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Where do I go from a muddy sound of SM58 as a female?

coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
Ok, I really need an advice on a good mic... I currently have Shure SM58, and it's terrible for my voice: I sound muffled, muddy and weak, and I have trouble being heard at band practice (cranking up the volume gives huge feedback, so there's only so much you can do there). I got myself sore several times because of that and came to the conclusion that SM58 is just not that great for me (or even not that great in general). I also hate how SM58 is not picking up sound the second you move an inch.

But where do I go from here? From what I read online and saw on YouTube, there are at least 2 good options I can look into: Seinheiser E835 and AKG D5. But I'd love to hear opinions from people who know mics.

I don't want to go too much over 100, at least not yet.

Here's the example of my voice (recorded with SM58 and a cheapo pre-amp + some post-reverb):


  • Raphael_HusslRaphael_Hussl Posts: 702.0 PRO
    @coffeecrank Hi Lana, normally I would have recommended you to get a condenser microphone if you were looking for a good microphone to record vocals. The Shure SM58 is a dynamic microphone and these are known to sound more muffled and not as bright as condenser microphones. But dynamic microphones and especially the Shure SM58 have the advantage that they are much more robust and a lot harder to break than condenser microphones. (Some legends even say that there were Shure SM58s found in the ruins of burnt-out houses and they still worked.) And they are also better at handling much higher levels of loudness. For these reasons they are mostly used for live situations like singing with a band. I was just a little confused as you said that the SM58 is also terrible for your voice in band rehearsals. I had always thought that it was a very good and uncomplicated microphone for live singing so I didn't know that it could also be wrong for some singers but it is possible that it just could have a certain spectrum of frequencies that are not very advantageous for some voices. So for a new dynamic microphone for band rehearsals unfortunately I can't give you any advice because I don't know enough other dynamic microphones. The recording of your voice sounds better than I had first expected after your description. The sound is clear but it lacks the kind of clarity and crisp quality that a good condenser microphone would have. For professional vocal recordings normally condenser mics are standard because they can draw a much more detailed picture of the source. But I wouldn't recommend you to take a condenser mic for band rehearsals because there you will need one that is robust and can also handle much higher levels of loudness (especially with the drums in the background). So maybe you will have to look for two different microphones, one for recording and one for live singing. For recording microphones I only can tell you which microphone I use, it is the RODE NT1-A, a decent recording microphone that is very popular because it is not that expensive but also quite good for its price. But I have to warn you, it is the kind of microphone that simply everybody has for recording vocals (It is something like the Shure SM58 of vocal recording microphones). And there are some people who often hate on it and say that its sound is too harsh (As far as I noticed by myself so far it sometimes has a slight tendency to make hissing sounds on the Ss). So that's basically what I can say about microphones but I would recommend you in any way to get some more advices by an expert before you choose a microphone. Maybe there is also somebody who knows a microphone which can do recording and live singing at a similar good level. One more thing that you will also have to pay attention to in case you want to get a condenser microphone for recording is: when a condenser microphone is plugged in it always needs 48V phantom power to be able to work. But you should never switch the phantom power on when there's a different microphone plugged in that doesn't need it because there are some microphones (like for example ribbon microphones) that break when they get phantom power. So I hope this helps a little, at least to know a little more about which type of microphone to look out for.
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Raphael_Hussl Thank you! Yeah, I bought it because I read that it's really good for performing live etc., but so far I'm not impressed, I have to literally eat the microphone to get a decent volume level, and while recording I turn up gain almost to the max level and still sound muffled. It's worse with bad equipment and better with good equipment, but I can't depend on ideal conditions since I might not get them all the time... So I need something that will work no matter what. I could of course get a condenser mic, but then I still have a problem at rehearsals, so there's that... My pre-amp can do 48V, btw.
  • Raphael_HusslRaphael_Hussl Posts: 702.0 PRO
    @coffeecrank Have you already tried to use Equalizing to get a better sound and loudness level? Maybe there could also be a way that it's only a matter of boosting or cutting off certain frequencies. For example for singers everything below 50Hz can always be cut off with a high pass filter (there is just nothing down that low that is very useful, at least not for pop rock vocals). Then on the other hand in the kHz area there are some frequencies that can be boosted to get a little more clarity and brightness to the sound, maybe for example if you boost everything above maybe 5kHz by a few decibels.
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Raphael_Hussl Problem is I'm in a band that does stuff like Deep Purple and GNR, singing this AND not hearing yourself over the drums can be a real pain, quite literally... :( First band, they're fine because they're not too loud and the music is more like soft rock. They also have way better equipment.
  • bonvie56bonvie56 Posts: 162.0 PRO
    Hey folks,
    I've been lurking in the forum for over a year, but thought I might have something to add to your discussion.
    I have been experimenting with a few different mics, running them through a Sound Craft board with and without EQ and tried recording voice with them in close proximity to a 7.5 foot acoustic grand piano. The object of the experiment was to be able to record voice (mostly) on one track, while keeping the piano out of it as much as possible.
    The mics I've tried with satisfactory results were the Shure SM58, Shure SM57, Electrovoice 660 (a classic that Led Zepplin and other bands used live in the '60's) and a surprisingly cheap but nice MXL-3000. The first three are dynamic mics, and I much prefer the sound of the EV over either of the Shure Mics. Here's the thing: The EV specification said that it is supposed to have a super-cardoid pattern, but it has a couple of lobes that are offset by about 30 degrees, so you can 'get off to the side' a bit without disappearing. Even so, it seems to keep the piano out of the track as well as the Shure mics. It has a warmer sound than the Shure mics, but has been out of production for years. A good used one usually goes for $150 to $250. I would pick up another one when possible.

    The MXL-3000 (cardoid pattern, large diaphragm condeser) has the best sound overall (I like it better than the NT-1, but honestly, the difference is very slight and could be due to the cleanliness of my phantom power source) but as Raphael said, they are fragile and subject to damage from shock, require phantom power, and they do not like humidity at all, so you must always use a pop filter to try to keep the moisture out of them, and don't even think of using one outside, or they may suddenly quit working. There are shops that will take an inexpensive condenser mic, such as the MXL3000, upgrade the capsule and tune up the frequency response to just about anything you want, for a fee of course.

    Here is a website that I use when comparing mics and some other audio equipment:

    Anyway, I would suspect that if the SM58 sounds to muddy for you, and you can't or don't want to adjust using EQ, an SM57 may be more to your liking, because it has a bit of a peak in the midrange response, which should make your voice sound brighter. It is still rugged enough to take live gigging without much worry. If you can get your hands on an EV660, do it! It is a classic mic for vocals, is made from a tough, solid zinc casting, and it even looks good!

  • DogMeatDogMeat Posts: 2132.0 PRO
    I would also recommend to get a condensed mic for recording purposes, and you already have the SM58 if you need to practice live performances.
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Posts: 6432.0 PRO
    edited October 7
    have you tried using the EQ on the mixer? it might well be you can actually make it sound much better than it does now. if you have an EQ, you want to reduce the bass and dial in a few more high-end, and try to play with the mids a bit. most mixers have a semi-parametric mid range EQ, which means you can choose which frequency you want to boost/cut. if you sound muffled, either boost around 1-3 kHz, or cut a bit around 200-250 Hz, this is where it has a bucket-y sounding resonance. but the boost should be more effective. you can also try other settings, but that could be a starting point.

    edit: I just saw that @Raphael_Hussl already pointed out EQing, sorry if this is redundant information
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Raphael_Hussl @Klaus_T I think I'll play around with EQ at our next rehearsal like you said. It's definitely partially the setup. Plus I'm getting monitor system + in-ears for next time which should make it a ton better. For recording I might eventually buy a condenser mic.
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @bonvie56 I've heard about SM57 being slightly more open-ended than SM58. Someone even mentioned you can unscrew something to make it sound almost like SM57, but I'm a bit worried to do that at the risk of messing up my mic. :D
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Posts: 6432.0 PRO
    a tip I got from @Furious_Phil once: get one of these foam windscreens for the sm 58. since you said you need to "eat the mic" in order to get a good level, this will make it more comfortable, and might even help with hissing and popping.
  • bonvie56bonvie56 Posts: 162.0 PRO
    Here's a direct link to SM58 info:
    The usual mods are listed on the bottom of the page, but EQ adjustment is probably a better way to go to boost the mids and highs. That way, your 58 is still a 58. By doing the transformer mod you're really just converting the SM58 to an SM57. I agree with @Klaus_T and @Furious_Phil about the windscreen as well. It does remove some of the plosives and noise which will improve the overall sound.
    I listened to you singing on the collaboration you did and on the sample you posted. You have a really nice voice and I think you would be stunned at how terrific you would sound with a large-diaphragm condenser mic in front of you. (Large diaphragm meaning 25mm or greater. The larger ones tend to reproduce more detail) With the female voice, that area between about 12,000 Hz and 20,000 Hz can contain a lot of detail that the dynamic mics that cut off at around 12 to 13 kHz wouldn't catch, and no amount of EQ will help if the mic isn't hearing it. Some of the music stores around here will demo mics in the store before you buy, but I have only purchased used ones online. It's a risk, but so far I've been able to repair anything that was wrong with them.
    Just a hobbyist here that likes to experiment and figure out how to make stuff work and make a bit of music for the fun of it. There are probably others on this forum that have a lot better handle on a wider sampling of audio gear.

    ~~Dan … an old tech geek
  • cwcwcwcw Posts: 3802.0 PRO
    The dynamic mic will suit you better for live performance, and perhaps even for studio recording.
    See this article.

    Though I have a Rode NT3 condenser, I've been using an SM58 knock-off exclusively for recording my vocals for the past 9 months. You can hear it on any track / collab I've recorded in that time frame.

    Neither mic is top-shelf, but they fit my budget. I switched to the 58 because the NT3 was too "sizzly" for me AND more importantly, it picked up more room noise than I wanted. For recording, I stand anywhere from 6-10 inches away from the 58 (Graham Cochrane at recording revolution has a good video on this in his vocal mic shootout, which includes an SM57), using generous amounts of eq in post recording. For the most part, I've been very happy with the results. BTW, the 57 and 58 are very similar. I have a real 57, but prefer the 58 knock off.

    Keep in mind that proximity effect will kill you on any mic - singing closely to the mic really over-emphasizes the low end.

    I don't think your recording sounds all that bad, and as others have said, EQ will go a long way.

  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @bonvie56 Sounds like I need a condenser mic for sure, at least for recording. :) These tricks with the transformer sound cool, but I'm so clumsy with my hands I'll probably wreck it lol. But yeah, what you said about frequencies makes sense. Many guys love this mic which is not surprising then.

    @cwcw If I move even an inch away, I won't be heard at rehearsal. Sad, but true. :( With the first band it's more or less ok, and even then I have to be very close to the mic, and they have pretty good EQ setup I think. With the second band moving away will literally kill all sound. Recording is ok-ish, but I feel my voice is not sounding at its best...
  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Posts: 1,332Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO
    @coffeecrank I can actually give specific feedback on this :smile:

    I started out with an SM58, but found that it was getting lost in the live mix. So I found a Sennheiser E835 for $60 used. It was like someone pulled a heavy moving blanket off of the monitors! That would be my first suggestion for live vocals...
    After that, I'd suggest that you maybe try to find a used TC Helicon VoiceLive vocal processor. This will enable YOU to control your vocal sound and effects! Very highly recommended piece of kit.
    Once you've gotten all this, after a time, you might want to invest a little more in something like a Sennheiser E945 mic. I did, and I can tell you that those things are game-changers.
    (Caveat) But I'd try one out before buying to make sure it works with your voice.

    For studio recording, a Rode NT series mic is a decent starting point.
    Once you have saved up a bit more, I'd recommend either a Lewitt LCT-440 or an Aston Origin, either of which will take you right up beside the big-name studio mics. I run an Aston Origin, and it is brilliant.
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Furious_Phil Woot, I'm happy someone actually can vouch for E835. :) I'm leaning heavily towards it and definitely can buy it right away. So a vocal processor is not the same as monitor, right? I got this baby a week ago: And also a pair of Shure in-ears. I'll definitely try to find a store in Hannover where they let you try out the mics.
  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Posts: 1,332Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO
    edited October 7
    Good on you for getting an in-ear system! Those are very helpful!
    This is the processor I was mentioning:
    It will also allow you to run stereo out to your mixer board :+1:
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Furious_Phil Yeah, I found it already! Maaaan, I definitely gotta pace myself in terms of money. :D I bought a bunch of stuff already this month, so I'll try buying things gradually.
  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Posts: 1,332Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO
    Good plan... it's called "GAS" (Gear Acquisition Syndrome" lol
    It helps keep musicians poor :smiley:
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Furious_Phil Don't worry, I have a programming job to support my unhealthy addictions. :lol: But yeah, seriously, this is an expensive hobby...
  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Posts: 1,332Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO
    There's lots of worse things to be addicted to.
    Sounds like you are well on your way to having seriously good gear. Like you said, pace yourself and you'll have it all without financially strapping yourself :+1:
  • blondiewalesblondiewales Posts: 417Pro
    So, a few things:

    Different mics are good for live performances or studio recording. The 58 is better for live performances when it comes to vocals. There are some preferences, but it's usually perfect fine for live work. That leads to the next point.

    When singing live, how close are you to the mic? Depending on how loud you're singing, you can be as close as an inch to half an inch away. If you're regularly a foot or more away, turn down the mic gain and sing closer to the mic. Differentiate the gain from the volume.

    You can use the 58 to record too, but you need to crank the gain and be closer to the mic. If you have the budget, I'd get something in the $150 range.
  • WigsWigs Posts: 710Moderator, 2.0 PRO
    I don't have the technical expertise to comment on gear, but I just want you to know using the same mic my girlfriend had the same problem with her band. Hopefully tweaking levels can get you somewhere without needing to fork out extra cash for the moment.
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Wigs I might try E835, seems like a lot of people who had this same issue had a much better luck with it.
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Posts: 6432.0 PRO
    i also have the 835 and like it :)
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Klaus_T @Furious_Phil Going to the store this Thursday to hopefully test an E835. :) I'll post the results!
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Klaus_T @Furious_Phil Two covers I recorded with the new mic (sorry, I think they turned out a bit too loud):

    I definitely like my voice more!
  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Posts: 1,332Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO
    Sounds really good Lana!
    I listened to the other tracks as well and I really like the timbre of your voice.
    I always loved that Jennifer Warnes tune, and you nailed that.
    Keep up the great work :smiley:
  • coffeecrankcoffeecrank Posts: 1942.0 PRO
    @Furious_Phil Thank you! I was able to sing now at 30% of gain vs. 75% before. :D
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