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Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone 

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The Shure SM81 is a high-quality, unidirectional condenser microphone designed for studio recording, broadcasting, and sound reinforcement. Its wide ...Click To Read More About This Product

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OVERVIEW

Industry-standard mic renowned for sonic accuracy in stage and studio performances.

The Shure SM81 is a high-quality, unidirectional condenser microphone designed for studio recording, broadcasting, and sound reinforcement. Its wide frequency response, low noise characteristics, and low RF susceptibility have made it a standard for applications involving acoustic instruments, especially guitar, piano, and cymbals. The SM81 is ruggedly constructed. It operates on phantom power and performs over a wide range of temperatures and humidity conditions. It is furnished with a swivel adapter, attenuator-switch lock, foam windscreen, and case for carrying and storage. Other accessories are available.

FEATURES
  • 20Hz-20kHz frequency response
  • Flat response curve for accurate sound reproduction
  • Low noise and high output clipping level
  • Low distortion over a wide range of load impedances
  • Cardioid polar pattern with maximum rejection

Get it. You'll use this mic a lot.

SPECIFICATIONS

SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

  • Audio
  • Analog or digital:Analog
  • Frequency response:20Hz – 20kHz
  • Max SPL:146 dB
  • Connectivity:XLR
  • Pattern and Type
  • Capsule:Condenser
  • Polar pattern:Cardioid
  • Type:Mounted
  • Switches:Yes
  • Phantom power required:Yes
  • Size and Weight
  • Diameter:2 in.
  • Length:7.56 in.
  • Weight:1.37 lb.
  • Included Accessories
  • Case:Yes
  • Clip:Yes
  • Shockmount:N/A
  • Power supply:N/A
  • Cable:No
Reviews
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Review Snapshot

by PowerReviews
ShureSM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
 
5.0

(based on 40 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (38)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Good audio (6)
  • Durable (4)
  • Easy to use (4)
  • Lightweight (4)
  • Versatile (4)

Cons

No Cons

Best Uses

  • Home studio (4)
  • Performances (3)
  • Professional recording (3)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Experienced (3), Professional musician (3)

Reviewed by 40 customers

Displaying reviews 1-20

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(22 of 22 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

True multi purpose mic

By Steven Gilchrist

from Central PA

See all my reviews

Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

If I were rating these on an initial purchase scale this would be 8 or 9 stars for flexibility, recording sound quality and usability in live sound reinforcement. But as I've pared down my kit and gotten to a lean, mean recording machine, the 81s are the mics that go in my bag. When I am asked to help with sound reinforcement for church music events, the 81s are super sweet as choir mics with the cardioid capsule for directional feedback rejection. They are super easy to EQ--basically you're EQ'ing the house, not the mic. With omni caps they fit on a mic bar and plug directly into my Marantz PMD661 for direct-to-2-track mastering of solo instrumentals, chamber groups, choirs, orchestras...any non-amplified performance. I carry my "classical recording kit" in a single small bag plus a stand. If I really need to punch it up, I can add my portable 2-channel mic pre with its beautiful-sounding compression and eq circuits. Works off 2 9-volt batteries. Honestly, if I know the venue and have had good luck in the past I leave the preamp at home. These mics are honest enough to just make needed corrections via placement as long as you're in a decently-designed venue.

Longevity and reliability make up a good portion of my approval of these mics. Amortizing the cost of these mics, I'd be surprised if I paid more than a nickel per mic for each time I've used them. Now that's some smash mouth value right there, due to the durability of these mics. Never had a failure, and I can't tell mic 1 from mic 2 in SQ either, even after all these years.

They have recorded guitar solos in living rooms all over my region. Setup of SDCs is so simple compared to the more stringent requirements of a large diaphragm mic. Sensitivity is high, frequency response is wide and flat, flexibility is great with multiple response curve settings. Talk with me or play a few notes in the room we're going to record in, and I can usually pick out the spot where I want to set up the 81s in very short order just by listening for the spot in the 3 dimensional space where it sounds just right for a good stereo recording. Generally the 81s like to be slightly closer to the ceiling than the floor in a small room, and slightly closer to the floor in a large one--though you shouldn't place them closer than 5 feet to the floor if you can help it.

The SM 81 is a world standard recording mic with proven application in stand-mounted sound reinforcement for live choirs and chamber groups. If you do some of both, 2 or 3 of these will be among your most used tools. After your 30 year mark, you'll probably be as attached to yours as I am to mine.
The cardioid cap on this mic is very helpful when using it in a live sound reinforcement role. Very good feedback rejection and nice open grilles before and after the diaphragm give this mic a flat response curve. You can get a 'livelier' mic, but that just means you have to eq the heck out of it if you're going to use it in live applications.

Switchable LF rolloff slope from none to gradual to steep means you have three mics in one with the same cap. Use it flat as a live choir mic or for recording an orchestra direct to 2 track master. Use it rolled off for close miking a piano or snare. With attenuation and variable/defeatable bass rolloff the 81 is a very flexible SDC.

I have a pair of omni caps for mine. I put those in when I'm recording a classical gig. Place them 18 inches apart on a mic bar and make sure they are equidistant from your source, and you can create magic from a chamber group to full orchestra or choir.
Standard Shure. Thick steel case that you can pound nails with. I've had my 81s for going on 25 years now and they don't look as pretty as they used to. But they still sound great. If one of them craps out I'll probably have it refurbed if it costs less than new--vintage Shure is a GOOD thing.
I picked these up at a great price for the pair back in the olden days on good sale. Can't tell you how worth it they have been. If you have ambitions of recording for years into the future this workhorse will be with you a long time--and you can make it work well in more situations than any other mic I'm aware of.

I have a very nice LDC vocal solo mic, a bag of SM57s and 58s, a couple of very specific AT and AKG recording mics and some other specialty mics for sound reinforcement. Each one has its place and if I didn't have a wireless lav mic I'd have to buy one. The 81 is not the 'mic for everything.' But it sure is close. I use these more than everything else combined.

I've drooled over some very expensive Neumann SDCs as well as some of the Senn and AKG and other fantastic distance recording mics. The SM81 is cheaper by far than all of them. It's almost like cheating. You can buy more sensitivity and you can buy greater feedback rejection (though probably not in the same mic). You might even be able to buy a flatter response curve.

But the 81 is a tool you should learn to use properly because you will find them everywhere and it can get the track for you if you deploy it right. I trust these mics in many more situations now than I did when I got them.

There are other cheaper SDCs out there, and some are even pretty good. I had a pair of MXL 604s modded to upgrade their electronics and improve the physical placement of the diaphragms to reduce unwanted reflective colorations, and more money later I now have another pair of very sweet sounding condensers with both cardioid and omni caps. Dollar for dollar I'd say the modded MXL was a better deal because the Shure omni capsules are a HTF collectors item these days and you just can't get them.

Christmas concert season is just getting underway, and I'll be working almost every night for the next month. I always default to the SM81s because I know the results will be good. But I'm planning to set up a double bar for a show this year and get one recording from the modded MXLs and the identical recording from the 81s so I can A-B them and find out just what I'm looking at with strengths and weaknesses.

Even if the modded MXL sounds every bit as good as the Shure, I'm quite certain it will not hold up for 30 years like the Shures have. So stone cold longevity gives the SM81 10 stars for the best value in mics that I've used, right up there with the SM57 and 58. Shures are the Energizer Bunny of microphones.

(5 of 5 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

Always wish I had more.

By Din to Euphony

from Portland ME

About Me Experienced

Pros

  • Clear Sound
  • Durable
  • Economical
  • Versatile

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Amateur Recording
    • Events
    • Home Studio
    • Performances
    • Professional Recording

    Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

    Every time I open my mic case these are the first to come out and the last to go back in. I have not found any sound source that they do not capture at least adequately, and most things they capture fantastically.
    Because they are very responsive and crisp but also have a rich low to mid range, they really shine with strings of all kinds. They can capture both the plucking of a string and its resonance in a very balanced fashion.

    Since I only have 2, I have to ration them. They are very natural sounding mics and tough enough to handle very demanding inputs.

    I have even used them hand held for vocals in live situations when none of the normal hand held options available sounded right (with a custom windscreen and some careful instructions on handling and proximity).

    The only things I do not use them for is VO work (I have an LDC that I like for that), aggressive vocals, and as hard as I have tried they cannot substitute for a shotgun mic:(

    (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Shines even as a vocal mic

    By Anonymous

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

    The first experience with this mic was almost two years ago. An expert studio engineer used one on a Bogner 4X12 when recording lead guitar solos. It is the best lead tone I ever achieved. Finally I purchased an SM81 from Musicians Friend for use in the studio. It works great for everything, even vocals. Probably one of the better tests of an instrument-centric condenser microphone is hearing how it sounds on classical acoustic guitar and acoustic piano. 'Very sensitive. The SM81 shines.

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Great live mic

    By Jeff Cavallo

    from North Royalton, Ohio

    About Me Professional Musician

    See all my reviews

    Pros

    • Clear Sound
    • Easy To Use
    • Great Definition
    • Lightweight

    Cons

    • none

    Best Uses

    • Live Steel Drums

    Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

    I have used Shure SM 57'S and a Shure Beta 87A with good results, but the SM 81 gives me more definition and more gain before feedback, for a much brighter and live sound. The steel drums stood out in the monitor mix much better, and the audience gets a better sound as well.

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Everything I Had Hoped For

    By Wookie

    from Tulsa, OK

    About Me Professional Musician

    Pros

    • Clear Sound
    • Durable
    • Easy To Use
    • Lightweight
    • Versatile

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Home Studio
      • Professional Recording

      Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

      Maybe I am weird, but I notice a lot of small things like how the item is packaged, the fit and finish, etc. Essentially things that aren't specifically related to performance. And with this mic, I was impressed. It comes with a fully padded and hard chip case- easy to store all of the necessary components and not have to worry about them getting damaged. A lot of mics come with just a bag etc.

      Onto the important stuff. It sounds... amazing. I'm using it to mic my J200 primarily. It makes the guitar, which is already fantastic, just sing. I'm not even using that wonderful of a preamp- just some basic analog to digital computer interface. My buddy and I use it to mic his uppers on the drum kit as well. I mean... it picks up everything. Extremely vast improvement over our previous setups.

      I will be buying at least one more for my own use, and my drummer friend is about to buy two himself. It's worth the money (which in comparison to some other mics, isn't even that bad). And, based on other reviews and Shure's general reputation, I imagine I will have my 81s for 30+ years. Worth every penny.

      (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      This mic will suit you well

      By Air Guitar

      from New Hampshire

      About Me Experienced

      See all my reviews

      Pros

      • Clear Sound
      • Compact
      • Durable
      • Easy To Use
      • Lightweight
      • Versatile

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Home Studio
        • Performances
        • Professional Recording

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        This mic will hear exactly what you hear while you are playing your acoustic instruments.

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Great for piano!

        By awesome-o

        from NYC

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        I bought 2 of these - one new one used. I used them to record piano in stereo into Protools. I recorded a $120,000 Steinway D 9 foot grand piano. The results were great. I tried 4 set ups and each one was awesome. The sound is very true to the source. At one point I asked the pianist to stop playing so I could listen to the recording only to realize she wasn't playing and it was the recording I was hearing.

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        SM 81's are all you need to mic your drum kit

        By James Eddy

        from PA

        See all my reviews

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        Over the years, I "close mic'd" my drum kit (in the studio) with SM57s and some other "drum mic sets" but never seemed to get that really "phat" sound from the kit (exclusive of the kick). Then, while at a "doo wop" concert in Wilmington, DE, the drum sound coming through the PA system was so strong and phat that at the end of the concert, I asked the sound guy what they were using to mic the kit.

        He informed me that except for a kick mic, they had two SM 81s overhead on the left and right of the kit. I went out and purchased the SM81s and man, do they ever just rock the studio in terms of the sound they give to the kit. Besides providing an overall "phat" sound, they beautifully pick up the ride, crash and hi-hat cymbals and, when you are mixing, if you take off the "high" to minimize cymbals, it does not affect the mids and lows that the 81s also provide.

        If you are looking to reduce the number of mics you use either live or in the studio, the 81s are the trick. I use them, an AKG D112 on the kick and an SM 57 under snare and that is it........spend the extra money on the SM81s, you will not be disappointed.

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Good on Overheads

        By hoovie87

        from Florida

        See all my reviews

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        I use these every week as drum overheads. They sound pretty nice. They pick up sound pretty evenly from lows to highs. In the mix I usually put a high shelf filter on there and roll off the bass. It gives the symbols a nice sparkle. They've been faithful to us.

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        home studio

        By C.E.O

        from Mt.View,Hi.

        See all my reviews

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        What can I say. A great quality mic. for acoustic guitar recording. Neuuman 184 is also fantastic, but I was pleasently surprised by the sensitivity and crisp reprodution this mic. gives a 6 string acoustic. Running this thru a UA LA-610 preamps make a world of difference. I've got 2 fantastic for X/Y configuration. Shure quality for sure!

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Exijj Studios

        By Brosnan thompson

        from tennessee

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        If your a drummer you should definitely buy these mics as over heads. If you can afford them then buy them. I personally love them I use them at my church they have great warmth to them. depending on what kind of cymbals you have us a compresor to ad warmth to your drums sound I would recomend this mic to any one.

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Extreme clarity, no hype.

        By shama lama

        from Texas

        See all my reviews

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        For this price you can't beat the SM81. I've been using budget sdc's for years but when I put this in front of an acoustic guitar with a UA 710 pre and an RME converter I instantly realized what I've been missing.
        Cardioid only, three position bass roll-off. Pretty straight forward.
        It's built like a tank.
        Very high quality components and build, completely professional.

        (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Great for Acoustic Guitar and Overheads

        By BMore AudioDude

        from Baltimore, MD

        See all my reviews

        Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

        I bought the SM81 after reading many reviews online. Acoustic guitar is a very popular instrument and time and time again I read that this was the mic to get. And it also doubles as my hi-hat mic.I've had the Shure SM81 for over 3 years now and still love it. To clear up confusion the "-LC" on the box stands for Less Cable. It is the same as the SM81 sold many many years ago except it no longer comes bundled with a mic cable from Shure.I'll be picking up another one very soon to use as a drum overhead mic instead of the large diaphragm condensers I currently use. I definitely recommend this microphone as it will stay in your mic locker, whether you are a basement recorder or big shot recording studio.

        (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Solid

        By Duston Moore

        from Kentuckiana

        About Me Professional Musician

        See all my reviews

        Verified Buyer

        Pros

        • Clear Sound
        • Compact
        • Durable
        • Easy To Use
        • Lightweight
        • Versatile

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Overhead For Drums

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          Great mic.

          (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Buy this mic!!!!

          By Fendergt111

          from Spartanburg, SC

          See all my reviews

          Ask me a question

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          Overall it is a mic that will always be out of the case and put to use and will always deliver. Buy this mic you will not regret it!
          Great features. I use this mic in my home studio and on the stage.The -10 db pad is a must for recording and a live setting. You really can't go wrong purchasing the sm81.I use a pair of these for micing overheads as well as using it in tandum with my Akg c214 for recording acousic guitar. It is especially great to just mic your cymbals for the overheads and turn the -10db pad on. The sound is incredible! I Tried the AkG Perception sereies for the OH but couldn't get the clarity I can get with the sm81s. You can use this mic for practically any application and alwasy come out with tremdous results.
          Great quality! It is really well made. It's a Shure mic that's all that needs to be said.
          Great Value. It's almost a steal .I have bought mics much more expensive than the Sm81 and this is buy far the best mic for the money! If you have the extra cash I would go ahead and buy a pair because once you use this bad boy you are going to wish you did.You will not find a better mic for the money!

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          solid mic for tracking acoustic instruments

          By kai-LdZgG

          from San Francisco, CA

          See all my reviews

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          I used the SM81 to home-record a variety of acoustic instruments for a folk-pop album, including acoustic guitar, mandolin, and violin, as well as egg shaker and other simple percussion. The SM81 handled these various sounds well, making it a good choice if you want to optimize and minimize your mic collection. The only weak spot I found was with the mandolin: this mic offers a pretty flat response, and with the mandolin, the resulting sound was too woody/bassy. I found a higher-frequency-capturing mic was better for that. But the SM81 handled all the others very well.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Vocal Application

          By Anonymous

          from Undisclosed

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          I know the normal application is for instrumentation but I record a lot of hip-hop vocals and was very pleased with the quality of this mic. The low-end is incredible. And the uni-directional pattern cuts out alot of the room problems I was having with other mics. The sound can be a little too dead in my room with this mic...but nothing a little mixing can't liven up. Definitely a good mic to have in the collection.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Stereo is the only way to go

          By Jack Barakitis

          from Hilton Head Island, SC

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          I've been using the SM 81's for about 10 years, mostly in a stereo pair. In the last three years I've been recording vocals, acoustic piano, flute and guitar in stereo with a home studio setup. I have even set them up in jam rooms, you've got to listen for yourself...Well worth the investment.Preamp is MAudio's firewire 410 via Samplitude DAW.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          great mic for acoustic

          By Anonymous

          from Undisclosed

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          I'm an amateur recording engineer that has been playing guitar for over 10 years. I bought this mic to get some great sounds out of my Taylor 810ce. Does the job wonderfully!! With a great preamp (I recommend the FMR Audio RNP) you can get some great sounds. Combined with another mic, or if you just plug in your acoustic you get a great mix.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          SM81 is smooth and natural

          By CanMan

          from Norman, AR

          Comments about Shure SM81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone:

          I have found that a lot of mics these days hype the high frequencies. To me such mics sound harsh, too brite, or even shrill. Shure's SM81 does not bump up the high fequencies, and this makes for a natural sound, and pleasing to my ear. Nicest mic for acoustic guitar I have found. I am getting a second one.

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