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The Shure Beta 52A is an excellent kick drum microphone that can also be used for other low-end instruments like bass guitars. Since its introduction in 2002, this dynamic microphone has gone on to become a staple of drum recording setups around the globe in professional and home studios.
In this article, we’ll review the Shure Beta 52A to see how it performs as a kick drum mic for both live and studio use and give you the low-down (or low-end rather) on whether or not it makes a worthy investment for drummers and recording engineers. Read on to learn more!
Shure Beta 52A Review (Kick Mic)
- 174dB max SPL handling
- Supercardioid polar pattern
- Boosted presence at around 4kHz
- 20Hz-10kHz frequency response
- Adjustable swivel mount
- Durable metal chassis
Shure Beta 52A Review (Kick Mic) Gallery
Shure produces some of the most-used dynamic microphones ever to be manufactured, including the legendary SM7B, SM57, and SM58. These mics are great all-rounders, but the Beta 52A is designed more specifically.
An excellent kick drum microphone must be capable of capturing the prominent frequencies produced when the beater comes into contact with the bass drum skin. Most of these frequencies occur in the range of 50Hz-10kHz.
The Shure Beta 52A captures these frequencies with an ideal blend of warmth and accuracy. When placed inside the soundhole of a kick drum, it captures every detail of the low-end and midrange frequencies, which give the drum its powerful unique sound.
Despite being a microphone predominantly designed for kick drums, the Beta 52A can also capture any other instrument with a prominent low-end output.
Bass guitars, double bass, and piano are all recordable using this microphone. You can also combine it with other microphones, which can pick up more of the treble end of an instrument to compliment the rich bass of the 52A.
Shure has used a super-cardioid polar pattern when designing this microphone, which provides maximum focus from the front of the capsule.
It rejects off-axis sounds brilliantly, so there’s no danger of other drums or instruments bleeding into the kick drum recordings. This saves a lot of time and effort during the EQ stage of the mixing process.
SPL Handling and Dynamics
Another critical aspect of any microphone, but particularly one that is designed to be placed close to a loud instrument like a kick drum, is the ability to handle different dynamics.
Kick drums have a sharp attack and can be played at all volumes. Generally, dynamic consistency is desirable when recording a kick drum, which is why a compressor is commonly used.
However, no matter how skilled you are as a mixing engineer, if the microphone you use cannot handle the loudness of a kick drum, then you’re going to have problems getting a good sound.
The Beta 52A can handle up to 174dB SPLs, which is impressive to say the least. This is more than enough SPL handling capabilities that are required for recording a kick drum, no matter how close the mic is placed to the skin.
Indeed, there is more to the dynamic proficiency of a microphone than the maximum SPL it can handle. It’s also essential for a kick drum to pick up the quieter hits clearly, which are common in styles like jazz or funk drumming.
The Beta 52A balances the ability to capture loud sound sources with the sensitivity required to hone in on the details of a drum or other instrument. It isn’t overly sensitive, as that would lead to too much background noise spilling into recordings.
The super-cardioid polar pattern is also beneficial to the dynamic aspects of this microphone. It means that you can place it directly in front of a loud instrument without having to increase the gain too much.
Shure’s microphones are renowned for their sound quality, but their build quality is legendary. For countless decades, the manufacturer has produced roadworthy mics used heavily onstage and in the studio.
The Shure SM57 is arguably the most durable dynamic microphone money can buy, and although the Beta 52A isn’t entirely on that level, it’s still incredibly robust.
With its large metal mesh grille covering the important inner components, the Beta 52A won’t be broken if it’s accidentally dropped or the mic stand is knocked over. The rear side of the microphone is shielded by a metal enclosure, too.
A mount is attached to the microphone’s chassis, which adds to its solidity. It has a heavy feel, which is a good sign as you don’t want a flimsy microphone that is too lightweight to withstand some wear and tear.
When the mic is attached to a stand, it can be tightened to the point where there’s no chance of it coming loose with ease.
The overall build quality of the Shure Beta 52A is precisely how you’d expect it to be with a Shure dynamic microphone. It can absorb damage and is designed to be used extensively both onstage and in the studio.
Tone and Frequency Response
With its focused directionality and limited frequency response, the Beta 52A is perfectly designed to capture a kick drum or project it in a live setting. For most microphones, having a limited frequency range is not a good thing, but it is beneficial for a kick drum mic.
The Beta 52A can pick up sounds as low as 20Hz, which covers all of the sub-bass frequencies produced by kick drums and other low-end sounds. Its upper limit is 10kHz, which captures the prominent midrange and upper midrange frequencies.
Kick drum microphones can tend to sound a little dull and dark due to the reduction of treble frequencies. However, Shure has combatted this by ensuring that the frequency range around 4kHz is boosted sufficiently.
4-4.5kHz is the frequency range where the sound of the bass drum beater hitting the kick drum is most prominent, so enhancing the presence increases the detail of the recordings you make with the Beta 52A.
The polar pattern is also crucial in determining the tone of the recordings made with this microphone. If you place it close to the kick drum, you’ll get a deeper low-end recording with depth and lots of bottom end.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer a less bassy recording, you can pull the mic back a little so that it picks up the entire sound of the skin resonating rather than the closer-up vibrations f the kick drum.
Supercardioid polar patterns are great for recording bass-heavy instruments because they allow you to tailor the sound simply by adjusting the distance you place the mic from the sound source.
Shure’s microphones are often multi-faceted and can be seamlessly swapped between studio use and live sound purposes. The Shure Beta 52A is an excellent example of this, with all the qualities required for use onstage.
The process of setting up drum mics is different in a live setting than in the recording studio because you’re looking for a tighter, more refined sound in most cases.
When recording, you don’t want the ambient sounds of the room to come through too much, as this will cause spill from other instruments and perhaps even the crowd noise to be sent through the drum mics.
The Beta 52A, with its super-cardioid polar pattern, is perfect for live kick drums. It hones in on the specific frequencies of the drum, rejecting all sound coming from the rear, back, and sides of the capsule.
Its ability to handle high SPLs also comes in handy when using it for live shows. There is an element of unpredictability about live drums, which any sound engineer will confirm.
Sudden spikes in audio can be caused by a number of factors, including the microphones or drums moving around, causing them to be closer to each other than intended.
If anything like this happens, you can be confident that the Shure Beta 52A will be able to handle any unexpected situation that it is presented with.
Furthermore, the roadworthy design of this microphone makes it resilient enough to handle the strains of live music. I have no doubt that it would cope well with being used by a touring drummer.
Now that we’ve analyzed every aspect of the Shure Beta 52A, we can put all of our findings together to determine whether this kick drum mic, as a whole, is worth investing in.
There are no apparent downsides to this mic, and for that, Shure deserves a lot of credit. You can tell that all of the expertise the manufacturer has built up over years of producing dynamic mics has gone into the design of the 52A.
For recordings, this microphone is an excellent choice. Granted, it’s not the most versatile mic in the world, but this is to be expected – the frequency response has been deliberately limited to suit the EQ response of a kick drum.
One feature that makes this mic stand out is the slight presence boost at around 4kHz, which targets the “sweet spot” of a kick drum and brings out the midrange frequencies created when the beater strikes the skin.
For live performances, the Beta 52A is equally as impressive. It can handle loud SPLs and doesn’t pick up hardly any background noise thanks to its excellent off-axis rejection and focused super-cardioid directionality.
The build quality is rock-solid, but being a Shure microphone, that should go without saying!
If you’ve ever used an SM57 or SM58, you’ll know that Shure microphones can take a serious beating without being damaged, and the Beta 52A is on the same level of durability.
Although designed for a kick drum, this mic can also be helpful when recording other instruments with a prominent low end, such as bass guitar, double bass, piano, or strings.
Overall, the Shure Beta 52A is a worthy investment for any recording engineer, live sound engineer, or drummer. It will complement your other pieces of audio gear brilliantly.
Shure Beta 52A Review (Kick Mic) At A Glance
- Excellent at recording all of the prominent frequencies of a kick drum
- Doubles up as a highly capable live kick drum mic
- Legendary Shure durability and build quality
- Handles high SPLs without distorting
- Only suitable for kick drums or low-end instruments