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A love-hate relationship with the SM57 mic: doing it wrong?

 
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Concretebadger
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:04 pm    Post subject: A love-hate relationship with the SM57 mic: doing it wrong? Reply with quote

Conventional wisdom states that an SM57 is an 'essential' bit of recording gear.

I've found that for clean guitar amps it does a great job, albeit requiring quite a lot of preamp gain at 'bedroom' volumes because they're not very sensitive. For distortion - running a Muff or a Rat through an amp's clean channel for example - it more often than not sounds, well, shit. Nothing like what I hear when standing in front of my amp, or bending down to put my ear to the speaker.

I'm not sure why it's so hard to get a decent sound out of this thing. So far my theories are:
1. it's not a genuine Shure
Possible. There're a lot of fakes about, but I did some googling and mine seems to be genuine.

2. it's not sensitive enough for 'bedroom' volumes
For the sake of the neighbours, I don't crank my amps much more than the volume level of an acoustic guitar or upright piano.

3. Placement
I know dynamic mics are fussy with this, so I've tried different distances, angles and different speakers. So far most non-shitty sound comes a couple of inches from the grille cloth, right on the edge of the cone and angled slightly so it's facing the *surface of the cone*, not the *grille cloth*, dead-on.

Am I missing something? Are '57's better for LOUD guitars, not quiet ones? Is its frequency response a limitation? Should I be going down the condenser route, to get a more 'ambient' distance-mic'd sound that better approximates what you get from standing a few feet away from the amp in a room?
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Freddy V-C
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 5:16 pm    Post subject: Re: A love-hate relationship with the SM57 mic: doing it wro Reply with quote

Concretebadger wrote:
2. it's not sensitive enough for 'bedroom' volumes
For the sake of the neighbours, I don't crank my amps much more than the volume level of an acoustic guitar or upright piano.


This, pretty much. Although to be honest I don't think there's any microphone which can record electric guitars well at bedroom volume.

It sounds like you've got your head around placement pretty well. A couple of inches from the amp, near the edge of the cone at an angle is my go-to position for most dynamic mics if I don't have much time to experiment.

You could try experimenting with a few different microphones, but I suspect that you won't hear much of an improvement. For good sounds with distorted guitars, you basically either need to be PLAYING LOUD, or you need to just use a DI and spend a long time experimenting with different amp sims until you get a sound you like.
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singlepup
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed. Guitar amps do tend to record best when cranked. I once recorded in a studio apartment with paper thin walls. Luckily, I only shared a wall with one person. I recorded on a Saturday at 1 pm through a half stack. Went on for about an hour before my neighbor began mercilessly banging on the wall. I did get the takes I needed, though.

If you must go the amp sim route, try the Bias/Jam Up combo if you can. I have been using Bias recently with some decent results.
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Concretebadger
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm quite lucky at the moment in that the flat above me is unoccupied...cue my DRRI running with the volume at 5 and my interface box's preamp at just over half. That seemed to work okay, but distortion's still a problem. For one thing, there's the psychological thing of people nearby objecting to a distorted guitar more than they would a clean one that's putting out a similar volume.

The amp I'm planning on getting has a built-in attenuator, so although it's still a compromise it'll get a bit closer to simulating 'real' volume.

Even so, my amp sounds fine at bedroom levels; there's no trouser-flapping punch that you get from gigging levels, but it's the difference between what my ears and the '57 are picking up. I was starting to suspect that it's a mic that needs a high SPL to reproduce the sound properly?
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Fakir Mustache
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Computers are weird and you may have to adjust volume in several places. In any case, record way below and boost after.

If you are getting the right frequency range but distorted, it's probably a level problem.

But if it sounds like crap and it's all farty with no bass, it could be your SM57 is busted. Happened to me. Bought it used in the '90s, and it was kind of beat up and probably from the '80s. Worked fine for many years, one day just crapped out. So they don't last forever.
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singlepup
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2014 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Record low and boost later when recording in 24 bit, right?

Not sure I would record low in 16 bit... Would try to record at least moderate levels.
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Fakir Mustache
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2014 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I meant moderate, I mean about 40-60% on the meter. If you go higher you might risk pegging when you play harder or activate certain effects. Although really I haven't had problems with even lower levels and I only use 16 bit.

And I'm talking about recording levels not volume of the amp. If you record the amp too low you get the acoustic sound of the guitar too, annoying unless that's what you're going for. Not to mention tube saturation.
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Concretebadger
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2014 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I probably worded my previous post badly Re: 'distortion'. It's the distorted sound coming out of the amp that I'm having problems with. Describing a sound is tricky unless you want to sound all pretentious and but the '57 lacks bottom-end and warmth unless I place it up really close to get the proximity effect. The treble region is worse though - the 'sizzle' and detail doesn't seem to be picked up and it sounds all cold, dry and mushy. I can't really describe it any better I'm afraid.

I got around the background noise from the guitar itself pretty easily though. I have my guitar, pedalboard and PC in the living room, so it functions as a control room; the cable to the amp trails under the door to my bedroom, which is where the and cab are set up with the mic. The mic cable goes back under the door into the living room so the guitar and amp are as isolated as I can get them.
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BearBoy
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did you get anywhere with your SM57?

I've been using a Rode NT-1A condenser mic to record my amps at bedroom levels. I had been thinking about getting another mic for the amps (an SM57 or e906) as the Rode is really a vocal mic so was interested to see if those sort of dynamic mics are any good if you're not cranking the amp up.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have never been a big fan of the sm57, but somehow they became a standard and i use them just about every sound gig because they are there. It's worth it to put in the practice to get some usable sounds from them. Also, another tip is you shouldn't have to use hardly any eq if you are doing it right. It's easy to want to get a bass heavy sound and this will cause conflicts when mixed with other instruments so in one aspect, since the sm57 picks up more mid range frequencies it can help. Clarity is always my goal when mic'ing amps and that can be tough when dealing with distortion etc.

I actually bought a bunch of Audix i5 mics because I could get them used cheaper than sm57's. They do sound a little different, most notably the sm57 has those gritty high mids and the i5 seems to not emphasize that as much.

This is one i5, two tracks with hardly any other processing, maybe slight eq. I was happy with it for the most part.
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visceral
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2014 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a few things that can help maybe.

I don't see anything wrong with an sm57 but I use a Sennheiser e609. If you're recording at bedroom level you could use a large condenser mic 4-6 ft away and the sm57 like 3-6 inches away offset of the center of the cone.

Something you can do is wear some headphones and while someone is playing the guitar and move the mic around and try to find a sweet spot. Sure there are different techniques so move the mic around see whats best and then fix the stand for placement.

Another thing to consider is when you're playing the guitar in your room the amp/distortion will have a particular sound in comparison to the recording. Based on gear these characteristics can change in a unique way. I for example, when I record my amp distortion sounds 10x and crazy then it does when it comes out of the amp in my room. In my room jamming I'm like "need more gain" during playback on the recording I'm like "turn down the gain" lol.

Now when recording make sure you are not adding any EQ from your software. You want to wait and do that during the mixing stage. You want nice clean natural levels "to tape."

Lastly, and don't take this personal but those distortion pedals especially the Big Muff are a bit noisy and more creative then effective. The Big Muff cuts the high frequencies out of the EQ/mix. Especially Electro Harmonix pedals...super common with them hence why I have a modified EHX pedal. But the Big Muff reminds me of crazy Jimi Octave style distortion/FUZZ.
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dezb1
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Got my mic placement tip from Butch Vig, turn your amp up full volume (with nothing plugged into it) then move the mic around listening for the frequencies you want to zone in on (I find this works best with headphones plugged into your recording device). Sounds weird but it works... Finding the right frequencies to begin with saves EQing afterward.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just stick it right in front of the speaker.
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visceral
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2014 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dezb1 wrote:
Got my mic placement tip from Butch Vig, turn your amp up full volume (with nothing plugged into it) then move the mic around listening for the frequencies you want to zone in on (I find this works best with headphones plugged into your recording device). Sounds weird but it works... Finding the right frequencies to begin with saves EQing afterward.


^ LOL i said the same thing in the post right above you in different words but I learned that in an audio school
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JJLipton
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2015 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am very late here. Do the guitars sound dry,far away, and thin? I think you're better off recording DI and reamping with some plug in.
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NickS
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

visceral wrote:
Something you can do is wear some headphones and while someone is playing the guitar and move the mic around and try to find a sweet spot.

dezb1 wrote:
..turn your amp up full volume (with nothing plugged into it) then move the mic around listening for the frequencies you want to zone in on (I find this works best with headphones plugged into your recording device).

visceral wrote:
^ LOL i said the same thing in the post right above you in different words


Er, no, you didn't. Sorry.

I'm guessing the "nothing plugged in" technique is relying on noise from the amp as a noise source, in much the same way sound engineers use noise sources to check room EQ.
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visceral
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shocked I didnt catch that "nothing plugged" in part, I guess I only read the "move your mic around"...etc hahaha either way I'd rather hear the actual playing personally. In which like I said I stated the same thing in different words based on personal preference. But a cool technique nonetheless.
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brainfur
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2015 3:14 pm    Post subject: Re: A love-hate relationship with the SM57 mic: doing it wro Reply with quote

Freddy V-C wrote:
Concretebadger wrote:
2. it's not sensitive enough for 'bedroom' volumes
For the sake of the neighbours, I don't crank my amps much more than the volume level of an acoustic guitar or upright piano.


This, pretty much. Although to be honest I don't think there's any microphone which can record electric guitars well at bedroom volume.

It sounds like you've got your head around placement pretty well. A couple of inches from the amp, near the edge of the cone at an angle is my go-to position for most dynamic mics if I don't have much time to experiment.

You could try experimenting with a few different microphones, but I suspect that you won't hear much of an improvement. For good sounds with distorted guitars, you basically either need to be PLAYING LOUD, or you need to just use a DI and spend a long time experimenting with different amp sims until you get a sound you like.


agreed-- you can DI guitar and apply "fake" distortion and its gonna sound better than a quiet amp
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