Shure SM7B Review
The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone that has earned a reputation for its rich, full sound and versatility. This microphone is primarily designed for professional-grade podcasting and vocal recording in studios. Its heavy-duty design and exceptional performance have made it a staple in podcast setups, radio stations, and recording studios worldwide. The SM7B is celebrated for its ability to capture a wide range of frequencies, from deep bass to delicate highs. Its built-in pop filter, shock mount system, and electromagnetic shielding all aim to deliver a clean sound. Let's take a deeper look at this iconic microphone to see if it's right for you.
Key Features of a Shure SM7B
The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone that's end-addressed. It has a cardioid polar pattern that picks up sound in front of the capsule, while reducing noise from the sides and rear.
You can use a Shure SM7B to record audio between 50 to 20,000 Hz, which is very wide for a dynamic microphone. There's a Bass Rolloff switch that reduces room low-end rumble and counters the proximity effect; if you want to speak close to the mic to increase noise rejection but don't want the added bass, toggle this feature on. To enhance vocals in the midrange, there's a Presence Boost switch that you can toggle on.
The microphone also comes with a faceplate that lets you cover up the tone-shaping controls, preventing a guest from accidentally adjusting the settings of the microphone they're using.
The SM7B includes a built-in shock mount to minimize noise caused by vibrations moving up your microphone stand. There are also two black foam windscreens included in the box — a standard pop filter and a thick A7WS pop filter— to help prevent plosives. However, if you're looking for a brighter and more detailed sound, you don't need to use a windscreen. The Shure SM7B also includes electromagnetic shielding to reject hum.
By default, the Shure SM7B is set up to be mounted on a boom stand; most podcasters and broadcasters will likely want to use it this way. Optionally, you can configure it for use with a microphone stand if you primarily intend to record vocalists. To do this, you'll just need to invert and rotate the microphone bracket.
How to Make a Shure SM7B Sound Better
Despite its impedance being set at 150 ohms, suitable for connection to microphone inputs, the SM7B's output level of -59.0 dBV/Pa (1.12 mV) requires you to pair it with a preamp that provides at least 60 dB of gain. Failing to do so will result in an audio signal that contains a high noise floor.
60 dB of gain is more gain than most entry-level and mid-tier preamps provide; the preamps in your Scarlett 2i2 audio interface won't cut it. It's also worth noting that many preamps start to saturate and distort signals when pushed to their limit. While 60 dB of gain is the minimum requirement, additional gain can result in a cleaner and less distorted signal.
A professional quality preamp like the Warm Audio WA73-EQ delivers 80 dB of gain, with some preamps providing even more. High-gain preamps aren't cheap so many podcasters and recording engineers pair the Shure SM7B with a Cloudlifter CL-1 Microphone Activator, which is a device that provides low-output dynamic and ribbon mics with 20 dB of clean gain. This lets you use the Shure SM7B with preamps that supply less than 60 dB of gain.
To integrate a Cloudlifter into your setup, connect the Shure SM7B to the Cloudlifer, and then connect the Cloudlifter to a mic input on your audio interface. You also need to engage the +48V phantom power on your audio interface to power the Cloudlifter. If you don't own a preamp with 60+ dB of gain, you should factor the cost of a Cloudlifter ($149) into your purchase.
Common Uses for a Shure SM7B
The Shure SM7B is an ultra-popular microphone in the world of broadcast and podcasting. Its built-in pop filter and shock mount system work together to reduce plosives and mechanical noise, ensuring that the listener hears the speaker's voice in its purest form. Its electromagnetic hum rejection feature is also beneficial for podcasters, as it shields the microphone from interference from computers and other electronic devices commonly found in a podcasting setup.
Since the Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone, it's not as responsive to transient material as a condenser mic. This makes it a great choice for recording heavy metal, rock, and rap vocals. Its ability to smooth out transients reduces the amount of peak compression you need to apply in your DAW. You'll notice that the waveform of the signals you record appear thick.
Using the Shure SM7B is straightforward. To block off-axis noise, speak directly into the microphone, 1 to 6 inches away. A further placement will result in less bass, while a closer placement will result in more bass; this is referred to as the proximity effect.
When it comes to recording instruments, the Shure SM7B is equally impressive. The Bass Rolloff switch can be used to reduce low-frequency rumble in guitars, and the mid-range emphasis control can bring out the presence of acoustic instruments. It's also a viable option for recording kick drums and guitar amps since it can handle high sound pressure levels without distorting.
Shure SM7B Audio Examples
The Shure SM7B is widely recognized for its exceptional sound quality, delivering rich and full-bodied audio recordings. Depending on the sound source you're recording, the SM7B can sometimes sound a bit too dark or muffled. Although, that's where the SM7B's Bass Rolloff and Presence Boost options pick up the slack.
In general, podcasters can expect a deep and rich tone from the Shure SM7B. The Not Another D&D Podcast features comedians playing D&D and all of the dialog is captured with SM7B microphones. Due to the assortment of talent, you should get a sense for how the microphone interacts with different voices.
I record all of my YouTube videos using a Shure SM7B, positioned 12" away from my mouth. It's hidden just below the frame. This placement is further than the 1–6" recommendation of Shure, but if you're recording in a sound-treated studio, you have some wiggle room. In an untreated space, you'll want to use the thick pop filter sit as close to the microphone as possible to minimize background noise.
In comparison to other popular dynamic microphones from Shure, like the SM57 and SM58, the SM7B has a flatter and deeper frequency response. The internal shock mount of the SM7B is also optimized for stand mounting, whereas the SM57 and SM58 are optimized for handheld use. To hear the differences between these microphones when recording different source material, watch the following video.
Unique SM7B Design Traits
The Shure SM7B has a sleek, matte black finish that adds a professional and modern aesthetic. Its large build, sizeable pop filter, and cylindrical shape are instantly identifiable.
While it may feel like you're swallowing the mic when speaking 1" away from it, you're not as close to the capsule as you might think. It's nested a few inches within the microphone. Keeping this in mind and when using the thick pop filter, you don't need to worry about an overwhelming bass response. To some degree, this design quality makes the Shure SM7B idiot-proof when recording untrained talent.
In comparison to earlier models, the SM7B has an improved bracket design that delivers exceptional stability. Securely fastening it to a microphone stand and locking its angle is no problem; this can result in more consistent recordings.
You'll need a key or other slender object to toggle the tone switches on the bottom of the microphone; they don't protrude from the mic. While it's tedious to toggle the switches, you don't need to worry about inadvertently flipping them when handling the microphone. For added peace of mind, there's a metal faceplate included with the SM7B that you can use to cover the switches.
Shure SM7B Build Quality
The Shure SM7B is widely recognized for its robust build quality. The microphone's all-metal construction gives it a substantial, durable feel that is designed to withstand the rigors of professional use. This is a critical feature, especially considering the environments in which it's typically used.
Podcast microphones, in particular, are subjected to a variety of handling styles by different podcast guests. Some guests may handle the microphone delicately, while others may not be as cautious. This can lead to frequent adjustments, repositioning, and even accidental drops. The Shure SM7B, with its rugged construction, is built to endure such treatment without compromising its performance or longevity.
Pros and Cons: Shure SM7B
The Shure SM7B brings a lot to the table with its exceptional sound quality, tough build, versatile controls, and built-in shock isolation and pop filter. These features contribute to its high performance in various recording situations, making it a compelling choice for many audio professionals. The microphone's cardioid polar pattern, wide frequency response, and switchable response settings further enhance its versatility and appeal.
However, the SM7B is not without its drawbacks. Its relatively low output level requires a high-quality preamp with at least 60 dB of gain. To provide the microphone with a clean gain boost, you'll want to incorporate a Cloudlifter into your setup. Some users may also find the microphone's size and weight unwieldy. Additionally, the placement of the switches on the bottom of the SM7B can be difficult to access if you want to change the tone settings.
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Wide and flat frequency response
- Tone-shaping controls
- Air suspension shock mount
- Built-in pop filter
- Electromagnetic shielding
- Requires a high-gain preamp
- Additional cost for a Cloudlifter
- Large and heavy
- Tone-switch accessibility
Is a Shure SM7B Worth the Money?
The Electro-Voice RE20 ($449) is a dynamic microphone that's often compared to the Shure SM7B due to its similar professional-grade features and performance. Like the SM7B, the RE20 is a popular choice for broadcasting, podcasting, and sound engineering worldwide. It also extends into music production as a premium-grade instrument microphone. The RE20 features a Variable-D design and heavy-duty internal pop filter, which are excellent for close-in voice work. An internal element shock mount reduces vibration-induced noise, similar to the air suspension shock mount of the SM7B.
When it comes to value, there are a few key differences between the Shure SM7B and the Electro-Voice RE20. While both microphones are in a similar price range, the RE20 does not require a high-gain preamp or a Cloudlifter, potentially making it a more cost-effective choice for some users. Although, the Shure SM7B is often praised for its richer sound quality, especially for dialog and vocals, which may justify its additional requirements and potential costs.
Both microphones are durable, designed for professional use, and have become industry standards in their own right. The choice between the two often comes down to specific user preferences and requirements. Based on an analysis of other comparable microphones, the Shure SM7B is priced competitively. It's a significant investment, but you get what you pay for.
Shure SM7B Microphone: Final Verdict
Priced at $399, the Shure SM7B provides podcasters and YouTubers with a classic "radio voice" sound that's synonymous with broadcast. Music producers can use the Shure SM7B for a variety of studio applications, including recording vocals, guitar amps, and drums. While it does require a good preamp and has a few design qualities that some users may view as an inconvenience, these issues are relatively minor when weighed against the microphone's overall performance.