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How did they make an SM57 sound so Amazing?
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Dunnzilla123
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6th October 2011
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How did they make an SM57 sound so Amazing?

I recently bought an SM57 because I was told it was a "must have" when recording guitar. I found this video of one of my favorite bands The Great Valley recording their newest album.

The Great Valley Recording Blog 2 (Exclusively for AlterThePress.com) - YouTube

And I noticed they only had the SM57 micing his amp. And if you heard their new album "Ruthless" it sounds awesome. So I am looking for advice on how to get that sound using my SM57.

Here is one of their songs as an example:

The Great Valley - Dirty Work (Lyric Video) - YouTube
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Good source, the right placement, the right preamp, the right processing. You can make great mics sound horrible at the same time.
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SM57 benefits greatly from a high quality mic preamp. The difference between a 57 through a low end pre and a high end pre can be drastic. Having said that, good mic placement could possibly offer the greatest improvement on a given source.
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I love SM57's. Especially here, I see a lot of people who don't like it (for whatever reason), but it's just one of those mics where, if you can't make a good recording with it, it's not the mic's fault. A true workhorse.

Like the others said, a good source and good placement will go a long way. A good pre does help.
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The question is wrong

Yep, they didnt make the SM57 sound amazing, they made the whole setup sound amazing.

First, listen to your sióund with your ears right in front of oyur speakers - thats what the mic is going to pick up. You will realize it sounds totally different to your normal listening position.

Second, reduce your gain (and distortion resp.) by at least 25-30% compared to your live sound.

Third, try different mic positions. A good piont to start is to place the mic close to the grille cloth (as you did in the video) and point it at the point between the cone and the calotte, angled towards the cone (similar to the picture of the SM57 shown below (the picture does not show my setup, I just searched in the internet for a foto to show what I mean).




fourth: Double or triple track the guitar (beware of the phase), preferably using different amp settings, if possible different mics and different guitars

fifth: use the low cut on your mixing board or itb to separate the guitar from bass and drums

That should get you there - I sometimes use a different approach, when I want it to sound like one guitar and not that fat as a wall of sound. Then I use my MW-1 reamper and record up to 5-6 tracks - sometimes even a clean sound or I mic the E-guitar as an acoustic and add the clicky sound to the tracks (very very nice) - experiment with what you have got!!!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarwolle View Post
Second, reduce your gain (and distortion resp.) by at least 25-30% compared to your bedroom sound.
Fixed that for you. ;-)
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Originally Posted by Aeolian View Post
Fixed that for you. ;-)
Well, MY bedroom is reserved for other things than playing guitar ;-))
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunnzilla123 View Post
... So I am looking for advice on how to get that sound using my SM57....
Start by getting that sound without any mics at all.
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yes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunnzilla123 View Post

Here is one of their songs as an example:

The Great Valley - Dirty Work (Lyric Video) - YouTube
sounds like a modern Hi gain Marshall vibe with lots of upper mid presence/bite - Celestion Vintage 30s emphasise that tone anyway, so that's part of your Eq chain
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Preamps man. A shitty preamp with an SM57 means a shitty SM57. An amazing preamp with an SM57 means an amazing mic.
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it is really pre amp dependent, when i plug into my API's it sounds completely different then when I use preamps on the DIGI 003.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BootsyGraham View Post
Preamps man. A shitty preamp with an SM57 means a shitty SM57. An amazing preamp with an SM57 means an amazing mic.
I have been using an Alesis Multimix 8 USB. It was cheap and got the job done when first starting out. Would using the gain be alright? Or are there any cheap preamps that would help greatly?
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7th October 2011
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I have an Alesis 2 track USB mixer and it sounded terrible with my SM58. It's worth a try with the gain, but I don't think it will really help that much. I was in the same situation before this summer. I always wondered how my favorite records sounded so amazing with just an SM57 on the guitar. People said, "Oh it's your room because it's not treated properly!" or "Oh it's your tone!" or "Oh, it's your mic placement." Total ****ing bullshit. It's all about the preamps. I did a ton of research and found out that other people were in the same exact situation as me. So I took a chance and bought an API 6 slot Lunchbox new for $424, and a VP312 for $300 (although if you know how to solder, you can make them for about $215) and it completely solved my problem and opened up a whole new world of recording. There are some cheap decent preamps but I don't have any experience with them. I can only vouch for the Classic API line of preamps. Maybe somebody else can recommend a decent one though.
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In my experience the 57 / 58 really does need great pres in order to sound incredible, but with elec guitar tracks you can still get a good sound out of it without.

I would have never thought the 58 could produce a vocal that sounded as good as Design for Life - Manic Street Preachers until I read it in a magazine, for example.

A big thing people ignore a lot is amp placement within the room and experimenting properly with mic angle and distance. If it sounds amazing to you in the live room and rubbish in the control room then you've got to go back to how you're capturing the source.
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57 with an API pre sounds killer!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CEB View Post
Why not just buy a better mic?
Because the SM57 is not the problem, although trying to fix a problem with money is obviously very gearslutty. Better man have done and continue to do amazing things with this microphone. If you are starting out and you fail, work on improving your skills not your microphone locker. It's insanity.
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I think SM57s have two qualities that make them a nice, useful mic:

-they react pretty well to very loud and edgy sources
-they have a pretty balanced / rounded frequency response

just the ticket for some sources.

-synthoid
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API pres are a great choice for recording guitar and the BLA B12A will get you almost there cheap. The SCA A12 is another choice instead of an API 512A. Another trick in a non-acoustically treated room is to hang a blanket on a wall and aim the cab towards it. Set the cab back about 3 to 4 feet and put the mic in between the wall and cab. This really helps to get a tight guitar sound. I got the idea from the SE Reflexion Filter

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Try a transformerless 57. You'll have to change your pants
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I switched out 2 of my 57s with the Tab-Funkenwerk AMI T58 transformers and really like the results. The claim is that it effectively makes the mic closer to that of an SM-7. YMMV, but the upgrade cost me $45 as a DIY with the Tab bought on eBay.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CEB View Post
Why not just buy a better mic?

Save up for another month. Hold back on a few sixes of beer. Skip coffee for a few days. Those savings give you have a ton of better microphones available.

I personally don't appreciate the 4-6k rise on these mics.
Same here, I haven't used a 57 on a cab since the 1980's. There are better choices. I never shove a cardiod mic up to a speaker cone, that just pushes the low mids out of perspective from the mic's proximity effect.

Then there are the Mexican vs USA Unidyne III models. I have the old ones, they sound pretty good on some stuff. The Mexican 57's were all sold off. Those sound like an American Unidyne III after it's been soaked in a beer first.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dave gross View Post
SM57 benefits greatly from a high quality mic preamp. The difference between a 57 through a low end pre and a high end pre can be drastic. Having said that, good mic placement could possibly offer the greatest improvement on a given source.
I have never noticed any drastic differences between low end and high quality preamps for guitar recording. It's simply tested by reamping an amp one take with cheapest preamp and one with respected preamp. I did it. There's absolutely nothing drastic, sorry.

Yeah...when I first got to record with high end preamp (Great River) the first thing I did was to try it with SM57. Because everybody was saying how it will make SM57 sound good. I didn't hear it. And the next thing I had to do is y-cable two different preamps, cheap and expensive, just to know what's the difference. And when blind tested I was totally blown away about the difference. It was minimal.


Good pic placement indeed offers nice improvement. But so does the speaker and cabinet. And of course the amp settings. If I listen to the guitar recordings I did 8 years ago those sound weak. I remember thinking the same... how can people use SM57 for amps. They suck. But yeah... sm57 is there almost always for my guitar recordings.. last time I used it with AT4047 those two sounded amazing together.

But it's just funny to me that if I'll great guitar sound, good mic position, good player and a high end preamp it will sound good... but if I have a Behringer preamp it would sound bad.


And remember there's other things in the mix than just guitars. It's the whole picture that must sound good, not always the single instruments. Sometimes when solod guitars can sound weak and horrible...but in the mix they can work.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams View Post
Same here, I haven't used a 57 on a cab since the 1980's. There are better choices. I never shove a cardiod mic up to a speaker cone, that just pushes the low mids out of perspective from the mic's proximity effect.

Then there are the Mexican vs USA Unidyne III models. I have the old ones, they sound pretty good on some stuff. The Mexican 57's were all sold off. Those sound like an American Unidyne III after it's been soaked in a beer first.
Yes but its a very good beer......

Theres nothing like the old Unidyne III's. API and one of those and the rest you put up is the icing. I never think its a complete guitar sound alone but its usable for those who dont have the budget for the time being. Lately I've been using the Kel HM-1 with the Unidyne 57 on cabinets. Works for me.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CEB View Post
And even better men have realized that it's a mic that is surpassed by other mics at a similar price point.

To each their own.
Yeah, the thing is there are lots of very clued-up guys using them and getting exactly what they want - as well as people getting "tizzy" sounds...
It's a tool, and that peaky response can just happen to lock with the sound of some cabs to produce something that works well in a mix.
Or, one can use something flatter and more "detailed" to do something different.
Just saying...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Hakala View Post
I have never noticed any drastic differences between low end and high quality preamps for guitar recording. It's simply tested by reamping an amp one take with cheapest preamp and one with respected preamp. I did it. There's absolutely nothing drastic, sorry.

Yeah...when I first got to record with high end preamp (Great River) the first thing I did was to try it with SM57. Because everybody was saying how it will make SM57 sound good. I didn't hear it. And the next thing I had to do is y-cable two different preamps, cheap and expensive, just to know what's the difference. And when blind tested I was totally blown away about the difference. It was minimal.


Good pic placement indeed offers nice improvement. But so does the speaker and cabinet. And of course the amp settings. If I listen to the guitar recordings I did 8 years ago those sound weak. I remember thinking the same... how can people use SM57 for amps. They suck. But yeah... sm57 is there almost always for my guitar recordings.. last time I used it with AT4047 those two sounded amazing together.

But it's just funny to me that if I'll great guitar sound, good mic position, good player and a high end preamp it will sound good... but if I have a Behringer preamp it would sound bad.


And remember there's other things in the mix than just guitars. It's the whole picture that must sound good, not always the single instruments. Sometimes when solod guitars can sound weak and horrible...but in the mix they can work.
Not saying that you need to spend a lot of money or else you can't have a good sound with a 57, but just saying they can really open up. I think dynamics like a 57 can really benefit from a better preamp --- I don't think there's a huge argument there. Yes, context is king, and soloed instruments mean absolutely nothing unless it's the only instrument in the song. There may not have been a big difference when reamping your guitar track, but no guitar sound is the same, and there are an infinite number of combinations out there. I just know that more often than not, I prefer using a 57 through a good preamp.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonMiller View Post
it is really pre amp dependent, when i plug into my API's it sounds completely different then when I use preamps on the DIGI 003.
This is because the SM57 is very sensitive to loading. Having the "right" input impedance is critical when it comes to achieving good sound with this microphone. But you don't necessarily need to spend a lot of money on a high-end preamp in order to get something acceptable, something like a $13 620 ohm shunt resistor from Naiant - Inline Devices between your SM57 and preamp can work wonders.
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Perhaps the mix engineer had something to do with improving the sound....hmmm?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CEB View Post
Why not just buy a better mic?

Save up for another month. Hold back on a few sixes of beer. Skip coffee for a few days. Those savings give you have a ton of better microphones available.

I personally don't appreciate the 4-6k rise on these mics.
You do realize the thread starter just asked: "This band I really like got amazing tone from an SM57. How can I do the same thing?"

And you answered it by saying: "Use a better mic than an SM57."

Also if you can't get at least a good tone from a 57, you don't really deserve to purchase more expensive mics (I mean no offense, TS).
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Quote:
How did they make an SM57 sound so Amazing?
Getting an outstanding guitar sound first? Mics don't do magic, just try to acceptably pick up what they have around.

I use 57s for guitars almost every day in live shows. They are solid and work ok withstanding the mistreatment inflicted on-stage for years. They can be as good or bad sounding as any other cheapo in this range and the proximity is more acceptable/bearable than so many modern dynamics out there. But when I tour with a band doing the sound I never use any. also never record anything with a SM57. There are plenty of way better alternatives to drop in front amp cabs and nearby snare drums.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonMiller View Post
it is really pre amp dependent, when i plug into my API's it sounds completely different then when I use preamps on the DIGI 003.
Sure. Highly colored but good old preamp versus lifeless and sterile soundcard built-in stuff. That makes a big difference in 57s or whatever you choose to plug in.
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