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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Recording/Live Gear Review!
SHURE KSM8 Dualdyne
Dynamic Vocal Microphone

Shure KSM8: More Impact, Less Punch

Brevis...
Price: $499
Likes: big sweet spot, smooth
Dislikes:  more money than a '58
Wow Factor: a "more honest" dynamic
More Info: Shure KSM8

 by John Gatski
 Shure has been a leader in studio and live performance microphones for more than 50 years. The ubiquitous SM57 and SM58 are likely the two most popular dynamic microphones in the industry. But just when you think that dynamic transducer technology has fully matured, Shure comes along with a new dynamic twist: the Dualdyne KSM8 vocal microphone.

Features
  The KSM8 is a dual-diaphragm, cardioid handheld dynamic microphone with two-diaphragms implemented — offering a bigger sweet spot and a flatter frequency response than your typical handheld dynamic. The new design also helps to greatly reduce proximity effect, which unbalances the bass response versus the rest of the spectrum because you have to get so close to the element. The KSM8 also maintains Shure’s noted cardioid, off-axis rejection of unwanted sound and bleed from other sources from the front  and sides.
  To increase its durability and lower handling noise Shure uses aerospace SoftMag technology, a patent-pending Diaphragm Stabilization System, and pneumatic internal shock mounting.

  On vocals, the first sonic impression of the KSM8 was the lack of sizzle, a warm, smooth tone without the hype. Dare I say, almost like tube-like. And a huge sweet spot that extends further back

  Besides the bigger sweet spot, the Dualdyne design achieves what I really like about the Shure KSM8: a flatter frequency response, which reveals a more accurate sonic persona versus most dynamic microphones made today. Over the last 20 years, it seems that mics have moved to the “hotter” side in the mid/presence range of 2 kHz to 6 kHz, in order to punch vocals through the high-decibel haze of modern live performances. However, if you like to record with a dynamic, which has often has a more direct, natural character than a condenser, the presence peak (crispness) has to be EQ'd to flatten the tone.
  The KSM8 has a much flatter curve than the say a SM58. If You look at the factory graphs, the SM58 is flat from 100 Hz to 1 kHz, but the response gradually rises from 1 kHz to 3 kHz (+ 3.5 dB), and then sharply rises to 5 dB by 4.5 kHz and stays around + 5 dB until 6 kHz, where it starts to flatten again, down to +1.5 by 8 kHz. The response spikes again — to +4.5 dB by 10 kHz, where it then eventually starts to fall as most dynamics do; the useable response to 15 kHz.

Inside KSM8

  In contrast, the KSM8 is relatively flat all the way to 2 kHz, and exhibits a series of gentle 2.5 dB and lower bumps in the presence range response before a fall off just before 10 kHz. It is -5 dB at 12 kHz. Overall, though the response confirms a less-punchy, more accurate response to 10 kHz that I was hearing in my testing.
  On voice and instruments, the KSM8 sounds flatter, by comparison, to mics that I had on hand, including a SM58. The sound has less sizzle, and in my book that can be a good thing. Vocals without extra focus in the midrange and upper midrange/low treble sound more natural with this mic.   



The KSM8 is collecting its share of award nods


  On the minus side, bass-hewn voices may not get the lift in the upper band of the mic’s range as they do  with standard dynamics, but, overall, I like the path Shure has chosen. Natural and accurate are audio characteristics I appreciate in all areas of the audio chain. If you start with a flat mic, all the better.
  The mic comes in brushed nickel or black, and is housed in a nice zippered case. A mic clip is included. Retail price is $499.

The audition
  I set up the KSM8, the black version, in my home recording studio. I mated it with one of the cleanest, accurate mic preamps — the True Engineering P2. The mic was linked to the preamp with a 12 ft. Wireworld Professional XLR cable. Another cable fed the preamp outputs to a TASCAM DA-3000 master recorder.
  I recorded solo vocals first with a SM58, then the KSM8, and finally a Mojave MA-300 tube condenser microphone to get a reference point on where this Shure mic is in the mic spectrum.

Comes in nickel or black

  A later recorded vocal was made with accompaniment with my custom Martin OO-28 fingerstyle guitar to see how the KSM8 picks up two instruments from the one mic. Just for comparison purposes, I also tracked a Yamaha U1 professional upright piano with a mic stand bar extended above the open lid. I also laid down two tracks of my Gibson L5 CES Custom jazz guitar, played through an original Fender Deluxe Reverb, circa 1965.
  On vocals, the first sonic impression of the KSM8 was the lack of sizzle, a warm smooth tone without the hype. Dare I say, almost like tube-like. And a huge sweet spot that extends further back than normal dynamic cardioids. Accompanying myself with the Martin acoustic, the vocals and guitar were picked up nicely even at two feet away. A singer/guitarist should really like this mic if you just want a simple relay of the two sources with one transducer; it works great.

  Couple the great tone with Shure’s exemplary build and packaging, you got yourself an Everything Audio Network Stellar Award winner. Its superb quality also bumps the KSM8 onto our 2016 Microphone Of The Year list.

  Yet the off-axis rejection is excellent; sounds coming from back and sides of the mic are firmly suppressed to enhance the clarity of the up-front source. But you still have that bigger, on-axis sweet spot, thanks to the Dualdyne design.
  I liked the smooth body so much that I also tracked the Gibson jazz guitar with the KSM8. For a dynamic, I liked the way it picks up the humbucker/tube amp tone — the natural attack of the tone without any extra mid emphasis. It obviously does not have the extended top end of a condenser, but it sounds pretty darn good. Way smoother than a ‘57.
  And yes, it captured the essential tone of the U1 piano— a lean bass, sparkly sounding, upright without exacerbating the low-treble register. My recorded 24/192 tracks were good enough to use in a mix, mic quality wise.

The verdict
  All in all, the Shure KSM8 is a welcome change for the dynamic microphone niche. A smooth accurate response to 10 kHz, which means less exaggerated punch when you don’t need it, which also means less EQ needed. The Dualdyne cartridge also creates a bigger sweet spot in the on-axis field to the point you don’t have to eat the mic. That attribute also results in less proximity effect.
  I think that over time, the KSM8‘s atypical dynamic accuracy will push it into a variety of uses including instrument recording and studio vocals. Couple the great tone with Shure’s exemplary build and packaging, you got yourself an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award winner. Its superb quality also bumps the KSM8 onto our 2016 Microphone Of The Year list. Because of its audio quality and unique design, the KSM8 also been nominated for a National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) TEC Award in the microphone category.

  John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via everything.audio@verizon.net



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