While Electro-Voice has established a reputation for building reduced proximity-effect dynamic microphones, Shure's sole entry in the field has disappeared from production and also from public awareness. I first learned of the Shure SM53, and its companion SM54 with its larger pop filter, from fabled post- punk engineer Spot. He "liked 'em for vocals-they were real smooth." While Electro-Voice relied on a series of rear entry points to the capsule to reduce proximity effect in its Variable- D microphones, Tim Vear at Shure termed the SM53 a double D design. The second set of rear entry points to the capsule falls in the middle of the microphone's body, in a series of very small holes. Since the SM53 was meant partly for hand-held applications, only one of the holes needs to remain exposed for sound entry. The SM53 also includes a bass roll-off switch, which starts about 300 Hz.

The SM53 lacks the hyped high-mid frequencies associated with Shure's well-known SM58. Its softer high-frequency response can fit some applications perfectly or seem inadequate in others. Its slow transient response also steers it away from an all-purpose role. Its ability to capture sounds close to a source without proximity effect can prove helpful in some situations.

While the SM53 may not be the most versatile microphone in a studio's arsenal, it can sound great with harsh sources that need a bit of softening. Shure's Tim Vear mentioned using it to record brass, and it can work great for some electric guitar sounds. At its typical $100 used price, it makes a handy and affordable addition to many mic collections. Vear assured me that the paper filter inside of the windscreen that has worn badly in many of these old mics will still function effectively even if it appears slightly tattered. His sole caution was the difficulty in replacing the capsule in an SM53 if it breaks, as no replacement capsules are currently in production.

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

Or Learn More