Shure has reworked its KSM27 and KSM109 condensers, reassigning them as additions to the company's famed SM line of mics: the large-diaphragm SM27 ($460 list) and small-diaphragm SM137 ($236 MSRP). I immediately appreciated the SM27's simple, sturdy mic clip, and both mics felt solid and trustworthy. Detented switches — for the 15 dB pad on each and the SM27's three-position, low-frequency filter — felt firm and performed silently in operation.
Shure's SM137 My favorite app for the SM27 was on bass guitar cabinet, where its lean bottom end and colorful low-mids provided fantastic note clarity, punch and string detail. Paired with a SM57, the SM27 sounded really good on electric guitar, too, offering better low-mids and a similar presence-rising top.
Male vocals with the SM27 via Earthworks preamp were too "colored" for me; some proximity effect revealed seemingly nice bottom (at first), but lowmids were "compressed" and the top end just wasn't realistic enough for my taste. It may be better for lowlevel applications, like male voiceovers, rather than loud singing.
Some further SM27 tests with a singer/songwriter and his acoustic guitar revealed excessive high-mid emphasis and overall stridency — not so much on quiet passages, but whenever he dug in. The SM27 did take ample low shelving EQ boost with grace and reasonable musicality. The SM27 showed very similar results on piano.
The SM137 does what you'd expect from a SDC, lending a common emphasis on transients and higher frequencies. I found the top end to be pretty darn aggressive, even a little grainy— qualities that are OK at low levels but get strident and/or piercing at crescendos and level peaks. The SM137 handled snare top SPL, yet not as nicely as a C 451 (granted, a SDC nearly twice the price of the SM137). However, I liked the SM137 a lot on snare bottom; together, the SM137 and C 451 did a good job as audience mics for location recording work.
Acoustic guitar, close-miked vocals, and piano revealed too much nonlinearity for the SM137 to be my first pick; with some EQ and smoothing compression, a SM137 pair could still be good choices for engineers on a budget with aims of expanding their mic palette.
All in all, I don't think Shure's SM27 or 137 sound as good as, for instance, its KSM 32 (not a terribly fair comparison since it's a far pricier condenser option at over $1k list). However, the imperfection of the SM27 on bass guitar is simply fantastic. While neither mic is a versatile studio standout, their low price points and expected durability allow me to recommend both, especially for live work.
Contact: Shure | 800-25-SHURE | www.shure.com
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Catalyst Recording in Charlotte, NC. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org