The Shure SM7B microphone is THE vocal mic of professionals. It is used by almost all of radio and extensively used by professional podcasters. This was even the choice of mic for the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, when recording the Thriller LP. Shure’s SM7 line has been an industry standard for vocal recording for a long time and is often chosen over much more expensive microphones.
Despite the Shure SM7B’s ubiquitous use though I find a surprising number of people haven’t heard of them. Well I intend to remedy this situation now. Read on for my full review.
Performers, sound engineers, and music producers are constantly looking for the holy grail of music kit. The piece of equipment that never fails after hard use, produces exceptional results, and doesn’t empty your wallet. They want a microphone that will sound as good recording hip-hop as it does big brass or a string quartet. You need something that scales with the room and their differing acoustics, to produce a natural and consistent sound. In my experience the Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone fits the bill in every way.
The SM7B is a dynamic microphone and uses a moving coil with a cardioid patter. While it may appear to be a “Side Address” microphone, it actually only accepts whatever sounds it’s pointing at, and filters out any sound coming from it’s sides and back. It preforms beautifully on both a boom stand and standard mic stand, in both cases you position it horizontally and point it directly at whatever you want recorded, whether it’s your vocals or instrument.
There are 2 windscreens included with the SM7B. The thin one comes already on the microphone and Shure recommends you use it for the majority of your vocal recording. The thicker one is made to handle plosives and breathing noises. I generally only use the thicker one if I am simply talking during a podcast when I tend to speak very closely into the mic.
The ergonomic design means that I can easily mount this in whatever position is necessary to capture exactly, and only, what I want. It’s as easy to position on stage as it is in my office on my desk.
The SM7B sounds very clean and crisp, which is surprising for dynamic mics. The reason it does so well is partially because of the bass rolloff functionality that begins the rolloff around 300 Hz and is 10 db down by 50Hz. The other reason it sounds so good is that it also has a presence boost that works between 1-10K, with a stated range of 50 to 20,000. If you engage both the bass rolloff and the presence boost it leaves the mic sounding very open. I can tell a noticeable difference with them switched off as it sounds much less clear. I leave them on all the time.
I’ve heard this mic record beautifully against both heavy saxophone and trumpet performances and the result was distortion free. All vocas, whether screaming hard rock or soft backing vocals, are recorded with every detail and nuance intact. When I set the SM7B up for recording acoustic guitar I generally place it 6-8 in’ between the neck and body of the guitar. The result is a creamy clear sound.
With the SM7B you will likely never produce sounds louder than the mic can handle. Shure specs the SM7B as being able to recieve over 180db SPL. That is the equivalent of a nearby space shuttle launching. For further reference; 140db SPL is the generally accepted human ear threshold of pain, and 155db SPL is what you would hear if you put your ear an inch away from a trumpet bell during a high note.
If I have one complaint it’s that the mic has a pretty low sensitivity, coming in at only 1.1mV/Pa. Most ribbon mics are higher than this, and it makes it more difficult to use this mic when recording soft sounds. The SM7B needs more clean gain than a lot of widely used preamps will deliver. This means you need to have a preamp that specifically supports low-output mics like this one if you plan on needing to record quiet sources.
The mic is good at filtering out any electical hum or interference from lights, computer screes, or other electrical devices. This is an important feature if you think about all the high voltage electrical equipment that usually sits in the same room that you are recording it.
- Produces a wide-range, flat frequency response. This results in a very detailed and accurate recording of speech and music
- Presence boost and Bass Rolloff controls
- Protection from electromagnetic interference. Mic is shielded from all broadband interference produced by computers and other high voltage equipment
- Mechanical noise is prevented from transmitting to the recording by the internal air suspension system
- The pop-filter means that there is no need for additional protection from up-close vocals and talking.
- The included thicker windscreen also helps to eliminate the increased breath sounds when the mic is used for close up vocals.
- Easy to use and adjust yoke mount means that you have very accurate control over the mics positioning.
- The Cardioid polar pattern that maintains frequency symmetrically around the axis means you only capture the sound you want and reject the rest.
Check out this video of a metal guitar recording done using the Shure SM7B mic:
If you want a professional recording, whether you’re recording death metal, hip hop, a history pod cast, or a big brass band, you cant go wrong with the Shure SM7B. This is the mic used by professionals all over the recording industry, from little ol’ me all the way to Michael Jackson. If you want a high quality professional sound and are ready to step up and record with the big boys, you need this microphone.