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This article was originally published in issue #37
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Shure’s MV51 is a USB connected mic with a cardioid pattern 25mm electret condenser capsule. It’s designed to be used with Lightning equipped Apple “i” devices (check website for specific model details) and PC and Mac computers. Once connected (leads are included) it appears as an audio interface for both recording and playback - the latter via the built-in 3.5 mm stereo headphone socket.
Weighing-in at 575g the MV51 is not the lightweight mobile device I’d initially expected; it has a solid metal case with a hint of Shure's iconic Model 55 Art-Deco about it, set off by a thoroughly modern touch panel with controls for recording and playback level, mode selection and mute. I admit that I wasn’t sure at first about the touch-panel; the mic looks classy in an early 20th century sort of way, and I wasn’t sure that the panel really complements that look. In use though it actually functions very well; you just need to touch the icons rather than pressing them, and it worked flawlessly.
Mode selection allows you to step through onboard DSP options labeled for Speech, Singing, Quiet and Acoustic Music, Loud Music or Band and Flat. With the recording level set, simply flip through the options and select the one that sounds best for the job in hand and you’re done. Don’t get too caught-up on the labels, just go with what sounds best and if you’re going to process the recording afterwards (say in a DAW) then use the flat setting. What you don’t get are more typical “mic” types of controls - pad and bass roll off; which may or may not matter to you depending on what you’re used to using. Output through the headphone socket is plenty good enough for monitoring as long as you’re not trying to monitor at jet take-off levels.
In use, the mic was detected on my Windows 10 PC as soon as I plugged it in. Cubase won’t play with a non ASIO interface, but Studio One gave me the option to select it as my interface and record without fuss. Sound quality? Compared with good, full phantom-power studio mics the MV51 gives-away a bit of warmth and detail, but the frequency response is firmly on the right side of neutral, noise is low and the 44.1 / 48k and 16 / 24 bit converters do a good job of getting the sound into that USB cable. Compared with anything built-in to a tablet or ‘phone it’s simply classes ahead. The built-in pre-amp gives up to 36dB of gain and its quoted maximum SPL level is a healthy 130dB SPL (I didn’t try it this loud). The mass of the mic makes it dead stable, and the rather neat kick-stand on the back has a removable end cap with a standard (USA) mic stand thread underneath it.
I was fairly surprised by the MV51. It’s far more solid than I expected, and if you want it primarily to use with as a mobile solution with an iDevice then you need to make sure it’s not too heavy for your needs, but to think of it as just a mobile-device add-on would be to miss a lot of what it can do. It’s very capable as a plug and play mic, it feels very solid, and it looks good enough that you can put in on a stand in front of a singer and not feel like you need to apologise. Some users may wish for a more typical microphone control set, but I’d suggest that the MV51 is aimed a slightly different audience. If you need a good work-horse mic and can use USB connectivity then give one a try. It's undoubtedly a classy and well featured workhorse USB mic.