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Review: Shure 55SH Series II – great looks, but is it any good?

I needed a new mic. I was committed to spending a few bucks on it, and wanted to get something relatively decent.

I know random bits and pieces about microphones, but I’m by no means an expert. This means that I’ll be incredibly attracted to things that look cool. The Shure 55SH Series II absolutely nails “looking cool.”

I’d had somewhat of a fixation with this vintage style of microphone since Dave Grohl’s use of one in the video for the Foo Fighters track, Best of You. So with money burning a hole in my pocket, I was ready to get it.

But I’ve also seen enough gear to know that it’s worth trying to find out as much as possible about a piece of musical equipment beyond its good looks.

What kind of capsule is it?Dynamic
Directional pattern?Cardioid
Frequency range?50 to 15,000 Hz

Granted, that is a table of numbers, and doesn’t actually tell you an awful lot.

But you know, I was still committed. I don’t have a massive amount of microphones, and never really will – I’ll always be more of a guitarist than a singer or sound engineer. It’s like this: Shure are one of the top microphone brands around – they just don’t put out bad products. It also came really well-reviewed from literally everywhere.

I took the plunge.

First impressions

Shure 55 series
Image Credit: Shure

Perhaps the most surprising thing that occurred to me when I took the 55SH out of its box was the weight of it. I should have been that surprised really. I mean, look at it. It’s a lump of cast metal with electronic bits inside! I guess knowing how light the electronics are, and how light microphones usually are, I couldn’t help but be surprised.

Anyway, it was a bit more of a fiddle getting it set up than I’m used to. Obviously, you don’t need any kind of a clip or mount to hold it, and you literally just screw it directly onto the microphone stand. I guess it’s not that big a deal really, just unusual for me.

The on/off switch is also not a standard feature on microphones.

Shure 55 series

Use

The first thing I did with it was record some vocals. It was a very different sound. Quite crisp and bright, bordering on brash. I honestly wasn’t 100% sure if I liked it. The more I used it though, I worked out some settings on my audio interface and digital audio workstation to refine it to something I liked a bit more.

I think my favorite thing to do with it extend beyond its standard use as a vocal mic though.

In the time I’ve had this mic, I’ve used it for all kinds of things: drums, cajon, acoustic guitar, even ukulele. Of those, I think my personal favorites have actually been the use with percussion instruments. I love the sound it’s made for use on the kick drum on recordings. I’ve used it for overheads too, but quite frankly, it’s just a bit heavy to be practically used for that.

Shure 55 and guitar

The cajon was fun to record with it. Sticking it at the box’s sound hole – not inside it, but a few inches away from it, while also recording the front of the box gave a wonderfully fat sounding cajon. I loved it!

In its use with acoustic stringed instruments, I found it could be hit or miss. I recorded one piece of ukulele on it that sounded wonderful, but when I tried to do it again, it just wasn’t there.

Conclusion

Although I got the 55SS for the purpose of being a cool-looking vocal mic, it’s turned out to be much, much more.

I have used it for vocals, both recording at home, and at shows – it’s incredibly sturdy, and well able for being taken out and about.

But I also found it to be an incredibly versatile microphone, with a special place in particular for any percussion recording I’m undertaking. If you’re looking for a versatile mic, I would recommend this.

Shure 55SS Series II

Quality
Durability
Reliability
Value for money

A surprisingly versatile mic

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