Unveiled with much buzz at the 2016 NAMM Show, Shure’s KSM8 Dualdyne Microphone is the company’s first new major dynamic handheld model introduction since the Shure SM58 a half-century ago. It is significant in a number of performance-enhancing ways. First, it is indeed “the world’s first dual-diaphragm dynamic handheld mic,” according to Shure promotional materials, ultimately providing greater output levels while lessening proximity effect. As such, this design promises higher gain before feedback with no need for a built-in “presence peak”—the common midrange frequency “bump” that better balances overall frequency response due to any single diaphragm dynamic’s inevitable low frequency proximity effect boost. In all, the KSM8 is likely a more accurate dynamic handheld than any other on the market; capable of handling higher SPLs than its single diaphragm competition; and is predictably built like a tank—road ready yet beautiful and striking. It is now available for $499 street.
In live sound reinforcement applications, the KSM8 performed largely as advertised and offered much more useful fidelity than I had expected. In one particular five-model lineup amongst traditional dynamics—alongside an Audio-Technica, Electro-Voice, Lewitt and even a ubiquitous Shure microphone—the KSM8 easily stood out, and for good reasons. The setting was a traditional Bluegrass performance in a loud, reverberant room that measured approximately 80 dB SPL (audience only) with a full audience present; with musicians needing open, wedge-type monitors to hear themselves, the room was literally a roar. The KSM8 easily bested the other dynamics in use, providing an accurate, open and clean-sounding vocal transduction of main vocalist/archtop mandolinist Lou Reid (The Seldom Scene, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill) while largely avoiding feedback. I did find some standard dynamic handhelds still resisted feedback better than the KSM8 in that setting, among others. Considering its unique design elements and other attributes, this is a relatively small quibble unless feedback resistance is of specific concern.
Compared to the sculpted frequency responses of traditional dynamic microphones, working with the “flatter” KSM8 took a bit of getting used to; often audio engineers EQ a dynamic microphone in certain ways to overcome or improve these aforementioned sonic characteristics. Working with the KSM8 just doesn’t require this. For example, lows aren’t rolled off and mids aren’t carved up, leaving the KSM8’s performance far more natural sounding—and along the lines of a great, non-hyped condenser. Plus, with no real proximity effect to speak of, performers don’t have to “work” any characteristics of the KSM8 and can pull multiple inches away from the mic with no LF loss, for example. Of course, this means just a slight adjustment in performance for the experienced/professional dynamic handheld user, but one that’s worth it for crystal clear (both figurative and literal) reasons.