar
The one and only mic,IMO[as well as lots of others!] for a close mic'ed guitar cabinet,and then anything else as well......
Old 7th September 2012
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
if you are getting more noise on one channel and it still there swapping the mics, it is either the cord (most likely) or a damaged mic pre (due to loading down). The 57 and its cousin the sm7 load down mic pre's inputs when they are connected. On the more budget ic smd based mic pres, the noise floor goes up exponentially due to the impedance mismatch. 32-50 ohm input impedence mic pres seem to work nice.

the sm7 and sm57 sound really good when paired together with the right mic pre.
Give it a shot.
Old 7th September 2012
  #13
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Aisle 6's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I own quite a few 57's and they all sound the same. The only ones that sound different, sound that way because they are now faulty for one reason or another.

As others say, not the greatest choice, but certainly a great all rounder and a surprise package every now and again. If in doubt, a 57 will get you over the line.
Old 7th September 2012
  #14
Gear Addict
 
Jimmy kiddo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
I record mostly acoustic instruments and vocals. BUT, per building my mic locker, I picked up a couple SM57's because EVERYONE said you need to have at least a couple.

Now, I realize that they are the staple for recording electric guitar amps and even have their place on acoustics in a live scenario. However, I've got to say. 1) the noise level on them (at least the new ones) are HUGE. When compared to bringing the levels up to match other mics. I do understand that their use is normally in front of high volume instruments, however, the other thing I noticed is that the quality is SO low that everyone sounds very different from one another. So, when people say "use an SM57"...it's seems a bit misleading to me as, they're just not consistent. Sure, I can use them and get a descent sound...not a problem. But it just seems like there are better choices out there for the same $$.No?

I'd be interested in hearing others thoughts on my particular observation.
Don't mess with the king! Lol
Old 7th September 2012
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
ForgottenG's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Am SM57 is all you need to get good sounds.

Well..... An SM57 and an EQ are all you need to get good sounds.

Well............ An SM57 and an EQ and a Decent Pre Amp from a $40,000 + console is all you need to get good sounds.
Old 7th September 2012
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
Rascal Audio's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I like SM57's much more now that I made an "SM57 box."

57's are sensitive to loading, more so, it seems, than other dynamic mics, which reveals itself mostly in how it deals with HF information, transients and such. Give it a lower impedance load, and it behaves quite nicely, but lots of preamps (including most of the ones I have) don't have impedance select options. So I built myself an "SM57 box," (slick name, no??) built in a little electrical junction box from home depot ($1.77 with lid!) with male XLR on one side, female on the other, a 5k linear pot with 600 ohm resistor in series between pins 2 and 3 of the XLRs, and a toggle switch to break this connection (bypass switch). I insert the box between the SM57 and the preamp and can then adjust the load on the mic, effectively altering the impedance of the preamp. It's impact on the tone is not subtle, and the toggle is handy for switching the load in/out for comparison.

It's an odd little device, but very useful, particularly with the SM57/58, and can really make the performance of the mic quite lovely and detailed while removing the hash that has marred the mic's reputation to some. It's simple to build -- anyone with a drill and soldering iron (or anyone who knows someone with a soldering iron) should be able to throw one together.

I like using the electrical junction boxes, b/c they have pre-punched holes that you just knock the slug out of and can then use a metal file to enlarge enough for the XLRs. The metal is soft enough to make this easy, and I like the way they look when finished. They're cheap and sturdy chassis for DI's, reamps, and stompboxes too.

Joel
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #17
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
 
26 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand ➡️
When "people" on GS ... say ANYTHING know this: IT IS MISLEADING, because the VAST majority know NOTHING AT ALL of what they speak.

I've heard old Unidyne bla bla bla versus the new stuff and actually, I like the new ones. But it ain't no big deal either way ... The whole talk of old versus new 57s to me is a non-issue.
I beg to differ.
Many people who take the time to help others on GS actually DO know of what they speak.
I'm sure you would consider yourself in that category?
And, maybe you've heard bla bla bla, but have you ever done a proper A/B comparison between a good, old Unidyne 57 and a brand new one? Still can't hear the difference? Then maybe it is a non-issue, for you.
IMHO, and no offense, but thought a response was warranted.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #18
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jtienhaara's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ForgottenG ➡️
An SM57 and <snip/> a Decent Pre Amp <snip/> is all you need to get good sounds.
+1

Sm57 through Mackie 8 bus = I didn't learn to love the SM57 'til I bought my first decent preamp. Maybe not your case Scott, but for all the love of SM57s on the interweb, nobody ever seems to mention that it needs to be paired with a decent preamp.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #19
Moderator
 
TonyBelmont's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by edva ➡️
I beg to differ.
Many people who take the time to help others on GS actually DO know of what they speak.
I'm sure you would consider yourself in that category?
And, maybe you've heard bla bla bla, but have you ever done a proper A/B comparison between a good, old Unidyne 57 and a brand new one? Still can't hear the difference? Then maybe it is a non-issue, for you.
IMHO, and no offense, but thought a response was warranted.
Just to add to this.

There is unquestionably a hefty number of folks on the site who don't have enough experience to give informed opinions on every topic they comment on... Whatever way you want to frame it, it's just the reality. Now, with that said... It seems like a fair number of people should have used an SM57 by now.. Being one of the most mass produced microphones of all time.

Now, what percentage of SM57 users have carefully evaluated an older Unidyne to a current Mexican(?) made one... Probably a fraction of a percent. I've found over the years that carefully evaluating gear has become obsolete. Most people don't bother... Especially, when you can get 100 opinions with a click of the mouse.... And, so the cycle continues. This is how both good + bad information perpetuates, and we get people saying "well, everyone says..."
Old 7th September 2012
  #20
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Alex Specht's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I agree 57s are overrated

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
staple for recording electric guitar amps
Better Alternative: Senn. e609


Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
in front of high volume instruments
Better Alternative: MD421, 441

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
the noise level on them
SM57 has transformer in it. The noise is not from mic

Ive seen 57 for piano hole for mons (in addition to a ortf pair for house).

with no 421's 57s sound good on congas and toms. 57 always good on snare.

You might also try them next time you have to mic Obama:

Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #21
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Enlightened Hand's Avatar
 
16 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by edva ➡️
I beg to differ.
Many people who take the time to help others on GS actually DO know of what they speak. I'm sure you would consider yourself in that category?
"Many" can be a very generous term to use. A lot of folks do know what they're talking about overall. But the signal to noise is terrible in general on the internet and especially on GS.
Quote:
...And, maybe you've heard bla bla bla, but have you ever done a proper A/B comparison between a good, old Unidyne 57 and a brand new one?...
Yeah, actually I have. I didn't say I didn't hear a difference. I said I like the new ones. And it's not a big deal to me either way. The mythologizing of vintage gear in general is absurd. This business with the old 57s is just another example of that IMO. The new ones work and sound just fine in the right context, depending on the preferences of the user.
Old 7th September 2012
  #22
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666666's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Just about every piece of gear on the planet, regardless of cost, is great for some things and not so great for others. The 57 is a worthy mic that is great for a lot of things... and terrible at a lot of other things.

Are there better choices out there for the same $$$....? Probably not. Well, as someone else had mentioned, there's the E609... and there are other good dynamic mics out there for under $200 or $300.... but not under $90, as far as I know.

57s can be great in front of amps and on some drums / percussion. They've been used on vocals in the studio historically, but I personally wouldn't use one for that purpose. If I'm gonna go dynamic on vocals I reach for a Sennheiser 441, truly excellent dynamic mic... but it's like 8 times the cost of a 57.

Ultimately, you always get what you pay for. Don't expect any free rides in this life, you're not going to get any. Someone always pops in and raves about how their ultra inexpensive toy of the week is so amazing and rivals the very best examples out there... uhhhh... sorry... nope. Everyone's allowed to do a little wishful thinking now and then, but that's all it is.

A 57 can be amazing on an amp, in fact, in my opinion, it is "BETTER" for close miking loud amps than a 441. I actually hate the 441 on amps, at least for what I do (usually high gain stuff). Refer again to the first sentence of this post. This doesn't mean that a 57 is a "better mic"... it just means that it happens to be the right thing in this particular application.

But, side by side, when you compare the specs, sonics and end quality of a 57 verses a 441, across the broader realm of applications, the 441 is indeed a far superior mic... and you pay for that.

But, hold onto your 57s and be happy... they're indeed very useful. I have a whole bunch and they get used a lot... but only in the limited amount of applications they work well on. For other applications I have plenty of other dynamic mics (as well as condensers and ribbons), the goal is to simply have the correct tools for the specific situations that you most often need to tackle.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #23
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Jazz Noise's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rascal Audio ➡️
I like SM57's much more now that I made an "SM57 box."

57's are sensitive to loading, more so, it seems, than other dynamic mics, which reveals itself mostly in how it deals with HF information, transients and such. Give it a lower impedance load, and it behaves quite nicely,l
Very clever! I've been thinking of doing the same thing, just a pair of unity buffer op amps paralleled and a rotary encoder with values like 300,600,1200,2400,4800 at the input. Do you find there's any audible increase in the noise floor?

The 57 isn't overrated, I've never heard anyone wax poetics about it. But it's solid, it'll capture alot of the information and it's versatile.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #24
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Funny Cat's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by edva ➡️
I beg to differ.
Many people who take the time to help others on GS actually DO know of what they speak.
I'm sure you would consider yourself in that category?
And, maybe you've heard bla bla bla, but have you ever done a proper A/B comparison between a good, old Unidyne 57 and a brand new one? Still can't hear the difference? Then maybe it is a non-issue, for you.
IMHO, and no offense, but thought a response was warranted.

Yes. Agreed on both points.


There is a wealth of info on these boards. And it's pretty easy to tell who is "blowing smoke" and who's speaking from experience. I find that most folks are eager and willing to help. There are always "troublemakers" in any crowd but it doesn't bother me because it makes for entertaining reading at times.


I also have a Unidyne 545s and it sounds very different than any other 57 I've ever tried. It's less aggressive/mid forward and a little more "Hi-Fi" to my ears. I've heard that bleed can sound quite different in the two models as well but I have not paid close enough attention to this to make any definitive claim.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
Funny Cat's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rascal Audio ➡️
I like SM57's much more now that I made an "SM57 box."

57's are sensitive to loading, more so, it seems, than other dynamic mics, which reveals itself mostly in how it deals with HF information, transients and such. Give it a lower impedance load, and it behaves quite nicely, but lots of preamps (including most of the ones I have) don't have impedance select options. So I built myself an "SM57 box," (slick name, no??) built in a little electrical junction box from home depot ($1.77 with lid!) with male XLR on one side, female on the other, a 5k linear pot with 600 ohm resistor in series between pins 2 and 3 of the XLRs, and a toggle switch to break this connection (bypass switch). I insert the box between the SM57 and the preamp and can then adjust the load on the mic, effectively altering the impedance of the preamp. It's impact on the tone is not subtle, and the toggle is handy for switching the load in/out for comparison.

It's an odd little device, but very useful, particularly with the SM57/58, and can really make the performance of the mic quite lovely and detailed while removing the hash that has marred the mic's reputation to some. It's simple to build -- anyone with a drill and soldering iron (or anyone who knows someone with a soldering iron) should be able to throw one together.

I like using the electrical junction boxes, b/c they have pre-punched holes that you just knock the slug out of and can then use a metal file to enlarge enough for the XLRs. The metal is soft enough to make this easy, and I like the way they look when finished. They're cheap and sturdy chassis for DI's, reamps, and stompboxes too.

Joel

Could you post a pic? And possibly even a small sample? I'm sure you are quite busy. Anyway, sounds interesting...
Old 7th September 2012
  #26
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
I record mostly acoustic instruments and vocals. BUT, per building my mic locker, I picked up a couple SM57's because EVERYONE said you need to have at least a couple..

I haven't used one, on ANYTHING, other than as a 'talk' mic in the room, in 40 years.

awful, useless things
Old 7th September 2012
  #27
Lives for gear
I myself have a/b'd over 10 unidynes of various vintages. I currently only own one unidyne that I kept because it kills on guitar cabs. This particular one has more output and sounds fatter and clearer than a normal new production 57. Its from the early 1970's.

There are actually two types of unidynes III sm57, ones from the early 80's (metal screen inside grille) and the early 70's ones (no screen just foam like a newer one) Both have the same label.

The old unidynes do indeed sound better. I found that in good condition the early 80's undynes all sound identical to each other. To tone is slightly clearer than the new production models and they have more output. The 70's ones I owned had even more output and varied widely in the tone department. One was bright and worked well on snare. The one I kept sounded fat on guitar cabs. Another one I sold was a cross between the two.

I recently discovered the foam in the grill plays a big part in the tone differences for a old sm57. I have replaced the foam and noticed it made a difference in the sound. Still better than new production.

That being said I do think the new 57's can sound good on snare and guitar. They have 90% of the tone and work well in the mix.
Old 7th September 2012
  #28
Gear Guru
 
theblue1's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Church ➡️
I record mostly acoustic instruments and vocals. BUT, per building my mic locker, I picked up a couple SM57's because EVERYONE said you need to have at least a couple.

Now, I realize that they are the staple for recording electric guitar amps and even have their place on acoustics in a live scenario. However, I've got to say. 1) the noise level on them (at least the new ones) are HUGE. When compared to bringing the levels up to match other mics. I do understand that their use is normally in front of high volume instruments, however, the other thing I noticed is that the quality is SO low that everyone sounds very different from one another. So, when people say "use an SM57"...it's seems a bit misleading to me as, they're just not consistent. Sure, I can use them and get a descent sound...not a problem. But it just seems like there are better choices out there for the same $$.No?

I'd be interested in hearing others thoughts on my particular observation.
Just a little clarification. (And, come to think of it, likely unnecessary as others have no doubt pointed out the same thing. I've got to learn to read the other posts before responding. heh )

Dynamic mics do not have a 'noise level' -- because they have no active components. (A broken mic in combination with a preamp may produce hum where a mic in proper working order would not, although that may be too subtle a distinction for many.)

But many dynamics, including our old friend, the SM57, do have output that is relatively low compared to a powered condenser mic and that low output means you will have to crank your preamp higher. And many affordable preamps have a somewhat limited amount of gain before their self-noise (typically hiss but in extreme cases or with dicey set-ups perhaps hum as well) becomes 'too' evident.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #29
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Funny Cat's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by wwittman ➡️
I haven't used on, on ANYTHING, other than as a 'talk' mic in the room, in 40 years.

awful, useless things

Lol, Now your just being 'mean'.
Old 7th September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand ➡️
The whole talk of old versus new 57s to me is a non-issue. The 57, if it's an authentic 57, is pretty much always the same deal.
You either have poor hearing or haven't actually A/B'ed unidynes and new ones.

You can PREFER new ones- absolutely. But they don't sound the same. Literally- regardless of age affects on the mic.

We have 4 current model and 6 Unidyne- the 4 sound exactly alike. The 6 all sound different from the 4, and a couple of the 6 sound slightly different than each other.

To say theres no sonic difference worth noting is ignorant or biased. Its there.

The only true statement is if you care.
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