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Shure 520DX Review - Microphone for Harmonica "Green Bullet"

December 10, 2023

Another reason to respect and love Shure is the well-known "Classic" product line. This line is a tribute to the classic microphones of the mid-20th century. Today we are going to review the Shure 520DX microphone, this is the cheapest Shure microphone in a "Classic" line. The Shure 520DX, commonly known as the "Green Bullet", is a harmonica microphone that has become an iconic piece of equipment in the music world, particularly in the blues and rock genres. Known for its distinctive look and warm, gritty sound, the Green Bullet has stood the test of time and continues to be a favorite among harmonica players and other musicians seeking a unique sonic character.

It is something of a niche model, but we will try to cover its features from the perspective of an average user. Let's start our Shure 520DX review with the specifications, as usual.

Best Price on Shure 520DX Green Bullet Microphone

The Shure 520DX Green Bullet harmonica microphone is not just a tool for musicians, it's a cultural icon with a storied history and great sound.

Shure 520DX Package Bundle Classic Package

Shure 520DX Specifications

  • Microphone Type: Dynamic
  • Form Factor: Handheld
  • Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Cartridge: R198
  • Frequency Response: from 100Hz to 5000Hz
  • Impedance: High, Unbalanced
  • Load Impedance Range (minimum): 100kΩ
  • Sensitivity: at 1 kHz, open circuit voltage, −38.0dBV / Pa (1 Pascal = 94dB SPL)
  • Housing: Die-casting, Chrome & Green Finished
  • Net Weight with cable: 737 grams (26oz)
  • Size: 63mm diameter x 82.6mm long
  • Set Includes: Shure 520DX mic with built-in 6.1m / 20ft length cable (Cable Input: ¼ jack (6.3mm / TS)

Overall Build & Design

This particular model is reminiscent of Astatic's bullet-shaped microphones, which adds a lot of coolness to it, even though the main function of those microphones was not to record harmonica (just Google "brown bullet mic"). So let's start with the body, it's all metal and you can feel it, just grab it to realize it's heavy. The colors are green and metallic to maintain the overall vintage design. The design is perfect for this type of mic, who wants to see someone playing harmonica in front of a standard mic with a widescreen laptop plugged in? Nobody. So this guy plugged right into the amp and played along with just the right vibe.

The chosen form factor is ideal for harmonica players because they can hold this mic and the harmonica at the same time (while playing, of course). Also, there is a very handy volume control knob so you will be able to handle the volume situation being right in the musical action.

As an optional accessory, we recommend buying a Pignose 7-100 Legendary Portable Amplifier or Pignose 7-200 HOG-20 Amplifier, which are specially designed for harmonica players and perfectly combined with a 520DX microphone. According to the manufacturer Shure, you can also connect the microphone to any other guitar amplifier. Before connecting the microphone to an amplifier, set the volume control to a minimum and then adjust the volume to your comfort level. If you have problems with the microphone cartridge - Shure company produces an R198 cartridge for 520DX (direct replacement cartridge for Shure 520DX ''Green Bullet'' microphone).

Unfortunately, Shure did not provide a microphone stand holder for the 520DX, relying on you to hold the microphone in your hands. But AmmoClip microphone holders come to the rescue (you can see the link to Amazon below the photo).

Shure 520DX microphone holder from AmmoClip
Ammo Clip 520 Bullet Mic Holder Compatible With Shure 520DX Green Bullet, Superlux D112/C, and Other Similar Harmonica Microphones

To connect the 520DX to a low-impedance device, such as a mixer, use a low-to-high impedance-matching line transformer, such as the Shure A95U. The 520DX can be rewired for low impedance, but this disables the volume control. You can check out this little guide from Shure for a 520DX low-impedance rewired solution.

Sound Quality & Features

As usual, one of the most important sections of our Shure 520DX review is "Sound Quality & Features". Let's see what Shure has presented us with in this regard.

The hallmark of the Shure 520DX is its distinctive sound. It produces a rich, warm, and slightly distorted tone that complements the expressive playing style of harmonica players. Its controlled frequency response focuses on the midrange, providing the classic bluesy growl that many artists seek. This microphone captures the raw energy and authenticity of live performances.

The specs of this one do not look so good and that is the truth, the frequency response is quite poor and you will not be able to adjust the sound (only the settings of your amp controls). Also, this frequency response would not allow you to record clear vocals since it is interrupted at a frequency of 5000Hz, but you can use this microphone to get a dirty blues tone for vocals. The funny thing is that this type of mic does not need to have better performance to get that cool harp sound, it is more than enough for this purpose. As for the purposes, this mic is good for recording harmonica in the studio and live performances.

Shure 520DX "Green Bullet" Frequency Response

The polar pattern is omnidirectional, so it will pick up another band member (captures sound equally from all directions), you have to move your hands a bit further from the frontal part and find the right place on stage to avoid unwanted sounds. The omnidirectional polar pattern is especially beneficial for harmonica players who may use various techniques such as cupping and hand manipulation to shape their sound.

The 520DX features the Shure R198 dynamic cartridge, which responds well to the dynamic nuances of harmonica playing and was designed specifically for the harmonica. It can handle high SPLs (sound pressure level), allowing players to push their instruments to achieve desired tonal effects without distortion.

Shure R198 cartridge for Shure 520DX harmonica microphone
Shure R198 cartridge for Shure 520DX harmonica microphone

Here you can check out some audio samples recorded with Shure 520DX

It should be noted that the sound from this microphone was not recorded directly in all audio examples below. In all cases, the Shure 520DX was connected to an amplifier and speaker and then the sound was recorded on another microphone.

Shure 520DX - Blues Harmonica Recording #1 (audio example)
Shure 520DX - Blues Harmonica Recording #2 with flanger and distortion effect (audio example)
Shure 520DX - Classic Harmonica Performance (audio example)
Shure 520DX Dirty Tone Recording (audio example)
Shure 520DX - Female Vocal Recording (audio example)

Final Verdict on Shure 520DX

This vintage badass is good for bluesmen and anyone related to that group. The thing is that for the money (100-140 dollars), you will not find a better microphone for these purposes, and always keep in mind that Shure stands for quality no matter what line or model it is. So we wish you cozy blues evenings with this bullet-shaped masterpiece.

We hope you enjoyed our Shure 520DX review. Feel free to leave your questions and suggestions in the comments section below. Our editorial team will be happy to answer all your questions and comments. Also, check out our article on Best Microphone for Harmonica Top 10 List.

  • One of the best harp mics
  • Warm, and slightly distorted tone
  • Omnidirectional Polar Pattern
  • All-metal build ensures longevity
  • Iconic Design
  • Limited frequency response
  • Not ideal for all instruments, genres and vocals
Our Score

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