As I sat down to write this review, I had to wonder if I am mellowing out with age. It seems like forever since I had anything bad to say about a microphone. Then I considered the current market and reminisced about my formative years when decent mics were way beyond my budget and affordable mics could often sound like crap and look worse. There’s no doubt about it, the audio market is in a golden age right now when it comes to affordable, quality equipment.
As much as I want to get grumpy and rip into a microphone, I would have to just force that way too much to do it to the Rode M1. I can, have and will again defend the Shure SM58 (Review Here) as a classic mic. It’s always been there for me, and always done what it’s done at a price that was manageable when so many other good mics were not. It seems that every few years, as my needs grew, I was purchasing another SM57 or 58. Next time I need one, I think I’m getting a Rode M1. It does the SM58 thing as well as the SM58, and improves on it in some ways, for my needs.
This is still a handheld dynamic microphone though. It has a place in a multi-microphone studio. Many of our readers are interested in single mic, temporary or hobby-type home studios. I try to keep this segment in mind. The M1 is a great mic if you’re doing both studio and stage work. If you’re looking for a mic that lives only in the studio, I will always direct you toward a large diaphragm condenser mic.
SO I WANT AN SM58, SHOULD I GET THIS ONE INSTEAD? Yes. Same price point, same shape, same style, same mic. Only it’s a little better.
Setup and Usability
Another boring old handheld dynamic. XLR cable in the bottom and away you go. This is a true cardioid, no rear sensitivity like a hypercardioid, yet there’s still a ton of gain before feedback available, more than a 58, which is no slouch in this department. It’s not really the right description, but the M1 might be called a louder mic than the 58. That’s the practical result of gain before feedback. The mic itself isn’t louder, but you can amplify it more before feedback is an issue.
Rode recommends the M1 for guitar amps, snare drums and other percussion. I believe them. In a pinch, I would confidently use the M1 in such a situation if I needed to. However, and this makes me feel a bit disloyal, if I had a situation where I needed a mic on the drums and there was an SM58 set up for a singer, I’d swap the M1 for the 58 and send the Shure back to work with the drummer. I rarely send my friends to work with the drummer. Drummers are so, well, drummer-y. I’m sorry SM58, but I also know you’re tough and you can handle it. I just really like the M1 a little better.
On my own voice, with pretty much any mic, the first thing I do is drop the frequencies around 400Hz a bit. That’s a common place in a mix for lower midrange mud to collect, since so many instruments and voices have content around that area. It’s essential for me, and for many other vocalists, to have a bit of reduction in this area for the sake of clarity.
Guess what the M1 does without me touching the EQ. If you said, “made you a sandwich and brought you a cold, cold drink on a hot, hot day,” you’re wrong, but I will buy that mic if I have the chance. The M1 has a scooped out midrange that bottoms out around 300 to 500Hz. My money zone. Add to that a peak 200Hz for warmth and body and a bigger peak at 6,000 to 8,000Hz for clarity, and you’ve got a mic with frequency response like an SM58 after I fine tune the EQ.
This is the precise mojo of the Rode M1.
You cannot imitate an SM58, let alone improve upon it, by building it like a fancy, delicate frou frou piece of preciousness. The M1 will never be accused of that. I suspect that if a 58 can survive a 1,000 foot drop off a skyscraper, Rode’s engineers would make the M1 capable of surviving 1,001 feet. Register your mic purchase with Rode and the M1 is guaranteed. Forever.
In particular, I like the non-silver grille, reminiscent of some Electro-Voice mics from my past. It’s only a style thing, but then, it’s only rock n roll too. But I like it.
No user review below four stars speaks pretty loudly. As is often the case, user reviews on Amazon included other Rode models, so sometimes it’s hard to tell which mic is being reviewed, but there was nothing out in left field. Many of the reviews agreed with me on the pertinent point: Just like an SM58 but better.
I have a band practice tomorrow in a muddy little rehearsal room. I’m going to check the change between the cushions of my sofa to see if I can pick up an M1 on the way. If you know, like and use a 58, this is an upgrade in performance at the same price.
For the exclusive one-mic home studio, this will work, but your better buy remains a large diaphragm condenser mic.