A recent addition to the popular KSM line from Shure, the KSM137 pencil condenser is now available as both a single unit and a stereo pair. With bountiful professional features, the KSM137 promises to be as productive as its KSM stablemates, the KSM32 and KSM44.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, live sound
Key Features: Cardioid pattern; condenser element; Class A preamp; gold-coated Mylar diaphragm; pad; high-pass filter
Price: $1,150 (Pair)
Contact: Shure at 800-257-4873, Web Site
The KSM137 pair comes in a compact plastic briefcase (about 9 inches x 7 inches x 2 inches) with plastic latches. Inside, the mics ship with two foam windscreens and two stand clips. Like the other KSM mics, the shell has a satin champagne finish. The mic’s fuselage measures 4.8 inches long and 0.8 inches in diameter and weighs 3.5 ounces.
The 137 is an end-address cardioid condenser designed primarily for studio use, but it is claimed to be rugged enough for live sound work. The mic has a 2.5-micron, 24-karat gold-layered Mylar diaphragm. It employs a Class A transformerless preamplifier and has gold connectors throughout. The 137 has a subsonic filter to eliminate rumble below 17 Hz. The 137 also has a three-position pad (0, 15 and 25 dB) and a high-pass filter that can be configured flat, -6 dB/octave at 115 Hz, or -18 dB/octave at 80 Hz.
The first place I used the KSM137 pair was in my studio, where I have been working on a recording project with a local band. We needed to add some acoustic guitar tracks and after auditioning several instruments, we settled on my 1968 Gibson J45 dreadnought. The J45 has a big, boomy sound that is warm and powerful. I often get good results using my small-diaphragm condenser mics on acoustic guitars like the J45 and the KSM137 pair proved to be no exception. The mic was undaunted by the Gibson’s powerful sound and, with the close mic’s low rolloff engaged, proximity effect was mitigated enough to get a highly detailed image complete with string rattle and pick attack. I positioned the second 137 back a few feet to capture a little room ambience. During this session, I observed that the 137 has very little self-noise too – a real plus when recording acoustic music. Overall, I was very pleased with the recorded sound that this pair facilitated.
Next I took the KSMs out on the road. I used them as a spaced pair to capture the voices of a small gospel choir. Since there was a lot of foot stomping going on, I opted to engage the mic’s more aggressive LF cutoff at -18 dB/octave. I also used a pair of my suspension mounts to minimize additional rumble. For situations like this, I would highly recommend purchasing suspension mounts for the KSMs. As this was strictly a reinforcement scenario, I did not have the chance to review the results in a controlled studio environment. However, I feel that the results obtained were excellent with clear, detailed reproduction of the voices.
Next, I used the KSM137s at a day-long outdoor folk festival. The first assignment for the KSM pair was a solo mission on an accordion. I was mixing a group called the Jennifer Cutting Ocean Orchestra – an eclectic group led by Cutting, a former member of Washington, DC’s popular Brit/Folk group, New St. George. Since it was an outdoor gig with a slight breeze, I put on the foam windscreen and placed the mic about 8 to 10 inches from the bellows.
Admittedly, I do not work with accordion players often but I must say I have never heard a squeezebox sound so good. The KSM captured the essence of the instrument and it sat majestically in the mix with nominal EQ. Later in the day, I mixed a group called Lulu’s Fate. Lulu, featuring singer/guitarist Tom Espinola, is a traditional American string band (think Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack). Tom plays an old, small-body Martin single 0 model that has lots of mid-range punch and a surprising amount of bottom for such a small guitar. The KSM137, pointed at the end of the guitar’s fingerboard, produced a spectacular sound even with a heavy dose of guitar and vocals in the monitor a couple feet below it. Listening back to the board mix revealed a gorgeous, rich sound with just enough high-end detail that it did not sizzle, even during aggressive flat-picking.
I cannot recall when I enjoyed using a pencil condenser review unit this much. The KSM137 is another great product from Shure. It yields excellent reproduction with a minimum of noise and, at $1,150 for a stereo pair, it is a super deal. I may have to make this a new “go to” in my mic box.