Shure SM81-LC Review

When Shure figured out how to create a small condenser mic that could be used on stage as well as in the studio, they set their own stage for continued success. The Shure SM81 has been around since the 70’s, and it’s a condenser mic that has been the workhorse of professional musicians, producers, and entertainers for years.

As far as your budget is concerned, this is on the lower end of the spectrum, but it’s also a bit more expensive than a beginner will want to spend without doing research. Whether you’re a beginner to the world of recording or not, you’ll want a reliable microphone with years of innovative design and generations of history behind it. The Shure microphone is one of those that every professional has in their recording arsenal.

Feature Pick

Shure Sm81-Lc Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone

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What’s Included?

  • Swivel adapter
  • Attenuator switch lock
  • Foam windscreen
  • Storage case

Technical Specs for the Shure SM81-LC

  • Electret bias condenser
  • Rated at 150 ohms
  • Steel construction
  • Vinyl metallic paint finish
  • Stainless steel screens
  • Weighs 8 ounces

Shure Inc

While the SM81 has been around for generations, the company itself has been building audio devices since the 20s. They began by making kits that could be used to build radios, then they provided microphones in radios that were being made in factories. Years after that, they were contracted by the government to prepare mics for tanks, aircraft, and ships for the military.

After the war, the company started to provide mics to civilian customers. They soon expanded their line from microphones that would broadcast to those that would record and provide live sound.

First Impressions

The slim design of the SM81 means that it can be positioned close to acoustic guitars, near pianos, and cymbals to capture clear distinct sounds with perfection. In fact, the microphone can be placed easily inside the piano and inches from the fretboard without hampering the playing of the musician. When you want to capture sounds in stereo for a recording, it’s easy to add two of them close to one another without cluttering up the studio.

The SM81 has a flat response and is resistant to feedback, which makes them great for stage performances, too. This is what makes the Shure SM81 great for the traveling musician, too. It’s great inside the studio and on stage, which means you won’t have to buy a few mics. One will do nicely.

Polar Pattern

The cardioid pattern is one directional for this microphone. This will cut down on the excessive room reverb, which can color your recording. While some musicians like the sound of reverb in the room and want to capture that, it’s unnecessary and unwanted in some recordings. Especially if you’re recording a guitar that will be one of many instruments in a song.

Flat Response

As mentioned above, the condenser mic has a flat response. This means that it won’t hype a certain frequency or sound. The recording from the microphone will sound exactly like it should. It’ll be a true representation of the sounds heard in the studio itself. Although, some producers have noticed that there can be a richer sound that has to be rolled off in the mix. This is much better than having to replace a sound or tone that you’re missing in the track.

Noise and Sensitivity

The rating for the Shure SM81 is 6 mV/Pa sensitivity. It’s rated at 16dB-A self-noise. This boils down to a sensitivity that’s a bit lacking, but it’s sensitive enough to capture the instrument. It won’t capture sounds outside of a certain range of the microphone. That’s not a bad thing when you want to record the sound of an instrument without all the background noise. If you want to increase the sensitivity you can pair it with a more powerful amplifier.

Power Requirements

Whether you’re recording a live performance or a session in the recording studio, the microphone needs phantom power to run. Along with phantom power, you’ll need cables to reach the mic itself. You need to ensure that you have a 48-volt phantom power source for the mic itself. A 24v won’t have enough power for it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can this be plugged directly into a computer?
You won’t be able to plug it in without a mic pre-amp.

Does the computer work as a power source for this mic?
The power from the computer doesn’t provide enough juice to the mic to get a good sound. Instead, use a phantom power source (48v).

Can the Shure SM81 be used for recording live stage performances in a church or auditorium?
This is a neutral recording microphone that won’t distort the sound being recorded. It’ll keep the noise at a distance to a minimum, so it isn’t picked up on the recording.


This classic has been around for generations because it’s a solid, durable, and almost indestructible force of nature when it comes to live stage performances as well as recordings.

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