Shure''s KSM44A uses Class-A discrete electronics to bring the mic''s self-noise to ultralow levels.
The words “new and improved” often make me suspicious, so I was a bit concerned when Shure announced that it was replacing one of my favorite of its mics, the multipattern KSM44 with the KSM44A ($999). Would I like the new model as much? The two look similar, and both offer cardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns, but there are some internal differences. The KSM44A capsule''s two 1-inch, low-mass, 2.5-micron, gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragms feed Shure''s new Prethos™ internal electronics. Prethos is an all-Class-A, discrete, transformerless design intended to provide transparency, low noise, high headroom, fast transient reproduction, and wide frequency response while minimizing distortion.
SPECS AND SOUND
Bandwidth is a real 20 to 20kHz and only -5dB down at the upper end in the cardioid pattern. Self-noise in the cardioid setting is a phenomenally low 4dBA. (Omni is 6dBA; figure-8 is just 7.5dBA.) With its 131dB SPL handling, this provides a huge 127dB dynamic range. Routing the KSM44A though an ultraclean Millennia HV-3 preamp yielded detailed results where noise was virtually imperceptible and transients had lifelike sparkle and snap.
A three-way bass filter provides musically useful shaping. The shockmount (included along with a standmount and an aluminum travel case) does a great job of isolating the mic from external vibrations, although the thumbscrews on the shockmount and standmount are close to the body, making them slightly hard to tighten. The KSM44A grille offers good protection against breath noise; on most vocalists, I didn''t need to use a pop filter. Both the cardioid and figure-8 patterns offer a nice proximity effect that added a warm fullness when singers worked the mic close, yet was never overbearing. Also, the response on both sides of the figure-8 pattern was nearly identical, making the KSM44A ideal for mid-side miking. The mic''s cardioid pattern is 6dB hotter than the others, which can be deceiving in simple A/B tests; however, at any setting, the KSM44A yielded consistent tonal results. The mic imparts little coloration to the source sound so don''t expect a huge presence boost or exaggerated top end.
The versatile KSM44A offers natural, accurate response on vocals, acoustic instruments, or percussion, and it can also stand up to close-miking a Marshall cabinet. The extended high-end response is appreciated—I never had to EQ to compensate treble losses stemming from the mic. On female vocals, the KSM44A was a great choice—airy and smooth. On male rock vocals, I usually needed to add some EQ around 5k to bring the voice out against guitars in a busy mix.
Having spent some time with the KSM44A, I''m a definite convert to this newcomer. Shure has clearly hit one out of the park. If you want similar, though not identical performance for less money, Shure also makes the cardioid-only KSM42 ($799).
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Shure KSM44A Product Page