Shure SM27 Microphone Review

Will the SM27 replace the trusty 57?

There are many mics worthy of being in a

guitarist's studio or gig bag. Whether you're

mic'ing a cab, an acoustic soundhole, capturing

room vibe, serving vocal duty or maybe

a little bit of everything, the sheer number

of mics makes the choice daunting. And it

doesn't help that most companies describe

most of their mics as being able to handle

almost any application.

It's no wonder so many musicians keep it simple—limiting the breadth of their mic familiarity

to those famously affordable sticks, the

venerable Shure SM57 and SM58. After all,

they'll get you through many situations while

setting you back a mere hundy apiece.

Enter the SM27, Shure's side-address cardioid

condenser that promises to be a worthy

candidate for any working guitarist needing

a jack-of-all-trades mic in the $300 (street)

range. Originally rolled out as the entry-level

model in Shure's studio-leaning KSM line,

the 1" diaphragm FET condenser is a good

fit for the SM Series with its improved specs,

rugged housing and low-key looks.


The SM27 has a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency

response and an 84.5 dB signal-to-noise

ratio. It has a built-in Class A preamp and

requires 48-volt phantom power. It's a quiet

mic, with just 9.5 dB of self-noise (the KSM

version rated at 14 dB). With three different

mesh layers that reduce wind and pops,

and a -15 dB pad switch, it can handle SPLs

up to 152dB. There's also a low frequency

filter with three positions: flat, an 80 Hz

roll-off (via an 18dB octave filter) and a 115

Hz roll-off (via a 6 dB octave filter). The

mic is also equipped with an internal shock

mount. It comes with a soft gig case and a

simple hard mount. (The SM27-SC model

comes with a suspension shock mount and

a velveteen case.)

Testing, Testing…

Between the -15dB pad

and the roll-off options, the

SM27 really is like several different

mics rolled into one. Right

off the bat, the range of nuance

this mic translates is impressive

without being overbearing. Mic'ing the

acoustic soundhole of a Cole Clark Fat

Lady II (with somewhat old strings) revealed

a full sound and much of the rich character

that makes that guitar such a joy to play,

but without the overly biting string noise

that condensers tend to magnify when gritty

strings are involved. Doing the same with an

X-Series Martin dreadnought accurately captured

the tension between the guitar's lively unfinished spruce top and the tempered

resonance of its HPL back and sides.

The SM27 also worked well with cabs.

Attenuating the signal by 15 dB, it bore the

SPL brunt of an Orange Tiny Terror combo

and an Egnater 4x12 (hooked up to a JTM-

45) and delivered healthy, expressive signals.

It did make sense to back the mic up a bit in

both cases. At high volumes, being placed

4–6" further back from where a 57 was most

effective allowed the SM27's pronounced

bump in the 5 to 8 kHz range find a better

balance with the mic's colorful low-mids.

I didn't fully appreciate the SM27 until I realized

that every situation needed significant

experimentation with distance, axis angle,

pad, rolloff, and preamp fader manipulation

before finding the mic's own strengths. For

example, the SM27 needs more gain on a

Digidesign 003 preamp pot than I expected,

but once there I didn't find nearly as much

extra noise to deal with that usually tends to

come with that side of the taper.

Unexpected Delights

The SM27 worked really well as a bass cab mic,

pairing nicely with a Yorkville combo with 15

in it, and a kit cab with four 10s hooked up to a

GK Backline 600. I had full control of low-end

rumble with the roll-off switch. I'm partial to

well-framed bass note articulation with beefy

low mids, and this mic dialed it up easily. The

SM27 also came in handy during a session

with congas where 57s were working nicely

on the heads and a Rode NT1-A was doing

a great job with room 'verb from a distance.

We needed something near the floor by the

shells in order to fill out each drum's low tonal

character and the SM27 worked great, even

eliminating some ground vibration that two

other mics with shock mounts couldn't eliminate.

The mic also worked well for overhead

drums, even in a situation when a room's ceiling

was lower than preferred.

The Verdict

The SM27 has a wide vocabulary. It is truly

versatile and has a distinct character for

every situation. Learning to use that to your

advantage—for example, harnessing its

pronounced 5 to 8 kHz bump at the right

distance in order to elevate your lead sound

above the mix—is much more involved than

slapping a trustworthy handheld dynamic in

that familiar spot on the grill. So, I can't say

this mic is for just anyone. But, depending

on your experience and willingness to experiment,

this could be the ultimate microphone

for a one-mic kind of person with a $300

budget, or a great third mic for someone

looking to evolve a beyond the 57 and the

58. In fact, while A/B'ing this mic with a 57 I

ended up really liking it how well it worked

in concert with a 57.

This SM27 is musical and offers a lot of presence

that can coax some nice complexities

out of otherwise typical signals. I can't

say I experimented with vocals enough to

have found its strong points in that regard,

but its applications for guitarists and its

general versatility in the studio has me

convinced that Shure has designed another

microphone worthy of its place in the formidable

SM line.

Buy if...
you're willing to learn what this mic is capable of.
Skip if...
you're looking for a no-nonsense, one-trick-pony.

Street $299 - Shure -