This year Shure is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the SM58 vocal microphone. Considered to be the world’s most popular microphone, the reliable and legendary SM58 has been available since the 1966 so Gearooz has put together some facts you may not know about the SM58.
The SM in SM58 stands for “Studio Microphone.” When Shure executives saw potential in the radio and television broadcast markets they decided to develop the SM microphone series. The SM57 (1965) and SM58 (1966) were based on the popular Unidyne III 545 (1959) used for public address systems. These new models were originally intended for broadcast studio use, eliminating the on-off switch and featuring a non reflective finish.
Many radio and television stations weren’t excited about the new Shure SM microphones and with another competitor on the market sales at Shure started to decrease. The company decided to discontinue the SM58 and SM57 and plans were underway until a national sales manager introduced the microphones to live sound engineers in Las Vegas. The microphones were a huge hit and entertainers began to use these models for live performance.
Both the SM57 and SM58 are based on the Unidyne III cartridge design developed by the Shure engineer Ernie Seeler in the late 1950’s. The main difference between the SM57 and the SM58 is the grille design; the SM58 was designed for vocal applications using a ball grille that acts as an effective P-pop filter. The SM57 was primarily designed as an instrument microphone as it had a smaller grille size.
The SM58 can reach extremely high levels, anywhere between 150 to 180 dB SPL levels which is close to the noise level of a space shuttle launch! As the device is so well designed it is highly unlikely to distort under normal circumstances.
Ernie Seeler is the engineer behind the design and development of the SM58, didn’t like rock and roll and actually preferred classical music. Ironically the microphone is now associated with rock and roll and has captured the attention of many successful rock bands including The Who and The Rolling Stones.
There are fourteen microphone capsules currently available in the Shure wireless range. However the SM58 is still available for every one of the eleven Shure wireless lines due to its popular demand.
All Shure unidirectional cardioid microphones include the Uniphase acoustical network that Shure engineer Ben Bauer began developing in 1937 and used in the Unidyne Model 55 microphone back in 1939. Ernie Seeler advanced this technology in the 1950s by designing a microphone with an internal pneumatic shock mount, the Unidyne III. The SM58 uses a Unidyune III cartridge.
The SM58 is known to be extremely durable if not indestructible. It has subjected to many challenges in online videos including one video where it was dropped from a helicopter! Other videos include it being shot with a 12-gauge shotgun, run over by a tour bus, thrown in the Pacific Ocean and cooked alongside some hot dogs.
A SM58 has been the microphone of choice for many artists including but not limited to Paul McCartney, Patti Smith, Henry Rollins, Alice Cooper, Megadeath and Cheap Trick. Most major artists have used the SM58 during their career and that why it is as iconic as it is today.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary Shure has announced the introduction of an anniversary model the SM58-50A. Featuring all the characteristics and technical specifications of the original SM58, the limited edition SM58-50A will have a silver finish and printed decal of the 50th anniversary on the handle. The model comes with a commemorative certificate, historical user guide, photo print and a celebratory sticker.
Alongside this anniversary model, Shure will auction a specially designed SM58 artist microphone edition online with all the proceeds going a charity of the artist’s choice.