Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shure Beta 58A Microphone Review and Comparison to the Shure SM 58


If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you may know of my respect for the Shure SM58 microphone, and I am not the only one that feels this way. Everywhere you go you see the SM58, and it has to be one of the popular microphones on the planet, particularly for live performance. But Shure also makes a premium version, the Beta 58A. This microphone is also quite popular, and many people say it is better, but many times they cannot give good reasons why, so I thought I would put some time into comparing them.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the Beta 58A and SM58 were designed as (and are marketed as) vocal microphones for live performance. If you are using these to mic bass drums, or if you are expecting these microphones to do something different you should be shopping for something else.

The appearance of the Beta is not terribly different from the SM58, and the quickest way to tell the difference is to look for the blue band around the grille. The body is also a little different color (more blue than gray), and there is a little square badge on the Beta. The weights of the two are within an ounce of each other, so that is a wash.

The performance numbers between the microphones are similar, and the impedance is 150ohms for both of them. The frequency response is 40 to 15,000Hz for the SM58 and 50 to 16,000Hz for the Beta 58A. The frequency curve drops off less on the high end for the Beta, meaning it should sound a bit brighter (and it does).

The construction is also a little different. The grill is stronger (made of hardened steel), so it is more resistant to damage. The innards are still shock-mounted, which is a good thing and Betas seem to be just as reliable as the SM58. The Beta 58A goes to a neodymium magnet for higher output than the SM58, which is one of the major physical differences between he two. This higher output means that less gain is needed on the pre-amplifier, which helps reduce feedback, particularly if the singer is close to the monitors.

The Beta 58A has a different polar pattern to make it better for live sound situations. The super-cardioid pattern (see the pattern images below) helps separate the vocals better from the panoply of other sounds that occur on stage. The SM58 has a cardioids pattern, which is also good on stage, but because it does not have as tight of a pattern it is more prone to feedback. The higher output and brightness are the biggest selling points for the Beta 58A over the SM58 and if you are going to be using your microphones mostly on noisy stages, the Beta will edge out the SM58 as its cuts much better through a dense mix.

But, the higher output and brightness of the Beta 58A come at a price, and that price is that this is a harsh sounding microphone. When a singer brings their own Beta 58A microphone I have to do a lot more fiddling with the EQ and level to get them to sound good. I prefer the SM58 for public address or smaller gig settings, and would always pick an SM58 over the Beta for studio vocals. I have tried both in the real world and as a result I have no Beta 58As in my microphone case, only SM57s and SM58s. I can buy three of those for the price of two Betas, and the extra cost is just too much after considering the advantages and disadvantages of the Beta 58A.

As I said earlier, the Shure Beta 58A is about 50% more expensive than an SM58. These microphones have a list price of $199, and a street price of $159. If you are going to purchase one of these I would stick with a major retailer, and be wary of online or craigslist deals that are too good to be true. Due to the popularity of Shure products, they are being counterfeited, and you don’t want to get burned.


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