Shure KSM27, January 2002

I can't help but “feel the love” from a company that broadens its product line by offering a lower-priced model that could directly compete with its existing line. Retailing at $575, the all American-made
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I can't help but “feel the love” from a company that broadens its product line by offering a lower-priced model that could directly compete with its existing line. Retailing at $575, the all American-made

I can't help but “feel the love” from a company that
broadens its product line by offering a lower-priced model that could
directly compete with its existing line. Retailing at $575, the all
-only KSM27 from Shure is one of the best
values around. It's a great new mic that stands out in a plethora of
models that have debuted recently. The KSM27 is the third studio
condenser microphone
in the Shure line, following
the KSM44 multi-pattern mic and the cardioid-only KSM32. Actually, the
27 was chosen to replace the KSM32 used on Jay Leno's desk on the new
set of The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.

Like the KSM44 and KSM32, the KSM27 is a side-address condenser
design. The KSM27 uses a 1-inch, externally biased, gold-sputtered,
layered Mylar diaphragm like the KSM44. And like both the 44 and 32,
the 27 uses a Class-A discrete and transformerless preamplifier with
gold-plated internal and external connectors. One immediately
noticeable, unique feature that separates the 27 from the other two
mics is its diminutive size, just over six inches tall. I loved that I
could place this mic in just about any tight situation using the
optional ShureLock swivel adapter. (Actually, I borrowed the swivel
mount from my KSM44, and it worked just fine!) The KSM27 comes with a
rubber-isolated shock-mount and also has internal shockmounting that
reduces stand and handling noise. There is a built-in pop grille with
three separate mesh layers to reduce plosives. Shure thinks of

Despite the 27's smaller size and price, Shure didn't cut the
features you'd expect from a good studio condenser, such as a
three-position LF
filter with options for flat, -18
per octave cut-off at 80 Hz, and -6 dB per
octave roll-off at 115Hz settings. There is also a switchable -15dB
attenuator pad that was perfect for close-miking drums and guitar
cabinets. Both the KSM44 and 32 beat the 27 in dynamic range by only a
couple of dB, with all three equal in maximum SPL rating at around 138
dB (153 dB without pad). The 27 matches the 32 with an 81dB
signal-to-noise ratio spec, while the KSM44 offers a better 87 dB in
cardioid pattern. Self-noise for the KSM27 is a low 14 dB.

Before a session, I set up A/B comparisons of the KSM44, KSM32, KSM27
and, for a reference to my ears, a Neumann U87. The multi-pattern U87
and KSM44 were set to cardioid. For this subjective test, I used my own
speaking voice and a pair of loud headphones. I don't have the acute
hearing of someone like Klaus Heyne—who uses this same method for
tuning the capsules of his mics—but it is easy for me to hear the
differences when comparing mics or different signal processing chains.
I had an assistant quickly mute and open each mic by way of my hand
signals, from out in the studio. I used an AKG outboard
phantom power
supply and level-matched four inputs
of the lovely API console at L.A.FX Studios in North Hollywood.

The 27 has a slight bump in the 50 to 70Hz area, and a smooth rise
starting at about 3.5 kHz up to about 8 kHz. From there, high-frequency
response dips very slightly and then continues its rise out to about 15
kHz. Checking the printed frequency response curves supplied by Shure
for the three mics, I confirmed my preference for the 27 over the
KSM32. The KSM32's chart shows a flat, low-frequency response and an
irregular contouring of the high frequencies between 2 kHz and 12 kHz.
More like the KSM44, I found the 27 to have a sweet and smooth HF

By comparison, the U87's high frequency was all there, in a more
noticeable way. (Read that as “personality.”) I have to say
that this particular stock U87 sounded a little rolled-off in the
bottom end compared to the 44 and 27. The KSM44 has a very solid low
end with a much “drier and cleaner” sound (its self-noise
is only 7 dB) than any of the others. The KSM32 is a little thinner,
but more importantly, doesn't have the low-frequency warmth of the 44.
Compared to the others, the KSM32 has more of a somber quality from the
midrange through the highs; I could see this mic working well for
edgier voices. The 27 has good low frequencies (especially down to the
subsonic), a warm, lower midrange and a clear upper midrange. Sibilants
were clear—and most importantly, clean—for all the mics,
with the 87 and 27 a touch crisper.

I used the KSM27 in the studio for drums, acoustic and electric
guitars, and vocals. It is one of the most versatile mics I've used
lately. I miked a bass drum about a foot away out front. I usually like
a U47 FET for this ambient sound and hope that with both the pads
switched on the Neumann, it doesn't overload. Here, I had no overload
problems with the 27—in fact, I didn't even use the -15dB

Next up, I miked acoustic guitars with the 27 and A/B'd the 27 with
the producer's Sanken CU-41. The Sanken is a warm microphone that, in
this case, made me want to reach for the equalizer on my Neve 1084
module. Here, the Shure KSM27 was a better choice, as I found little
need to equalize unless I needed to “carve” the guitar's
natural sound to fit the track's hyperbolic production.

Vocals went well, with the added low-end warmth of the 27 bringing
out whatever little bit my singer had. It was almost like a
proximity effect
, without getting as close.
Finally, electric guitar cabinets sounded great with the KSM27. You
should use the -15dB pad here, because the 27 puts out a good hot level
and your preamp will be at its minimum gain setting.

Priced at $575 MSRP, the KSM27 comes in a protective velveteen pouch
and includes a ShureLock rubber-isolated black shock-mount. Optional
accessories include an aluminum carrying case, foam windscreen, PS-6
Popper Stopper, and a padded, zippered carrying bag. Whether it's your
first studio mic or something to expand your mic locker, the KSM27 is a
wonderful addition to any microphone collection. Its small size and
versatility—qualities that made the Shure SM57
ubiquitous—belie its big sound.

Shure Inc.,

Polar Pattern: cardioid, externally biased condenser
Frequency Response: 20 to 20k Hz
Output Impedance: 150 ohms
Attenuation Switch: -15 dB
Phantom Power: 48 VDC (5.4 mA)
CMRR: greater than 50 dB, 20 to 20k Hz
Dimensions: 2.2 inches diameter, 6.15 inches long, 22.6
Sensitivity: -37 dBV/PA
Self-Noise: 14 dB
Maximum SPL @ less than 1% THD with 2,500-ohm load: 138 dB or
153 dB w/pad
Maximum SPL @ less than 1% THD with 1,000-ohm load: 133 dB or
148 dB w/pad
Output clipping level @ less than 1% THD with 2,500-ohm load: 7
Output clipping level @ less than 1% THD with 1,000-ohm load: 1
Dynamic range w/2,500-ohm load: 124 dB
Dynamic range w/1,000-ohm load: 119 dB
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: 81 dB