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Shure SM86 Review – Condenser Mic Built for the Stage

4.2 out of 5 stars

Shure is undoubtedly one of the most respected names in the world of dynamic microphones, but models like the affordable SM86 show that the American brand can produce a really good condenser microphone too! This small-diaphragm mic, coming in at under $200, tries to marry the build of a dynamic mic with the studio-quality performance of a condenser. For that reason alone, it’s worth taking a closer look!



First off, the elephant in the room – you will probably notice that the SM86 doesn’t really look like other condensers out there. The reason behind this is that Shure has designed the SM86 for stage use. As condenser mics are quite fragile in nature, they have never been ideal tools for live use. However, Shure has managed to bridge the gap between performance and reliability in a way that ensures both.

The SM86 looks like a stage mic – like a slightly bigger SM58, which remains the industry standard for live mics. It features a long and slim dark grey metal body, capped with a traditional chrome grille. You’re not going to want to throw this mic around, but it feels robust and durable enough to be capable of withstanding a live environment.


Despite its looks, which are standard for a dynamic microphone, it’s under the hood where the SM86 reveals that it is a true condenser unit. Beneath the grille you’ll find a standard condenser capsule with a small diaphragm (0.39” diameter). What isn’t standard is how Shure have solved mounting issues by including an internal three-point shock mount and a pop filter to reduce handling noise.

In terms of raw specs, you are looking at a standard fixed cardioid polar pattern, a decent frequency response range of 50Hz to 18kHz, with the max SPL set at 147dB, leaving plenty of room for both vocals and instrument use. The connector comes in the form of a three-pin XLR connection, meaning that phantom power is required. It also ships with a simple Shure zip pouch in which to store the mic, as well as a mic clip.


In action, the SM86 is actually a real treat. In a standard studio environment, it doesn’t come across as refined as some others in the sub-$200 price range, however in the studio is not where this mic is reaching its potential. On stage it is an absolute marvel and Shure live up to their promises of delivering a studio quality condenser mic for use in a live environment.

Recording or simply amplifying vocals is fairly easy – the mic delivers natural, clean vocals and carries a very low amount of internal noise, while the pop filter reduces wind and breath noises. When used with instruments, things are equally as good. Acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments perform the best and retain their natural character.


Shure really has managed to accomplish something that was considered a bit of a taboo until recently, by delivering a robust stage-worthy condenser mic. It sounds great and feels reliable – for the affordable price, it’s a worthy consideration if you spend more time on stage than in the studio.

For more info about the Shure SM86, click here.
For more Condenser Microphone Under $200 you might like, click here.

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