Someone once advised me that no cheap microphone is a bad microphone. With the same principle in mind, I bought this device (which, despite its name, serves mostly as a preamp and something of a mixer) for roughly $30. I learned from a technician at Shure Brothers that the SE-30 was originally intended for broadcast; past that he just advised me to have fun with it. The unit has 3 XLR inputs, each with a separate input level, and only one output level and XLR connector. The limiter has an on/off switch and a setting for release rate, but none for amount of compression. It's a fully functional limiter, but can only fill specific applications. The preamps introduce a tiny bit of noise, which can be especially noticeable with a quiet signal or a heavily compressed one. The internal limiter boosts the noise floor less than outboard compressors that I've used this preamp with, maybe just because it introduces less dramatic compression. The preamp does introduce some interesting coloration, providing an early solid- state type sound. It's definitely not perfect for all purposes, but it can be really interesting when placed alongside more conventional sounds in a mix. Even with its limitations, the Shure SE-30's ability to provide distinctive and interesting sounds supports the claim that much like microphones, no cheap piece of outboard gear is a bad one.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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