Shure KSM353 Review

Shure KSM353 Ribbon Bi-Directional Microphone Review

Introduction

Shure ksm353 ribbon microphone review
The SHURE KSM353 Microphone

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.

KSM353 Features

Specifications

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.

Polar Pattern Shure ksm353 microphone
Polar Pattern for KSM353

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.

However…

…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.

Accessories

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

SHURE KSM353 Microphone Box
The KSM353 Microphone 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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Conclusion

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.

SHURE KSE1500 Review

SHURE KSE1500 Electrostatic Earphone System

KSE1500 Review

Introduction

When you think of buying a pair of earphones, your first reaction is probably not taking your credit card and swiping it for $3,000.

However, if you’re familiar with SHURE earphones, then this price point may not come as a surprise to you. When it comes to microphones and earphones, SHURE is one of the world’s leading, high quality manufactures.

This KSE 1500 review is aimed at those looking for a superior listening experience in their audio.

But who are these earphones for? Theoretically, anyone. But realistically (unless you have the budget and want the best listening experience of your music, even then you’ll likely need a special smartphone app to play your music at the right frequency) they are for those who are professionals in the audio and recording industry. It’s for those who need the absolute best listening experience and also need to be mobile.


How was the KSE 1500 made?

These earphones is a labor of love over the past eight years from the team over at SHURE. Which, according to the guys over at Head-Fi, is a fantastic thought in that no one could have predicted that at the time of development the market for these types of earphones would be in such demand today. With cool code names like “kelp” and “lighthouse” (during their secret development years), these hi-end earphones were eventually given the name KSE 1500 earphones (though I think “Kelp” has a special ring to it…don’t you?)

The history and story behind these earphones is very interesting and deserves and more in-depth explanation. You can watch the full video KSE 1500 review from Head-Fi, it’s development history and more technical explanation of the technology below.

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What is Electrostatic Technology?

To fully understand the technology and genius behind the KSE 1500 earphones, we need to explain what electrostatic earphones are and what makes them different from normal earphones.

We’re about to get very technical, so hang in there.

Electrostatic earphones are manufactured with a static (or non-moving), very thin diaphragm film. This diaphragm is place between two perforated metals. When an electric charge is applied to the two metal conductive plates (also called statters) , it causes the diaphragm film to vibrate, thus creating sound. Because it is nearly massless, the diaphragm has the ability to move very quickly.

The science itself is actually the same as static that causes items to stick to your clothes. The idea here, is that we are able to produce sounds with out physically touching the diaphragm. The electric charge is applied perfectly evenly across the film.

kse1500 electrostatic diaphragm
Image from SHURE Video
Electrostatic Technology
Images from SHURE Video

This gives us a listening experience that is beyond anything a traditional headphone could provide!

In comparison, most earphones are created using a coil, a magnet and a stiff cone that results in significant movement when a charge is applied. This is actually very useful technology for sound, but hasn’t has a meaningful update since the 1800s.

With the KSE1500, this changes (and others like the STAX SR-009 well). In an electrostatic headphone, the only thing that moves is the thin film (diaphragm) between the two metal plates.

This is the beauty of the technology — it’s just pure sound coming in your ears — and nothing else.

The film in the KSE1500 is so thin and light, it’s actually lighter than the air around it. This also makes electrostatic earphones physically light because there are no magnets, cones or coils. Here are some of the advantages to purchasing an electrostatic pair of earphones:

  1. Force comes from Electric field vs a magnetic field.
  2. Zero Motor-weight
  3. Zero resonances
  4. Zero energy storage

Electrostatic technology has actually be around for many years in microphones. Only in recent years, have they been reverse engineering this technology into listening products like the KSE1500 earphones. Because of the intricate size, ultra sensitivity and precise tuning manufacturing, the price is justified. The KSE1500 is the first application of this technology in a sound isolating earphone featuring a MicroDriver design.

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A review of the KSE1500 General Features:

  • It features a high correlation to the source audio. This goes a long way in providing much higher detail and audio quality — basically there are less obstacles between you and the sound.
  • We’ll go more in-depth below, but it boasts a 4-band parametric EQ with 5 presets and 4 customizable settings to control your audio playback.
  • As with many portable devices, it comes with an internal USB rechargeable battery. This gives you the ability to listen while still connected to your computer.
  • Due to it’s electrostatic and quality design, the earphones are very light-weight.
  • It’s Sound isolating technologies also blocks up to 37DB of ambient noise. – What this does for you is that is cuts out nearly all ambient noise around you including air conditioners, people talking around you, possibly the traffic rumbling outside and similar noises at this level. This noise reduction is exactly what you need if you’re reviewing a recording session outside the studio. In a real sense, the KSE1500 truly gives you a mobile quality studio sound.
  • We’ll dive in deeper into this, but it has a cable that was designed specifically for these earphones and has the ability to isolate each conductor.
  • A well thought-out design layout for easy navigation
  • Compatible with all popular devices, both Apple and Android. It has evened partnered with Apple to access their interface giving them the ability to connect directly with the lighting cable.

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The Earphones

kse1500 earphones

The KSE 1500 earphones themselves are presented in a sleek ergonomic form that fits the ear nicely. They are touted to be “the worlds’ first electrostatic Sound isolating earphones.” The internal electrostatic components are surrounded by a clear light-weight plastic molding and has a closed back, something different than most other electrostatic earphones.

According to Head-Fi, because of this closed system it doesn’t quite provide the quality of the large electrostatic earphones like the STAX system. In each earpiece you will find the electrostatic technology — the ultra thin diaphragm and two metal plates as mentioned earlier.

This technology makes it virtually weightless and provides a significantly better sound quality than the dynamic or armature counterparts. The earphones are permanently connected to the headphone’s rounded cable. Now as you probably already know, these earphones can’t be plugged into just any “device.”

They also come with their own amplifier that you can then connect with other devices like your iPhone or PC.

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The KSE1500 Amplifier

kse1500 amplifier

The amplifier itself is a beautiful piece of technology. It features a convenient USB plugin for the internal rechargeable battery. This same USB input also gives you access to all your IOS, Android, Mac and PC devices. At the bast of the amplifier you will find a switch letting you choose between line and USB.At the top, is the input for your 6-pin LEMO connector cable and also a 3.5mm (1/8”) analog input.

Don’t be fooled by it’s simple design — with merely two points of control, you can access everything you need to adjust to your preferences. You have easy access to the main menu from the large dial on top and the low-profile button on the side.

You’ll find that the menu is easy to see and clear in it’s presentation. According to the Shure website, the interface has the advantage of these three things:

  1. Easy monitoring of settings – right on the front screen you can view the source input, input level meter, volume of output, battery level and EQ settings. I like how the colors are very vibrant and clear.
  2. Five EQ Presets Preloaded – Whether you want digital processing or want to bypass it straight to analog altogether, this amplifier has just about everything. It comes with 5 EQ presets that include the following: Low Boost, Flat, De-ess and Loudness. You can also customize these 5 presets if you’d like. With these features, you really have limitless options in how your tracks sounds. Too much bass? No problem. Too rich of a sound? The EQ’s got you covered. Just remember, that when you run your audio through the equalizer it does covert it to ADC and then back into DAC.
  3. Detailed Personal Control – Not to be limited by the 5 presets, you’re also given 4 completely customizable EQ presets for your own listening pleasure.

Speaking strictly on design, the KSE1500 was made to be “on the move” with it’s size comparable to your smartphone. This is really a “first” in this technology — portability and sound quality on this size and level hasn’t really even been done quite like this. This was years in the making.

Probably one of the most important features of the amplifier is it’s ability to convert analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog. In “audio” lingo, they call these devices DACs or “Digital Analog Converter.” It even meets the high requirement of Japan Audio Society. It also has the ability to connect digitally to your iDevices – by passing the analog option.

Getting down the “nitty-gritty,” you’ll enjoy a range of sampling rates including; 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96 kHz. You can also charge it with a portable battery pack as long as it meet the following requirements; USP-powered: 5 V/0.5 A to 1 A. It’s battery life ranges from 7 (EQ mode) hours to 10 hours (BYPASS EQ mode). It’s size is also perfect at 182.-g (or 6.43oz.) and dimensions of 111 x 59 x 21 mm.

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The Cable

kse1500 kevelar cable

While most electrostatic earphones uses flat cables, the KSE 1500 uses a unique customized round cable. Because of the nature of the voltage that makes it way through these cables, it’s a common practice to manufacture them with flat cables.

As you may have guessed, this use of a round cable took many years for the team at SHURE to design. This was done because of the KSE 1500 application as an in-ear monitor and probably the desire to make it as low-profile and portable as possible.

In addition, SHURE designed it with re-enforced Kevlar to withstand the active use of it’s wearers (I mean they use this stuff in bullet proof vests… just sayin’). The cable features a 6-pin LEMO connector that was uniquely designed to pair with the amplifier and each ear piece.

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What’s in the Box?

Along with the amplifier, cable and earpieces, you’re KSE1500 will come in a beautifully designed storage box with a number of accessories to protect and enhance your new purchase:

  1. A leather case to protect the amplifier.
  2. Two rubber security bands (but honestly, they look like “cause” bands. So if you’re a huge fan of SHURE, you could probably wear them on your hand just because. 🙂
  3. Two mini-to-mini cables
  4. Extra earphone tips
  5. Cleaning cloth
  6. Hardcore of the earphones

kse1500 review accessories

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Conclusion of the KSE1500 Review

In bringing this review to a close, it’s not hard to miss what an amazing piece of technology these headphones are. This groundbreaking innovation is likely only it it’s beginning stages. Perhaps one day, it’ll even be available at a price point where many can enjoy such rich audio.

However, that day is far off and the only question is whether this electrostatic earphone system is the right choice for you. If you are a professional in the audio/visual industry or take your music listening seriously, then these electrostatic headphones are definitely something you want in your “arsenal.” However, if you’re not convinced, I went out and pulled a few things other people had to say about the product.

“This is perhaps, for me, the most significant product release since the Seinnheiser HD 800.” – Jude, Head-Fi

“They are in my opinion the most detailed, best sounding IEMs I have ever heard. So, if you are looking for the best, you need not go further.” – D. Sedik, Amazon

“The sound of these headphones is in a league of its own. The clarity and separation is amazing. The sound is so clear and balanced, I can make out all of the instruments even when there are other sounds present at the same time. Simply amazing. This is a breakthrough product.” – Amazon reviewer

See customer reviews at: Ebay | Amazon


There are some cons that were mentioned by some users. I’ve outlined them below as things to consider:

  1. Considering the Shure KSE1500 price point, some believe that the build quality could have been better with a more advanced interface.
  2. Some users had problems with the earphone tips fitting properly in the ear.
  3. The portability of the device is a bit difficult, as you can’t simply plug it into you iPhone because it uses the amplifier.
  4. In a few places it was mentioned that the battery life could be better.
  5. The price

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KSE 1500 Specifications

These specs you can also easily find on the landing page for the KSE 1500 on the SHURE website.

General Specifications
Category Specs
Bias Voltage 200 V DC
Output Voltage ±200 V max.
Output Current ≤1 mA
Noise Attenuation ≤37 dB
Operating Temperature Range −18 to 57 °C (0 to 135 °F)

Earphone Specifications
Category Specs
Transducer Type Electrostatic
Connector Type LEMO Connector
Frequency Response 10 Hz to 50 kHz
Maximum SPL 1 kHz at 3% THD 113 dB SPL
Net Weight 44.0 g (1.55 oz.)

Amplifier Specifications
Category Specs
Bit Depth 16-bit / 24-bit
Sampling Rate 44.1 / 48 / 88.2 / 96 kHz
Signal-to-Noise Ratio up to 107 dB A-weighted
Adjustable Gain Range -40 dB to +60 dB
Limiter Selectable Analog RMS Limiter
Equalizer 4-band Parametric
USB Input USB Micro-B Receptacle
Line-In Input 3.5 mm (1/8")
Charging Requirements USB-powered: 5 V/0.5 A to 1 A
Housing Black Anodized Aluminum
Net Weight 182.0 g (6.42oz.)
Dimensions 111 × 59 × 21 mm H × W × D

Battery Specifications
Category Specs
Battery Type Rechargeable Li-Ion
Nominal Voltage 3.6 V DC
Battery Life Analog in (BYPASS EQ mode) up to 10 hours
USB Input Analog in (EQ mode) up to 7 hours
Battery Charging Temperature Range 0 to 45 °C (32 to 113 °F)

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