You’d be hard pressed to find a band that hasn’t used the celebrated SM57 at least somewhere in their career. To this day, the SM57 remains the number one choice for guitar amps and snares, both live and in the studio. It has even been used for many vocal recordings – despite being intended for instruments.
With such an impressive history and track record on numerous albums and live performances, we’re often asked what applications would call for its newer counterpart – the Beta 57A. The simple answer is, it depends. However, there are some key differences which could aid your decision.
Just like the Beta 58A, the Beta 57A has a supercardioid polar pattern in-place of the SM57 cardioid design. As you can see from the diagram below, a cardioid microphone will reject best from the back, while a supercardioid microphone will reject better from the sides. The supercardioid polar pattern also has the added advantage of being more directional and therefore less susceptible to feedback when the monitors are positioned correctly.
Perhaps the most immediately obvious difference (at least from a visual perspective) is the grill design. The SM57 does not have a full protective grill. The reason for this design is to allow full use of the proximity effect, by allowing the microphone to be positioned closer to a sound source thanks to the absence of a ball grill. The Beta 57A offers the best of both worlds, featuring a uniquely shaped grill that offers the full protection of a ball grill, while still facilitating use of the proximity effect. Beta microphone grills are also much harder in comparison to their SM counterparts, which makes then more difficult to dent. Great for touring pros.
The Beta 57A, has an extended frequency response for brighter highs and more low frequencies, being described as having a tailored frequency response for drums, guitars, vocals, and horns. If you prefer more sparkle on your vocal or more low end chunk on your guitar cab – you’ll likely prefer the Beta 57A.
Thanks to the neodymium magnet, the Beta 57A has an increased output level. This is great for getting the best possible signal into the desk and improving signal–to–noise ratio.
Both microphones feature Shure’s unique pneumatic shock mount system. The Beta 57A has an advanced version that further reduces transmission of mechanical noise and vibration.
The Bottom Line
In summary, the Beta 57A is no doubt an upgrade for many applications, but this does not necessarily make it better at everything. For example, if your guitar amp has a particularly glassy tone, you might not necessarily want to emphasise this with an extended frequency response. Additionally, if you capture more bottom-end on a vocal or instrument, this might not necessarily work within the context of a full mix. It’s important to consider what you want the final result to be and referring to the key differences to help you make an informed choice.
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