The Birth of the Shure SM58
The Shure SM58 is arguably the most iconic microphone of the 20th century, but where did this remarkable story begin, and what makes it stand the test of time?
It all started with Shure Incorporated, a company that’s been synonymous with top-notch audio gear for nearly a century. Sidney N. Shure founded the company back in 1925 as a small radio parts wholesaler. As the demand for high-quality audio equipment soared, Shure ventured into the world of microphones, introducing the Model 55 in 1939. This marked the beginning of a long-lasting love affair between Shure and the music industry, setting the stage for the legendary SM58 to make its grand entrance.
The original vision for the SM58 came about in the early 1960s, when Shure’s engineers sought to create a microphone that would be perfect for live vocal performances. They knew it needed to be durable, reliable, and capable of delivering exceptional sound quality even in the most challenging environments. And so, the quest for the ultimate live vocal microphone began.
The design process of the SM58 was spearheaded by Shure’s legendary engineer, Ernie Seeler. Ernie was a bit of an audio wizard, and his dedication to innovation and perfection laid the groundwork for what would become the SM58. He spent countless hours researching, testing, and refining the microphone’s design, focusing on three key elements: a unidirectional cardioid polar pattern, a built-in wind and pop filter, and a pneumatic shock mount system.
Working alongside a talented team of engineers, Seeler’s passion for creating the best microphone possible would eventually lead to the birth of the Shure SM58 in 1966. Little did they know that they had just created a masterpiece that would revolutionize the world of live sound and become the go-to microphone for generations of artists to come.
The SM58’s Technical Innovations
The Shure SM58 is more than just a pretty face – it’s packed with technical innovations that have helped it become the industry standard for live vocal performances. These innovations were designed to tackle common challenges faced by performers and sound engineers alike, ensuring that the SM58 could deliver impeccable sound quality no matter the circumstances.
Unidirectional Cardioid Polar Pattern
One of the key innovations that set the SM58 apart from its competitors is its unidirectional cardioid polar pattern. This design helps the microphone pick up sound primarily from the front, while minimizing the pickup of unwanted noise from the sides and rear. This is a game-changer for live performances, as it allows the singer’s voice to shine through without interference from background noise, feedback, or other instruments on stage.
Built-in Spherical Wind and Pop Filter
Another standout feature of the SM58 is its built-in spherical wind and pop filter. This ingeniously designed filter reduces the impact of wind noise and plosive sounds (like “P” and “B” sounds) that can occur when singing up close to the mic. The result? A smoother, clearer vocal performance without any unwanted artifacts.
Pneumatic Shock Mount System
The SM58’s pneumatic shock mount system is yet another innovative feature that sets it apart from the pack. This internal suspension system isolates the microphone’s diaphragm from mechanical vibrations, which can cause handling noise or other unwanted sounds during a performance. By effectively reducing handling noise, the SM58 ensures that the only thing your audience hears is your voice – not the sound of you moving the mic around.
Rugged Construction and Durability
Finally, we can’t talk about the SM58 without mentioning its legendary durability. This microphone is built like a tank, with a rugged die-cast metal casing and a steel mesh grille that can withstand even the most enthusiastic stage antics. The SM58 is known for surviving drops, tosses, and even the occasional run-in with a drumstick or guitar, all while continuing to deliver top-notch sound quality. This incredible durability has made the SM58 a favorite among touring musicians, who can rely on it to perform consistently, night after night. It’s no wonder that the SM58 has earned a reputation as one of the most indestructible microphones in the business.
The SM58’s Impact on the Music Industry
The Shure SM58 has made an indelible mark on the music industry since its debut in 1966. Its top-notch performance and unwavering reliability have made it a go-to choice for countless iconic artists, bands, and sound engineers. Let’s take a look at some of the ways the SM58 has shaped the world of music.
Adoption by Iconic Artists and Bands
From rock legends to pop icons, the list of artists who have relied on the SM58 is a veritable who’s who of the music world. Names like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Beyoncé have all sung into the trusted SM58, cementing its status as the industry standard for live vocals. Its ability to handle diverse vocal styles and deliver consistent, clear sound across the board has made it a favorite for generations of performers.
SM58 on Tour: Memorable Concert Moments
The SM58 has been a constant companion on some of the most memorable tours and concerts in history. From Woodstock to Live Aid, the SM58 has been there, capturing the voices of legendary performers as they made music history. One iconic moment was when Roger Daltrey of The Who swung an SM58 over his head like a lasso during their live performances – a true testament to the microphone’s durability and lasting appeal.
The Microphone’s Role in Studio Recordings
While the SM58 is primarily known for its live performance prowess, it has also found its way into recording studios worldwide. Its clear and natural sound reproduction makes it a suitable choice for capturing vocals, instruments, and even podcasts. It might not be the first choice for high-end studio recordings, but the SM58 has undoubtedly left its mark on countless tracks across various genres.
The Relationship with Sound Engineers
Sound engineers are the unsung heroes of the music world, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure everything sounds perfect. The SM58 has been a trusty sidekick for engineers over the years, as its consistency and reliability make their jobs easier. From small club gigs to massive stadium shows, sound engineers know they can count on the SM58 to deliver outstanding performance night after night. This enduring partnership is a testament to the microphone’s lasting impact and importance in the music industry.
The SM58’s Role in Shaping Music Technology
The impact of the Shure SM58 extends beyond its legendary status as a live performance microphone. Its innovative features and widespread adoption have played a significant role in shaping music technology as we know it today. Let’s explore some of the ways the SM58 has influenced the evolution of audio gear.
The Development of Wireless Technology
One of the most significant advancements in music technology in recent decades has been the rise of wireless systems. As performers sought more freedom and flexibility on stage, Shure recognized the need for a wireless solution that could deliver the same quality and reliability as the beloved SM58. The result was the introduction of wireless SM58 systems that allowed artists to roam the stage without being tethered to a cable. This groundbreaking development has since become the standard for live performances across the globe, revolutionizing how artists engage with their audiences.
Influence on Other Microphone Designs and Innovations
The SM58’s innovative design and performance features have had a lasting impact on the world of microphones. Many manufacturers have drawn inspiration from the SM58’s cardioid polar pattern, built-in wind and pop filter, and rugged construction when designing their own microphones. The SM58 has also inspired a range of variations within Shure’s own product lineup, including the SM57 (tailored for instruments), the Beta 58A (with a supercardioid pattern), and the KSM8 (a dual-diaphragm design). These innovations demonstrate the SM58’s lasting influence on the evolution of microphone technology.
The Timeless Legacy of the Shure SM58
As we’ve explored throughout this article, the Shure SM58 has left an indelible mark on the audio world, shaping the way we experience and create music for over half a century. Its timeless legacy can be attributed to its lasting impact, its role in music history, and the unwavering love and appreciation it receives from professionals and enthusiasts alike.