To specialise or not to specialise that is the question.
Some companies are dedicated to certain types of equipment, they become synonymous with them. Think Shure and Sennheiser for Microphones, Gibson and Fender for electric guitars, Marshall and amps, Korg’s synthesizers and Ernie Ball strings. Some companies find a product that fits with them like butter on a warm crumpet, they come together and become indistinguishable, the same.
So when I found myself with the opportunity to test Essential’s M8 microphone I was a little taken aback. I’ve bought things from them in the past, I swear by their guitar trigger capos which are great value and do the job perfectly, but looking over their product range they provide everything from sleigh bells and DI boxes to conga’s and drumsticks.
So what do they specialise in? Well, looking over the prices, they are towards the bottom end of what’s available. They are beginners products on the whole and the M8 Microphone’s under £50 price reflects that.
So as a beginner and relative newcomer I got stuck in. It’s a solid feeling microphone, it feels like you could throw it around and it’d probably survive the worst of it, of course this is entirely a guess as I’ve not had chance to throw it into a mosh pit, submerge it in boiling water or club a baby seal to death or whatever professional musicians do to microphones to stress test them. It comes with a mic stand adapter and XLR lead, which is useful, nothing more annoying than getting home with a newly purchased mic to discover you can’t use it yet. There is no storage bag to carry your mic around, however I’m not sure how often they get used, more likely popped in a backpack so not a major issue.
I plugged it into a USB mixing desk, popped on my headphones and had a play to see how easy it is to use. Firstly it’s very bass and lower mid heavy, when I first spoke into it my voice sounded how I imagine the voice of God might sound, booming with majestic presence and power. Unfortunately my voice isn’t quite that impressive so cutting back the bass and mid and pushing the treble seemed to find a nice balance and a natural sound. The sound level produced was relatively low so I found myself having to push the gain up a bit to make it audible.
An hour of playing, singing and experimenting later and I find myself confused. The sound I was getting back was, well, pretty good, it didn’t sound muddy or tinny, it felt sharp and precise, and it costs less than £50 which at half the price of Shure’s SM58 (the musician’s staple) seems good value. A little annoyance was that it wouldn’t attach to my mic stand due to different adaptors (i think though, in the Mic’s defence, I may have lost the adaptor when I bought the stand…).
So would I buy one?
In short, for my current usage, no.
I tend to record myself rather than perform live, and while the sound is good it is a little noisy when compared to my condenser mic (which cost £69), it’s also harder to get a good sound with it than the condenser and doesn’t sound quite as warm or natural. But then I’d imagine this isn’t the right mic for recording…
However, if I was performing live I would have a dilemma, this mic is not half the price and half as good as the SM58, it’s nothing close to that, i can’t quantify it exactly, but the different between the SM58 and M8 I suspect would be minimal with a bit of tweaking for non-professional usage. I’ve used an SM58 in my current setup and I’m not sure I could spot the difference in the sound (although I’m sure a professional technician could, but hey, this mic isn’t for them necessarily) which I take as a good sign.
I had a look online for other reviews of this mic at the time of writing to see if anyone else had had a similar experience but sadly this seems to be the first, I’d be very interested to read other comments.
I’d recommend popping into a music shop that sells both to test them out side by side, and be careful not to be fully taken in by the SM58 folklore, for the beginner performing live I think the M8 might give you a pleasant surprise.