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My musician friend, Warren Williams, and I compared the Samson S-11 to the Shure SM-58 and the Samson S-12 to the Shure Beta-58 listening through Mackie mixers and a PA system as well as through headphones. Our tests were quite subjective by ear, though we took a quick look using white noise and a spectrum analyzer that confirmed what our ears were hearing. The SM-58/S-11 and Beta-58/S-12 pairings are obvious counterparts in the respective product lines. We listened to voices and an acoustic guitar (for a broader frequency spectrum signal) to make our comparisons. First let me say that these mics are all very similar and all excellent. All are of similar tough, professional construction. Any would be perfectly fine for recording voices for video. The differences are quite subtle. But this is what we found:

The S-12 and Beta-58 both have neodymium magnet dynamic capsules while the S-11 and SM-58 have conventional magnet capsules. The difference is a slightly higher output level for the neodymium models and possibly a slightly better frequency response, though in practical terms it is negligible. The S-12 and Beta-58 have gold plated connector pins while the S-11 and SM-58 have silver pins. Also, the S-11 is a cardiod pickup pattern while the S-12 is hypercardiod for a slightly tighter pattern. I'm not sure if the two Shure mics follow suit.

The major difference we found between the Shures and the Samsons is in the fact that the Shure's have a pronounced boost in frequency response in the low-mids. This was confirmed in documentation on the Shure web site. The Samson mics are more flat in their frequency response. This is a difference in design philosophy between the two companies. Shure builds in the low-mid boost to keep voices full when the mic gets further from the mouth. Low mids tend to drop off (we found with the Samsons) when the mic gets more than four or five inches away. The Shure's boost in this part of the spectrum compensates for this. The Samsons start sounding thinner in this instance. But when the mic is used at about five inches or closer, the Shure tends to sound boomier and the Samson has a more open sound with highs that seem a bit cleaner. Similarly, the guitar sounded a bit better through the Samsons with close micing. Once again, keep in mind that these are subtleties. Unless you are listening closely for them you will probably think all four of the mics we are considering here sound alike.

Overall, I prefer the sound of the Samsons. They have a slightly more open sound, but you do need to work them close. Also, they are an excellent value priced substantially below the comparable Shure models.