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Digital large-diaphragm condenser microphone



Appearances don't always tell you everything. For example, when you first see the Shure MOTIV™ MV51 you might mistake it for one of Shure's legendary vintage microphone designs. It certainly has a real retro vibe to the way it looks. But look closer and you'll notice several things about it that appear decidedly modern. So which is it? Is it a microphone for the vintage gear lovers or a modern mic, or is there a bit of both to it? Let's dig in past the surface appearance and find out.





What You Need To Know

  • The Shure MV51 is Apple MFi (Made for iPhone / iPad / iPod) certified, so it will work with iOS devices running iOS 7 (or later) right out of the box without requiring any other devices, adapters or cables. It is also designed to work as a USB mic with Windows (7 or later) or OSX (10.7 or later) computers, and it is also compatible with Android devices that support USB Audio Class 2.0 and Micro-B OTG connectivity.

  • A one meter Micro-B to Lightning cable, as well as a one-meter Micro-B to USB cable are included. A 1/8" headphone output jack allows real-time  monitoring; it and the Micro-B connector are located on the rear of the MV51, and mounted so that they don't get in your way too much (except when trying to lay the MV51 too flat on a table).




 

  • The MV51features a large diaphragm (25mm) cardioid electret condenser capsule. The claimed frequency response is 20Hz - 20kHz with no tolerance range listed. The A/D converter is 24 bit, and supports sample rates up to 48kHz. The MV51 is bus powered by the device it's plugged into.

  • The mic is larger than I was expecting, and measures 5.04" H x 3.39 W x 2.76" D. In a world when many USB microphones are made of plastic, Shure has taken a decidedly more rugged approach with the MV51's all-metal construction. While it hasn't experienced any unfortunate accidents while in my possession, I have little doubt that it would hold up to the occasional insult without flinching, thus reinforcing Shure's legendary reputation for durability.

  • The built-in "Kickstand" is also extremely clever, and lets you set up the MV51 in a variety of angles on your desktop simply by adjusting its angle relative to the mic body. If you'd rather use a conventional mic stand, unscrew the rubber tip at the end of the Kickstand, which reveals standard 5/8" mic threads that are machined into its end.



 

  • There are five DSP Preset Modes (Speech, Singing, Acoustic Instrument, Loud, and Flat), selected with a touch panel on the front of the unit. LEDs indicate the selected mode. When you select one, the gain, EQ, compression and limiting are all adjusted automatically for that type of sound source. Other touch controls on the front panel allow you to mute the microphone and adjust the mic gain (over a 36 dB range) and headphone volume .


  • Sensitivity in Flat mode with minimum gain is -39 dBFS/Pa at 1kHz, and the maximum SPL is 130dB, so it can tolerate some pretty loud sound sources.

  • Shure's free ShurePlus™ MOTIV™ App is designed to work with the MV51, and provides enhanced features compared to the built-in recorder that comes bundled with your phone, including the ability to adjust the DSP's 5-band graphic EQ and compressor / limiter settings, and easy file sharing via iTunes, AirDrop, Dropbox, email and text.

 


Limitations

  • That all-metal ruggedness and heavy-duty build quality come at a price, and in a word, it's weight. At 20.27 ounces the MV51 is somewhat heavy, and significantly so compared to many other USB microphones. If traveling light is of the utmost importance to you, you may wish to consider lighter microphones, such as the Shure MV5.

  • There's no XLR output, so the MOTIV MV51 is limited to iOS and USB use only, and cannot be used with standard microphone preamps and outboard signal processors (although you can process the recordings you make using the MV51 with your DAW software).

  • There's no way to adjust the DSP settings via the hardware or when using the MV51 with apps other than the ShurePlus™ MOTIV™ App. Even within Shure's app, compression adjustment is limited to off, light and heavy settings only. 
  • No carrying case or windscreen is included .



Conclusions

While the Shure MOTIV MV51 looks like a familiar vintage favorite, at heart it's a modern digital microphone with a lot of versatility. I have to admit I wasn't really expecting much from the preset DSP but I was pleasantly surprised. Each mode does a good job of optimizing the microphone for the specific task, whether it be spoken voice, singing, or instruments. Since you can't use an external mic preamp and outboard EQ and compression with a USB microphone, it's nice that Shure gives you the ability to apply some of this kind of processing, and it really does help you achieve more polished-sounding recordings. Alas, you have no ability to control the settings for this DSP processing except with Shure's app, but the defaults Shure has provided generally work much better than I expected.

The biggest downside that I can see to the MV51 is its weight, but even that's not a total downer - the all-metal construction that makes it heavy also helps with durability and adds significantly to the MV51's rather cool vintage vibe. Whether or not the weight is an issue is something you'll need to decide for yourself, but if you can handle it, the Shure MV51 is a very versatile and good sounding USB / iOS / Android microphone that will impress you just as much with its sound as well as its style.


Resources

Shure MV51 Digital large diaphragm condenser microphone ($249.00 MSRP, $199.00 "street"

Shure's product web page

Shure's ShurePlus MOTIV App

MV51 Datasheet (PDF file)

MV51 User's Guide (PDF file)


You can purchase the MV51 from Sweetwater or B&H


 



__________________________________________________

 



Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines. 

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