1/22/21. Article/link cleanup.
In case you don’t want to read my super long but informative review, here’s the Quick Scoop on the Shure Sm7B dynamic microphone.
- The absolute go-to mic for vocals. Used by a ton of people in the industry including Michael Jackson on his 1982 album “Thriller” as well as a plethora of other well-known stars. It should be noted that Michael actually used the original SM7, but both mics are basically identical.
- Fantastic for voice over as well. Actually considered a voice-over mic first and foremost, it has a smooth natural sound that warms up your vocals without sounding artificial.
- Versatile. Does well with the aforementioned, as well as a variety of different instrumentation.
- Quiet. It is super quiet, and also rejects a lot of room sound that would otherwise be made apparent with a condenser microphone.
- Minimal EQ needed. So many people have reported finding success in one or two takes, and although the mic takes EQ extremely well, it isn’t really needed the majority of the time.
- Works perfectly with the Cloudlifter in conjunction with an audio interface of your choosing. No separate preamps needed to power this puppy.
- Should be your first choice, and makes a perfect introduction into the world of microphones. A lot of trial and error with less expensive mics can be avoided by just cutting right to the chase and purchasing the SM7B.
I have been wanting to do a review of the Shure SM7B dynamic microphone for a long time now. By the end of this article, you will have learned pretty much everything you need to know about this beastly piece of equipment! Before we started though, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
- Video Review
- Who this mic benefits?
- What you will need?
- Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- Vocal Tests
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
- Type: Dynamic.
- Frequency Response: 50 to 20,000 Hz.
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid.
- Impedance: 150 Ohms.
- Output level: 59 dB.
- Switches: Bass roll-off and mid-range emphasis. Slotted response selector switches.
- Cartridge Shock Mount: Internal air-suspension shock and vibration isolator.
- Microphone Connector: XLR. The difference between a USB microphone and an XLR microphone.
- Swivel Assembly: Integrated, captive nut for ease of attachment to stand, fits 5/8 in. -27 thread.
- Polarity: Positive pressure on diaphragm produces positive voltage on pin 2 relative to pin 3.
- Case: Dark gray enamel aluminum and steel case with a dark gray foam windscreen.
- Net Weight: 765.4 grams (1 lb, 11 oz).
The Shure SM7B is a cardioid dynamic microphone that has really gotten around over the years. Condenser mic vs. Dynamic mic. Sort of like the village bicycle except not 😀 No really, you may have heard that Michael Jackson used an SM7 (basically the same thing) on his 1982 album “Thriller”, as well as “Off the Wall”, and “Bad.” Some other notables that have used it or the SM7B include Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Hetfield from Metallica, Joe Rogan, Robin Quivers (Co-Host of the Howard Stern Show), Morgan Freeman, Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Thom Yorke (Radiohead). It just may be the best vocal microphone there is, but also excels in a wide variety of applications including voice-over, instrumentation, pod-casting, etc.
It’s been compared to the likes of a Neumann U87 and some other mics in the thousands range. A/B tests from an amazon reviewer with the Shure vs. the Neumann concluded that the Shure was indeed better. To me, that’s pretty mind-blowing considering we’re talking about a “mid-level” microphone.
One thing to note right away is that the overwhelming majority of reviewers say that it needs at least 60 dB of gain, which becomes clear when you look at the specifications above. It’s a low output mic and will need some extra juice. More on that in a bit.
- Versatile. Used in a variety of instances to fine effect.
- Adds thickness and richness to the voice. Very smooth, with minimal to no EQ needed. Intimate tone.
- Still natural sounding. True to voice. Not a thin-sounding mic. Has body. The “color” of the mic is tailored to the voice. The mid-range of this mic is said to be the strong suit because it’s a bit accentuated and warm.
- Comes with a built-in shock-mount and foam windscreen. Can also be used with a pop-filter.
- Controls sibilance. What does Sibilant mean?
- Very quiet. It’s ambient/room noise is dramatically reduced down to almost nothing.
- Good for live room recording.
- Compact, as well as heavy and durable. This isn’t a mic that you’re going to be replacing any time soon.
- Maybe a tad muddy in the lower registers.
- The noise floor may not be perfectly quiet.
- There’s a slight scoop in the 400-900 Hz region, and a slight boost in the 1-2kHz range. It still sounds natural despite that.
Who this mic benefits?
It’s a versatile piece for sure, and benefits vocalists first and foremost, with voice-over and instrumentation not too far behind. I’ve seen it endorsed for all of the following:
- Fantastic for death metal.
- Singing over sparse/acoustic/clean backgrounds.
- Spoken word. Like I mentioned before, it does have a color to it, and adds a larger than life natural sound to the voice, even though it’s not completely transparent and honest. Think of the SM7B like a politician. Lots of fluff, sounds great, but still kind of a liar. 😀
- Announcing, broad-casting, vocal performance and vocal recording, Pod-casting, You-tube.
- Male vocals, rock vocals, very versatile. Scream all you want into this puppy, it can handle your nasty mouth!
- Acoustic Guitar.
- Bass cabs, Kick Drums, Snares.
- Cello, Brass, Woodwind.
- Trombone, Flugelhorn (yeah that’s a thing), Unmuted trumpet.
- Tenor or Bari Saxophones.
- Ham Radio
- Audiobook recording.
- Low voices.
- Female voices.
- Church Choir.
- Electric Guitar.
- Aggressive Rap
- Nylon String Acoustic.
What you will need?
- A good preamp, or the juicy and exciting alternative solution. More on that in Stu’s notepad.
- XLR cable(s). What is XLR?
- Studio monitors (not mandatory but highly recommended). What are studio monitors?
- Some sort of Mic stand.
Good preamp options I came across:
- Warm Audio WA12
- DBX 286S
- Focusrite ISA One.
- Great River
- Apogee Duet
- Grace Design M101
- Universal Audio 6176.
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- This is truly a vocal mic first and foremost. It enhances the voice with depth and richness, and filters out pops and unwanted percussive. It’s very directional and selective, and rejects room ambiance and background noise, unlike most condenser microphones.
- It captures a broad spectrum of sound very clearly.
- It’s heavy and rugged, and the capsule is surrounded by a truncated, cone-like metal screen enclosed on all sides. The screen is like the kind you see behind microwave oven doors. What is a cardioid capsule?
- Perhaps my most important note: You will need at least 60 dB of gain to get a proper level out of this mic. Please do not underestimate this point. Now the good news is that you don’t actually have to dish out the big bucks for any of those more expensive preamps that I mentioned, unless you really want to, and/or plan to upgrade mics in the future. Of course, a nice preamp is always good to have, but it isn’t necessary in this case. Preamp vs. Interface.
Why? Because Cloudlifter bro. The Cloudlifter in essence will give you 25 extra dB of clean gain. So if you’ve already got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 sitting around, or a 2i4, or a Solo, you can bypass a preamp and just get the Cloudlifter. The 2i2 has 46 dB of gain already. Add 25 to that, and you have plenty enough to power the SM7B. Whew!!
Why is this cool? Because money. Lol. Let’s say you went the 2i2 route.
- Shure SM7B
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2
BOOM. That in essence is your chain, and according to a ton of people online, it’s the perfect solution. Swap out the 2i2 for any interface of your choosing (if you want), and you have a match made in heaven. Check out my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Review!
But what if you went the expensive preamp route? Your final cost would likely be in the thousands. The Cloudlifter route enables you to bypass having to throw all of your monies at peeps. That said, all of the preamp recommendations in What you will need work phenomenally well. Just know that you don’t have to get one. The Cloudlifter solution above works great too!
- A lot of folks were saying that they love the SM7B on flat settings, with no effects so they can EQ later. You should play around with the onboard settings on the mic (mid and presence boost) to see what tickles your fancy!
- Mic positioning is important. One reviewer said: position your grill (mouth) at palms width from the tip of the mic and point it at your upper lip. This is the supposed sweet spot. If you aim it too high, you may sound nasally. Aim it too low and you’ll sound like you have a stuffy nose. Only one reviewer went into this much depth, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
- Being that this is a dynamic microphone, it won’t sound as open and airy as a condenser. It takes EQ well (as mentioned earlier), and if you want, you can EQ that type of condenser sound in later. Removing the foam and using a pop filter yields more high end (treble). In some cases, you may not like the sound of the SM7B with a pop-filter, as it may become sibilant past the 5kHz region.
- Starting with a bad mix that is too bright makes the mic sound dull and muffled.
- It rejects room noise fairly well, and certainly more so than a condenser. It rejects what’s behind and to the side, but it’s very sensitive in the front. It’s always advantageous to treat your studio space well. Check out my post on Acoustic Sound Treatment! Some foam panels and bass traps go a long way in a studio!
- It accurately articulates speech. While a large-diaphragm condenser microphone will in essence smooth things over, the SM7B will be enunciated more. It picks up sound differently than a condenser. You could in theory EQ the SM7B to sound like a lot of different condensers, but you cannot fully mimic an LCD’s smoothing over response to vocal articulations. Why? Because the sound field is different. Is that good or bad? It depends on if you want your vocals to sound more dynamic and upfront (Dynamic mic), or more streamlined and integrated into the mix (Condenser mic). The differences however are very subtle.
- For my last point: In purchasing the SM7B, you may bypass all of your sub $100 mic problems, and save money in the process. That’s not to say that there aren’t good options in that price range, but the SM7B is the cream of the crop. It’s the Gold Standard for vocal mics hands down. It’s what people have been turning to for decades, and it gets nearly perfect reviews everywhere you look.
An absolutely fantastic vocal mic that many say is the best dynamic mic on the planet, in its class or otherwise. Competes with mics way out of its price range, and has been featured on countless albums, as well as radio shows and the like. Adds color to your voice that still sounds natural, despite not being completely neutral.
If you’re looking for the absolute best vocal mic, look no further. This has been considered the go-to for a long time, and remains a Gold Standard for microphones even though it’s price tag would say otherwise. People absolutely drool over this piece, and for good reason!
If you’re looking for a mic that has a bit more high-end clarity in regards to rap vocals, you may check out the AKG C214. It does to my ears sound a little better than the SM7B, but it’s pretty close.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I’ve answered everything you wanted to know about the Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone.
Additional Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know below or contact me!!
What do you think about this bad boy? Let me know as well!!
Until next time, All the best and God bless..