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The Shure Beta 181 Condenser Microphone

Slim, easily positioned mic provides a natural drum sound

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A long time ago in a galaxy far away, to enhance producer aspirations, I took a studio engineering course. Much of the knowledge acquired is completely obsolete today, barring an industry-wide return to the necessity of painstakingly splicing Ampex 456 master tape. But one aspect that has not changed is the critical importance of choosing the right microphone for a given application, and the ability to position that mic effectively. Even as “just a drummer,” I knew that when an engineer or soundman asked, “Is that in your way?,” what he or she really meant was, “Are you going to accidentally hit and damage our expensive piece of equipment?” The Shure Beta 181, introduced in 2010, addresses this issue, both for studio use and live sound reinforcement.

The Shure Beta 181 measures only 4 3/4 inches, compared to the full six inches of the dependable, indestructible SM57, and it’s much lighter, too. As opposed to a switch to change between cardioid, omnidirectional and bidirectional (“figure-8”) patterns, the Beta 181 features interchangeable “capsules,” including the three above plus a supercardioid option.

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