The Shure SM57-LC Microphone has been around for a long time, and can be found in pretty much every major studio in the world. And, it cost less than $100! Here's why every studio should have at least one!
It doesn't matter if you are just setting up your home studio for the first time, or if you are buying equipment for a multi-million dollar recording studio, the SM57 is a microphone that should be at the top of your microphone list.
While it's certainly not the best microphone for every situation, or even the first choice for many situations, the SM57 has probably been used more than just about any other microphone ever made. It is a true workhouse that can stand up to incredible amounts of abuse, making it also great for live situations as well as in the recording studio.
In the recording studio, and on the road, the SM57 is one of the first choices, and most commonly used, microphones for the snare drum and guitar cabinets. However, that's not the limit to its uses. It also works great for vocals, and just about any other instrument. It's versatility and low cost make it a no-brainer to have at least one of these in your own studio.
While most studio engineers would choose an expensive large diaphragm condenser microphone first for lead vocals, the SM57 has been used as the primary vocal microphone on many records, and even more so in live performances (you'll often see one in front of the president and other public speaking engagements as well). While it may not give you the crisp and detailed high-end that an expensive condenser microphone would, it still can sound great with the right vocalist and the right microphone pre-amp.
For your classic rock guitar sound, the SM57 placed right up against the grill of a guitar cabinet, is still one of the first choices of recording engineers, just as it has been for ages.
If you want to put together a studio microphone cabinet on a budget, you could easily get by with several SM57 microphones, as they can be used for snare and toms on a drum kit with great results, guitar cabinets, percussion (congas, bongos, etc.), vocals, and even acoustic guitars if needed. While it may not always deliver the most ideal sound on all instruments, you could use it on pretty much anything if you set it up the right way.
What is it that makes this microphone special? It's hard to describe exactly, but it's just got the right type of slightly aggressive midrange that really works well for a lot of sources in modern types of music. Not too much extended low end or high-end, but the right kind of mid-range, which is very important in modern music. And, yes, it's not going to sound great on everything, and, again, is not the first choice for many things, but it will sound good on just about anything and it IS the first choice for many things in the studio or on stage (mainly snare drum and guitar cabinets).
Typical selling price for the SM57 is right around $100, but if you shop around you can find them on sale new for as low as $80, and used for quite a bit cheaper. Since these are so rugged, you can feel pretty safe about buying a used one.
So, go out and buy at least two or three Shure SM57-LC Microphones for your studio, and you'll always find a use for them!