Replacing the well-regarded KSM27, Shure's new SM27 is a versatile cardioid condenser microphone that won't break the bank.
Shure's SM Series of dynamic microphones have been the reigning industry standards since the 1960s. The SM58 is the most widely used vocal mic in the world, and the SM57 has long been the Number One choice for guitar amps and snare drums, both onstage and in the studio. In later years, Shure introduced its KSM Series, an elite line primarily aimed at studio applications, which included a range of large-diaphragm condenser mics such as the KSM44, KSM32 and the entry-level KSM27 (reviewed in the July 2002 EM). The KSMs have proved to be popular in the ever-competitive field of affordable, high-quality studio microphones.
The KSM27 has been discontinued, reinvented and ported over to the SM line as the SM27 ($299). It has been made more affordable, yet boasts improved audio specs and comes with a different set of bundled accessories.
FROM K TO S
In many ways, the SM27 remains the same side-address cardioid condenser mic as the KSM27, rebranded and repositioned in the Shure line to give it more appeal for live use and recording applications. Its K-style champagne finish has been replaced with a low-profile, charcoal-gray look, making it more discrete onstage. The KSM27 came with an A27SM shock-mount, but only in a velvety bag in a foam-nested cardboard box. The SM27 comes with a right-angled hard mount and a nicely padded, soft gig case.
The SM27 retains the KSM27's size and shape, a slightly squat body with the Shure logo on the front and the same pad and filter switches on the back. You get a -15dB pad that helps prevent extremely loud sources from overloading the capsule, and a 3-position low-frequency roll-off switch provides a hard-knee 18dB-per-octave cut-off at 80 Hz and a soft-knee 6dB roll-off at 115 Hz.
Internally, the SM27 includes much of the same components as the KSM27: a 1-inch, ultrathin 24k-gold-layered Mylar diaphragm that is externally biased (making it a true condenser rather than an electret) and a discrete, transformerless, Class-A preamp. Shure has managed to improve the self-noise specs (which were already better than average) from 14 dB down to 9.5 dB, which, in turn, makes for better signal-to-noise and dynamic range numbers. Like its predecessor, the SM27 has a 3-stage wire-mesh windscreen and an internal shock-mount system to help reduce handling and stand noise.
SURELY, YOU TEST
I plugged the SM27 into the same channel strip into which I typically swap out a number of different condenser mics and found I needed to dial up a bit more gain than usual from my preamp. This, however, did not translate into increased noise. If anything, it was quieter than average. Also, the internal shock-mount system was effective, and I didn't miss the KSM27's external elastic-suspension mount.
The SM27's frequency response curve is mostly flat, with a presence boost of about 5 dB in the 6 to 7kHz range, a second bump around 10 to 15 kHz and a gentle low-end hump peaking around 50 Hz. This made for an exceptionally transparent sound, but with just the right amount of color on some sound sources, which I achieved by experimenting to find the mic's optimal placement.
I tested the SM27 with a range of acoustic guitars (small-bodied, dreadnought and nylon-stringed) and a mandolin. I also used it with two vocalists, both somewhat atypical: a falsetto male soul singer and a deep-voiced female folksinger. The flat response made it easier to get a sound I liked on instruments than on vocals, but the SM27 proved to be an excellent choice for the falsetto singer's relatively close-mic technique. I even found a placement that caught a good balance between the folksinger's voice and guitar. I normally wouldn't consider simultaneously recording voice and guitar with a single mic, but the SM27's response made it easier than with other mics.
The SM27 offers an exceptionally quiet and transparent solution at a price that should make it more appealing in today's tighter economy. Its generally flat response and low self-noise make it a great choice for a true sound on acoustic instruments or vocals. Through placement and proximity, though, it also lets you add some flattering color in whatever amount you desire. Though large-diaphragm condensers are used less often in live performance than in the studio, the KSM Series has proven popular onstage for acoustic instruments, such as those in bluegrass or classical ensembles. The SM27 should offer a similar performance in a more roadworthy package.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 4