A very good microphone when used as intended.
Reviewed in the United States on 30 December 2013
Please read this review carefully to avoid brand/model confusion.
The GLS ES57 is critiqued in this review, and compared to a Shure SM57. When you see ES57, I'm referring to the GLS mic, and when you see SM57, I'm referring to the Shure mic. I did not review the mic clip that comes with the ES57. I use my own and have several dozen mic clips on stands and attachments that I use and trust. The included mic clip seems suitable for general use, though I haven't used it.
Both the ES57 and SM57 are known as dynamic mics, while the other most common pro type mics are known as condensers (which need a power source to work properly). Not needing a power source is one thing that makes dynamic mics like the ES57 and SM57 popular. However, most dynamic mics tend to be a bit less sensitive and have a bit less frequency response than condensers. In most uses, a dynamic microphone with specs like these from GLS and Shure are not an issue. If you need to mic really low or really high frequencies (less than 80 Hz and greater than 15 kHz), then you'll want to get a different mic that can do that well. There are dynamic and condenser mics that have more sensitivity and frequency response, but they are more expensive, and for 95% of what most of us need in a microphone, either the ES57 or SM57 will work just fine.
I have been recording for over 45 years, initially as a hobby, then professionally. I know audio, made a successful jump from analog to digital, and I use equipment (analog and digital) based on performance, experience and specs, not on brand name. I do respect a lot of name brands, and Shure is one of them. However, I am not affiliated in any way with Shure or GLS Audio, other than being one of their paying customers. I have paid for nearly every piece of equipment that I've ever used, so my critiques are based on performance, specs and experience, and how those things impact my wallet. Now on to the review.
The ES57 mic is well worth the money. I own them and use them. I still have SM57s and will continue to use them, especially in the studio where things are already set to go. I do occasionally use both the SM57 with an ES57 in the studio at the same time with certain guitars and amp speakers to achieve a great tone when blending the two in a mix. However, the ES57 mic has become my go to instrument mic when recording live bands and events. It lessens my chance of heart failure if one goes missing or gets destroyed. They sound great, cost less to replace, and in a mobile and live concert environment, stuff is going to break and disappear. It happens.
The ES57 is solidly built and performs well. Any mic you buy from any brand can have an issue. Fortunately, Amazon is very good about replacing stuff that is DOA or goes bad shortly thereafter. I've never had to deal with GLS (nor Shure) on a warranty issue, so I can't speak to that, but if the mic works for a couple weeks, it's unlikely that you'll have any issues with it. I purchased an ES57 through Amazon, and after discovering its usability, have bought several of these used for around $20 each from people that purchased them and didn't like them because they didn't sound exactly like an SM57. Duh. It's not an SM57. That doesn't mean it's not a good mic. It's just a bit different, which I'll explain.
While the ES57 may look similar to a SM57, it's not one. That's neither good nor bad, just different. The ES57 captures sound a bit differently than the SM57. To me, it's not quite as cardioid (directional) as the SM57. To me, the ES57 sounds more like a Shure SM58 vocal mic (thought it's not exactly like it either), but again, that's neither good or bad, just different. While the ES57 is unidirectional, in my experience it has a bit less rejection from behind and a bit more width in what it will pick up from the front than a SM57. Again, this is neither good or bad, just different and you have to adjust accordingly if you have a situation where front pickup and rear rejection of the mic becomes an issue. In a lot of circumstances, especially in a home studio, this isn't an issue for concern.
If you can't live without the exact qualities and expected performance of the Shure SM57, and the comfort level of knowing exactly how that mic will function because you're so comfortable and familiar with it, then your only option is to purchase an SM57. There is nothing else like it for what it does and everyone in pro circles knows its ability and performance. However, once you know how the ES57 behaves, you can work with it like any other mic, adjusting EQ, along with the proximity and directionality to the sound source as needed to get the sound you want.
I find that the ES57 has a bit more mid-high and high end boost than an SM57. That can make it sound more airy than a SM57, but again, that's neither good or bad, just different. That's something than can be adjusted with EQ (and/or mic placement) in most circumstance, unless you like or need the boost in "air," in which case you may want to leave it alone. I find that I often just leave it alone. I like the sound over an SM57 in many uses.
The ES57 is designed, as is the SM57, to be used very close to the sound source. I usually mic a guitar amp speaker at an inch or less away from the speaker grill. These type of mics can handle high sound pressure levels (SPL), which is why they are called instrument mics, and are used a lot in micing amp speakers, drum heads, horns, and other very loud sound sources. While you can get good vocals with either mic, that's not what they are really designed for. Also, you can't just plug either one into most computer mic jacks using an adapter and expect it work properly. It generally won't because most computer mic jacks don't have an adequate preamp (mic gain function). The problem isn't the mic, it's the computer mic input circuit, yet often, the mic gets the blame and not the mic input on the computer.
Three things to know if you are contemplating connecting with an adapter, either an ES57 or SM57, to an ordinary computer mic input jack: First, these and all professional mics need a preamplifier to make them sound good, and computer mic inputs jacks do not generally have a satisfactory preamp for boosting the mic gain to the needed level. Second, professional mics use a balanced wiring scheme whereas most computer mic jack inputs use an unbalanced wiring scheme. I won't get technical on this here, so Google search balanced vs. unbalanced mics for more details. Third, professional mics rarely come with a cable (though some sellers bundle a mic cable with them to sell as a "kit"), so you'll usually need to buy one. This is not a shortcoming of the mic or company that makes it. It's up to you to get the type and length of cable that serves the purpose you need. The bottom line is that neither the ES57 or the SM57 are designed to be connected directly to a typical computer mic input jack. They are pro microphones, not an accessory for a computer.
Most equipment that you purchase in the pro audio world is a la carte and single purpose. You buy what you need to assemble an audio chain that is good for your particular audio needs. That audio chain is something that you will add to your pro audio toolbox and use over and over again, so it worth buying the right components you need to build it. A mic is just one of those components in the chain. The audio chain is usually a mic, a preamp, mic/balanced cables, signal processors --usually a compressor/limiter, equalizer, and/or reverb unit-- and finally a mixing, recording and/or amplification device. The mic is just one part of the audio chain in the pro world.
Being a balanced mic means that it is designed to eliminate or greatly reduce electrical noise and interference on the mic input circuit. Professional mics generally have a 3-prong male connector at its base called an XLR, to which the female end of an XLR mic cable will connect (you can go to Wikipedia and search for XLR connector to learn what it means). The other end of the mic cable can have any type of balanced connector needed for the type of preamp or mixing board that you're using. The most common mic cable has a female XLR connector on one end (to plug into the mic) and male XLR connector on the other end to plug into your preamp, recording interface or mixing board. There are other types of connectors on balanced mic cables (such as 1/4" TRS), but the XLR male/female cable is the most common.
Though generically called an instrument mic, the SM57 and ES57 can give very good results on many kinds vocals when placed close to the mouth, say 4-8 inches. Get closer than that to the mouth, and any mic can start to sound boomy as you get closer due to proximity effect. The further away from the mouth you get, the weaker and more shallow the sound becomes with this type of mic. The quality of vocal also depends on the tonality of the singer, and you must experiment with the mic placement for vocals to avoid being boomy, weak sounding and lifeless. With some singers, such as a female mezzo or soprano, any mic may sound annoying depending on the vocal tonality, especially a mic that has a boost on the high end. Vocals though are not, in my opinion, what the SM57 and ES57 were really designed for, though they can work well in many cases. For a singer or voice artist, a mic with a larger diaphragm (dynamic or condenser) would be a better solution. They are generally more sensitive and have a wider frequency response compared to an instrument mic, so they can be placed further away from the mouth and still give stellar results. Of course, they are more expensive, too. Note too that condenser mics require what is known as phantom power, whereas dynamics, such as the SM57 and ES57 do not.
1) If you need a mic for your computer, then buy a mic designed to be used with a computer, not an ES57 or SM57. A genuine computer mic will have either a USB connector or 3.5mm (1/8") unbalanced mic jack, and be designed to work well with it! There are professional sounding mics made for such. Search Amazon for a computer mic that has a few dozen high ratings, and you'll likely be happy with that purchase. You'll find that good sounding computer mic won't be as inexpensive as the ES57 because the manufacturer has to design it to work with the computer USB port or computer mic jack. That usually involves adding a couple circuits to the mic design (usually a preamp, perhaps a transformer or balun, and an analog/digital converter if USB), and that costs more. The ES57 and SM57 design assumes that you already have a preamp to which you will connect it before sending the balanced signal to your recording device, or to a mixer which usually has a built in preamp for each channel.
2) If you're a hobbyist and budget is an issue, then as long as you have a preamp to your recording device, or a mixer, the ES57 should serve you well.
3) If you're serious about recording, have professional ambitions, and don't yet own a professional microphone, then you should buy a Shure SM57 as your first. Really. Every pro has one (most several), uses them daily, and an SM57 must be a part of any professional's audio toolbox. It's the go-to microphone. It is perhaps the most used microphone on earth. In fact, for the last several decades, when you see and hear the president of the United States talking at a white house press conference, the rose garden, etc., he's talking into two or more Shure SM57 mics (each with an attached Shure A2WS windscreen). Save your change. Don't buy an espresso everyday for a few weeks. Take lunch to work instead of eating out for a bit, and then use your savings to make your first pro mic purchase a Shure SM57. Yes, it is about $70 more than the ES57, but you'll always be happy that you did. If you then decide you want a second mic, I won't hesitate to recommend that you add the ES57 to your arsenal.
4) If you're a pro, you should spend the $30 and get an ES57. You may like what you hear. If you don't like it, you can sell it for $20 and it only cost you about three cups of coffee at your favorite coffee house. We've all blown more money than that on equipment we hated, so spending $30 is a no-brainer for something that if you try with an open mind, will likely result in a great mic to add to your collection (perhaps several).
Regarding microphone cables, since you must have one if you already don't, and probably don't want to spend more on your mic cable than what you pay for an ES57, I recommend that you buy the GLS 25 foot XLR male/female mic cable. It works well, is a versatile length, and it's about $15 here on Amazon (at the time of this review). A shorter one will work well too, but they are only a buck less and when you need the length, there is no substitute. Get the longer one. XLR mic cables work well at long lengths. I have a couple 100 foot XLR cables and XLR snakes, and their length doesn't have a negative effect on the sound.
I generally build my own mic cables using connectors and bulk cable that I have come to know and trust over the years. I don't have a brand loyalty and just buy what I can get the best deal on at the time I need to order supplies to build cable. There is always a raging debate on the sonic quality and brand of copper mic cables, but in my 45 years of experience, I can't tell a difference. There may be some electrical differences when measured with sophisticated and sensitive electronic test equipment, but human ears are not that sophisticated or sensitive to hear that difference. Neither is our brain, but it seems to get in the way of many logical debates about specs versus what we hear. If the quality of the sound you get is dependent on the type of copper in your wiring (as opposed to the preamp, mics, converters, room or sound-stage environment, etc.), then something is drastically wrong with what's being done. It's not the copper. Copper simply lets the electrons move from point A to B. It's like saying a $100 mic stand gives better sound than a $20 stand. It's immaterial. If it holds the mic properly, job done. Same with copper. If it moves electrons properly, job done. Durability is another issue, but for home and small studio recording and the weekend warrior DJs, most any mic stand will work, as will a well made, non-name brand mic cable. Again, I make decisions based on performance, specs and experience, and how that affects my wallet, not on brand perception.
My recommendation of the GLS XLR mic cable is based on my experience. I have a soft spot for recording good live bands that will likely never get signed, and was coaxed into doing live recordings of several bands for cheap at a couple of events this past year. I knew that set changes were going to be brutal and fast. Not wanting it to cost me too much in damaged cables, which is usually unavoidable, I ordered several of the GLS 25 foot and 50 foot XLR mic cables to see how they would hold up, since the price made them disposable if needed. They cost a lot less that what I can build cables for. The GLS mic cables overall held up well to the trampling and abuse (and the recordings came out great because copper is copper). I'm still using many of the GLS mic cables at live events that survived this past summer's trial by fire (except for the cables that were beheaded or shredded by overzealous roadies). I will order more in the future as needed for that kind environment. I highly recommended them if you're on a tight budget, just getting started in pro recording, need a mic cable that you may not recover, and especially if you need a bunch of cables with a small budget. If you take care of them, they should last for years.
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