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This month a look at a classic Shure microphone; predecessor of the legendary SM 57, with a lot in common. The 545 Unidyne 3 was designed by Ernie Seeler, and introduced in 1960, as part of 'the famed family of Unidynes' (the large old 55, the 55s Elvis mic and the similar looking 556 broadcast version, all by Ben Bauer). The new 545 was a lot smaller and less obtrusive, compared to the bulky 55s, and was end addressed instead of the side addressed earlier types. It was silver and black, made of die cast zinc and 'Armo-Dur' (a bakelite like plastic of Shure's own design). Its main use was for P.A. Systems, tape recording and fixed installations, and costed only $2 more than the 55s ($85 instead of $83). It was switchable between high- and low impedance, making it even more flexible for users. It also supported a on/off switch (which was not part of the SM 57 wisely, avoiding accidental switching off). The audio market embraced it quickly and it was widely used in live sound during the Sixties and early Seventies.

This was the instrument microphone used at the famous Woodstock festival. By then Shure had produced the SM 57, with the same R 45 element, and a sturdier all-metal casing, but it would take quite some time before these replaced the by then familiar 545s. Like the 556, a broadcast version was made: the 546, with a better element and a shock absorbing standmount. This was also much more expensive ($135), but also made it to the recording studio's. Beach Boys' Brian Wilson used it to record his solo vocals for the 'Pet Sounds' album. Later this design was the basis for the development of the SM 5 and SM 7 studio mics.

One of the similarities with the SM 57 is that this mike is also still on the market. Rather impressive, after 54 years. Many studio engineers and vintage fans prefer the 545 over the modern SM 57. The ones that were produced in the U.S.A., before production was relocated to Mexico, are held in the highest esteem. This is probably because the older transformers were of better quality, which results in a different and fatter sound. Modern SM 57s are often deemed 'honky' sounding in comparison.

These days there is a renewed interest in the U.S. made 545s and some combine a new SM 57 capsule with an old 545 transformer. Because of the High Z (impedance)output possibillity it is also a mic favoured by many harmonica players, who can plug it straight into their amp and enjoy the rich sound. The 545 s version, with pistol grip (shown here also) has become known as 'the Paul Butterfield mic', since it was the weapon of choice for this famous blues harp player. He died in 1987, but is now inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame.


Shure 545sd
Shure 545s pistolgrip