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GearHead: Top Vocalists on Their Microphones of Choice

Kurt Elling, Kate McGarry and others weigh in on their favorites

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Sennheiser e935 microphone
Neumann KMS 105 microphone

It is widely accepted that Bing Crosby set the standard for future generations of jazz singers. But Bing had help. His meteoric rise in the 1930s was in large part facilitated by the concurrent popularization of microphones. As journalist Paul Ford noted earlier this year in an online New Yorker profile that linked Crosby to modern technology, “Microphones changed everything. Rather than spraying the balcony with emotion … the act of performance became more intimate, the singer more vulnerable.”

Fast forward to the mid-1960s, when Shure introduced the SM58, a remarkably durable, handheld cardioid model that delivered superior sound. Singers of all stripes have long since embraced the SM58 as both a workhorse and a thoroughbred. As Roseanna Vitro observes, “In my early days, coming out of rock, blues and folk, I generally faced a Shure SM58, the classic mic you’ve seen [the Who’s] Roger Daltrey swirl around his head. We used to laugh about them because they’re indestructible. The SM58 has a peak of 3.5K, which provides intelligibility of the voice, cutting through and over screaming guitars and loud drums.”

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