Review: First Look: Shure KSM9HS Handheld Vocal Microphone
The Shure KSM9 condenser microphone is well known among the professional touring audio crowd for exacting vocal applications, with a switchable polar pattern from cardioid to supercardioid. The new KSM9HS brings a pair of more unusual but quite useful polar patterns—hypercardioid and subcardioid.Polar patternsA hypercardioid presents an even tighter pattern than a supercardioid, so is most effective when the user approaches the mic on-axis, or at a moderate angle. The greatest attenuation “nulls” are at 110 degrees off-axis. Hypercardioids provide isolation from other voices or instruments on stage, and offer increased gain when used with monitors slightly to the side of the singer (vs. directly in front).The subcardioid pattern looks quite similar to an omnidirectional microphone from the front, but the rear part of the coverage is flattened. Effectively, the audio capture is very wide to the front and sides—wider than a standard cardioid—and the attenuation to the rear is significant and even, with no sensitivity “lobes” at the body end of the mic.Microphone designThe KSM9HS is solidly built with significant heft, yet is not too heavy for continuous use. Its grille assembly unthreads, revealing the mic capsule and a well-marked switch to select the desired polar pattern.The microphone uses a ¾-inch, gold-layered, dual-diaphragm design within the shock-mounted head assembly to create the two distinct polar patterns. A transformer-less internal preamplifier maximizes transient response and accuracy. It uses 48V phantom power—but can operate down to 11V (though Shure says it will deliver slightly less headroom).Live test resultsThe first test was with the hypercardioid pattern, placed in a stand and angled up about 20 degrees in the center-front of the altar in a 300-seat sanctuary. Because of the peaked ceiling, and the speaker cluster almost overhead, this location has often been prone to feedback.Even with the gain raised considerably higher than what was needed to fill the room, not a trace of ring was detected. Talking around the mic, the level and audio quality were consistent from on-axis to approximately 45 degrees off-axis, where a slight attenuation began. The deepest null was a bit over 90 degrees off-axis, and attenuation was excellent at the rear.The audio quality was full and balanced, with moderate proximity effect about an inch away from the mic, and detailed high-frequency response. The mic has a well-behaved and consistent hypercardioid pattern, lending itself well to circumstances where achieving high gain before feedback is difficult. The mic sounded great flat, and slight EQ adjustments of less than 3 dB could be used to adjust the lows and enhance the presence.The subcardioid pattern was also quite consistent in its frequency response throughout its much wider polar pattern, and similar tonally to the other polar pattern with a bit less proximity effect. When placed in the same difficult location, at a moderately lower level it did not produce feedback.This unusual pickup pattern is almost like an omni from the front, and speaking into the mic on-axis and through about 90 degrees off-axis produces a similar level and frequency response. The level dropped evenly and significantly at the rear of the mic. Using the subcardioid setting, even a person holding the mic vertical to the floor and speaking into the side can be heard and understood.ConclusionsThe Shure KSM9HS is a great-sounding mic, offering two distinctly different polar patterns for a variety of sound reinforcement applications. The hypercardioid pattern is ideal for discrete audio capture, especially in high-level situations where isolation and high gain before feedback are desired. The subcardioid pattern allows wide, even, natural pickup, and can capture a group of instruments or vocalists. The KSM9HS lists for $874.
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