SHURE SM86 PROFESSIONAL VOCAL MICROPHONE
Recommend this product?
Most of you who have ever spent time playing in a live band situation are probably familiar with the Shure SM Series of microphones, such as the Shure SM57 which is a great musical instrument microphone, or the Shure SM58 which is a great microphone for reproducing vocals. Both the SM57 and the SM58 are dynamic microphones made to take all the punishment of being on the road, but which are also capable of reliably delivering a great sound. The Shure SM86 is a condenser microphone which combines all of the rugged durability and reliability of the Shure SM series of dynamic microphones, but also is capable of delivering the superior sonic qualities of a studio quality condenser microphone. Amazingly, the Shure SM86 lists for $300.00, but it can be purchased for $179.97 from most national chain musical instrument department stores, or from a reliable Internet dealer. Read on and see why I feel that at this price, the Shure SM86 is a remarkable value for the money.
The Shure SM86 is a cardioid or unidirectional condenser microphone ideally suited for live professional performances. A cardioid or unidirectional microphone is designed to pick up sounds emanating from directly in front of the microphone, and it is made to be less sensitive to picking up sounds that originate from the sides or from the back of the microphone. Thus, it picks up sounds from what it is aimed at, and rejects or is less sensitive to sounds that it is not being pointed at. This makes the SM86 a great microphone for reproducing vocals in a live setting, as it picks up the voice of the singer, while simultaneously minimizing the sounds that might be coming from the sides of the singer, such as from other musical instruments, as well as rejecting sounds that are coming from the back of the microphone, such as from the audience. Being a condenser microphone, the SM86 requires a power source in order to function properly. This power can be supplied from an external power supply, such as from a professional microphone mixer, PA Console, or preamplifier that is designed to provide phantom power to the microphone such as the Shure PS1A. The Shure SM86 is capable of operating from a power source that provides anywhere between 11 to 52 Vdc of phantom voltage.
Like all microphones in the SM Series, the Shure SM86 is a very rugged microphone. It is a microphone that is tailored for live vocal performances, and yet is capable of withstanding the rigors of every day use on the road. The frequency response of the Shure SM86 is tailored to capture and reproduce the subtleties and intricate overtones of the human voice, and it has a frequency response that ranges from 50 to 18,000 Hz, with a presence peak between 2000 to 5000 Hz., which is ideal for vocal purposes. The dynamic range and sound pressure level is capable of up to 124dB. The SM86 is ideal for close up vocals and hand held use, both of which are usually relegated to dynamic microphones. This is accomplished via a built-in three-point shock mount, which minimizes handling noises when the SM86 is being hand held, and it also reduces the effects of vibrations and other noises from the stage when the SM86 is placed on a stand. The SM86 also has a built-in two-stage pop filter which reduces the sound of wind and pop noise that can be generated from close up vocal techniques. Because the SM86 can be used for hand held vocals, it is important to note that the SM86 weighs in at a mere 9.8 ounces, which means that it is light enough for just about any singer to easily handle.
Like most unidirectional microphones, the SM86 is a microphone that is subject to the proximity effect. Simply put, the proximity effect has to do with the fact that the closer one places the microphone to the sound source, the greater the bass response that will be registered. There are both pros and cons to a microphone that experiences the proximity effect, and bass frequencies can be boosted up to 15dB when the SM86 is placed very close to the sound source. The pros are that when the SM86 is help close to a singers lips, it is capable of producing a very warm, clear, and powerful sound. The cons of a microphone that is subject to the proximity effect are that lower frequencies can be pronounced, and thus popping or wind noises can be exaggerated. That is not the case with the SM86, because it comes equipped with a built-in two-stage pop filter which reduces the sound of wind and breath noise that can result from close up vocal techniques.
And now, a few words regarding microphone techniques with the SM86. When the SM86 is held close enough for a singers lips to be touching the front grill, and even as far away as about 3 to 6 inches, it captures a very intimate, powerful, and clear sound, which minimizes the pickup of other sound sources. From about 6 inches to two feet away from the singer, the proximity effect begins to be more noticeable, and there is a clear reduction in bass frequencies that are being picked up, with less bass frequencies being registered the further the SM86 is from the singer. Starting at about two feet from the singer, there is a very noticeable drop off of bass frequencies, and the sound that is picked up by the SM86 is thinner and more distant sounding. Another point to keep in mind is that the further the SM86 is from the singer, the more that the sound characteristics of the room or performance environment that the singer is vocalizing in begins to make itself increasingly apparent.
The bottom line for me is that I feel that the Shure SM86 is an excellent vocal microphone. Being a condenser microphone, it is able to deliver studio quality vocal sounds, with all the clarity, responsiveness, and presence that one would expect from a studio quality condenser microphone. And yet, it is sturdy and reliable enough for daily use on the road, as well as for hand held use. In short, this is a great vocal microphone at a very reasonable price.
Well I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to read my review of the Shure SM86. But now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.