Gear Icons: Shure Microphones

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Gear Icons: Shure Microphones

Tracing The Legacy Of The Mic Manufacturers

Shure Microphones have their DNA all over the history of popular music and broadcast. It’s that simple. Tune a radio into any station, at any moment, at any given point in history and chances are you will probably be hearing a voice/instrument picked up by a Shure Microphone. Go to any live show or concert and that likelihood increases exponentially, such is the brands omnipresence in the space.

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The American company have scaled heights previously thought unimaginable for an audio manufacturer, bringing transducer technology to the masses and taking what was once thought of as a niche, specialty product and making it accessible to the mainstream.

If you a reading this, you are probably well aware of the brands ubiquitous and all conquering SM57 and SM58 dynamic mics and the indelible sonic imprint these two products have had on the history of popular music. It’s only when you stop and consider the sheer breadth of significant releases attributed to the brand outside of these two staples, that you realise the full extent of Shure’s influence in the broader gearscape.

It’s often said that lightning doesn’t strike twice and yet even since the early days of the Model 33N and Model 55, it seemed like this rule doesn’t apply to Shure.  From the iconic Green Bullet and 565SD live mic (famously used at Woodstock) to more recent studio staples like the SM7b, SM81 and the Beta series, Shure have continued to defy expectations, boasting more bonafide classics than any other microphone company in history.

Originally founded in 1925, the emergence of the original Shure Brothers Company happened to coincide with early days of Commercial Radio, placing the fledgling manufacturer firmly at the centre of what was in many ways, the big bang for transducer design.

The companies first notable release came in 1931 in the form of the Model 33N, Shure’s first microphone and something of a favourite amongst the broadcast engineers of the day. This was quickly followed by the release of the game-changing Model 55 in 1939, it’s moving coil design marking a significant step-up in audio quality from the crystal mics that had preceded it.

The Model 55 quickly found favour amongst some of the biggest figures in the industry, during what was to be radio’s golden age. This momentum continued, eventually trickling over to the advent of Television, where the distinct visual of the Model 55’s unique grille would be beamed into households across America on a nightly basis, this time in front of some of the highest profile musicians and public figures in history (think Elvis, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy etc). This quickly made the Model 55 the most recognisable microphone in the world,  a mantle it would hold until the release of Shure’s own SM58, some years later.

If that was their only contribution to microphone history, it would be enough, but it has been Shure’s continued ability to come out of every era with a couple of classics in tow that make them the pre-eminent name in microphones-beloved by gear nerds and civilians alike. For further proof of the brands continued relevance, simply take a look at the SM7b and how integral that microphone has been to the home recording boom since the 2000s. It’s simply the perfect microphone for the time, a fact that countless metal vocalists and Soundcloud rappers will attest.

As the years have passed and the world has continued to change, the brand have grown and refined their scope, carrying on their trusted broadcast lineage and translating it into the world of digital media and content creation.

The SM7b, a giant killer from the days of commercial studios, has somehow managed to pull off the neat trick of gaining icon status across three separate eras in three completely different fields (most recently becoming the podcast mic to which all other podcast mics are judged).

USB mics like the MV5 and MV51 have not only successfully carried on the brands stellar reputation for bombproof ruggedness and impressive sound quality, but they have done so while employing the same stylish retro-futurist aesthetic that made the Model 55 and Green Bullet so instantly recognisable all those years ago. The result is some of the best looking and best performing mics of anything in the USB era.

Products like the MV88, SRH440 Headphones and free ShurePlus MOTIV apps also show a company very much committed to staying on the cutting edge of the content movement- all super-versatile Smartphone/Lightning/USB-C adjacent products that belie a thorough understanding of the technical demands of the burgeoning Podcast/Live Streaming/Vlogging crowd.

The latest generation of Shure products also share the brand’s uncanny knack for providing professional solutions that very quickly transcend the professional crowd, capturing the imagination of the first timer and opening the doorway for a whole new generation of audio enthusiasts, much in the same way that the SM58 and SM57 had done in the decades prior.

The brand have even moved into visuals with products like the Shure MV88+ Video Kit providing all-in-one audio/video recording solutions, capable of turning your smartphone into a professional quality video rig at a moments notice.

It’s this kind of forward thinking, coupled with Shure’s ongoing dedication to taking professional audio out of the studio/technical rider and placing it in the hands of the everyperson that has made the brand the world’s most successful microphone manufacturer and the perfect recipient of Mixdown’s Gear Icons.

Shure Microphones are distributed in Australia via Jands.