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Old January 25th, 2011, 09:04 PM   #1
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president's mic

I thought the president uses sm57. That doesn't look like a sm57 on the state of the union address right now. What's up with that?
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Old January 25th, 2011, 10:07 PM   #2
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Why would he conceivably use an SM57? That's basically a crap mic. OK for pounding nails (I think I've actually seem a demo where this is done). Quite tolerant of close-mic shouting and drooling (as in rock band stage mic). But very mediocre dynamic quality audio. Nothing I'd want to use for PA, even in the local high school, let alone for the Prez.

Don't have the stomach to watch State of the Union, so I don't know what he's using this moment.
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Old January 25th, 2011, 10:26 PM   #3
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Hate to break this to you.....

From sweetwater....

According to Shure, the two SM57 podium setup started with the Johnson administration in 1968. So, why are there two? There are two main reasons for this two mic setup; one is for redundancy. If one microphone should fail, they are able to receive the feed from the other. The second reason is that one mic typically feeds the in house PA system while the other feeds the press/broadcast.

The kit's called the SM57-VIP

Tech Tips: Why two SM-57's on the President's podium | Sweetwater.com


BTW I did learn that some guy named Michael Jackson recording some lame tune called Billy Jean with this mic
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Last edited by John Sirb; January 25th, 2011 at 10:31 PM. Reason: added a bit of history
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Old January 25th, 2011, 11:08 PM   #4
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First of all, I am all in favor of redundancy in an event of worldwide importance. I would not want my job on the line when the one and only mic went west.

So they started using SM57s in 1968? That was then... Technology has advanced a bit in the last 40+ years, although I'll certainly concede the SM57s have "held their own" a lot better than many other mid-'60s mics have.

President Eisenhower started using paired RCA BK-5B ribbons back in the 1950s and IMHO they sound a lot better than SM57s. But, likewise, that was then...

For that matter, at one time the Pope used Crown PZMs mounted on thick plexiglas sheets. Different strokes for different folks.

I looked for some quick stills of tonight's SOTU and, if the photos I found are really from tonight, then it appears to me there is only a single mic (I would be sweating bullets over that). And I don't think it's a 57.

Billie Jean? Yeah, I've heard of that. I've read a lot of articles that said Thriller was recorded with a Shure SM7, never anything that mentioned an SM57. They are *entirely* different mics. The SM7 is a $350 studio mic; the SM57 is a $90 stage mic.
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Old January 25th, 2011, 11:39 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Why would he conceivably use an SM57? That's basically a crap mic.
Wow... what an ignorant statement!
Won't even try to describe how many of your favorite tunes have something recorded with the SM57...and I have no idea what kind of music you like...that's really irrelevant. I'd be willing to bet 90% of all recorded music since it was released in '65 has an SM57 used in some fashion.

There's a reason the SM57 is still being made decades after it's introduction to the world of audio. It's bulletproof and it sounds good on anything you point it at. Not great...but good. Whether a jet engine or acoustic guitar, it works...every time!
The 57 has excellent feedback rejection and is not overly sensitive. It also could care less about the weather conditions which makes it extremely good for critical PA system duty. Ribbon mics are very fragile and are affected by temperature even though they generally do sound better. The PZM thing has it's flaws too needing phantom power but there's always two for redundancy.

Even with all my fancy condenser and ribbon mics, if I go out on a job...any job...I carry a couple of SM57s as insurance. In my 22 years as a recording engineer, they have saved my arse on more than one occasion.
Would it be my first choice for speeches? Probably not...but if it was something I couldn't risk having a mic failure on, the 57 or 58 would get called out every time.



Looking through past pictures, it seems there are a lot of variation on the mics Obama uses and while I didn't see the speech tonight, I'd bet money that there was a second or even third mic used even if only one was visible. I've seen shotgun mics in a few instances well out of public view but obviously they will pick up just fine.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 05:39 AM   #6
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I may be wrong, but the gooseneck on the podium sure looked like a lamp instead of a mic when you saw it from the side or from behind..
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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:26 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post

So they started using SM57s in 1968? That was then... Technology has advanced a bit in the last 40+ years, although I'll certainly concede the SM57s have "held their own" a lot better than many other mid-'60s mics have.
Yes technology has changed but there are still a ton of SM-7 and RE20 in use out in the field today as well. In addition to what Bob pointed out, with the sm57, you get consistency in the sound. the sound is even, not like my senheiser 835 that adds some warm tones, which isn't saying is a bad thing, but the drive is to get as uncolored, natural, sound whether your next to AF1 or speaking in a high school gym in Iowa.

as far as the one single mic, I agree there is probably some sort of backup in place, but it a room like that where the mic isnt being transported, failure rates are probably extremely small. Also if you glanced at the link, the reason while redundancy is part of it, the main need is for two is one feeds the PA feed and the other the broadcast pool feed.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 08:56 AM   #8
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I am not sure what mic the President used last night but it wasn't a SM57. SM 57s are what the President uses when he is on the road. I would imagine that one reason ithey are used is that it is made in the USA. I think the style and look as a podium mic is really good. That said I don't think it is a great mic for that situation. It doesn't have the reach that it needs. The president mouth is usually a good foot off the mic. This can create potential feeback problems for the house sound system. I think a 57 works best when you are right on top of it. I've talked to the Secret Service soundmen who work with them and they are really not that thrilled to be using them but at this point it is the custom.

Andy
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Old January 26th, 2011, 09:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Turchick View Post
Wow... what an ignorant statement!
Yes, you're entirely right. The statement conveys nothing meaningful about my thoughts about that mic. It was said in haste and I apologize for my poor choice of words.

That being said, this has started an interesting discussion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Turchick View Post
Won't even try to describe how many of your favorite tunes have something recorded with the SM57...and I have no idea what kind of music you like...that's really irrelevant. I'd be willing to bet 90% of all recorded music since it was released in '65 has an SM57 used in some fashion.
With the exception of classical music, that 90% figure could be true. I acknowledge and have never disputed that the SM57 is very widely used, especially as a musical stage mic. It's rugged and repeatable, so it's especially popular for live performances. In any given pop group, with typically four to twenty performers, there could easily be at least one SM57 in use. So sure, lots of pop recordings in the last 40 years included at least one SM57.

But that doesn't automatically make it the right choice for SOTU. Indeed, you said what I was trying to say:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Turchick View Post
Would it be my first choice for speeches? Probably not...
Another poster made another interesting comment:

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Sirb
... with the sm57, you get consistency in the sound. the sound is even, not like my senheiser 835 that adds some warm tones, which isn't saying is a bad thing, but the drive is to get as uncolored, natural, sound...
The SM57 has a big 5dB peak up around 6-7 kHz. http://www.shure.com/idc/groups/tech...c_brochure.pdf
I wouldn't call that "uncolored" or "natural." Indeed, it probably does help intelligibility with some PA applications, and it does somewhat balance out the proximity effect (since this is a cardioid mic) when the mic is worked too close.

And another interesting comment about the SM57:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Turrett
I don't think it is a great mic for that situation. It doesn't have the reach that it needs. The president mouth is usually a good foot off the mic. This can create potential feeback problems for the house sound system. I think a 57 works best when you are right on top of it.
Indeed I often see the SM57 worked quite close; the SM58 even moreso... not the style of US Presidents. OTOH, if you use something with a narrower pattern to get more reach, would it cause problems with the president turning his head or swaying slightly from side to side?

I've looked at a lot of photos.
Here's last night's mic: http://www.secondbreakfast.net/organ...-the-union.jpg
and one I found that looks very similar: Shure Americas | VP64 Vocal Microphone | All-purpose, Lavalier, Paging, Production
It's an omni! And the frequency response is similar to the SM57.
Does anyone think last night's mic might have been a Shure VP64? If not, any other speculation?

In conclusion, I again apologize for my poor choice of words in my original post. But I find this discussion quite interesting, and hope to hear more!
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Old January 26th, 2011, 12:03 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Miller View Post
Why would he conceivably use an SM57? That's basically a crap mic.
Thanks for the tip Greg... and to think, thousands of my colleagues and I have been using "a crap mic" for all these years, on tens of thousands of snares, guitar amps, live vocals and event podiums. I'll assume the 58 is also crap, seeing how it's made with the same basic components.

FWIW: The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) usually takes care of the presidential podium (w/57s) for location speeches and such.
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Old January 26th, 2011, 02:44 PM   #11
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Sure probably pays a big sum to have their mic used by the Prez, and to be able to use that fact in their marketing. It is a good mic. I think it's more of an instrument mic, but it does sound decent on voice. I think it pops too easily with the mouth right up on it. I did a test of my RE50, and compared it to my SM57 and a Peavey SM57 clone. The SM57 won out without a doubt, however that's due to having more low end. The RE50 cuts all that because it's designed for location interviews where wind is often a factor. At 6:54 you can really hear how good the SM57 sounds IMO.

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Old January 27th, 2011, 05:14 AM   #12
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Here's another test. It's a 17 mic "blindfold" shootout that includes the SM57 and a wide range of dynamics and condensers. This 2005 article has been posted before, but I think it's worth revisiting. They had 3 announcers with very different voices record the same short VO into each mic. You can listen and rank your favourites, then see the mic models later.

Listen here: The Transom Mic Shootout: Blindfold Test
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Old January 27th, 2011, 09:01 AM   #13
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Now do these tests using a sound system with the FOH speakers flying over your head when the speaker is talking at least 12 inches from the mic.

Andy
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Old January 27th, 2011, 10:02 AM   #14
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The RE50 is a great H/H reporter's mic for 'sure' (no pun), But an Omni and would not do well in a SR environment. Of course a 57' would not do well in a street interview environment.. I've never used the Peavy. When I was recording educational seminars, When using a 57' I always used the Shure A55m shock mount & A2 windscreen). That said, my personal favorite podium mic was a AKG D790 which had very nice off-axis response and enough gain before feedback to push the PA for the usual low-talkers and folks with 'microphobia'.
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