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Q: Should I upgrade my Shure SM58 and use technical solutions for noise and ambience?

An Audio Masterclass visitor wonders what the next stage in his journey towards pro audio should be.

Here's a question from an RP visitor...

As an enthusiast I have been recording with a Shure SM58 (sacrilege I know) but it's getting to the point now when there is an obvious lack of quality (and perhaps my recording skills have improved a little) regardless I'm not sure what to do next.

What's do you recommend the next microphone step for an enthusiast that...

  • Doesn't want to spend £1000s of pounds
  • Wants a versatile mic
  • Doesn't have a sonically brilliant environment to use and record in daily

Do I bite the bullet and start recording in a sound proofed (or dampened) room with an expensive mic? Or is there a technologically cleverer option in the middle here somewhere?

My response...

I'm inclined to say that if the Shure SM58 is good enough for Bono and its predecessor good enough for Freddie Mercury, then it probably isn't the limiting factor in your work. That being said, useful budget vocal mics that have passed through here recently include the Golden Age Project TC1 and CAD M9.

You do need to be able to record vocals in an acoustically dry environment. Absence of reverberation is more important than an occasional car going past outside (for which you can retake). A dry vocal is much more flexible and amenable to processing than one that has room ambience embedded within it.

There are technological solutions that can help with noise. But you have to keep a sharp ear out for artefacts of the process. You wouldn't expect a £1000-a-day recording studio to use noise reduction. You would expect them to have excellent sound insulation.

If you can make a clean recording with your Shure SM58, then there is nothing holding you back from achieving the best professional standards in your work other than improving the level of your knowledge, skills and experience.

By David Mellor Tuesday March 18, 2014