With the move to more and more affordable options being available on the market when it comes to audio equipment, the choice can be dazzling. This can be seen across the audio board, whether it be when looking at loudspeakers, amplifiers, outboard, or in the case we will be focussing on today, Microphones. With an ever increasing number of smaller companies springing up left right and centre, the choice for those looking for a balance of affordability and quality can be a real challenge. This is something that Shure, a company who for many areas of the microphone industry have become the standard, have tried to respond to with the release of their latest range of affordable microphones, the PG ALTA Series.
ZioGiorgio first took a look at the PG ALTA range back at Prolight & Sound 2015, back in April, when they were on show for the first time in Frankfurt. The range can be divided into 4 main categories. These are:
- Vocals: The PGA48 and PGA58
- Instruments: The PGA57, PGA81 and PGA98H
- Multi-purpose: The PGA27 and PGA181
- Drums and Percussion: The PGA52, PGA56 and PGA98D
We will be paying particular attention to the Drum range of microphones, but first, lets take a look at the series as a whole.
The PG Alta Family
The first thing to emphasise on this new range is that it is so much more than a simple redesign of Shure‘s previous PG range. Yes, the microphones have been restyled in a sleek black coated finish, and have improved handling and build quality, but the range also features microphones that are more carefully tailored to specific applications, meaning that each microphone is carefully crafted with it’s specific purpose in mind.
As a range on the whole, it has been designed to work for studio recording applications, as well as for live performances.
“PG ALTA microphones are designed for anyone seeking great sound, durability, and style. They are easy to use and help produce great results across the board,” says Matt Engstrom, Category Director for Wired Products at Shure. “Vocals or instruments, live sound or studio, new form factors – like the side-address PGA181 – and innovative new mounting options, PG ALTA has what you need. The entire line has undergone our rigorous product testing – just like all Shure products – to ensure it performs perfectly, time after time. We’ve incorporated the latest microphone manufacturing and design technologies into PG ALTA microphones, enabling users to benefit from today’s advancements while enjoying an affordable price.”
Obviously the concern of any buyer who approaches a “budget” range of microphones is ensuring that the equipment is still going to retain a certain level of quality and durability, something that Shure seem to have paid particular attention to with this range. Before we get into the technical specifications of the microphones, it is clear at first glance to see the build quality and specification of them. These certainly do not feel like “cheap” microphones, with good weighting and heavy duty clips and clamps. Another aspect worth noting is the application specific brackets and clamps that are provided with each item. For example, the PG56, part of the drums and percussion section of the range, feature high-quality quick release clamps. This means that if a slight adjustment of angle is needed to be made, then no tightening and un-tightening of and knobs or bolts needs to take place, enabling a quick change to be completed.
Before we look at the drum microphones in particular, let’s take a look at the rest of the series. Starting with the vocal microphones, we have the PGA48 and the PGA58. You are probably not going to be considering the PGA48 for a purely “professional” environment, but the microphone still has its place within the range, and is perfectly suited to basic vocal reproduction and applications such as karaoke. Whereas the PGA58 sits at a more professional level, and is built on many of the characteristics of Shure‘s best selling SM58, maintaining a sound that is perfect for live vocals.
Alongside these, we have another 2 multi-purpose condenser microphones, that could also be used for vocals, but are real multi-application microphones. These are the PGA27, a large diaphragm side-address cardioid condenser microphone, and the PGA181 side address cardioid condenser microphone. These are two microphones that you are probably not going to use in a live environment, but are instead crafted to be perfect solutions for studio recording. The Large diaphragm of the PGA27 is going to give you a wider dynamic range, perfect for capturing a wider frequency spectrum from your recorded source. The microphone also features a high-pass filter, allowing extra control of unwanted low-end, and also a -15dB switchable attenuator. With the PGA27, the smaller form factor is going to give you more flexibility in placement, making this microphone great for close mic-ing in those difficult to reach spaces.
Next we have the instrument microphones, the PGA57, PGA81 and PGA98H. We’ll focus on the PGA57 and PGA58 in our drum microphone section below, but for now let’s take a look at the PGA98H, which is aimed at both wired and wireless performances from woodwind and brass. It features a flexible gooseneck, with an integrated clamp for easy mounting. The microphone features a specially designed microphone cartridge, for clear reproduction of wind instruments.
The Drum Microphones
First we’ll take a look at the PGA56, which is designed for close mic-ing percussion applications. As mentioned earlier, the microphone features a very robust and well-designed quick-release clamp, which allows for quick adjustment of the angle of the microphone without the loosening and tightening of any knobs. With a frequency response of 50–15,000 Hz, the microphone handles both toms and snares well, and from our testing produces a clear and defined capture. The microphone is not overly obstructive, meaning that it can be positioned on each tom in the kit without obstruction of cymbals and other elements of the kit.
Next, we have the bigger brother of the PGA56, the PGA52. This microphone has a frequency range of 50–12,000 Hz, and is tailored for kick drums and larger floor toms. Our tests resulted in clean and powerful capture of kick drum (in our case a Yamaha SBB2017 22 x 17inch kick drum). With this, it is worth mentioning that although this bigger microphone is designed mainly at kick drum applications, it has also been designed to keep clarity at its peak, and can also be used for Bass Amp applications.
Next up we have the PGA57, a cardioid dynamic instrument microphone. This microphone shares a lot of characteristics with Shure’s incredibly popular SM57, and similarly can be used on amplifiers and acoustic instruments, as well as on snares and percussion. We tested this next to an SM57 on the same sound sources and struggled to find too much of a difference in the sound. For the price, this is an excellent microphone that runs hot on the heels of its more famous older brother.
For overhead microphones, we have the PGA81 Cardioid Condenser Microphone, which can also be used for sensitive acoustic instrument performances, as well as for recording. The microphone features a flat-response cartridge, which is specially designed for picking up the nuances of more sensitive sources. This is also something that translates well when used in a pair for overhead microphones, giving added “brilliance” to the sound of the cymbals in capturing the high-frequency content.
And finally, we have the PGA98D Cardioid Condenser Microphone. For instances where minimum obstruction is required, the small form factor and flexible gooseneck of this microphone gives it a low-profile. Although this microphone has a small diaphragm, it still has a large frequency response from 60-20000 Hz, making it suitable for a wide range of applications.
In conclusion, the drum microphones of the PG ALTA Series represent excellent value for money, maintaining the good build quality and rugged design that is often loss with more affordable microphones. This is something that extends across the range, and the flexibility of the applications that the microphones can be used for will really appeal to the user who wants to make the absolute most out of their investment. Many microphones in the series, such as the PGA58 and PGA57, have gained a lot of their design aspects and characteristics from other more expensive Shure microphones, meaning that for someone looking for added value for money without the compromise of quality, the PG ALTA series is an ideal choice.
As well as individually, the microphones are also available in the following kits:
PGADRUMKIT5, which includes one PGA52 kick drum microphone, three PGA56 drum microphones, and one PGA57instrument microphone, along with three drum mounts, five XLR-XLR cables, and a carrying case.
PGADRUMKIT7, which includes one PGA52 kick drum microphone, three PGA56 drum microphones, one PGA57 instrument microphone, and two PGA81 instrument microphones, along with three drum mounts, seven XLR-XLR cables, and a carrying case.
PGASTUDIOKIT4, which includes one PGA52 drum microphone, one PGA57 instrument microphone, and two PGA181 side-address microphones, along with four XLR-XLR cables, and a carrying case.