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June 2017 Giveaway

Shure SM81 Reviews

5.0 stars based on 35 customer reviews
Questions about the Shure SM81?

Questions about the Shure SM81?

Or call us at (800) 222-4700

  • from Washington DC November 15, 2016

    Great Recommendation

    Was ready for a better mic to track my acoustic guitars but did not want to spend thousands, I read Sweetwater's guide to condenser mics and it was spot on. I use this and a Mojave MA200 set up in different locations to get a stereo recording.I quickly learned how to place this one in different locations in different rooms and how to aim depending on what kind of acoustic I'm using (D-28, SJ200 or Guild 12 string). This is an extremely versatile mic. Now I'm starting to go back and re-record the past 2 years' worth of songs that have acoustics, it makes that big a difference.

  • from November 4, 2016Music Background:
    15 years

    Great Mic

    If you think you need a good mic for a home studio get his one!

  • from Becket, MA June 5, 2016Music Background:
    Beyond my prime but still kicking.

    Sure sm81

    This mic simply rocks on our acoustic guitars. Superb sound. Complete clarity. Highly recommend this if you record acoustic guitars. Best money I've spent yet!

  • from May 26, 2016

    Top shelf workhorse

    Can sound great on anything... Low noise, good variety of flavors within degrees of axis and proximity, excellent cancellation from the rear, and they are road tough. These mics are fantastic for the stereo scenario.

  • from Stella, NC November 23, 2015

    Shure SM 81

    A really good mic. Excellent service from Sweetwater. Fast delivery.

  • from Albuquerque August 31, 2015


    Until now I have been using Sm57's which did a great job on all of my banjos. The SM81's however are much better! These microphones deliver a clean pure accurate banjo sound. I would highly recommended the SM81 for anyone looking for an outstanding banjo microphone. As a side note...this is the same microphone Alan Munde uses.

  • from Fresno, CA March 26, 2015Music Background:
    I remember paying for MTV.

    Just get one already.

    Yes, it really does belong in your mic locker. Great first choice for anything, and even if you add more sdc's to your collection, it will still find its use in a session. Tough, versatile and a good sounding option regardless of price.

  • from Planet Earth November 23, 2014Music Background:
    who cares


    Okay so I was going to use this along with a KSM137 for acoustic guitar. However, after completing acoustic guitar using a Royer R101 and this sm81 I sang vocals triple part harmonies with the SM81 and OMG!! my 4k dollar tube mic isn't that great. total silence when no singining but when i do sing oh boy does it shine. Honestly I really feel bad that my 4 thousand dollar tube condenser mic actually isn't too great compared to the SM81. I just cannot believe the nuiances that this mic picks up especially when recording harmonies. It actually sounds more like my school's studio with their SSL console. Usually we use a TLM 103 or a Rode tube mic (forget which number it is) for vocals but the sm81 kicks butt. i say buy it for anything - acoustic instruments, amp/cabs, drums, vocals, etc. this is a winner.

  • from Fort Myers, Fla September 18, 2014Music Background:
    Songwriter, Guitarist, Producer, Engineer.

    All Around Winner

    I first purchased my SM81's in 1984 after they consistently won "blind-fold" shootouts with other L.A. studio mics. Drum overheads, acoustic instruments, amps, vocals and percussion all are captured well by this mic. I still have my two old 81s, so I'm only writing this review to steer someone else away from all the competitors. This is like buying an SM58: With proper use, you'll never break it, and you'll never sell it.

  • from channelview, tx May 8, 2014Music Background:
    jack of all trades, master of none.#projectoftheweek

    Fantastic tool to have in the tool box. Grab it and put it to work.

    I've only had mine a few days but I put it to work right away. I hire out for live sound. No two shows are ever the same. I have had to amplify large groups of acoustic instruments. No matter what I put in front of this mic it broadcasts well. I've used it on hi hats, baja sexto, ukeleles, violins, and a vihuela. Did an outdoor show and the wind screen came in handy as did the frequency switch.

  • from New Orleans March 17, 2014Music Background:
    Pro Musician, Recording Artist

    Big Upgrade For Me

    Bought the SM81 from Sweetwater last year. Just recently completed several acoustic guitar recordings…. finger-style, intimate solo guitar stuff. Pointed the SM81 at the 12th fret from about 12 inches away, and I am in love with the sound. The low end especially comes through richly. Did not even use a mic pre. I bought this mic mainly due to good reviews after looking for something different than the "regulars" in my collection. For now, this mic is my go-to for that kind of playing.

  • from East Wenatchee, WA February 13, 2013Music Background:
    Pro Musician

    Best Acoustic Instrument Mic There Is

    We bought one of these for micing my wife's violin for live gigs. She had been using a piezo pickup for years, and her fiddle sounded like it was coming through a 1910 Victorola. Not so with this baby! Now it sounds clean and full...just like it is supposed to. If you play live or record with any type of acoustic instrument, buy this mic. It will be the best $350.00 you ever spent! She even tried using it to record some vocals with it, and was floored listening to the playback! I haven't read a bad review of this mic yet...and there's a reason for that...it is simply the best. Period.

  • from San Diego, CA November 30, 2012Music Background:
    Home recordist, singer, songwriter, guitarist

    I Shure Love It

    I bought this mic recently to use in a spaced pair arrangement on acoustic guitar because I’d heard it mentioned often as a great choice on various discussion boards. I typically use a LDC off the picking hand and a SDC aimed at the 12th fret, and I’d used an AKG Perception 170 in the past. This mic, to my ears, is several classes above that one. I tried this mic out with a number of different preamps in either position, and it was really great in every case. With the right preamp, it captures the instrument accurately as it sounds in the room, which is exactly what I wanted. It is detailed and balanced. I will continue to use it in the neck position but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it anywhere really. Just a top quality mic, very happy with the purchase.

  • from Rudyard, MI August 10, 2012Music Background:
    Musician & Recording Engineer

    Clean, Accurate Reproduction

    Love these mics on acoustic drum overheads!

  • from Silver Spring, MD July 10, 2012Music Background:
    Live Sound Engineer, Recording Engineer, Hobbyist Keyboard Player

    Great Workhorse Mic

    I am the house sound engineer at a very large church. Each week we run a different set up for our worship teams, and run many special events during the year. I have found that these mics always perform and do what I need them to. I LOVE to have a pair of them on the top and bottom of my snare drums, I have also found them to be great overhead drum mics, and great mics for flutes and violins. For harder/metal music where you have two guitar cabs in a stack I like to pair one of these with another mic and then run them together as a matched pair on my PM5D

  • from Seattle, WA April 13, 2012Music Background:
    Producer / Engineer

    Swiss Army Knife

    You rarely ever read a bad review about these mics b/c as long as you have some clue about what you are doing, these mics rarely every give you a bad sound. I often pair a set of these with an A-Designs MP2-A preamp and get nothing but amazing results on acoustic guitar and drum overheads. I also love this mic on percussive sources. Its response is a quicker than most LDCs so you get a little more out of percussion. The 3 position Low Cut filter is always nice and the -10db pad comes in handy when tracking transient rich percussive sources. They also sound stellar on top and bottom snare. This is not designed to be a vocal mic but I have employed them as such several times and I am always pleased.

    A bad mic with a good preamp sounds about as awful as a good mic with a bad pre. If you already have a decent pre or two, this mic (especially in pairs) is a studio workhorse that always gives me excellent results.

  • from DFW February 24, 2012Music Background:

    Very neutral performer

    I've owned a pair of these for about 10 years. I also own AT4050's, Shure KSM's and some CAD mics. The Shure is a very very neutral mic that does not color the recording. (What goes in, comes out, with very high fidelity.) The microphone is a small diaphragm design. This typically reduces output a bit but improves linearity. If you need a high quality, very accurate mic for recording acoustic instruments, this is about as good as you will get. It outperforms and outlasts mics that cost a lot more.

  • from Texas February 20, 2012Music Background:
    Musician, engineer, hobbyist

    A legend in the making

    If you are like me and don't have the means for a pair of KM84s then this is your mic. A pair of these with good converters and you have a stereo kit for acoustic guitar, percussion, and drum over heads. The sound is transparent, clean and with no unwanted fizzle at the top. They're not really colored and they take eq very well if needed.

  • from cedar lake, in October 31, 2011Music Background:
    hobbyist, drummer

    great service and mic

    Awesome product. I use 2 of them for overhead drum mics. They are worth every penny. And of coarse, sweetwater came through with great customer service. i wouldn't buy from any other place.

  • from Baltimore-Washington Metro area October 14, 2011Music Background:
    Musician, Recording Engineer

    Shure SM81

    Stop messing around trying to figure what mics to use on your drum kits and acoustic guitars. Do you want to sound like a real record? Well, then purchase the Shure SM81's. No, they are not "free" :) But they are an industry standard and don't break your bank. One of the best purchases I have ever made.

  • from Abuja Nigeria July 27, 2011Music Background:
    Live Sound Engineer

    You'll find them in every Ryder

    These mics do not color the sound. What you hear when you play is what you will hear out of the mixer. Fantastic mics.

    Also very viable for any rental company..

  • from Allen, TX April 19, 2011Music Background:
    Hobbyist, Home Studio Owner

    Great mic for acoustic guitar!

    I use 2 of these to record acoustic guitar in true stereo and I'm blown away by the clarity and detail. This is a truly great studio tool.

  • from Nashville, TN USA September 13, 2008Music Background:
    Live Sound, Recording Engineer, Music Business Student

    A Must Have Mic

    Whether you are in the studio or touring live, this mic is a must have. I always keep a few around because they are so versatile. Great on almost everything. Choir, overhead, acoustic guitar, strings, woodwinds. They are expensive but well worth having a couple.

  • from Washington University June 6, 2008Music Background:
    T.D. in performance venue

    A Swiss Army Mic...

    We have four SM81's, having just bought two new ones. I've found them great when paired on a Steinway and of course perfect for overhead drums. Tonight, I have all four out on stage working under a variety of high energy Indian drums but just last week we used one with wonderful results on a delicate Flamenco guitar performance; just a truly excellent mic. In my opinion, if you are putting together a mic inventory, make sure to include some SM81's. You will quickly learn to rely on their versatility and great sound.

  • from Chicago April 17, 2008Music Background:
    Recording Engineer, Live Sound Engineer, Drummer

    What a snare mic!

    I purchased my first SM81 in the mid 80's and I'm about to purchase my 3rd. I was never quite happy with my snare sound and I had an arsenal of drum mics to choose from. A fellow engineer at the studio suggested trying the SM81 on the snare drum. It's not quite as indestructible as an SM57 so you need to pay attention to placement (top mic). The SM81 is awesome, very transparent and the low cut position comes in handy with the snare. Its polar pattern is also very nice for the snare position. You cant go wrong with this mic because you can use elsewhere with great success.

  • from Parkersburg, West Virginia March 1, 2008Music Background:
    Sang bass in Gospel Quartet's for 26 years, now with The Crownsmen Quartet

    Vocal Bass microphone

    Over the years singing in Southern Gospel Quartet's I have used all kinds of Mic's.
    To get that rich full low bass in a studio is very easy, but on stage doing a live concert, we all strive to have that same studio quality sound.
    After useing The Shure SM81 it gave me the very clean and full bottem double low C note
    That why The Crownsmen put there trust in Shure Microphones the other members use Shure Beta 87A.
    All of our road equiptment was purchased at Sweetwater Sound,Thru Dan Vanamerongen.

  • from Nashville TN March 19, 2017Music Background:
    Professional Musician

    Must have mic

    I've wanted an SM81 for a long time but hoped I would find a deal on one before paying full price. I've had the mic about 2 weeks and it has performed remarkably on hi-hat and acoustic guitar (alongside a KSM27). Well worth the full price ticket! It's a must have mic.

  • from Albuquerque October 1, 2016Music Background:
    Music Director, Celtic mandolin/bouzouki et al.

    very nice

    I've used this on a couple of gigs (celtic/folk/liturgical) now and been very happy with it. Seems warmer and fuller than the Schertlers I've used and it's nice to be able to switch instruments and not have cords to struggle with/be terrorized by. With tenor guitar, bouzouki & bass mandolin it is now my hands down preference. I'm still working on whether it beats out the Schertler for mandolin. I also like it's length, making it easy to position under the forScore laden iPad. I do run it through an ART tube amp and am pleased with that as well. It is quite sensitive to wind noise, even with the sponge that came with it, so I don't expect to be able to use it at outdoor venues though.

  • from New Orleans April 18, 2015Music Background:

    Great Asset.

    Bought this mic from Sweetwater a year ago because I wanted another condenser option for guitars and vocals, and the reviews of this mic across the web were impressive. I have to say that I love this little guy. LOVE it on acoustic guitar, with a pre-amp or not. I've used it for intimate solo fingerpicking acoustic guitar, as well as for strumming out. And as much as I don't want to believe it, it sounds great on vocals. I also have an AKG 214 (industry standard for vocals), so I always try that first. But sometimes I like the sound of the SM81 better. Like any mic, this won't solve all your problems, but I strongly recommend it if you're looking for great tones from a mic that we all can afford.

  • from Cedar Falls, IA October 12, 2014Music Background:
    Songwriter, Guitarist, Art Rocker, Home Recording Enthusiast

    Great OH mic - Especially on cymbals

    After owning an SM81 for many years to record my acoustic guitar, I bought a second to create a stereo pair for using as drum overhead mics. The SM81 has fantastic definition as an OH mic - particularly on cymbals, which sound both clear and full. Our drummer actually liked the two SM81 overhead tracks more than the full drumset submix! You get a clean "true" sound from this workhorse mic.

  • from Hawai'i October 8, 2016

    Quite Awesome for Acoustic Guitar

    I have recorded 'ukulele, acoustic guitar, and upright bass on this mic. And I am very much pleased with the natural sound that can be obtained from this skinny little microphone. It's definitely a great mic to have in your locker for all you acoustic musicians and engineers.

    For 'ukulele, I recorded with just the SM81 about 8-10 inches away, in front of the 10th fret. The 'ukulele I used is not my favorite 'ukulele, it's a spruce top with maple back & sides, so the sound really isn't too great. But the SM81 did translate it pretty well. It sounded just like the 'ukulele.

    When I recorded acoustic guitar, I used a Takamine dreadnought, spruce top and mahogany back & sides, which sounds very, very nice, with an even tone. I had the SM81 about 12 inches away, directly in front of 12th fret. It did a really good job with translating the sound. The only thing I would say is that as I listened back to it, it did catch a bit of boominess, but it was easily taken out by some simple eq. I cut a little of low-mids and mids, and boosted a little of high-mids and highs, and now, the guitar sounds natural and sits very well in the mix.

    When I recorded upright bass, I used this mic in combination with a LDC, about 4 or 5 inches away from the body and it worked out very well. It caught the true tone, nice and even, very little eq-ing and it was ready to go.

    Like I mentioned, it is definitely a great mic to keep in your locker. It is also a good mic for recording choirs. I also know a guy who used to put these on his ride cymbals to catch a little more sizzle and I did end up liking the sound of them pretty well. If you record a lot of acoustic stuff, don't hesitate to get this mic, it's very great to have around. Buy a couple maybe, just to have that stereo pair option.

  • from Pensacola, FL April 3, 2013Music Background:
    Live Sound / Recording Engineer, Tech Director

    SM81 is stable and great!

    Been using SM81s for years and they continue to deliver great sound quality on many applications.

  • from Byfield, MA October 8, 2008Music Background:
    Musician, Live & Recorded Sound

    Acoustic Guitar, Overheads, Ambience ....

    These have come to be one of my favorite mics for acoustic guitar. One at the sound hole and one on the "sweetspot" of the finger board. I find them to be transparent, which is also why some people don't like them - they don't have a lot of their own character - which leaves the character up to what you are recording! That a good thing when you need it! Also great as overheads, apparently there used to be an omni capsule you could buy for these, but now it's not easy to obtain. I think I would give it higher marks if I could get an omni cap.

  • from Bellingham, WA July 15, 2006Music Background:
    Semi-pro musician/recording engineer

    Solid, reliable, honest & great value

    I bought two of these mics and while I have to say I have heard livelier mics, I am impressed with what I got for my money. They are rock solid and massive (would you expect anything less from Shure?). I use them extensively for overheads and acoustic guitar - usually in XY configuration.

  • from Sabattus, ME September 12, 2006

    Pretty Good

    I am impressed with this microphone as a whole, but there are certain things that could make it better. Mainly, I have found the mic to have very low sensativity. There are a few other issues that took a little bit of time for me to overcome, but again I am happy with this purchase.

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