Review: the Shure MV51 USB microphone

A great way to get out of the radio studio, and get recording with your phone or laptop

By James Cridland
Posted 27 February 2017, 5.36am gmt
James Cridland

The way we make radio is changing. My first job in radio was carrying a heavy Uher tape recorder to an interview for a news reporter - we needed specialist equipment then, costing hundreds or even thousands. Today, we’ve most of the equipment already. But you still probably need a decent microphone.

The Shure MV51 is an old-fashioned looking large-diaphragm microphone, but it is anything but old-fashioned inside. It’s a mike that comes with a USB cable for your laptop; and a lightning cable for an iPhone or iOS device. No mixing desk, XLR cables, or anything else required. Just the Shure MV51 - and the device you already have.

It’s a chunky, heavy metal device which feels very well built. It’s a strange design - built to sit on a table, with a little expandable leg at the back. The rubber foot for this comes off, and you can replace it with a standard mic stand adaptor - which I did, because I’m not three feet tall. For an interview with a few people, it’s the perfect device to chuck on a table in front of you. It isn’t great for holding. But you wouldn’t want to - because this isn’t a great microphone for up-close anyway - its large diaphragm isn’t built for that.

The buttons on the front of the device give five different modes of audio processing for different types of recording. I’m not normally a fan of these, but the speech setting appears to have some processing on it and works pretty well.

A piece of nice design is the volume control on the front, which works by swiping it. This sorts out the input level for microphone as well as the output level for your headphones, which also plug into this device - being able to change the input level is useful for many different things: it’s surprising how many web apps, for example, don’t let you change the volume level.

In use, I started being a little disappointed in how easy it was to pop from six inches away, before realising that the best way to get the most out of this microphone was to use it a foot or so away.

For an interview on location with some atmosphere - like my garden - this is a very good, well-featured, microphone with virtually zero setup, that will already plug into your laptop or mobile phone. You really don’t need more than this to get some great audio on the road.

The Shure MV51 undeniably looks quirky, but sounds pretty good. In US money it’s $199. In Australia, Shure products are distributed by Jands - - where you can find a local stockist.

And if you're wondering what it sounds like when read by a man who wasn't really planning to film himself, then watch this (unprocessed audio other than normalisation):

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.