The SM57 Guitar Cab Shootout.

While tracking guitars one day, I noticed that my 57 was sounding “dull” compared to what I had been hearing from some peers. It still sounded like a 57…But it wasn’t quite as lively as other 57’s that I’d heard.  The question then was, “How consistent are SM57’s?”  Knowing that the 57 can be somewhat polarizing, is it that some people get a lack-lustre 57 while others luck out and get a stellar one?  I decided to tackle the consistency question on my own.  Afterall, the only things we truly know are those that we experience ourselves.

Knowing that I’d need to be able to easily swap out and consistently place each microphone, I decided I needed a better stand than the normal ones I had around.  I also needed a pile of SM57’s to work with.  I gave my sales guy at Sweetwater a call, ordered up a Triad-Orbit T2 mic stand, O2 boom, and 10 Sm57’s.  Less than 24 hours later, the goods arrived and I set out to get things ready to test.

T-O_IO

The Triad Orbit IO quick release makes swapping mics fast and easy.

First up was to take inventory, and label each 57.  Each 57 box was labeled (has the serial number on it), the microphone removed and labeled to match the box.  After all mics and boxes were labeled, I turned to the Triad-Orbit mic stand and set it up in front of a Mesa Boogie straight, over-sized 4×12 cab.  Triad-Orbit has developed a quick release system that’s quite good and in conjunction with their impressive stability and incredible range of motion, once you have the stand positioned, you can easily and consistently swap out microphones reaching the same spot over and over.

The stand was locked down, but what about the mic clips?  The Shure mic clip has a pivot point that allows the microphone angle to be adjusted in relation to the stand mount.  This was a variable that needed to be eliminated.  To do so, I decided to use a single Sm-57 clip, thread on one of the Triad Orbit quick release mounts, and use the same mount for each microphone.  The microphones were slid into the mic clip until the bottom of the mic was flush with the end of the clip.  Swapping mics consisted of a few steps:

  1. Release the mic clip from the stand
  2. Remove the mic cable
  3. Remove the mic from the clip (without adjusting the pivot of the clip)
  4. Put the mic clip on the next mic and ensure the base of the mic was flush with the end of the mic clip

    Each mic placed into the mic clip until rear of mic was flush with the end of the clip. This combined with the Triad Orbit IO quick release system ensured fast and consistent placement of each 57.

  5. Attach the mic cable
  6. Re-attach to the mic stand

After each mic swap, a tape measure was used to ensure that the mic was repositioned to exactly the same spot.

So the mechanics of swapping mics and ensuring exact position was worked out….Now how about the recording aspect of things?  A re-amp solution would work out well, but I chose to create Impulse Responses of the cab/mic setup.  Using Voxengo’s Deconvolver, I created a sine-sweep, loaded into my DAW, and setup a send via a Little Labs Redeye3D to a VHT 2/50/2 power-amp.  The Mesa cab is loaded with four different speakers.  For this test I chose the Scumback M75.  I was picky about mic placement, but it was positioned over the dustcap and off to the side, pointing straight at the grill.  I plugged the first SM57 into a Classic API Vp-312 preamp, set my levels, and started to capture each mic.  Once the sweeps were captured, Voxengo Deconvoler was used to create the IR’s.

Now that I had each mic sampled, I needed a way to test the IR’s.  I created a short track with two guitars, bass, and drums.  Guitars were sent through Avid Eleven Rack without cab/mic sims and the SM57 IR’s that I created were used instead.  The bass and drums were processed, but the guitars are raw with no EQ or compression.  The master mix has a limiter to catch any errant peaks.

 

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