At this year’s festival, neo-soul star Izzy Bizzu and Stockport indie pioneers Blossoms (coincidentally named after the Blossoms public house near TPi HQ), both showcased the new Shure KSM8, the world’s first dual-diaphragm dynamic handheld microphone. TPi’s Stew Hume asked the artists and crew their opinion on the product…
Live at Leeds has become something of a warm-up for many bands before the onslaught of summer festival shows. During the metropolitan festival, 22 venues within the West Yorkshire city open their doors to the 192 artists that play throughout the day. Two of the highlights of the festival were indie-quintet Blossoms and neo-soul newcomer Izzy Bizu, both of whom were using the latest release from Shure, the KSM8.
Since Shure announced the new microphone at the 2016 winter NAMM Show in California, the KSM8 have been turning heads across the industry, appearing on several tours including The 1975 and Mumford & Sons. The product has been specially designed for the live environment, able to perform in any situation and provide engineers with a dynamic microphone that has virtually no proximity effect and an output accuracy that requires none of the presence peaks or roll-offs that are typical for other dynamic microphones.
Backstage at Leeds University Union’s veneue, The Refectory, TPi met Blossoms’ FOH Engineer, Chris Pearce, Tour Manager Dan Woolfie and the band’s lead guitarist, Josh Dewhurst. Hailing from Stockport, the five-piece indie rock group has made a niche for themselves garnering a great deal of radio play, placing fourth in BBC’s Sound of 2016 list as well as selling out venues up and down the UK. After some hometown glory conversations [the pub which the bands gets its name is only a short walk from TPi HQ] we got down to discussing the latest trick up their sleeve with the KSM8.
Blossoms’ set at this years Live at Leeds was the first time that the band used a complete package of three brand new KSM8’s. The band’s 19-year-old lead guitarist picked up the story of how they became the latest Shure endorsee: “The whole endorsement came about when I emailed Shure to ask for some advice on our then touring package. At the time we were using some ex-hire equipment from our audio company that saw us through a period of touring but as things began to snowball for us we thought it was time to update our gear.” The band had used Shure’s PSM 1000’s during a session at Abbey Road Studios which encouraged the five-piece to perhaps look at investing in Shure. “Using the PSM 1000’s was a game changer and the quality was unmistakable. After I sent off this enquiry email, a few days later we suddenly got a reply for Shure saying they were interesting in working with us.” But what started as an enquiry for IEM led to a full endorsement which included the new microphones.
Before their Leeds set, Blossoms had been lent one of the microphones that was used during a set they played in the Isle of Man while they were supporting The Charlatans. FOH Engineer Chris Pearce talked about his first experience with the microphone: “The microphone is a really great transition from the Shure Beta 58’s that we have used for some time now. It is very similar audio wise but when Tom [Ogden, Lead Singer] moves his head to the side it doesn’t thin out anymore, which is beneficial for the in-ears. I don’t need to chop any of the usual 250hz like you usually do and it has a great even tone all the way to the top.” Pearce mixed the Leeds show on a Midas PRO1, which was a loan from Par Street Studios. Pearce added: “There really is very minimal EQing required to make the KSM8 sound nice through any PA.”
Dewhurst discussed his experience from a performer standpoint: “The KSM8 from an IEM perspective has been fantastic. I’m not a singer but when I’m performing I like to have a nice balance to Tom’s voice and you find that with this microphone it’s not getting lost anywhere and it’s very easy to navigate. Also with the proximity feature his mix stays at the same level when he moves closer to the microphone, which is useful as he is quite an animated singer.”
Tour Manager Dan Woolfie added: “We have also found that when he walks away from the microphone and leaves it pointed directly at the drums we are not getting nearly as much spill on our in-ears. That wasn’t even one of the selling points for us but we have definitely benefited from that feature.”
It is not just the sound of the new microphones that Blossoms have fell in love with, but the look of the capsules. “We specially requested if we could have a package of the nickel plated microphones,” stated Dewhurst. “Anyone that has see us live might notice we are slightly obsessed with chrome with our drummer’s heads all being silver and reflective. The mic has fit into this theme perfectly.”
It’s worth noting that Blossoms’ endorsement also included Shure’s PSM 1000’s, which the band and all three members of crew use. The band were also supplied with the Shure KSM313 Duel Voice Ribbon microphone for Dewhurst’s lead guitar.
Further down the road at the O2 Academy Venue was another artist showcasing the latest Shure product. Hailing from London, 21-year-old Izzy Bizu has been turning heads since 2015 and has garnered a fanbase who eagerly await her album, A Moment of Madness, due to be released later this year. The singer has also found herself among the finalists of the BBC Sound of 2016 competition. Speaking to the Bizu’s FOH Engineer, Ben Allen, after her performance, he discussed how he became involved with her: “I have been with Izzy for the last nine months. Some other producers who are on my management company [Z Management] had worked on some tracks with her. Once I heard her voice I was keen to get invoved.”
Allen explained that prior to using the new KSM8, the singer had been partial to the Shure Beta 57’s. “I really like the tone of that model but we had some issues with handling noise when she took the microphone off the stand. I was looking for the next thing we could use when Shure brought out the KSM8. I got in touch with Shure and asked if I could demo one.”
Once the FOH engineer got his hands on the microphone he was blown away by it. “It was exactly what I was looking for at that moment in time. Izzy has a really distinct mid range in her vocals and the new microphone doesn’t accentuate any of the harsher points of that. It’s a very balanced microphone, which is what you are looking for in terms of a gig like this when you have 20 minutes to try and rig a whole show instead of using a couple of hours. It’s comforting to have gear on stage that you know will work especially at the moment when every day I come into a venue and am working with a different desk and PA.”
A few weeks after meeting with Blossoms, the band’s tour manager spoke to TPi once the group had done a few more shows with the complete three-microphone package. “The response we have been getting from all the in-house engineers has been great. As soon as we put them on the stand at sound check we have people asking us questions about the microphones. It is head and shoulders above anything we have ever used before.”
With such rave reviews from both bands and crew who have already used the Shure KSM8 it is highly likely that the microphone will be making many more appearances in the coming months.
Photos: Ed Whitmarsh and Ben Bentley