Selecting Your Next Instrument Microphone: Shure SM57 Vs Audix I5

Selecting Your Next Instrument Microphone: Shure SM57 Vs Audix I5

When it comes to finding a reliable instrument microphone that will work for you night after night, you may find your head spinning in confusion. In my live work, I have used numerous microphones. I have managed to narrow the field down to two of the best overall instrument microphones. Let’s take a closer look at the Shure SM57 and the Audix i5 dynamic microphones.

Both microphones have a slim profile and small grill design that allows them to fit into almost any situation. Both microphones are touted as two of the top instrument mics in the market today. The SM57 has been around for decades and is regularly used by professional engineers. The Audix i5 hasn’t been around as long, but has been sneaking up on the SM57 for years. Let’s take a look at these mics durability, sound pressure level handling (SPL) and frequency response and decide which is best for you.

Shure SM57

Shure microphones have long been named the most durable microphones in the industry. This is backed up by the various videos of their SM58 being run over by a car and still working fine. While the SM57 has yet to have its YouTube glory by being run over, it has proven itself as an extremely durable microphone for many years, by standing up to regular live stage abuse on tours worldwide.

The Shure SM57 does not have a specific rating for an SPL handling, but engineers who have been using it for years claim that it can take the loudest sounds on the stage. We can safely assume that it can take over 120 decibels and maybe much more.

The SM57 has a frequency response that covers sound from 40 to 15,000 Hertz. Along that path, it is relatively flat from 200 to 2,000 Hertz, which covers a wide spectrum of instrument and voice dynamics. At 2,500 to 10,500 Hertz, there is a slight boost in signal meant to improve clarity and attack in many instruments, like the snare drum. There is also a slight cut in response between 250 to 600 Hertz. This helps to decrease some of the muddiness found in many instruments and voices.

Audix i5

The Audix i5’s durability has yet to be tested by a car’s weight, but based on its design and body construction, it is easily agreeable that it will stand up to same amount of abuse as the SM57. The i5 is constructed of a cast zinc alloy body with a steel grill to top it off. This is the same type of construction as the SM57, except the grill of the SM57 is polycarbonate and can break much easier.

The Audix i5 is rated to handle SPL in excess of 140 decibels. 140 decibels is not only as loud as a firecracker, but on stage, it can blow out your eardrums in a matter of seconds. Because the i5 has been tested for SPL handling, we know that it will take great abuse from your guitar cabinets, drums and overbearing horns.

The Audix i5 has a frequency response that is very different from the SM57. It isn’t nearly as flat and was designed to give the engineer some added equalization without much work. The i5 has a response covering 50 to 16,000 Hertz with a boost of up to 5 decibels between 60 and 600 Hertz and up to 10 decibels between 1,500 and 15,000 Hertz. This tailored response gives the i5 a more tailored sound for horns, snare drums and certain vocals right out of the box. This response is a favorite of mine as it brings out the natural tone of many percussion instruments.

Final Decision

Based on the preceding information, and my personal use, my suggestion for your next instrument microphone is the Audix i5. Due to its rugged construction, high SPL handling and great frequency response, it beats out the Shure SM57 by a leg. And did I mention the warranty on the Audix is 5 years from the date of purchase? That’s over two times longer than Shure warranties the SM57.

My name is Gerad Clarkson and I have been working in and around Pro Audio for over a decade. I recently started my own Pro Audio company: Audio Avenue. I work with church tech teams, mobile DJ’s and local clubs, to help them find the best gear that fits their use and their budget.

If you are in need of gear from amps to Y-connectors, Audio Avenue is your source. We are adding new products every week and want to be your source for everything in Pro Audio. Visit us at or call us at (888) 502-5213.

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