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After 95 Years of Shaping the Pro Audio World, Innovation is Still a ‘Shure’ Thing

Victoria Wasylak • AnniversaryDecember 2020 • December 2, 2020

The following article is based upon conversations with Shure’s Mark Brunner, prior to his unexpected passing on October 1, 2020.

If you were to flip through the annals of modern music history, you’d find Shure’s presence on every page. From creating the first handheld wireless microphone system for performers in 1953, to powering annual events of the superstardom world like the Grammys and the Academy Awards, Shure’s fixtures and metaphorical fingerprints are everywhere.

“In fact, it is difficult to name a major entertainer who has not performed live with a Shure microphone,” shared Mark Brunner, longtime VP of Corporate and Government Relations for Shure.

That’s not an exaggeration, either: Shure’s impact on the tech side of the music industry continues to skyrocket as the brand draws closer and closer to the coveted 100-year marker.

As the legendary pro audio company celebrates its 95th anniversary this year, MMR chatted with Brunner about Shure’s proudest moments, steadfast mission and their goals before they join century club.

What are Shure’s biggest milestones as a company?

Mark Brunner: Shure has had many notable milestones in its history, including products that changed the course of audio. A short list of these include: Model 55 Unidyne, the first unidirectional microphone with a single dynamic element in 1939; Vagabond 88, the first handheld wireless microphone system for performers in 1953; the M3D phonograph cartridge, which brought stereophonic sound into the home at a time when millions of people were discovering high-fidelity sound in 1958; microphone models SM57 and SM58®, recognized globally as industry standards for instrument and vocal applications in 1965-66; SM10, the first headworn mic for musicians (introduced earlier but first advertised for this use) in 1979; model SM81, the first condenser microphone rugged enough to withstand the rigors of touring in 1978; T Series wireless systems, a full line of products that established wireless microphones in the MI retail channel (1994): E Series Earphones, which paved the way for professional quality earphones for use with portable digital music players and mobile phones (1999); and the UHF-R wireless system, which set a new standard for touring sound in 2005. Of course, Shure’s innovations continue to this day at a fervent pace, but these products serve as examples of the impact we have made over the course of our history.

A general achievement that Shure is particularly proud of is that our product quality standards are based on military specifications. This protocol began in 1942 when Shure was contracted to manufacture microphones and headphones for the war effort and S.N. Shure insisted that it stay in place permanently after the war ended. This is why even today we still manufacture products to meet these stringent quality standards.

We are also proud of our innovations in wireless microphone technology, and we have enhanced this product category significantly over the years. Shure wireless microphone transmitters have always been designed to sound just as good as cabled mics, and recent product introductions, such as Axient Digital, feature intelligent hardware and software to detect and avoid interference. Our impressive wireless product line enables users to experience legendary Shure sound with the total freedom of a wireless solution.

Likewise, what are some of Shure’s proudest moments in music history, or history in general?

Shure audio products have captured several key historical moments and performances. For example, Shure Model 55S was in use when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. We were the primary mic brand used at the Monterey Pop Festival (Model SM56) and Woodstock (Model 565), and The White House Communications Agency has used SM57 microphones for the presidential lectern since 1965.

Shure products are used by every major broadcast network to produce special events like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the Grammys, and the Academy Awards, as well as news and entertainment shows. High-profile artists including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, U2, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jennifer Lopez, and Rascal Flatts have wowed audiences through our microphones. This is a very short list, however. In fact, it is difficult to name a major entertainer who has not performed live with a Shure microphone.

What is Shure’s legacy, in your own words?

The essence of our brand promise is to manufacture products of unmatched quality, reliability, and durability. That was the core value of Mr. Shure when he started the company in 1925 and we have been dedicated to this objective for 95 years. Through this philosophy, for nearly a century, Shure products have delivered the sounds of history and culture to the world. This is our legacy.

How has Shure’s mission changed – or stayed the same – over the past 95 years?

Shure’s mission has stayed the same over its 95-year history: produce the finest products of their kind and provide exemplary service to customers.

“We are in business to perform a Service to people. ‘People’ includes our customers, our employees, our suppliers, and the communities in which we live.”

This quote from our founder, S.N. Shure, is proudly displayed in the lobby at our Corporate Headquarters. It was his guiding principle for the business since inception and it remains true today.

Audio technology moves fast – probably faster than most other sectors of the music gear/instruments market. How does a company like Shure make sure to not only keep up, but be a leader of the pack?

We believe in staying close to our customers and we frequently ask for their input and feedback on how we can best meet their needs. We use insights gained through observational research to anticipate future audio challenges and possible solutions. Shure makes significant investments in hardware and software engineering, new product development, and exploratory R&D. This engineering prowess is backed by a quality and manufacturing operations team that we believe is second to none in our industry. We augment our product offerings by putting substantial resources into product training – through online videos, tutorials, and webinars. We want customers who make an investment in our equipment to know how to achieve the best performance from the gear. This builds loyalty and forwards a virtuous cycle of the manufacturer to end user relationship in the innovation arena.

On that note, what are some trends in the industry that you’ve noticed in the past year or so that you’ve tried to capitalize on?

The biggest opportunity we have seen trend wise is for products that support content creators. Our MOTIV™ digital products, along with our extensive line of earphones and headphones, are suited for individuals looking to capture high-quality audio for home recording, podcasts, YouTube videos, streaming, etc. The MOTIV microphones and accessories provide an easy way for anyone to record high-quality sound directly onto many mobile and USB devices. The current situation we are in with COVID-19 has significantly increased demand for these types of products.

Also, recent advances in the transition to digital wireless technology continue to provide benefits for many customers. Over the years, we’ve made substantial investments in both shaping government policies and revamping our product lines to help lead customers through spectrum regulatory changes. Digital wireless systems offer important benefits in efficient use of spectrum, along with other performance enhancements, and we now offer digital wireless systems at nearly all price tiers. The products, combined with our formidable support and training, have helped our customers successfully handle this transition.

How many employees does Shure have? How many facilities do you have worldwide? How many countries are Shure products sold in?

We currently employ more than 2,500 Associates and have 40 facilities, worldwide. Shure products are sold in more than 120 countries.

Globally, where does Shure want to go next?

In its 95-year history, Shure has grown from a one-man mail order radio parts distributor into a global audio industry leader, providing microphones, wireless microphone systems, in-ear monitors, earphones, headphones, audio processing, and conferencing systems – available and in use nearly everywhere in the world. Shure’s global presence is reflected in its ever-expanding footprint of facilities for manufacturing and distribution, sales and marketing, and product development. This past year we introduced the new Rose Shure Experience Centre in London – named for our former chairman, Rose L. Shure.

The move further establishes the company’s presence in the UK and wider EMEA region by providing a location for product demonstrations for corporate, government, and education customers seeking audio solutions for their respective facilities.

We are continuously evaluating our footprint in each region, and where product demonstration capabilities have high utility, we factor that into our infrastructure plans. We’ve had tremendous success with the Rose Shure Experience Centre as well as with similar facilities in downtown Chicago, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Any time we can conveniently showcase our innovative technology to current and prospective customers and partners, it is a win for everyone.

What is the next goal that Shure has? What do you hope to achieve by year 100?

We want to continue on our path, ensuring that we continuously improve our product lines and grow our customer base globally. We believe that Shure is uniquely positioned to address a wide range of evolving technology needs within and across our customer segments – from consumers to business professionals to live event technicians and more.

Anything else on the horizon – plans or products – that you’d like to let our readers know about?

We’ve been very aggressive with new products recently, rolling out popular items like the MV88+ stereo microphone and our AONIC 50 Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones. These products are direct responses to what our customers are looking for from Shure. We continue our strategy of flexibility and adaptability to the changing needs of the market, and always look for opportunities to innovate. Unfortunately, as we are privately held company, I am not able to disclose details of our product roadmap, but rest assured future offerings from Shure will continue our tradition of delivering maximum performance and value.

It is also worth noting that Shure’s mission, discussed earlier, includes a commitment to corporate social responsibility. We believe in giving back to the communities we serve and assisting those in need. These practices have been in place throughout our history, and Mr. and Mrs. Shure established a corporate structure that ensured philanthropy as a cornerstone of our business activity, even after their passing. We continue to practice and expand on their wishes in honor of this legacy.

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