Proper recordings with a cardioid microphone: The Shure SM57 LC

We all started out as little kids with cheap toy-like cassette players with a plastic-mic attached to the toy

that had a recording function for the cassette. Later on, we progressed to mobile phones, which in some cases could even record!

The quality was quite bad though and you couldn’t just plug your mobile phone to your PC.

Even then you might have had only a mono file in bad quality with a low bitrate and a very low Hertz rate.

All in all a cheap recording, therefore.

Let’s say you buy a mic. You have no idea what is what and you just buy a mic. You record with it and

find out that it’s recording a little bit of your instrument and ALL of the surroundings as well.

You wonder what has gone wrong with your decision, and here’s the answer to that:

A cardioid microphone!

Shure SM57 Cardioid Microphone
Shure SM57 Cardioid Microphone in usage

First of all: There are 4 types of microphones out there. Figure 8, Omni, Super Cardioid and Cardioid.

Today we will focus on the cardioid side of microphones.

It should be mentioned that these types of microphones are a standard as a studio recording mic and they’re accounted

as professional gear. It works in a close range and a tight angle. You might wonder: “How can I filter out background noise?”

Well, the answer is you start with the right recording hardware and finish with slight software approvements.

Cardioid mics were build to pick up sounds in front of them and not behind

Not an all-around tool:

It is specifically used for vocals or when you record your guitar amp. It is not a must. You can “misuse” it of course for other

sounds, like recording animals at a close range or weird feedback noise live improvisations, but who would do something like that. Am I right? 😉

If you consider doing a lot of vocals, this is the tool for you.

Excerpt from Wikipedia and fun trivia to know:” It is used extensively in amplified music and has been used for speeches by every U.S. president since its introduction in 1965.”

You won’t record feedback in your room if you’re in a room with bad acoustics and it is also known as a solid and steady companion in regards to recording drums.

I wish somebody would’ve told me that these kinds of mics have existed for over 60 years now.

I love my mobile mic, but a lot of recordings are puzzled down to this factor that you don’t have any background noise that modulates your recording session in a negative way.

Not just limited for music or politics…

The more you work with audio, the more you realize that audio surrounds you every time.

If you’re on a tight budget, these kinds of mics are definitely for you.

Instead of fixing your walls and ceiling and ground with expensive styrofoam with or without

measuring, you need a quick, cheap, effective and immediate workaround.

If you’re a streamer you can use it for your voice-overs or if you’re into editing videos you

can overdub ’em quite well. Don’t forget that you need a pop filter when speaking into a mic.

That is a general rule of thumb for every kind of mic.

Noise reduction, one of the most important aspects…

… when it comes to music or film production. Unless you want to use background noise for aesthetical

reasons on a VHS-like movie or song for a vaporwave-like vibe you prefer lo-fi sound and quality

to give everything an authentic feel. But consider that you always can take a high-quality recording

of everything, put it through a lot of effects and you get a retro vibe while you’re limited in your style

if all your equipment is lo-fi.

I’m not a rapper or singer, but…

once you got the same tools as these guys, you want to try out their style, act out in their territory.

If you would’ve asked me in the past if I would ever consider focussing more on my vocal side, I would

have laughed at you. Now, look where we are today. A lot has changed.

You get a certain urge to use some gear more than others.

I am constantly busy thinking about new lyrics for my new rap track, even though I’m not that much into

rap, nor did I calculate the capacities that it takes to make a proper track in that kind of genre.

Still possible to record with lo-fi mics:

In today’s age of time, it is easier than ever to get huge success with very cheap hardware.

As years-long music hardware and software (ab)user though I think it is nice to have such

a back-up plan.

Imagine you recorded all your songs with your iPhone headphone mic and now you got your first

gig. They want you to perform live. You need a mic like the Shure SM57 LC so the mixer knows

how he has to worsen your voice to sound like an iPhone headphone mic while still seeing and

knowing the frequencies the mic is capable of in real-time.

If you’d do it with your cheap mic some frequencies might be hidden and it not visible

comprehensible how and why the cheap mic is acting the way it is acting.

Somebody goes deaf or experiences hearing loss and somebody might even sue you then.

To keep a full look over the situation you need something that professionals have worked with.

I wish I wouldn’t have to pay for any music gear, but you know that somebody else has to make

a living producing those products and they also won’t do it for free.

So we come to a final conclusion like most of the times:

Do you need it? Yes? Then buy it. If you find no real use to it, you might want to wait

or save up for some other great gear that it out there.

Remember Black metal artist Burzum record one of his first albums completely by

his own using a cheap children’s toy headset. So that is the other side of the grass.

As always. Thanks for reading and I hope I could teach you something about proper mics and when to use ’em.

MY kind of sound! The Yamaha HS 8 Active 2-Way Nearfield Monitor experience.

As you progress with music scores, notation, software, hardware and the general learning and all the aspects that you want to cover for a future in which you’re prepared for any case, you will stumble over problems that you would’ve never thought of.

One part of that is choosing proper speakers, or as professionals in the music industry call it:

Studio Monitors

“Why not just buy expensive Hi-Fi speakers for gamers?”

A studio monitor tries to lie to you as seldom as possible, while Hi-Fi speakers try to emphasize on certain audio aspects when you listen to a song or play a game. The goal is to get as neutral as possible. It is physically not possible at this time to reach pure neutrality, but with studio monitors you get pretty close to that, while “Hi-Fi” speakers don’t even try.

They rather manipulate psychoacoustic and convey the feeling that your song sounds good, just because it does.

So your  goal is to get a neutral view on your sound. You might thing you will hear the best music you never heard before, but in some cases it is quite the opposite! 

This is “raw” and “unprocessed” sound that isn’t counterfeit-like delivered to your ear drums.

Modes

Another aspect to look at are (vibrational) modes. Sound waves reflect on most material. Some materials

reflect higher frequencies better, some material reflect lower frequencies better.

You as a human being reflect frequiences yourself.

Either you hire a professional that calculates your weak and strong spots and the professional builds from there,

or you go to a forum and ask around.

That is actually the process I’m in right now.

I got my studio monitors but I lack a Measurement Calibrated Microphone.

In combination with a Room Acoustics Software you get crucial data.

The software will output sounds on your studio monitors and the microphone will detect any delay and reverb

and frequencies that are to strong or to weak.

Progress then to the next step.

Examples of deceptive advertising:

Some sites advertise that they sell little walls for your mic so you don’t have to fix your whole room when you record something. These microphon filters are called “reflexion filters”. Some advertizers managed to lie to a big mass of uninformed and untrained people. They managed to sell you a big fat lie. 

They tell you that they made a special material with 4 or even more layers that filter out the frequencies that your mic is getting and that you won’t have to spend big money on expensive foam and other utilities to fill out your room.

There is still a lot of reflextion of frequencies going on underneath, above and even from both sideways.

This example is perfectly applicable on buying the proper foam for your room in order to make it perfect for recording.

Also: Don’t buy a lot of eggs in order to get egg cartons. They won’t help you either and are even a hazard in regards

to starting a fire because you or one of your friends forgot to turn out your cigarettes. 

Rather ask around in some forums which solution works best.

Try out stuff for yourself and read some books if possible.

This sounds horrid and complex and overwhelming at first, but think about it like this:

You think I wrote this whole piece in 3 hours straight without blinking, breathing, eating, drinking something?

Just do small steps and everything adds up in the end.

You will be glad that you made that decision.

Who knows? Maybe you consider the thought of renting out your studio to make some extra bucks?

That’s quite improbable though, considering the fact that home studios GET LITERALLY CHEAPER by the minute!

An investment over long time:

It’s not just mixing songs in your DAW. It’s also a nice addition when you watch a movie with your friends, if the set allows it or when you come home from a hard days work and want to relax by listening to music. I think I don’t need to mention that this can improve your gaming experience as well, right? Either that or you switch to headphones. The problem with head phones though is, that there is no “physical room” calculated when you produce a track with ’em. So you mix with headphones and show it a friend of yours in his car and suddenly it sounds like total garbage because of the physical properties that got added to your track. 

Final anecdote:

I used to have cheap-ish Creative speakers for around 4 years or so.

When I drove around with my in-ear headphones on my bike, I experienced clearer and better sound and I was always hyped to drive around with my bike, listening to new albums on my smartphone.

When I switched some weeks ago to the Yamaha HS 8 and I started to listen to new albums on my smartphone I thought in the back of my head:’Something isn’t right here. Something sounds off. Did I activate a setting on my smartphone app that lets me perceive sound different, or in that case, worse?

The answer was:

NO. Nothing changed in regards to my mobile “setup” for listening to music.

I know that I look like a phony. Preaching about clear song with studio monitors at home but listening to music

with in-ear headphones when I’m in my car or on my bike.

But at the time it is not possible to make a full room follow you when you drive around.

That might be a cool idea for a video game though ahahahaha.

Nah, I need this cheap fix / subsitute or otherwise I would die of a cold turkey for lacking new music input, which I need daily in high doses in form of listening many hours quietly to new genres.

The problem is that your regular smartphone can’t provide enough current for high end over-ear headphones.

Cheap over-ear or expensive in-ear headphones do the trick for smartphones though.

Either that or you start welding and experimenting on your smartphone.

Long story short:

The sound of my smartphone didn’t get any worse, the sound at home improved so radically that projected it all on my smartphone for being trashy, even though nothing changed in that time, except for my speakers.

Everything sounds crystal clear to me now and hopefully to you soon aswell.

I will always remember that moment when I plugged ’em both in and started to listen to my favourite tunes like this one for instance:

Simian Mobile Disco – Sleep Deprivation

and my eyes filled with tears. I started to cry man. The sound tickled my ears like no tune ever did to me.

I always fell for music, but this time it really hit the spot deep in me. I want everyone to experience something like this.

Share the love.

P.L.U.R.