Mentioning the name “Shure” to anyone interested in recording or live performances will without a doubt bring to mind their excellent SM series microphones. The two we’ll cover today, the SM57 and SM58, are well-known in the music industry. In this SM57 vs SM58 comparison, we’ll go over some data and information on these two great mics. Frequency response, pickup patterns, technical specifications, pros and cons, and specific uses are all important factors to consider if you’ll be using these or if you’re looking to buy one. This handy guide can serve as a reference to help you make an informed decision. Let’s get to it!
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Both these mics are capped out at 15 kHz max frequency. This is evident in the response curve in the steep roll-off towards the high-end of the spectrum. This roll-off really helps to cut back on crowd noise in a live setting and adds to the overall clarity of the signal.
Traveling down the spectrum, the SM57 has a much bumpier treble response between 15 kHz and 6 kHz. Max gain is 6 – 7 dB at the 6 kHz peak. This will add to vocals or instruments with harmonics in that region.
Afterwards we see a gradual slope down to 0 dB at roughly 2 kHz. A flatter region extends all the way down to 800 Hz, afterwards experiencing a dip of 1 – 2 dB down to about 200 Hz. We see a steep bass roll-off after roughly 200 Hz which cuts back on muddiness.
The shape of the frequency response curve of the SM58 is very similar to the SM57, with some subtle differences.
The first noticeable difference is in the treble response. The SM58 has a much smoother response curve in the 5 kHz to 15 kHz range when compared to the SM57. We can see two prominent peaks – one at 10 kHz and one at 5 kHz, whereas with the SM57, the peaks are less defined and somewhat choppy.
A smooth descent down to 0 dB is present in both curves, but the frequencies at which the curve reaches 0 dB are different. The SM57 is flat at 2 kHz while the SM58 is flat at 1 kHz.
The SM58 also possesses less of a dip in bass response, and bass roll-off for the SM58 begins at 100 Hz vs the SM57s 200 Hz.
At first glance, these mics look very different. But don’t let that fool you. They are similar in many ways that are not readily apparent! Their cardioid pickup patterns are 100% identical, even at different frequencies. One could expect the same exact sensitivity as a function of position for both of these mics. The cardioid pattern is great for focusing in on a single source such as a vocalist or an instrument.
Both the SM57 and SM58 are categorized as moving-coil dynamic microphones . Dynamic mics are more rugged and can handle higher sound pressure levels vs their cousin, the condenser mic. For these reasons, dynamic mics are great for live stage performances. They won’t break or experience a decrease in performance due to rough handling. Shure even has videos of both the SM57 and SM58 being run over by a tour bus and still working fine afterwards!
The moving-coil design also allows these microphones to handle very high maximum SPLs. This makes them great (especially the SM57) for recording extremely loud instruments such as kick and snare drums, and loud guitar cabinets at very close proximity. Dynamic mics usually don’t include max SPL in their spec sheets because it’s very difficult to actually produce a sound that will exceed this limit for this type of microphone.
The frequency response of the SM57 vs the SM58 is very similar overall, with some subtle differences becoming noticeable upon further analysis. The general shape of the response curve is very similar. Both have the same maximum frequency of 15 kHz, and a steep roll-off in the treble region. Where they deviate is in the frequencies that some other features of the curve occur at.
Both have peaks in the treble region, but the SM57 peaks at 6 kHz while the SM58 peaks at 5 kHz. We can also see differences in the bass region. Roll-off begins at 200 Hz for the SM57 vs 100 Hz for the SM58, meaning the SM58 may produce slightly deeper sound and rumble.
The specs for these mics contain a few small differences, which we’ve outlined below:
A key difference between these two mics in build is the built-in spherical wind screen on the SM58. The SM57 does not have this, although it can be added as an accessory. The wind screen makes the SM58 better suited for vocals if we’re comparing the two microphones without any added accessories.
That being said, the SM57 is still used for vocals and speech quite often, just with an added wind screen to cut back on the plosives and sibilant noises that are commonly encountered when recording vocals.