The drum kit is considered one of the toughest instruments to record well -- and no wonder, considering it can be a challenge just to fit the microphones into position. That challenge is likely what Shure's engineers had in mind when they designed the innovative Beta 181 microphone. Shure's tough, high-SPL-handling microphones are the classic choice for snare drum -- not to mention a longtime favorite on rack toms as well. But who hasn't struggled to sneak a bulky end-address dynamic through a maze of stands and over the rim of a drum, all while staying out of the way of a drummer's thrashing sticks and clashing cymbals? That's where the Shure Beta 181 side-address small-diaphragm condenser comes to the rescue.
A condenser mic on snare drum? Yes, indeed: boasting a max SPL of 151 dB, the Beta 181 can handle your snare, guitar amp, blaring brass, or just about any other loud source with no need for a pad. At 4.9 inches long, the Beta 181 is about the size of the SM57, but its side-address capsule makes it far easier to place peeking discreetly over the rim of a drum. With a beefy, rugged steel bevel around the outside of the capsule, the Beta 181 is prepared to take a hit. And although we wouldn't recommend it, there's at least one guitarist out there who's scored great results by simply hanging the Beta 181 from its XLR cable over the top of his amp's speaker cabinet. Although it weighs in at about 5 ounces, the Beta 181 is a remarkably tough cookie.
To sweeten the deal on this lollipop-style mic, Shure offers the Beta 181 in your choice of cardioid, supercardioid, bidirectional, or omnidirectional pickup patterns, with individual capsules available for purchase separately. You select a pickup pattern by simply unscrewing and locking on the optional separate capsules. The Beta 181's interchangeable capsules give you all the flexibility of a multi-pattern condenser, without adding electronics to do the switching -- resulting in a cleaner path for uncompromised audio quality. Try the supercardioid 181/S on snare or toms to minimize cymbal bleed. Use the bidirectional 181/BI as a single drum overhead. Or pair up two cardioid 181/C mics on piano: the ultra-compact side-address design will fit under the grand piano's lid, even when it's only opened to "short-stick."
With a crisp high-end bump in all its pickup pattern models, the Beta 181 is an obvious contender for snare, hi-hat, or drum overheads. But with a nearly flat low-end response down to 50 Hz, the 181 also does an admirable job on low-frequency percussion sources -- floor toms, or hard-to-mic instruments like the cajon. The omnidirectional 181/O's extraordinary low-end sensitivity makes it a prime candidate for acoustic upright bass. It's also fantastic for capturing the full range of an acoustic guitar -- and with 55 decibels of rear rejection, the cardioid 181/C is an ideal guitar spot mic for recording an acoustic guitarist who also sings.
Can you say "Swiss Army knife of microphones"? With all this flexibility, the Beta 181 seems destined to be the next Shure classic. As far as we see it, the question here really isn't whether to buy a Shure Beta 181, but which pickup pattern to pick up first.
- Side-address, ultra-compact condenser -- easy to position around drums or other tight spots
- Robust Shure build quality suitable for live or studio use
- Available in your choice of pickup pattern -- omnidirectional, bidirectional, cardioid, or supercardioid
- Interchangeable pattern capsules available separately
- Excellent off-axis rejection
- Extremely high 151 dB maximum SPL handling
- Comes with carrying case and flexible mic clip
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