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Review of the Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone

A Great Dynamic Mic for Vocals

by Tweak


The SM7B is one of the better vocal microphones one can buy for a recording studio, home or pro.  Its a dynamic microphone, based on a moving coil, and has a cardioid pattern.  It picks up the sound it points to, and rejects sound from the sides and the back.  While the SM7B looks like a "side address" mic, its not. You can set up the SM7B for both a boom stand or a standard stand.   In both cases the Mic is set up horizontally and you speak and sing directly into the front of the windscreen. 

The SM7B comes with 2 windscreens.  A thin one is on the mic as you take it out of the box and is good for most vocal uses.  Shure provides a second thicker windscreen designed for close talk to protect against plosives and breath noise.  They say in the manual this larger screen, the A7WS, "creates a warmer, more intimate sound". 

Shure SM7B Dynamic Cardioid Studio Vocal Microphone
The SM7B dynamic microphone has a smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response appropriate for music and speech in all professional audio applications. It features excellent shielding against electromagnetic hum generated by computer monitors, neon lights, and other electrical devices. The SM7B has been updated from earlier models with an improved bracket design that offers greater stability. In addition to it's standard windscreen, it also includes the A7WS windscreen for close-talk applications.

Sennheiser MD421II Dynamic Cardioid Microphone
This Sennheiser microphone is a low-impedance (200 ohms) balanced output unit terminating in a standard 3-pin XLR-type connector. It features rugged professional construction and a 5-position bass roll-off switch.

ElectroVoice RE20 Classic Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Industry Standard Variable-D dynamic cardioid microphone is a favorite among broadcasters and sound engineers worldwide. The Variable-D design and heavy-duty, internal P-pop filter reduce proximity effect while the internal element shock mount reduces vibration-induced noise. Bass roll-off switch.

ElectroVoice 309A Suspension Shockmount for RE20
The Electro-Voice 309A suspension shock mount was designed specifically for use with the RE20 and RE27N/D dynamic microphones. It provides near-perfect shock isolation for the already internally shock-mounted RE20 or RE27N/D.

Shure A7WS Windscreen for Shure SM7B Mic
Large Close-Talk Windscreen for SM7, SM7A, and SM7B Microphones.



Frequency response

I find the SM7B to be surprisingly crisp and clean sounding for a dynamic mic. This is due in part to the bass rolloff switch, which starts rolling off around 300HZ and is 10db down by 50HZ, and the presence boost, which kicks in from about 1-10k.  The stated range is 50 to 20,000 Hz.  With both the rolloff and boost switched in, the mic sounds quite open.  When set to flat, the coloration disappears and I felt the Mic got cloudy.  I'll be using mine with the rolloff and boost engaged.

the rolloff and presence boost are set on the back end of the mic

Sound Pressure Level

The SM7B can handle the loudest sounds your studio is likely to produce.  Shure says it can take over 180db SPL and equates that to the sound of a space shuttle launch at close range.  (140 db SPL is the accepted threshold of pain for the human ear), so the SM7B theoretically can go where your ear can't, like one inch from the bell of a trumpet playing a high note (155db SPL)

Differences between the SM7, SM7a and SM7B

The SM7a introduced a Humbucking coil inside the Mic and they redesigned the mounting yoke.  The SM7B simply added the larger windscreen.  The SM7 Manual has a date of 1997, the SM7a manual was made in year 2000 and the SM7B's was printed in 2002.  The SM7, like the SM57 and 58, are based on the Unidyne III capsule design.  Shure says the capsule of the SM7 is similar, but not identical to the SM57/58. 

There is little doubt as to why the SM7B has been embraced by radio and TV stations.  Its known to reject hum and interference from computer monitors, lighting, and electrical devices.  That also makes it great for the home studio where music is often recorded in rooms with computer monitors and a range of electrical appliances sharing the electrical system.  It is also a quiet microphone though it's not impervious to handling noise by any means.  If you knock into the mic stand, you're going to get the thud.  But with reasonable precautions, you could probably get away without a shock mount.  Apparently Shure seems to think so as there is no shock mount available from them.



My Tests

I tested the SM7B was in my usual recording room with the door open to my two extremely loud computers.  My LaCie Firewire drive woke up and was sounding like a mini chain saw in the next room.  I plugged into my Great River ME1-NV and set the gain for a hefty 55db, which is just about right for me and the mic.  I was surprised at how quiet the room ambience was, it was not even noticeable till a looped a spot where I was not making any noise and turned the central station knob up to 3pm.  (This knob rarely goes higher than 8 am ever).  Only then could I make out the humming and whirring of the computer fans outside the door. Those of you with compromised rooms, this mic is going to help you!

Like other dynamic mics, the SM7B needs a fair amount of gain from your preamp.  If you have a typical preamp with a throw of 0-60db, you'll be almost at the top much of the time.  However, I have used this with some mediocre preamps as well.  In fact, it was using an SM7B on an Alesis MultiMix firewire that convinced me to get one. 

A Good Mic for Hip Hop?

I was surprised to read on Shure's site that they recommended the SM58 over the SM7B for those starting out in Hip Hop.  I still can't believe that.  The SM7B has  much more clarity and presence.  I tried the SM7B alongside an SM57 and found them complimentary, with the SM7 having more cut.  In a hip hop situation, the SM7B goes to the main vocalist.  Give the '57 to the guest.

SM7B Compared to an RE20 and MD421

Ultimate Support MC125 Pro Studio Boom Stand
A dependable, professional support solution that fulfills the exacting needs of the studio/broadcasting environment and live performance venues. With its large base, height & boom range, unique counterweight and smooth-rolling wheels, the MC-125 Professional Studio Boom truly is the most stable and adjustable stand available for the price.  Tweak:  I have my SM7B on the MC125 by Ultimate Support.  This is one heavy duty stand.  You'll have a hard time tipping this one over.

All three of these mics are about the same price and oddly I have them all and love them all!  But there are some meaningful differences to me.  Everybody's voice is different, so these impressions may not apply to your situations.  I liked the sound of the SM7B best so far.  Yet the RE20 seems to do better with controlling proximity effects when I get extremely close in.  There is a mid-range openness to the SM7B when the boost is in.  The RE20 is kind of a smooth, slick sound.  Your ears may vary. 

The MD421 has a slight advantage of having a variable bass rolloff where the SM7B is fixed; the variable rolloff is good for times with instruments where you don't want to kill too much bass, but don't want it all there clouding things up.  The MD421 is also lighter (so it can take a lighter stand) and more nimble in terms of placement.  The heavier and wider diameter Shure SM7B is not a mic for a cheap lightweight stand.  You don't want to see it do the head-first nose dive into your studio floor  But even if it did, the Sm7b has a metal housing which gives one confidence.  The MD421 is plastic. 




More Articles on Microphones and Preamps by Tweak

Mics and Preamps Index of Articles
Microphones Introduction
Mics under $100
Set up a Vocal Session
How to Process Vocal Tracks
Recording Vocals
M-audio Solaris
Cad E200
Mic Preamps
High Quality Mic Preamps
Great River ME1-NV
FMR's Really Nice Preamp
Voicemaster pro
Shure SM7b
Sennheiser MD421
Rode NT1a
ElectroVoice RE20
TLM 103 by Neumann
Shure SM57
Microphone Prices
Prices of Mic Preamps


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