Shure PE Series
A New Microphone Range from Shure
Shure have introduced a new range of moving coil mics, designated the PE series, standing for Professional Entertainer. All are coloured dark grey and with the exception of an omnidirectional one, all are cardioid directional types. They are priced between £53 and £147, with four specifically intended for vocal applications with the mesh heads and five primarily for instrumental use, with accessory 'windshields' for the latter on vocals. Some microphones are produced in high impedance form, carrying the suffix H instead of L. Some are supplied with or without cable and all except the lowest priced PE9 have XLR connectors at the microphone.
We will survey the range from the manufacturer's brochure and then report on three of the range selected at the UK press launch. This took place recently on board a Thames riverboat during which dealers and press were entertained by Kenny Balland his Jazz Band, performing superbly as usual and employing a PA derived from various mics in the PE series. The prices quoted are nominal list prices including VAT for the cableless versions, where this applies.
PE9 At £53 the PE9 is available in low and high impedance form. A locking on/off switch is provided and the microphone comes with a 6 metre cable. The high impedance version has a ¼" jack plug fitted and the low version an XLR type. A swivel adaptor and a Gig Bag — nice term! — protects in transit. The list of uses covers mainly instruments without a lot of low frequencies in their output, and also vocals when windshielded.
PE15 The lowest priced of the four mics specifically for vocal use in the range. Available with or without cable and at high or low impedance, the PE15 is listed at £58. There is a lockable on/off switch and as with all the mics in the series there is a zip-up Gig Bag. Shure claim in their literature that its minor presence peak is ideal for reducing harshness with female voices.
PE25 This is the omnidirectional model and the listing indicates its suitability for acoustic instruments. It does not have the increased bass proximity effect of directional mics and so it should maintain a 'natural sound'. It's best used when leakage from other instruments or possible feedback problems are less likely to occur. It's only available in low impedance form, but an impedance raising transformer is available. This model is £75.
PE35 Another of the specified mics for vocal use with high or low impedance, supplied with or without cable. The basic model is priced at £82. The published curve shows a more extended bass end and a very pronounced presence peak. There is also a degree of internal shock isolation.
PE45 The claim here is of a mic with an ability to 'lift' instruments through in a complicated mix. Certainly it is obvious to anyone who has done a deal of recording, that a lot of clarity masking can easily occur. Take a drum kit sound for instance — very clean on its own yet when guitar and keyboard amps are added one wonders where all the clarity has gone. However, you cannot just keep peaking everything in the mix, but it does help if a mic has a presence characteristic. Certainly, in my experience it is more effective if the mic has the characteristic rather than try and put it in from the mixing desk. So the PE45 at £89, in low impedance form only, with or without cable, would be useful for amps and drums. Curiously, the on/off switch has no movable locking plate but is nevertheless low profile. Internal shock mounting is also provided.
PE47 On the subject of mic response characteristics, here is one with switchable bass cut and treble boost. Intended for instrumental and vocal use, it's available in low impedance form only. There is a recessed on/off switch without locking plate. Basic price of the cableless version is £105.
PE65 The published curve shows a more extended top with more rounded presence lift. It will sound subtly, yet usefully different to other mics in the series. The PE65 is in low impedance form and without cable and is priced at £95. The lockable on/off switch makes use of a magnetic reed to reduce considerably the operating noise.
PE75 Claimed to suit one's lead vocalist, this has the best features of others in the PE series: internal anti-shock mounting, locking magnetic reed on/off switch, presence peak and low end proximity bass lift, rounded off with a Gig Bag, all at £104.
PE85 The final product in the range is more a mic 'kit' as the £148 price includes 5 metres of cable with XLR, separate low to high matching transformer, Shock Stopper swivel adaptor and Gig Bag. As the brochure says, 'it's more than a microphone, it's an entire vocal performance system'!
As I have discussed before there are two particularly distinct areas of microphone design. On the one hand there are the flat response, accurate, natural sound mics usually used in 'classical' music recording. Then there are the tailored response 'pop' mics for close-up use, in multi-mic situations, for amplification and recording. The PE series is very much in the latter camp and in fact the Shure name is very much associated with this area. However, Shure do have a top flight example of a mic intended for the former field of use — the SM81 capacitor model.
Three PE series mics were submitted for review. These were the PE35, 45 and 85. Obviously Shure's extensive experience of microphones for 'pop' amplification and recording is much to the fore. The mics are reassuringly heavy and have the tapered body familiar in their legendary SM58. The physical ruggedness is backed up with a technical ruggedness in that they take high sound levels. Some useful features have been included - the magnetic reed switch in the PE85 does reduce click noise and its Shock Stopper mount is most effective. This is a circular pneumatic mic clip in which the mic sits nicely balanced with plug and lead acting as counter-weights. Handling noises were similar to many, other mics as was susceptibility to close up 'popping', but acceptable in most situations.
To summarise, the new Professional Entertainer range from Shure is certainly an extensive one. The brief use of some of the models and the descriptions in the full colour 16 page catalogue show that the range has variety in sound, application and price. It is not uncommon for a particular 'reviewer' to state that this or that mic is the one for a particular application, but the variations in room/studio acoustics, the tonal quality of the amplifier cabinets and PA stacks or the monitoring set-up at recording sessions are extensive, as is personal preference. It's therefore worth trying out the PE series — at least one should find a place in your equipment considering their wide range of applications and cost.
Full details including PE Microphone Placement & Selection Guide are obtainable from Shure Electronics Ltd., (Contact Details).
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Review by Mike Skeet