Shure KSM353 Ribbon Bi-Directional Microphone Review
If you are in the audio and recording industry, you know that the quality of any audio production starts with the quality of the microphone.
The Shure KSM353 Ribbon Bi-directional Microphone is a passive ribbon microphone in the $2,500-$3,000 price range. It was developed by Crowley & Tripp (C&T) to compete with condenser mics in the $10,000+ price range.
“Phenomenal for recording guitar amps and cabinets. Very good for podcasting and radio vocals.” – Reviewer
The wrong microphone can introduce noise artifacts and distortions into a recording, altering the sounds of instruments and voices. The right microphone can accurately capture detailed sound, leading to crystal clear, lifelike recordings.
Does the Shure KSM353/ED deliver on its promise of superior sound quality?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the history, technology, specs, and performance.
Shure KSM353 Story
As mentioned before, the Shure KSM353 wasn’t originally developed by Shure, but by C&T, who marketed it as “El Diablo.” The design goal for El Diablo was for it to sound like a U47fet outside a kick drum and an MD421 inside.
Later, C&T was purchased by Shure Bros.
The result was a new version of “El Diablo” rebranded as the KSM353.
All of the technology that went into the development of El Diablo was transferred over to Shure Bros. through the acquisition, so KSM353 is the same fantastic mic that C&T originally manufactured.
The Roswellite Ribbon Advantage
What makes Shure KSM353 so innovative is the unique Roswellite ribbon material which C&T developed. The technology used in manufacturing this ribbon confers upon it an extraordinary level of resilience and durability, even when exposed to harsh SPLs. The foil ribbons traditionally used in microphones feature a much lower tensile strength. As a result, they lose their shape, leading to distortion and a decline in overall performance.
What is the Roswellite Ribbon advantage?
The Roswellite Ribbon consists of a ribbon made of composite plastics. This plastic ribbon is then coated in conductive material. This material is as close to indestructible as you are going to get. This is what allows the Shure KSM353 to stand up to extreme SPLs without deforming. This increases both the performance and longevity of the microphone and offers users unparalleled versatility.
Shure KSM353/ED Specifications Feature Stat Receiver Roswellite® Ribbon Output Impedance Transformer - balanced - actual 330 Ω Frequency Response 30Hz to 15000Hz (tailored) Polar Pattern Bi-directional Polarity Polarity Positive pressure on front side of ribbon produces positive voltage on pin 2 relative to pin 3 - pin 1 ground Sensitivity (at 1 kHz - open circuit voltage) -53.5 dBV/Pa (2.11 mV/Pa) Materials Machined steel gold silver and aluminum parts inside a stainless steel casing Dimensions & Weight Diameter: 4.83 cm (1.9 in) Height: 15.75 cm (6.2 in) Weight: 633 g (1.4 lbs) Weight: 950 g (2.11 lbs) w/ Shock mount Max SPL 146 dB Connector Three pin professional audio (XLR) male
The bi-directional polar pattern is an important aspect of how the KSM353 Ribbon Microphone works. This pattern allows for fully symmetrical audio capture.
You’ll notice that the microphone has actually been designed to offer two different frequency responses from front to back. You get a brighter sound in back, and more of a classic ribbon sound from the front. This design mimics the rising frequency response of a condenser microphone.
The KSM353 was also developed with a wide range of frequencies in mind. Many microphones are only capable of capturing sound properly in the higher or lower ranges.
…the Shure KSM353 contains a patented custom ribbon motor assembly that maintains the output for the mid and full low ranges while improving bass response.
At the same time…a rising frequency response makes it possible to capture upper range vocals and sounds, as just discussed.
Materials & Build
The materials and build for the KSM353 bear some discussion too. You’ll notice if you buy this microphone that it is very heavy. It weighs 1.4 pounds and features incredibly tough, durable materials. You certainly shouldn’t drop it, but it certainly seems like it could stand up to a lot of wear and tear. This device was built to last. From an aesthetic point of view, it’s a good-locking mic, too. The steel body is black and the sound-entry ports are covered by red mesh screening.
There are a number of high-quality optional accessories you can buy to go with your SHURE KSM353/ED microphone:
• The ShureLock® Swivel Stand Mount: $99
• The A300PC polishing cloth: $13
• The ShureLock® Wire Rope Shock Mount: $249
• The A353VB velveteen pouch: $13
What’s in the Box
What is great is that you do not actually have to purchase all of these accessories separately. Your purchase actually includes the shock mount, polishing cloth, and velveteen pouch. If you need to replace any of them, you can purchase replacements as you need them. If you want the swivel mount, you do need to purchase that individually (and you might end up wanting it, since the shock mount which the mic comes with is not of the highest quality).
Your purchase of the Shure KSM353 also comes with a couple more extras which are not mentioned above: a zippered case and a user guide. The mic also comes in a beautiful wooden case (or a sturdy metal case.)
Just seeing this case will blow your mind; it looks like a case you want to store a high-tech luxury gadget in. It was built with functionality in mind, not just aesthetics. When your microphone isn’t in use, you can store it in the case and the case will keep it upright in a fully vertical orientation.
This is very important with ribbon microphones since it keeps the ribbon from sagging from one side to the other. That sagging can result in long-term deformation, so the wooden case maintains the shape of the ribbon and extends the lifetime of the microphone.
- Smoothness: The Shure KSM353 does a smooth capture of high-frequency sounds, including both vocals and guitars. In fact, for singers who have shrill voices, the extra smoothness in the higher frequencies can actually make this a superior choice over a condenser mic. Mid-range vocals also come out very smooth, with no nasal distortion. Because this mic captures such neutral sound, it is perfect for voiceover work. Sounds across all frequencies come across as full, detailed, and beautifully balanced. Unlike a lot of mics out there, the Shure KSM353 does a wonderful job handling transients.
- Great Kick Drum Mic: Just as you might expect from the story of its development, the Shure KSM353 is an excellent kick drum mic, much better than a standard kick drum mic. It is also one of the highest-quality guitar amp and bass amp microphones on the market.
- Robust Construction: The robust construction of both the ribbon and the microphone make this a purchase which will stand the test of time. Flimsier mics may quickly lose their quality and require replacement after just a few years. You can use the Shure KSM353 for a very long time period with no noticeable distortion in the sound. The wooden box helps to extend its lifetime, and the other accessories your microphone comes with add value to your purchase.
- Slightly Flat: If you are in a studio recording session, you may sometimes find the sound a little flat on vocals. If you read reviews, you will notice there is quite a bit of variation in this respect. A lot seems to depend on the recording environment and the vocalist. You will also notice that the placement of the microphone is vital. Differences in the sound are particularly pronounced when you are close-miking. Run some tests and you should be able to optimize the sound to your requirements.
- Shock Mount Quality: The shock mount doesn’t share the same robust design as the microphone. It is actually a bit flimsy, and the microphone may sometimes slip in the mount—this obviously can cause problems in mid-recording. Shure is actually aware of the issues with the mount and have stated that they are working on the issue. A better mount should eventually be available.
- Warranty: The warranty is only two years. This is standard for Shure, but the original El Diablo came backed by a lifetime warranty. Still, it is the same mic under the different branding, so it is built to last a lifetime. Chances are good that it will last long outside of warranty.
The Shure KSM353 is a powerful, resilient alternative to condenser mics
If you have been thinking about purchasing a condenser microphone, you know that you are looking at shelling out quite a bit of money—possibly $10,000 or more.
So if you have the chance to purchase something for less than a third of that price, it is well worth considering, especially since the KSM353 may actually be a superior choice for some buyers. Again, the higher-frequency sounds are actually smoother with the KSM353 ribbon mic than they would be with a condenser mic—in all other respects, sound quality is nearly comparable.
“Highly recommended for amps and cabs for any instrument, seriously this is one of the best mics in the world for this. Also surprisingly good kick drum mic!” – KSM353 User
For a lot of professionals, the Shure KSM353 Ribbon bi-directional Microphone is a smart and logical purchase.
Whether you are a musician, a voiceover artist, a podcaster, or any other audio pro, the Shure KSM353 Ribbon Microphone will save you money over a condenser mic.
At the same time, it will deliver performance and durability which far outstrips anything you have experienced with a standard ribbon microphone.
Still not sure whether the Shure KSM353 Ribbon Microphone is the right purchase for you? Be sure to check out the reviews from others who love this product.