SM57 vs SM58

by The Greatest Song

and The Greatest Song Team

Shure SM57 vs SM58: Intro

If you’ve seen someone on stage with a microphone, they were probably using an SM58 or SM57.  The president of the United States uses an SM57. John Lennon recorded most of his studio vocals on an SM57.  SM58s are used by nearly everyone in live settings.   Almost every recording you have listened to probably used one of these two microphones somewhere in the studio.  

But let’s say you can only buy one.  Which one is for you?  Is either one for you?

See here for all our reviews of audio gear for live performance and recording, see here.

SM57

SM58

Our Overall Rating

4.9 (out of 5)

4.8 (out of 5)

Sound Quality

4.5

4.5

Versatility

5

4.5

Build / Durability

5

5

Value

5

5

Pros

pros SM57

  • THE utility mic: gives you a “good enough” sound in nearly every situation
  • Built like a tank and nearly all the parts are replaceable
  •  Iconic sound with guitar amps
  • Great value

pros SM58

  • The most popular vocal microphone
  • Built like a tank and nearly all the parts are replaceable
  • great value
  • can also work as a utility mic around the studio or stage, depending on taste.

Cons

cons SM57

  • Not as much detail captured as a condenser mic and higher-end dynamic mics.

cons SM58

  • There are more detailed, crisper vocal mics out there, albeit, at a higher price.

Bottom Line

Neither of these mics is better than the other.  Both mics reproduce a sound in the range of pretty good to great in most situations.  The SM58 is generally better for vocals and the SM57 is for everything else.  Your personal taste will decide how, when, and where you want to use them.  But rest assured, you’re getting a quality mic with either one.

Table of Contents

    SM57 vs SM58: The Test

    We used a Universal Audio Apollo Solo powered Interface recorded with Logic Pro X.  There is no EQ or compression applied to any of the audio clips here.  We adjusted the gain from the audio interface to taste.  The guitars were a Martin steel-string acoustic guitar and Fender Strat plugged into 40 Watt Fender Champ. 

    Full disclosure: We fully acknowledge that there is no one way to use a microphone.  Mic placement, how you play or sing, not to mention EQ, compression, Impedance, pre-amp settings can all have dramatic effects on the final result. 

    What’s the difference?

    Shure labels the SM58 as a ‘vocal’ mic and the SM57 is commonly referred to as an ‘instrumental’ mic but these are just general guides.  Both the SM57 and SM58 can be used for vocals, drums, acoustic instruments, amp cabinets – almost anything that needs recording. 

    On the outside, the grille is the primary difference – that’s the top metal screen that screws on and off.  The SM57 has a flat grille where the SM58 has a ball grille.  The SM58’s ball grille has a built-in wind and pop filter for vocals.  The flat grille on the SM57 allows a closer, stronger proximity effect (the increased bass that happens on dynamic microphones as the source gets closer to the microphone’s diaphragm)  The flat grille on the SM57 also causes a frequency response boost above 5kHz.  This creates more brilliance and sibilance.  

    The Unidyne III capsules inside are identical. 

    Sound

    When considering any microphone, the frequency response chart can help to size up what you’re getting.  By listening to the two in our test examples below and observing the differences here visually you can get a good idea of the sonic differences.

    SM57 vs SM58 Frequency Response

    SM57 vs SM58 Frequency Response Chart

    Shure SM57 vs SM58: Vocals

    Sung Vocals Test

    Listen to the presence boost on the SM57 with sung vocals.  The vocals on the SM58 have more bite, more nasal resonance, and less air in comparison.


    Spoken Vocals – Sibilance / Brilliance

    Sibilance is the whistling sound of an “s” in the voice.  This is also the same frequency range that is referred to as brilliance.  Notice the increased sibilance and brilliance on the SM57.


    Mic direction / Neighboring noise

    Both microphones use a cardioid pattern pickup, effectively picking up only what’s in front of the microphone.   For example, you can barely hear the acoustic guitar I’m playing in the above sung vocals examples. This is ideal for live performance or in an untreated room in your home studio.  We test how well this mic insulates from other sound sources below.

    The flat grille shape of the SM57 provides a slightly more sound isolation from the sides and rear.


    Proximity Effect

    With dynamic microphones the closer the microphone is to the source, the more the bass boosts.  With voices, this creates that “late-night radio” voice.  For instruments, it can make for a thicker, punchier sound.  Depending on the instrument or voice, this might be desirable or undesirable.  


    Versatility

    Acoustic guitar test

    I was surprised by this test because I really prefer the SM58 here.  The proximity effect helps boost the bass slightly, which enhances the acoustic guitar nicely.  Also, I find the acoustic guitar doesn’t need as much air as the SM57 provides.


    Electric Guitar (Clean) Test

    The following tests on electric guitar confirm my opinion that the classic sound of an SM57 on a guitar cab is the only set-up I want to hear.

    (forgive my buzzy Strat)


    Electric Guitar (Distortion) Test


    Build / Durability

    Both of these workhorses are known for being ridiculously durable.  Check out the SM58 torture test below where they drop it from a roof, pour beer on it, microwave it, and more.

    Both mics have what Shure calls a “pneumatic shock-mount system”.  This insulates the internal cartridge from mechanical vibration.  As a result, Shure SM series mics have lower handling noise. 

    What is a dynamic microphone?

    Both the SM57 and SM58 are dynamic microphones.  The inner workings include a coil attached to a thin strip of metal called the diaphragm.  Dynamic mics require more sound to make the coil and diaphragm vibrate together.  Condenser microphones only have a diaphragm, and therefore require less sound to vibrate. This means this type of mic:

    • is preferred for live gigs because it can withstand louder noises and is less sensitive to room noise and neighbouring sound sources
    • does not require phantom 48V power to function properly

    So, which mic should I use? SM57 or SM58?

    With the SM57 you’ve got a mic that records nearly anything and gives you a sound somewhere in the range of respectable to really good, at a great price.  With the SM58 you’ve got the most popular vocal mic ever,  built with the same Unidyne III capsule as the SM57.

    The SM58 will always give you a decent sound on vocals but it lacks the kind of detail of competitors like the Sennheiser e935.

    If you have to choose between these two mics, choose the SM58 for vocals, and the SM57 for everything else.  If you prefer the sound of the SM57 for vocals, you can get a wind and pop filter made by Shure that attaches, effectively making it a vocal mic.  

    If you’re looking for a podcast mic, a set-up with either the SM58 or SM57 (with pop filter) works nicely.  Note, you’ll need an audio interface to preamp the sound and connect it to your computer.  If your only recording needs are for podcasting, the Shure X2U signal adapter with preamp is an excellent budget choice.

    An SM58 sounds cool with electric guitars, but not at all as cool as the SM57 to my ears.  The sound of an SM57 paired with electric guitars has become an iconic guitar sound for a reason.

    I personally, prefer the color of an SM58 on an acoustic guitar for folk and indie styles.  Most sound engineers will give you some kind of super-cardioid condenser mic like an AKG C451 to mic acoustic guitars.  The added proximity effect of the SM58, however, with not too much air on top, can work to your advantage.

    There are many ways to mic a drum kit, however, it is standard practice in most set-ups to use a couple of SM57s for the snare and toms.  This gives you a “good enough for post-production” sound in any situation.

    Who these Mics are for

    If you’re looking for a durable, do-it-all, affordable workhorse for live and studio use, these are your go-to microphones. With good mic placement and a little trial-and-error with how you play, how you sing, or how you speak, you can get sound in the range of good to really good which can then be enhanced in post-production.  

    Who these Mics are not for

    If you’re looking for a studio mic to capture loads of detail for vocals or stringed instruments or piano, a nice condenser like the Neumann TLM 102 or a do-it-all budget condenser like the AKG P420 (See here for a full review of the AKG P420 and all our audio production gear reviews.) would be a more obvious choice.  Or if you want something that gives a more accurate reproduction, not so radio-voice colored, a condenser would be better.  For live gigs, I prefer the Sennheieser e935 to the SM58 for vocals, but the SM58 won’t do you wrong.  

    For podcasters, both of these microphones require an audio interface with a preamp to function properly.  If you’re looking for a standalone, plug-and-play option, these are not for you.  Something like the Blue Yeti might be more what you’re looking for.

    What they say about the SM57 & SM58

    We asked around the biz and got a few words from some pros who use this mic:

    Needs no introduction or comment. Simply the best utility mic on the planet. [About the SM57]

    Steve Bolmann, Sound Engineer

    I use it to mic my guitar amp, snare drum, and vocals because of its clear and precise reproduction. I haven’t handled my SM57s very well, and they sound as good as ever. And, the mic never depreciates in value.

    Rodney Langton, Rocker, Producer

    I rap with an SM58 and I’ve tried a lot of mics. No other tool can balance against unpredictable live situations so well. I’ve dropped this mic, licked it, sweat on it, and it still sounds great.

    C Wack, Rapper

    Related or Mentioned Gear

    Shure SM57 Microphone

    Shure SM58 Microphone

    Shure SM58S Microphone – same mic with on/off switch on the handle.

    X2U USB Adapter

    Replacement grille for SM58

    Windscreen and Pop Filter for SM57

    Sennheiser e935 Dynamic Microphone – a step up from the SM58 in sound quality.

    Shure Drum Mic Bundle

    Shure SM57 Specs

    Type: Dynamic

    Polar Pattern: Cardioid

    Sensitivity: (at 1000 Hz Open Circuit Voltage):

    -54.5 dBV/Pa (1Pa = 94 dB SPL), 1.9mV

    Impedance: (low) 150Ohms (310 actual)

    Connector: XLR

    spec sheet

    Shure SM58 Specs

    Type: Dynamic

    Polar Pattern: Cardioid

    Sensitivity: (at 1000 Hz Open Circuit Voltage):

    -54.5 dBV/Pa (1Pa = 94 dB SPL), 1.85mV

    Impedance: (low) 150Ohms (300 actual)

    Connector: XLR


    spec sheet

    Questions or Comments?

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    Shure SM57
    sm57 sm58

    A mic that records nearly anything and gives you a sound somewhere in the range of respectable to really good, at a great price.

    Product SKU: 270102000000000

    Product Brand: Shure

    Editor's Rating:
    4.9

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