Shure SM58S Review: Is It the Best Live Vocal Dynamic Mic?

Shure SM58S

In some ways, I’d say we all already know the answers to your questions about the Shure SM58S. We may not realize it, but we’ve heard it countless times. It’s a popular version of the SM85, which is the world’s most popular live mic. You’ll find it in music bars, event halls, and churches around the globe. Even in space.

Furthermore, every modern handheld mic is a replica of the SM58. Before it emerged in the 1950s, microphones were metallic sausages with slits in them. They were reflective, fragile, and inconvenient in general. Ernie Seeler came up with a new design, using a durable cartridge and a round, mesh grille. Much to his chagrin, it soon became the icon of a new musical phenomenon called rock and roll. The rest is history, so let’s get on with how the legendary Shure SM58S holds up today.

Shure SM58S - Comparison Table

A Closer Look at the Shure SM58S Vocal Dynamic Microphone


shure sm58s microphone

The Shure SM58S is a traditional cardioid dynamic microphone. Two things that make it so popular are is its durable design and warm vocal tone. Its performance is consistent even in outdoor settings, and it can handle wild stage antics without noise or damage. Unlike the standard SM58, it has a power switch.

Physical features

Being the inspiration for countless dynamic microphones, the size and weight of the Shure SM58S are as average as they come. At 298 grams, it feels stable and balanced in your hand without causing fatigue during long performances. It puts up 300 ohms of actual impedance and has a positive output polarity.

While dynamic mics tend to be rugged, the Shure SM58S is a real tank and will last you for many years. A quick Youtube search will give you videos of people dropping it out of helicopters and abusing it in various other ways, then using it with little detriment to performance. Its shock-mounted membrane not only reduces handling noise, but it also lets the Shure SM58S take a beating without damage. I’m not one to encourage a mic drop at the end of a performance, but if you insist, you’ll want a mic like the Shure SM58S.

It has a spherical pop filter built into it, which prevents heavy breathing, sibilance, and sharp transients from ruining your sound. You could even whistle through it, as long as you know the technique.

The only deviation from the minimalist design is the on-off slide switch. The Shure SM58S also comes with a swivel mount. It’s tough, and it rotates 180 degrees.

Performance

Shure SM58S Vocal Microphone (with On Off Switch)
  • Frequency response tailored for vocals, with brightened midrange and bass rolloff to control proximity effect
  • Uniform cardioid pickup pattern isolates the main sound source and minimizes background noise
  • Pneumatic shock-mount system cuts down handling noise
  • Effective built-in spherical wind and pop filter
  • On/off switch for onstage control

Part of the Shure SM58S’s fame is due to its high-quality tone on various instruments. Dynamic microphones often produce a muddy tone with a lack of air. However, the Shure SM58S has a fairly natural frequency response and solid dynamic range. Like all microphones of this type, the Shure SM58S fades above 15kHz, but its moderate presence boost makes up for it without raising sibilance. There’s also a steep bass cut around 100hz that prevents boomy tones. Thus, it can also do instruments and studio work. It’s popular on drums and guitar amps.

Loud environments and crowded stages with poor monitor positioning are no problem for the Shure SM58S. The risk of feedback is minimal, and background sounds don’t come through. The Shure SM58S is an ideal microphone for live vocals, especially in the rock and metal scene. The rich midrange shines when you need the power to cut through a heavy soundscape, other examples include blues and rap. It does favor male vocals. Female vocals have their fundamentals where male vocals have their warm harmonics, so the warming effect instead produces some mud. It’s no serious problem though.

While a Shure SM58S won’t give you that “crisp and natural” sound, it does sound fantastic. That’s why you still see many world-class performers use this relatively modest mic for their big shows. Some of them even used it to record their best-selling albums. The “SM” part of SM58S is short for “Studio Microphone.”

Users call it a dependable workhorse that suits almost every purpose. They praise its durability and beautiful tone. The main complaint is the somewhat dull treble response. In the end, they give it 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Pricing


Despite its legend status and tank-like build, you can get a Shure SM58S. Thus, it’s an entry-level microphone, yet it pleases picky professionals.

How the Shure SM58S Stands Up to Competition


All that information doesn’t say too much in isolation. You’ll get a better idea by comparing it to close competitors. The modern market has many alternatives in the same price range. So, let’s see how it stands up to the Sennheiser E835, AKG D5, and Shure Beta 58A.

How we reviewed


We’ve analyzed and compared reviews from the web to give you comprehensive information on how these mics perform. Amazon customer reviews are the foremost source.

Sennheiser E835

Sennheiser E835 Dynamic Cardioid Vocal Microphone
  • Gentle presence boost to even tonal response ensures clarity and projection
  • Minimal Proximity effect provides consistently clear bass end performance when singing closer to or further from capsule
  • Cardioid pick-up pattern provides good signal isolation and feedback rejection, enabling higher sound levels to be obtained
  • Metal construction and internal shock-mount system minimizes handling noise
  • Frequency response 40-16,000 Hz, Impedence 350 Ohms

Sennheiser is, to many of us, synonymous with quality. Their E835 draws inspiration from the classic SM58 and tries to improve upon it. The specs do look juicy, but does it pose a threat to the Shure SM58S? Let’s find out.

Physical features

In general, there’s no remarkable difference in build quality. It has a rugged all-metal body and weighs about the same, and you can get it with or without a power switch. However, it seems the Shure SM58S can take more punishment.

The Sennheiser E835’s nominal output impedance is 50 ohms higher, but the two mics have the same general sensitivity and max sound pressure level. Further, it has a typical uni-directional cardioid pickup pattern, but it may have slightly better feedback reduction. Where it does have a leg up is in reducing the proximity effect, so the tone doesn’t change much when you get closer or farther away. However, singers who use this effect creatively may not like it.

Performance

It has a somewhat better bandwidth range, covering 40Hz to 16kHz. The extra sheen is sweet to those who can hear it, but the extra low end is only a positive if you’re planning to use it for bass-heavy instruments. For vocal performances, it can be a slight negative if you don’t have a good equalizer.

The overall tone is more luxurious. It has a shiny openness to it, along with a full low end. It may not suit every singer better on stage though. I’d say the Shure SM58S is still better for most amateur musicians as a live microphone, while the Sennheiser E835 is the better option for people who know their way around audio gear and settings. For instrumentation, bright stringed instruments will prefer the mellow tone of the Shure SM58S, while drums and bass instruments will sound better with an E835.

Buyers give it 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. They praise the crisp and balanced tone and the wide dynamic range. On the flip side, some users find the tone a bit bland compared to the likes of Shure SM58S for live use.

Pricing

It's in the same price range as the Shure SM835. You can get one in Amazon.

AKG D5

AKG Pro Audio P5 Vocal Dynamic Microphone, Super-Cardioid
  • High feedback suppression with supercardiod polar pattern for trouble-free use with on-stage monitoring
  • Integrated windscreen for elimination of pops and wind noise
  • 24-carat gold-plated XLR connector for optimum conductivity and resistance to corrosion
  • Rugged wire-mesh cap and full metal body withstand every live performance
  • Complete with stand adapter and zip bag for daily use and easy transport

Here’s another industry-standard all-purpose dynamic microphone. It can’t match the reputation of the Shure SM58S, but let’s face it, no mic can. What it does have is a couple of technical advantages, so it’s worth a closer look.

Physical features

The AKG D5 doesn’t stand out at first glance, except for its black grille and big AKG logo. Under the grille is where the differences reside. First of all, it has a tight super-cardioid pickup pattern instead of a regular cardioid one. AKG uses a patented Varimotion laminate diaphragm which gives it a unique sonic character. The super-cardioid design allows for ample gain before feedback occurs. It’s not as picky about monitor placement as many super-cardioids tend to be, but more so than a regular cardioid. Also, it uses a double shock mount to reduce handling noise further.

An improved integrated pop filter removes wind noise. That feature, together with the durable die-cast housing and spring-steel mesh, makes it an appealing mic for wild performers who like to put on crazy shows.

When it comes to sensitivity and maximum sound pressure level, it’s good but nothing extraordinary. With an impedance of 600 ohms, it is more prone to noise than the Shure SM58S, although it’s a small difference. It doesn’t cut out the high frequencies, which is what matters most with impedance. Its equivalent noise level is a nice, low -18dBA, so don’t let electrical specs fool you.

Performance

The AKG D5 has a very bright tone without sounding hyped. It reaches all the way to 20kHz, which is impressive. On the other end of the spectrum, it only extends down to 70Hz. Therefore, it’s not ideal for bass instruments. However, the extra top end will sweeten vocals, pianos, and other midrange instruments. Since these are more likely candidates for a microphone like this anyway, that’s hardly a drawback unless you need a true multi-purpose mic. While its lowest lows aren’t as low as those of the Shure SM58S, the bass content that’s there does have more power.

Overall, the AKG D5 gives you a rich, sparkly tone that cuts through any mix with ease. Next to it, most other dynamic mics sound rather dull. This comes down to preference though. Regarding harshness, it’s somewhere between the mellow Shure SM58S and the hyped Sennheiser E835.

Users like the crisp, clear tone and how it can handle both poor sound staging and reckless handling. Other than tonal preferences, the only notable complaint is the relative feedback sensitivity compared to cardioids. It gets 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Shure Beta 58A

Shure BETA 58A Supercardioid Dynamic Microphone with High Output Neodymium Element for Vocal/Instrument Applications
  • Frequency response tailored for vocals, with brightened midrange and bass roll off to control proximity effect
  • Uniform supercardioid pattern for high gain before feedback and superior rejection off axis sound
  • Neodymium magnet for high signal to noise output
  • Advanced pneumatic shock mount system that minimizes transmission of mechanical noise and vibration
  • Minimally affected by varying load impedance

One of the biggest rivals of the Shure SM58S is the less famous Beta58. You’ve probably encountered both and mistaken them for each other. Some call the Beta58 an SM58 on steroids. However, it’s not as simple as a stronger version, as they have different ideal uses.

Physical features

The first difference to note is the pickup pattern. The Shure Beta 58A is a super-cardioid microphone. Thus, it’s more directional with better side rejection. In case you’re still confused about the feedback difference between the two pickup patterns, super-cardioids are less susceptible with properly arranged sound sources but more susceptible in worse conditions. They’re pickier but reward you more for doing things right, whereas cardioids are more cavalier about everything.

Now for the special features. The Beta 58A has a neodymium magnet that makes it more sensitive and produces a hotter signal. You can expect around 4dB of extra power. Next, a more elaborate pneumatic shock mount system reduces handling noise even more. One durability upgrade that helps is the hardened mesh grille since that’s the only part that’s vulnerable on a typical dynamic mic. Other than these construction differences, the two are comparable in the mechanical aspect.

Performance

You get more bass and treble with the Beta 58A. The tone is massive and dynamic. It lends itself better to recording and has more uses for instruments. The tone is better in an objective sense, but music is all subjective. If you love that distinct Shure SM58S tone, you won’t find this an improvement.

It is a more versatile microphone with more merit in most cases, but let’s cover the situations where the Shure SM58S is a better choice. If you shout a lot, the Beta 58A can be overwhelming. Examples would be punk singers and rappers who like the mic up close. If you have a very deep or high voice, the middy curve of the SM58S may suit you better. Opera singers and church choirs are good examples. If your singing is soft, the Beta 58A will sound much better. It’s also better for death growls and whispered vocals. And it makes a better group mic than the SM58.

Keep in mind that these comparisons only cover the raw signal. Proper processing and staging change everything. As with all audio products, it’s a choice between what’s technically superior and what’s more likely to sound “right” on average with no attention to detail. In the hands of a skilled individual in a decent setting, the Beta 58A is the clear winner. However, if you want the more beginner-friendly option that’ll handle shoddy bar environments with flying colors, you’ll probably want the Shure SM58S.

Users give it 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. They praise the crystal clear tone, the versatility, and the rugged build. The only common complaint is that it doesn’t suit certain people’s voices or preferences without EQ work.

Pricing

The last factor in the decision between the Shure SM58S and Beta 58A is whether you’re willing to chuck in an extra 50 percent for a better mic. You can get the Shure Beta 58A in Amazon.

Pros and Cons


If your insights about the Shure SM58S are drowning in all that information, don’t worry. Here are the key positives and negatives again.

Pros

  • User-friendly
  • Extreme durability
  • Consistent and versatile
  • Gives you that famous sound

Cons

  • Somewhat muffled tone
  • Strong proximity effect
  • Far from transparent

If you’re a beginner and you don’t know that much about microphones, an SM58S is an excellent choice. Since it’s so popular, the tone you’re envisioning is probably that of an SM58 or a close relative. It’s a great all-rounder at a low cost.

All the negatives come down to preference. If all you want is a rough and ready stage mic for small gigs, these characteristics may be what you want.

Is a Shure SM58S Your Top Choice?


It’s a legend for a reason. While it may not be the most technically sophisticated or most accurate microphone, it has that special tone that everyone recognizes and expects. It doesn’t excel at any particular thing, but it can do almost anything with at least acceptable results. In fewer words, it’s an excellent tool that belongs in virtually every musician’s arsenal.

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