If you’ve ever played in a band or done some home recording, chances are good you’ve come across a Shure mic. Their products range from entry-level throw-aways to wallet-goring audiophile tools.
And while the company’s products are sometimes short on sex-appeal, their ubiquity is testament to their consistent level of quality: Shure knows how to build sturdy microphones. Ironically, this is due in no small part to the company’s equally impressive ability to destroy their mics as well.
“You test until something breaks, then you fix it,” says Boris Libo, Shure’s Manager of Corporate Quality Engineering. “And you keep going until you can’t fix it anymore.”
The SM58, a standard for live vocals known for its rugged design, is one of many products that Shure employees decimate on a regular basis. A few mics from every batch are brutalized in Shure’s destructive testing facilities to ensure they perform up to par. There they are scorched, smashed, frozen, and bathed in synthetic sweat.
Given the volume of Shure’s production lines, that works out to thousands of mics being purposely mangled every year. Wired.com tagged along as the folks at Shure demolished a few unlucky samples from their product line. Keep reading for a tour of a microphone’s worst nightmare.
Top photo: The Who’s Roger Daltrey has an endorsement deal with Shure and sent in his SM58, pictured above, for some first aid.
“The SM58, the lead, the whole bit: It's part of me, I built my stage persona around this mic,” says Daltrey in a quote from Shure.
Shure boasts lots of endorsements from rock stars, and its SM58 mics have a historic place in the genre. Low-priced and sturdy, they have been a favorite vocal mic of live performers who need equipment that can survive their rock and roll antics.
Bottom photo: Matthew Koschak, a senior acoustical engineer, holds the diaphragm of a SM27 condenser microphone. The diaphragm is only 1/10,000th of an inch thick, and made of a Mylar material stretched like a drumhead across the tiny frame.