For many years the standard stage vocal mic was the Shure SM58 and its legacy still lives on today with many band riders specifying SM58 or Beta58 models, probably because this is all most sound companies have on offer. However these mics are from an era when sound systems benefited from a large degree of ‘cut’ from microphones, but these mics can sound grainy and hard on the better concert systems like those used at the Nelson School Of Music and the Theatre Royal. Add to that the fact that each voice is unique and different performers work with different monitor levels in variable stage configurations and you’ll perhaps understand why we have eleven different stage vocal microphones available for performers at BBSound, most of which sound better than an SM58!
One of finest stage vocal mics available today is the Neumann KMS105. We used it for Cairde when they played support at Opera In The Park and both Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s sound engineer and one of Oceania’s leading engineer’s commented on how good this microphone sounded. However, on loud and smaller stages, feedback and spill from drums can be a real problem for vocal mics and that is where a mic like the Audix OM7 comes in. It has incredible feedback rejection, but still sounds very open, almost like a condenser. An example of this was a recent Arts Festival concert featuring a leading vocalist where her engineer spent some considerable time EQing her monitor to avoid feedback when using his preferred Beta57 vocal mic. When the same vocalist played at the Nelson School Of Music we were able to run monitors at a similarly high level using the OM7 with minimal EQ, plus is sounded better on her voice! One of my favourite mics is the Electrovoice RE510 which we imported direct from America. It is a condenser mic with reasonable feedback rejection and a neutral sound and we’ve used these for live recordings of concerts, some of which have been released commercially.
But the old SM58 still has a place as a real rock and roll type mic, so when Tom Sharplin of Cadillacs fame came to town we threw a 58 on the stand for him. I was pleased as Tom’s stage routine involves swinging the mic on the end of its cable – I’m pleased he wasn’t using my Neumann!