Shure 568-SB Microphone
A new mike from Shure is always interesting - especially when it promises to offer their top quality at a lower price. IT gets first look at the new 568-SB.
Despite having an already massive range of mikes, Shure continue to launch new models. Recently we saw the introduction of their extremely low-cost 'Prologue' range (see last month's IT for details), but that move into the bottom end of the mike market doesn't mean that Shure have abandoned their U.S.-manufactured pro-class Unispheres and Unidynes. In fact, at much the same time as the Prologues were released, a brand new Unisphere was also announced - the 568 SB, aimed to slot in between their basic 518 and the up-market 565. IT tried out the newcomer to see how it compares with the competition.
Pick up the 568 and (even if you were blindfolded) you'd know that you were handling a Shure product. This mike has the same substantial feel to it that all Shures seem to have. It's not over-heavy, but it weighs nicely in the hand - perfectly balanced for the vocalist, with a sturdy, reliable feel to it.
Unlike the top professional class Shures (notably the SM series), the 568 doesn't have the exceptionally resilient 'crackle' finish job on the mike body, this having been substituted by a nonetheless very tough, neat black paint coating. The foam-lined ball head is a fine mesh type, with a bright chromed finish, and the mike comes fitted with a standard XLR connector, but with no lead. Usefully, the 568 has an on/off switch.
A low impedance model, the 568 looks every bit a typical Shure - destined, no doubt to continue this maker's reputation for extreme reliability and 'bombproofing'. Take it to bits and you find a product which is easily 'field serviceable' and yet which looks so strongly made that it's hard to imagine how anything but the most severe abuse could damage it. A unidirectional cardioid mike (in other words, featuring a heart-shaped pickup response pattern in front of the head), the Shure is typically suited to vocal uses on stage, even at very high volume levels, where its ability to reject both audience and backline sounds (not to mention wedge monitors) makes it very usefully feedback resistant. Every inch of the Shure 568 betokens real quality: we failed to find any faults at all in it.
Our first test was to use the 568 as a lead vocal mike in a medium/high power PA set-up. Feedback rejection and handling noise were both extremely good - considerably better than we've found with from the lower cost 518, although thats always a model which has seemed to offer very good value for money to us. Whether hand-held or fixed to a stand, the 568 seemed usefully resilient to unwanted sound pickup, whether 'through-the-floor' bass or hand-held scrapings. It earned full marks here on both counts.
Where the 568 really seems to score over the cheaper Shure 518 is on both its basic depth of tone and on its 'punch' - this latter being a very typical Shure vocal mike feature, adding that extra 'balls' to your voice which so many other mikes seem to lack. In fact, the 568 is closer in sound quality to the sort of reproduction which one would normally expect from the more costly Shure 565, or one of the top PE Series models.
Having satisfied ourselves about the performance of the 568 under live circumstances, the next job we gave this mike was in a home recording set-up. These days, so many players use their mikes for dual roles that a PA-only test won't suffice - especially with a mike carrying a recommended retail price not far off £100. If a mike is to justify that sort of money, it's really got to be able to do more than just work well on stage, even if that is its prime intended application. Accordingly, we linked the mike into our 'test-bed' home studio to see how it performed there.
As we'd expected, vocal performances were reproduced with the balls and attack that they had exhibited when we'd tried this mike live - but would it go further, would the 568 handle instruments as well?
Test 1 was on miking acoustic guitar. It would be ridiculous to expect any mike primarily intended for vocal purposes (which the 568 undoubtedly is) to be perfect on any musical instrument, but, oddly, the 568 acquitted itself remarkably well here. Somehow that extra 'poke' (usually intended to enhance vocals) added a pleasing touch to guitar sounds which can often benefit from this effect, in our experience. You can actually take this extra boost in the upper-mid frequency range a lot further, and we found the 568 an extremely useful mike to have around, especially where a 'flatter' sounding mike delivers a fundamentally boring sound which otherwise needs a lot of Eq. to bring it alive. Try it out on any instrument needing a degree more 'punch', and we doubt if you'd be disappointed!
In every respect the new Shure 568 turned in a first rate performance. It sounds markedly better than the cheaper 518, and has to count as one of the very finest lead vocal mikes for the semi-pro band who ultimately aspire to an SM58 but who can't justify the price of one yet. Moreover, the 568 doubles as a really ballsy home/demo studio mike, too, giving a punchy 'extra' to the sound of both voices and instruments - a quality which makes it much more desirable in the smaller studio, where extensive Eq. isn't often available.
At the price, we'd rate this new contender from Shure very highly indeed. In sound quality terms it's close to that from one of the top Shure PE Series models, yet the price (especially by the time some shops have cut their margins and priced it closer to the £75 mark) is very affordable. For a mike which has that sought-after 'Shure sound' (less 'flat', maybe, than some Japanese mikes, but with so much more balls in the sound, and a lot more appeal for having that quality), this newcomer is very well priced and as Shures always seem to be, is beautifully made. It deserves (and gets) our highest commendation.
RRP £96 Inc VAT
More details from H. W. International Ltd., (Contact Details).
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