Shure SM7B Review - My Favorite Cardioid Studio Microphone
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
The original SM7 first showed up in the Michael Jackson Thriller music video back in 1988. Slowly but surely, it became one of the must-have pieces of recording equipment for musicians and engineers alike. Compared to most "professional" microphones, the Shure SM7B is surprisingly affordable.
The beauty of the inexpensive cost is that you still receive premium construction and performance. Today I want to break down what I love so much about the Shure SM7B and why I believe it is well worth the cost.
Who Is The Shure SM7B Good For?
Vocalists - The SM7B is a top-notch recording companion for both live and studio environments. On the back of the microphone lies three frequency response settings that users can cycle through, including presence boost, bass rolloff, and flat. Having the ability to adjust settings before the signal ever hits the pre-amp or DAW adds to the overall versatility.
Mix Engineers - Mix engineers can greatly benefit from the bass rolloff setting. It helps to cut back on hum and unwanted, low-frequency electrical energy. I often use it on instruments that won't need ultra-low frequencies in the mix down so I have less work to do in post.
Podcasters - The Shure SM7B might just be one of the best microphones out there for podcast work thanks to the clear vocal reproduction and remarkable off-axis projection. For those working in noisier environments, it helps to mitigate background noise and leaves vocals sounding crisp and professional.
Shure SM7B Frequency Response
The beauty of the Shure SM7B is that you can choose your frequency response before you ever begin recording.
Flat: Flat mode is perfect for users who want the most natural sound possible. It is great for both music and speech. Of course, the main disadvantage with flat frequency response recording is that if you are recording someone with a very low voice, or an instrument, such as a bass amp, that has incredibly low frequency content, you might find yourself dealing with annoying proximity effect.
Bass Rolloff: This particular mode, otherwise known as "hi-passing," is great for attenuating very low frequencies. Essentially, bass rolloff gets rid of potential distortion and electrical hums that you likely do not want in your recording to start.
Mid-Range: The mid-range setting looks similar to the bass rolloff setting, though it emphasizes the treble and mids a bit more. If you are using the SM7B to record a high-frequency instrument, such as an acoustic guitar, this setting can be useful.
Shure SM7B Design
The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. Dynamic microphones are often far more sturdy and way less sensitive than their condenser microphone counterparts.
The Shure SM7B can handle louder signals without distorting or clipping, which is one reason I use it almost every time I'm recording rock or metal singers.
Unlike many expensive condenser microphones, however, the SM7B only gives users access to one polar pattern: Cardioid. The great thing about this cardioid design is that only picks up sound directly in front of the microphone while ignoring off-axis sounds.
Cardioid polar patterns are natural forgiving, meaning you don't need to be incredibly precise when placing the microphone. For home recording, this means you can focus more heavily on performance rather than semantics.
What Do You Need With a Shure Sm7B?
Whether you are recording in a studio, on a mountain, or in the middle of the ocean, you're going to need a solid microphone stand. Of course, if you are in the world of podcasting and you're working from your desktop, you might want to consider getting a mounted boom arm.
There is only one way to plug a Shure SM7B in and that is with an XLR cable and some sort of audio interface. My go-to audio interface for home recording is the Apollo Twin MKII.
One thing to note is that you do not need to use phantom power with the SM7B like you do with condenser microphones. However, I would recommend getting a pre-amp to pair with it, as the output signal is quite low. The CL-1 Cloudlifter has always been my go-to for this use.
How Does The Shure SM7B Sound?
Now, the reason that the Shure SM7B is one of the most popular vocal recording microphones out there is that it provides both crisp and clear audio in both treated and non-treated environments.
Below are a few demos with the different frequency response selections. All of the audio snippets are completely unprocessed giving you an accurate representation of my voice and the microphone.
The first thing that you'll probably notice is how similar the bass rolloff and presence boost modes sound. They are a bit difficult to distinguish except for the slight boost in the mids and highs.
With that said, both have fairly unique characteristics when compared to the flat frequency response, which is wildly accurate in terms of a natural sound.
Bottom Line - How Good Is The Shure SM7B?
If you're serious about getting crisp, clear, and professional vocals, then the Shure SM7B is an excellent choice. The Shure company has quit a legacy and it has built a reputation for producing high-quality, long-lasting studio equipment.
Shure microphones alone have been used by music icons, podcasters, newscasters, and even presidents. To me, the Shure SM7B sits at the top of its vocal microphone portfolio and is perfect for just about any type of vocal recording project.
Click the photo below to check out the SM7B on Amazon!