I have to confess that I was a little dubious when I got a box of mics and a mixer to review from Behringer back in 2005. However, their new head of European marketing, apart from being very friendly, was confident that I would like their products. So I thought, why not give them a trial run at my weekly beatboxing workshops? Let's see if these babies can withstand the vocal abuse of a gang of newbie beatboxers!
Down to details
The Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 comes in a hard plastic carrying case containing the microphone and a clip. If I was going to carry these mics around with me, I'd lose the box and place the mic in a leather or PVC pouch. However, the plastic box is robust and keeps them safe!
The first thing you notice when you take them out of the box is that they feel nice and heavy in the hand. I like a mic to feel robust and the XM8500 oozes quality. It's similar in style to a Shure SM58, but if you're going to push me on it then then I'd say the XM8500 feels nicer. Hmmm. I'm already getting an incling that this is a nice mic. No, stop TyTe, be objective!
When I get a new mic to play with, the first thing I do is check out it's handling noise. I mean, with cheap and budget mics, one thing that always causes problems is sound transmitted by your hand through the body of the mic that can sound like a herd of rhinos charging across the African bush. However, the XM8500 sounded, well, like nothing, because it doesn't suffer from handling noise hardly at all. So far so good!
Yes, but how does it sound?
I tested the XM8500 running through a a Behringer UB1204FX-PRO mixer and straight into my Mackie SRM450s. Even with the Mackies cranked up, there was little or no background noise. Where was the hiss?? Was someone playing tricks on me???
With the EQ flat and no FX, the mic sounded great. It was warm (but not too warm) - a lot of mics suffer from too much bottom end - and I instantly enjoyed beatboxing with it.
The next thing I tried was comparing it to a Shure SM58. I swapped from mic to mic and asked the crowd which they preferred. Those who could tell the difference preferred the XM8500! There wasn't a lot in it. The XM8500 definitely had a little more bottom end and perhaps wasn't quite as bright as the SM58. I would say that the XM8500 has a flatter frequency response than the SM58. The SM58 rolls off a bit of the bottom end and has a little presence boost. The XM8500 was also slightly louder and needed less gain on the mixer than the SM58.
This audio is three short recordings - XM8500, SM58 and Beta58 taken direct from each microphone. You can hear that the two Shure mics pick up more background reverb from the room whereas the XM8500 picks up more direct sound. You can also hear that the XM8500 is slightly more bass heavy than than the Shure mics which do sound a little brighter.
After comparing it with the Shure SM58, I pulled out my Shure Beta58 - my usual stage mic. The Beta58 was brighter (as I would have expected) but one didn't sound better than the other - they were just different. The crowd were divided between which sounded better. I guess it's just down to personal preference!
The final test was to have four XM8500s plugged in simultaneously. I ran the whole workshop on the Behringer mics. One thing I noticed was that they didn't feedback easily - certainly less than the SM58s I use. This mic was surely too good to be true!
The perfect workshop kit?
I trialed four Behringer mics with the Behringer UB1204FX-PRO mini mixer. For you techie-headz, this baby has an unbelievable spec. It was quiet, had smooth nice feeling controls and faders, was easy to operate, and represented a seriously well-designed piece of kit.
I connected four Behringer XM8500 mics to the mixer with standard XLR-XLR cables. The mixer comes in at 133 GBP and the mics at £19 GBP. At street prices you may expect to pay under 200 GBP for an astounding workshop kit that fits nicely into a backpack.
Are you sitting down? If not, then I suggest you find a seat and quick. At my last workshop, I asked my fellow beatboxers to guess how much the mic was to buy in the shops bearting in mind the Shure Beta58 comes in at about 120 GBP and the Shure SM58 comes in at 70GBP. They guessed around £60? Lower. £50? Lower. £40? (They're voices started to sound incredulous). Lower. £30? (they started to giggle). Lower. £20? (they're mouths hung open). Lower. That's right. This mic has an RRP of £19 inc. VAT (that's 19 GBP, 50 Aus, 30 USD).
So now the tough question
Would I trade my Shure SM58 or my Shure Beta58 for a Behringer XM8500? Well, to compare the Behringer mic with the Beta58 is a little unfair. They are different mics with different polar patterns. Certainly there is not £100 GBP worth of difference between them. I think I would hold onto the Beta58 - but I'm wondering if I'm just being a snob!
Now, would I swap my Shure SM58 for a Behringer XM8500? Well, they sound different and I have them both so I don't need to swap. But put it this way, over the past few weeks, I've been using the Behringer and I've given my Shure SM58 to someone else to play with!
The Behringer XM8500 is a stunning mic at a stunning price. I have to keep checking the Behringer web site to make sure I got the price right! Can it really only be 19 GBP? It feels good in the hand, it has low noise handling, it sounds smooth, it's robust. I guess only time will tell if this mic will still work in ten years time. But for now, I've bought five of them to use in my workshops and a Behringer mixer to go with them. If someone drops one of these mics in a vat of boiling lava, then I guess I'll have to fork out another 19 GBP to replace it!
Don't just take my word for it!
I'm going to take a couple with me to gigs to see how the XM8500 fairs on large rigs, and also to get an opinion from some other pro beatboxers. Watch this space! If you have experience with one of these mics then I'd love to hear from you. Email or PM me through this site.
"Good mic that, very good - got it for £18! I definitely recommend this to anyone who has £19 spare and who wants a very, very good microphone." - Hobbit