Road Test: Shure KSM9HS Handheld Vocal Condenser Microphone

Checking out a mic with dual diaphragms and switchable polar patterns

After hearing a lot of great things about the Shure KSM9HS, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one to try out.

It’s a handheld vocal condenser (electret-biased) microphone with dual diaphragms and switchable polar patterns – hypercardioid and subcardioid – that can be selected via a switch located under the removable grill.

The KSM9HS includes dual 3/4-in, gold-layered, low-mass Mylar diaphragms, a Class A discrete transformerless preamplifier, advanced suspension shock mount system for the cartridge, a 3-stage grill to reduce pops and breath noises, and gold-plated connectors both internally and on the XLR connector.

Stated frequency response is 50 Hz to 20 kHz, and output impedance is 145 ohms. Sensitivity is listed as -50.5 dB with hypercardioid pattern and -53 dB with subcardioid pattern. It requires 48-volt phantom power for operation.

The mic is charcoal in color, 7.5 in long and about 2 in wide at the grill, and weight is 10.6 ounces. An effective suspension shock mount system isolates the cartridge from handling and stand noise. A wireless version of the KSM9HS is available for use with the company’s wireless systems, including Axient, UHF-R, and ULX-D.

The KSM9HS cartridge, as well as the polar switch. (click to enlarge)

Some of you may be wondering about the subcardioid pattern – what is that? Think of it as a wider cardioid pattern, useful for miking a group or for use with vocalists who sing off-axis, while still offering sufficient rejection needed on loud stages.” Note that the model KSM9 offers switchable supercardioid or cardioid patterns, available in charcoal as well as champagne colors, and it’s also offered for wireless and headworn use. 

The KSM9HS ships in a rugged aluminum, foam-lined carrying case, with a stand adapter. A nice surprise is the included threaded insert that converts the stand adapter from 5/8”-27 (common in the U.S.) to 3/8”-16 threads that are found elsewhere around the globe.

Same All Around
The KSM9HS is a little longer than a Shure SM58, and it feels just as nice in the hand. After unpacking it, I plugged it into a small system in my shop and immediately noticed how little handling noise it exhibits in either pattern. There is proximity effect (bass boost) when speaking or singing right up on the grill, but it’s less pronounced than most of the dozens of other mics I’ve used.

The hypercardioid and subcardiod polar patterns of the KSM9HS. (click to enlarge)

In addition, while many mics change tonality when you get off-axis, the KSM9HS sounds the same all around the pattern. Even cupping the capsule did not radically change the sound. I had several people at the shop check it out as well, and their input was unanimous that sound is remarkably even and doesn’t change no matter the positioning of the vocalist.

Already confident in the performance of the mic, I took it to a gig featuring a jazz quartet in a ballroom. When working with vocalists for the first time, I always audition a few mics during sound check in order to select one that works best for their particular voice and handling style.

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