SHURE KSM 44/32/27/137 + AUDIO-TECHNICA 4033CL/4040

I took the opportunity to try these mics in a variety of recording situations. As far as the preamps I used, unless otherwise stated, I tracked through a Soundcraft Spirit board and then out to a tape machine (a 1" 16-track TASCAM MS-16). Here’s the breakdown:
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ACOUSTIC GITS: Both the KSM 32 and 44 (set to cardioid) worked great. I placed them 6" from the point where the fingerboard and body meet; they were full, warm, and very big. For the acoustic solo overdub I used the smaller diameter KSM 137, placed in about the same location for a crisp, tight sound. So far, so good.

DRUMS (5-PIECE KIT): We started with the KSM 44 on the mid-sized rack tom, 5" above and angled slightly in, pattern set to cardioid. This gave me a good, rich tone that emphasized the lower midrange without being boomy. It really cut through the mix, and the bleed from the other drums was minimal (and this was a very thrashing drummer). I placed the KSM32 on the floor tom with the same set-up, again getting a full, rich tom sound, with good rejection. Tried the KSM 137 on the hi-hat and was disappointed — too midrangy in the 500Hz range, and too much bleed from the surrounding drums. I also tried the KSM 27 on the same rack tom; although the sound was fairly balanced it would’ve worked better on a smaller sized tom in this case. For a room mic I put up the KSM 44 in omni and ran it through a Focusrite preamp, but I didn’t like the sound: too bright and brash.

ELECTRIC BASS: Surprisingly, the KSM 27 (through a Drawmer 1960 pre) worked really well as a bass amp mic for the bassist’s rig, a GK 4x10. Four inches away and slightly off center, the sound was reasonably deep, not boomy, and had good midrange. It also handled the loud amp-volume well.

VOCALS: The AT 4033CL really stood out in this test using a male vocalist. This mic has a very modern vocal sound. It’s crisp, with a slight mid-range dip around 1k and has a nice, tight low end. It mixes well in the track and gives good presence to the vocal. The AT 4040 was also well suited in the same regard, giving good body and character. For recording two male lead vocalists at once, I tried using the Shure KSM 44 set to a figure-8 pattern with the two singers facing each other, about 4" from their pop filters. A slight bit of compression evened things out, and the sound was tight and even, without too much of the room being picked up. We also tried the Shure KSM 27 for backing vocals but the mic didn’t really shine in this application; it was a little dull and lifeless.

ELECTRIC GUITAR: I only tried the AT 4040 on this instrument as I usually use a ribbon and dynamic mic combo. With the 4040 I placed it about 4" back and off center from the best sounding speaker (a very loud 4x12 cabinet and 5150 head) and got a really good dark, thick sound. Combined with a Shure 57 it gave the guitar a unique blend that mixed well.

TRUMPET: For this hard-to-capture instrument we ended up running the mics through a Focusrite preamp and moving the player back about three feet to get more of the room and to even out the sound. Both the AT 4040 and 4033CL worked well for this, with just a bit of room ambience coming through. The Shure mics were a little drier sounding, with the KSM 27 being a little too thin to use.

KSM 44 Multi-Pattern Large-Diaphragm Condenser $1,393, KSM 32 Fixed Pattern Large-Diaphragm Condenser $1,070, KSM 27 Fixed-Pattern Large-Diaphragm Condenser $575, KSM 137 Fixed-Pattern Small-Diaphragm Condenser $575, Audio-Technica 4040 Fixed-Pattern Large-Diaphragm Condenser $495, 4033CL Fixed-Pattern Large-Diaphragm Condenser $595