The Shure 55 series has been in production for over 70 years, which makes it the longest continually produced piece of audio kit in history as far as I am aware. This microphone also has the unique distinction of being Elvis Presley’s microphone of choice.
The Shure 55’s history starts in 1937 when Benjamin Bauer, a Shure engineer, began his quest for making a unidirectional mic using a single capsule. He began creating mics with capsules that with special openings that allowed sound waves to reach the diaphragm from the front, but blocked off any openings at the rear. This created a short phase delay that cancelled out any waves coming from the rear. He christened this microphone the Unidyne 55 in 1939 and it was an immediate success. Production of Bauer’s 55 series has continued ever since.
The classic, retro look of the 55 has been coming back into style in a big way and Shure created the 55SH Series II to capitalize on that. The 55SH has the same look and feel as the original, but with some technological improvements.
The newest model is the Super 55. They kept the beautiful chrome plating over the die cast zinc body, but based the capsule on the Beta 58A. Did this update in technology improve on a classic, or did they fix something that wasn’t broken?
When setting up the Super 55 you would do best by placing stage monitors a little off of center. Aiming for about 120 degrees off-axis instead of straight on. You will also find that the output s about 5dB hotter than the older 55SH II capsule. This is because the Super 55 has a sensitivity of -53BV/Pa, which allows for increased gain before feedback. Another improvement is that frequency response goes out to 17Khz, which allows better articulation and increased air.
The Super 55 has a very controlled and smooth bass response, but still allows vocals to be heard clearly using a 6-7kHz presence boost.
One change that surprised me was the removal of the onoff switch. From the perspective of an audio engineer, I think this is a great move. As a musician, I’m conflicted. There are of course some work-arounds you can use if you want to be able to turn the mic off away from the board. When I need to do that I simply run the mic through a footswitch before sending it to the board.
Considering the smaller diaprhagm condenser on the Super 55 I figured I would get a slightly nasal sound. What I actually got was a surprisingly bright sound, atypical from a dynamic microphone.
When I compared it to a the similar Granelli G5790, I found that the Super 55 sounded warmer for low mid range sound, more clear, and less compressed. The Super 55 produces perfect performance ready vocal sound.
If you picture Elvis singing into this mic you probably picture him caressing it in his hand and almost making out with it. This is because you need to speak and sing directly into the front of the mic. No wandering around it. This is a feature of this mic, not a detractor, because if it doesn’t pick you up, it wont pick up anything else it’s not supposed it.
That’s not to say that the Super 55 is annoyingly picky about where you position yourself though. It has great proximity and allows pretty good back and forward head movement without much change in bass.
I got nearly no room tone with this mic even when recording in a medium live space. I liked the amount of proximity effect of this mic too: it’s not exaggerated allowing some forward/back head movement without a huge increase/decrease in bass.
The size of this mic prevents it from being used in tight areas like next to snare drums, though it does produce a great sound when used with boomy bass drums and in close enough proximity to the snare. Really though, half the allure of the Super 55 is the look and I want it as visible as possible for performances.
The Super 55 Deluxe is the same exact size as the classic 55SH, though it is slightly heavier. The body is die-cast zinc with a beautiful chrome plating. The Super 55 has a vibrant deep blue foam material protecting the supercardioid element.
On the front of the Super you will see the stunning Super 55 nameplate and a sharp “circle S” Shure logo in blue, instead of the 55SH’s black.
The Super comes with a new cartridge shock mount that is useful in reducing stand noise, and a re-engineered mount that swivels. The mount allows you to tilt anywhere from 80 degrees away from you to 45 degrees toward you.
As I mentioned before, there is no onoff switch. Which I think is an improvement.
Something to be aware of is that the XLR connection on the mic is placed very close to the connecting threaded hole on the bottom. This means that you will need to remove all of the threaded washers that are usually on a lot of booms and stands. If you don’t remove them then the XLR connector from the mic cable will not plug in.
The Shure Super 55 Microphone is a piece of music history that looks as great as it sounds. Whether your a crooner or a rocker, using this mic will give you a great sound that you will be very happy with. The Super 55 comes with an attract blue foam, the Super 55SH with black, and the Super 5575LE a handsome red. Whatever your taste you can’t go wrong with this mic.
If you’re still not convinced of the awesome pedigree of this mic, I will leave you with Metallica killing it singing “Nothing Else Matters” on the Super 55 Deluxe Microphone: