Review: Shure KSM32 Professional Condenser Microphone

Setting up my home studio, my first task was to choose a microphone. If you don’t have a good mic, the rest of your equipment is meaningless. Working around radio studios for years, I’ve had the chance to use a lot of different microphones. The one I’ve always liked for my voice is the Shure KSM32. With the shock mount (you’ll need it) the Shure KSM32/SL was $499. It was a bit of sticker shock when I looked up the price but its what I wanted so I came up with the dough and ordered it. I got mine from B&H in New York City via the Internet at www.bhphotovideo.com. I’ve done some business with them before and never had any trouble.

It arrived a few days later. If you like this kind of equipment, there is no out-of-box experience quite like this microphone. Adding to the price, Shure spared no expense in packaging and presentation. For a microphone, it is a big box. You open it up to discover an aluminum case surrounded by bubble wrap. The case has a little packet of keys affixed so that you can lock it. I’m not sure what the point is since someone could just walk away with the whole case and break in later. When you open this case you discover some slick literature, the shock mount, some adapters to fit different microphone stands and then a velvet-like case that holds the object of your desire, your new $500 microphone. It’s a heavy mic not meant to be hand held by any standard. I had ordered an O.C. White mic boom to hold the beast.

So you take it carefully out of its soft case and look it over. It is a beautiful piece of equipment in a Champaign color. So I carefully studied how I was to install the shock mount and put the whole affair onto the boom. All this was not too difficult to figure out so a little while later I had it up and working. I put on my Sony headphones and started talking. I was not disappointed. The sound that came out was what I had come to expect from using this microphone at work.

Being a condenser microphone, you’ll need a mic preamp that offers “phantom power.” I use a Symetrix Voice Processor that is a preamp and processor in one box. All but the cheapest preamps have phantom power so this is not really a problem. I’ve heard of folks though that thought the microphone was dead when in fact they didn’t have phantom power or it wasn’t switched on. On the Symetrix in fact the switch to turn it on is in the back.

The Shure is a “side addressed” mic meaning you talk not into the usual top but off to the side. I mounted mine upside-down so that the cable feeds from the top and the mic naturally comes down in front of you and you still have room underneath to move your arms around. Not only is it side addressed but you have to talk into a particular sideâÂ?¦ the “front” which is where the Shure logo is which is now of course upside down as well.

Being a condenser mic, it is very sensitive so you don’t have to get right up on it. You can back off about six inches or more and you’ll not have too much trouble. This sensitivity makes it susceptible to popping P’s and T’s so you’ll need a “pop filter.” A pop filter is simply a foam sock that you fit over the mic element to stop the sudden burst of wind your mouth makes when you pronounce an S or a T. You can get the official Shure pop filter for $12.95 but that is a bit pricey for a piece of foam. A local music supply shop should have a foam filter for about $7. You’ll definitely want one of these not only to keep the popping down but offer a little protection for your $500 investment.

One of the good things about a microphone such as this is its “cardioid” or uni-directional pickup pattern. Since it accepts sound from one direction, it rejects noise coming from behind it. In a home environment this may be helpful if you don’t have the luxury of a totally quiet room or booth. This is the opposite of an “omni-directional” pattern that picks up sound from all sides.

Being a condenser or powered microphone helps me because I have eye trouble. With non-powered or “dynamic” mics you have to get pretty close to get a good sound. When I use these mics while holding the paper that contains the copy I am recording, there is a definite shallow quality as the sound reaches the mic from me and bounced off the paper at a slightly different phase. With a condenser mic, you can move it back quite a bit and still get good sound. This puts it behind the copy where it doesn’t pick up the bounced voice.

The other quality I like about a condenser microphone is that it seems to give me a lot of “presence.” Presence is a hard to describe but it makes you sound “bigger than life.”

If you want to save some money there is the Shure KSM27 but through my research I discovered that its frequency response or “tone” is a bit different. Since I had no experience with the KSM27, I decided to spend the extra money and get what I knew I liked.

My Shure KSM32 is a prized possession along with the never to be used but very attractive aluminum case and velvet sleeve. I’ve made sure all this wonderful packaging is put in a safe place in case I ever want to sell the mic since it will probably add to its resale value.

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