McGary Audio

Essential Sound

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Home Recording/Live!
4X-Microphone Kit Test

Price: $299
Likes: Good sound, rugged, price
Dislikes: no complaints from me
Wow Factor: Four solid mics under $300!

by Richard Alan Salz
  While there can be no doubt that today’s inexpensive microphones are worlds better than the microphones of even 10- or 15-years ago, fact is many of the microphones that come bundled in “affordable” kits are not really worth using, once one gets past the beginner stage. Many of these mic conglomerates are designed for specific instruments. Drum mic kits, for example, are very popular.

In the kit
  The Shure PGASTUDIOKIT4 isn’t technically a drum microphone kit, since only the PGA52 (kick drum microphone) is actually designated a drum microphone. The other mics in the kit two PGA57 (instrument microphone) and PGA181 (cardioid condenser instrument/vocal microphone) are designated as general usage microphones! That said, the PGA57 works perfectly on the snare drum (as would an SM57) and the PGA181’s work great as overhead drum microphones.The kit also includes two WA371 stand adapters, four XLR to XLR cables, a A25D mic clip, and the case.
 The Shure PGASTUDIOKIT4 is a worthy entrant in a crowded mic kit market, and, unlike most microphone packages it can work on a variety of sources and in a variety of settings including your home project recording studio or your live gig.

  The PSK4 is actually a set of four very usable microphones (plus clips, cables, and case) that are a natural for the home recordist or live player. All the microphones are nicely finished and feature rugged housings and include mounts If you didn’t know these were budget microphones you’d have no idea of their price point. As well, the included case and cables are of nice quality. We used the PSK4 on a variety of sources, here’s what we found:

  Using a GMS CL Series maple kit we placed the PGA52 inside the port of the 22” bass drum, set the PGA57 approximately 1.5-inches above the far edge of the 14”x5.5” snare drum, and positioned the PGA181 microphones 5 feet off the floor and 2’ from the front of the kit on separate stands, angled inwards and down so that they formed an equilateral triangle with the snare drum.
  Used in conjunction with a vintage 1985 Fender PA mixer (transformer balanced and discrete) we were impressed with the punchy and extended response of the kick drum. The fundamental was present and solid, and only the most minimal equalization was required to accentuate the beater sound to obtain a modern kick drum sound that would be appropriate for recording or live usage.

  Similarly, the PGA57 delivered the ubiquitous “donk” sound that we expect to hear from the SM57 microphone. It’s not the last word in clarity, but it is an immediately usable sound and we would expect that anyone who was accustomed to the SM57 would find 90% of the performance of that venerable microphone present and accounted for in the PGA57.
  The PGA181 was the real surprise of the package, providing a warm and balanced response with way more rendering of ambiance than one would expect from a microphone that only retails for $94! The Turkish Impression jazz cymbals sounded clear and dynamic, without the harshness that lesser microphones seem to suffer from.

  Using a Paul Reed Smith Mira S2 plugged into a Mesa/Boogie two-channel Dual Rectifier head connected to a Marshall 4x12 straight back cabinet, we were more than satisfied with the combination of the PGA57 positioned at the edge of one of the speakers, and the PGA181 positioned a few feet away into the room to provide an ambient bubble to augment the direct sound. The PGA57 in this usage was very very close to a (newer Mexican manufactured) SM57 that we had on hand. Suffice it to say that one could introduce a greater difference through moving the microphone an inch or two from its position compared to switching the microphones.

  Using an obscure JTB tube preamp connected to a Behringer Europower 2500 power amp played through a vintage Marshall 1x18” JCM 800 cabinet, the PGA52 sounded good reproducing the output from the fretless FBB bass we tested it with. We found the accentuated low frequency response to be a nice fit with amplifier set up. That said, the microphone sounded a little bit dull when used with a Fender Precision bass strung with new stainless steel round wound strings. In this application, one might want to augment the sound with a direct feed.

  Let’s be clear, if you had the choice between using the PGA181 or a Vintage Neumann U47 you’d only use the Shure microphone if someone made you “an offer you can’t refuse” (to slightly misquote Don Corleone). In the real world, the PGA181, though, is very nice sounding microphone capable of yielding professional results when positioned in front of a worthy source. You’ll want to make sure your console has a high-pass filter since the PGA181 does not have one.

The verdict
  The Shure PGASTUDIOKIT4 is a worthy entrant in a crowded mic kit market, and, unlike most microphone packages it can work on a variety of sources and in a variety of settings including your home project recording studio or your live gig. The mics are rugged and sound way better than their price would indicate. At its street price of $299, the PGASTUDIOKIT4 is a great value for the amateur and working professional musician/engineer. We also have placed the mic set on our Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award list. And by the way, I was so impressed I bought the kit.

  Richard Alan Salz is a musician, recording/live sound engineer and the president of On-Site Acoustic Testing, based in headquartered in Vermont. He also has massed a collection of 30+ guitars and several collectible classic guitar amplifiers. He can be reached at his email: Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.


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