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Yet more proof that you don't need a 'great' microphone

If you believe the Internet, you will believe that without a megabucks vocal mic, your recordings will be as rotten as rotten tomatoes. But here is proof that the Internet is wrong...


Still saving up for that great mic that everyone on the forums is raving about? Not doing any recording because you don't have the mic of your dreams yet?

I was browsing through the Blu-ray section of my local Blockbuster when I came across something that caught my interest - Queen playing live at Montreal in 1981, with the added bonus of their set from Live Aid in 1985.

I'm a fan of lots of kinds of music, but my interest in Queen is also orientated toward the technical side of their work. How they achieved such a powerful sound with just voice, guitar, bass, piano and drums (and famously no synthesisers) would be a fascinating topic.

But my other fascination is that when you listen to their records, there are many layers of guitar, all interwining together. How could they possibly reproduce that live? Well the answer is through a) having a brilliant guitarist, and b) subtly rearranging the songs so that you don't notice the difference.

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But something else leapt out at me in the video - Freddie Mercury's microphone. It look kind of familiar - a bit like the classic Shure SM58, but it was much shinier and - horror of horrors - had a switch!

I looked up some other Queen videos and there it is every time. Clearly it was Freddie's favourite mic, and I didn't know what model it was!

Well, on further investigation I found that I did actually know this mic, from a long time ago. It's a Shure Unisphere 565SD - the predecessor to the SM58. In my formative years of playing in bands, I realised that some of the mics that were around at the time didn't really sound all that good through a PA. The SM58 did, but I couldn't afford one. I couldn't afford a Unisphere either, although I knew someone who had one, and I didn't rate it nearly as highly as the SM58.

Clearly though I was wrong. If the Shure Unisphere 565SD is the choice of such a great singer as Freddie Mercury, it must be a great mic. One way or another, he always sounds brilliant, on record and in live recordings. And it's not an exotic mic - a plain dynamic, no tubes, large diaphragm or gold sputtering.

So quick! Get onto eBay and nab yourself one before the price goes up. Or you could also consider the Shure Unidyne 545SD - the forerunner to the SM57. I didn't rate that in my early days either. Fortunately I've learned a little since then. It's not the mic, it's the singer, and I never really could ;-)

P.S. Can't wait for this movie! But will they use the right microphone...?

By David Mellor Friday February 11, 2011