Shure SM81 and Recording Levels

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Christopher Williams, Mar 24, 2020 at 8:57 PM.

  1. Christopher Williams

    Christopher Williams Member

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    Hey there!

    I’ve just picked up a Shure SM81 for recording classical guitar.

    The sound quality is fantastic, but the recording levels seem low. This is with the mic just 3-4” off the fretboard, or pointed where the fretboard meets the sound hole.

    I’m using a Focusrite 18i8 interface (the pres have 56dB of gain), and in order to get anything close to good recording levels (-10dB to -12dB) I need to crank the preamp to 11, which is introducing noise in to the signal.

    Is this standard with this mic? I’ve read that it’s generally a low output mic, but I wasn’t expecting to have to crank my gain like it was a low output dynamic mic.

    If this is normal behavior are you simply making up for the lack of input levels in post?

    Thanks,
    Chris
     
  2. Kronos147

    Kronos147 Member

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  3. feet

    feet Supporting Member

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    Not my experience with the sm81 and my preamps. Even the Roland ones can drive it. Is everything else in order? Phantom power and all that? Gremlin in the daw?
     
  4. bagpipe

    bagpipe Member

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  5. TwoHandsTenThumbs

    TwoHandsTenThumbs Silver Supporting Member

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    If you are recording at 24 bits, those are fine peak levels, but a little hot for average levels. Remember, -18dBFS = 0VU. I tend to average around -20 to -18, with obviously higher transient peaks, etc.

    There are no good reasons to track hotter, and plenty of great reasons not to. Gotta give yourself room to mix, account for plug-in or outboard gain stages, etc.

    I’d back off the preamp gain a bit.
     
    David MacNeill likes this.
  6. Geetarpicker

    Geetarpicker Member

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    I have a pair of SM81s and I also find they are a little lacking in output. On a quiet source I’ve had to be careful with noise, even with API mic pres. These days I mainly use mine in live sound as drum overheads where the source is quite loud, and the low output isn’t a problem at all. I also have a pair of Neumann KM184s, which are way hotter and preamp noise is never an issue with them no matter the source. That said the Neumanns are more expensive for sure.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020 at 3:49 AM

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