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190 x 148 x 96 mm
Before recently being adopted by podcasters everywhere, Shure’s SM7B microphone was famous for its use on Michael Jackson’s Thriller record, as an unlikely choice of microphone for the superstar’s vocals. The SM7B isn’t the cheapest microphone, and you’re paying for two things: professional performance and premium construction. We’re breaking down what makes the Shure SM7B a studio staple, and why it’s worth the cost.
Editor’s note: this Shure SM7B review was updated on September 17, 2023, to update the formatting and answer FAQs.
Vocalists will want to save for the Shure SM7B as it’s the perfect companion for recording a powerful lead vocal. Professional audio mixers benefit from the rejection of low-frequency electronic hums from surrounding equipment. We can’t forget about podcasters and YouTubers who will enjoy this mic’s clear speech capture. Even if you can’t afford professional room treatment, the off-axis rejection helps to mitigate unwanted background noise.
What is the Shure SM7B like?
The Shure SM7B reflects the company’s attention to detail and prioritization of premium construction. I love the frequency response illustration on the back. Two toggles allow you to select one of four possible responses, depending on what the situation calls for (e.g., bass rolloff, flat, presence boost). The yoke mounting mechanism is brilliant and makes it easy to attach and detach the SM7B from your favorite mic stand. Further, the yoke’s adjustment is smooth and offers just enough resistance to keep the microphone in its deliberately placed position.
The pre-installed pop filter helps to control plosives and fricatives, meaning you can speak freely without monitoring how close you are to the recording capsule. Shure also provides its A7WS detachable windscreen to further reduce plosives. To install the windscreen properly, refer to the included user guide, which requires an included attachment piece.
There's little need for an external pop filter, since the pre-installed one works so well.
Shure incorporates plenty of advanced internal hardware to protect the cartridge and other components. Its internal air suspension shock apparatus significantly reduces mechanical noises that would otherwise make their way into recordings. It’s also designed to reject hums emitted from computer monitors. If a mic picks up on countless bumps and brushes, it can add a lot of time to the post-production process.
Requirements for the Shure SM7B
Whether you record from a blanket fort or a professional studio, you need a mic stand. Podcasters or streamers working from a desktop should consider a mounted boom arm instead.
What kind of recording pattern does the Shure SM7B use?
The Shure SM7B is a dynamic mic with a cardioid polar pattern, which means that it’s sturdy and less sensitive off-axis sounds. This microphone isn’t for the generalist: you only get the one pickup pattern. Its specialization makes it an excellent pick for podcasters, announcers, and singers because sounds directly in front of the microphone are clearly registered, while off-axis noise is ignored. Another perk of this heart-shaped polar pattern is its forgiving nature. Users need not be precise about placement, so you can focus more on the musician’s performance than logistics.
What do the different frequency responses mean?
The Shure SM7B lets you take control of your projects before you even hit record.
- Flat: this mode is great for users who seek natural audio reproduction and is versatile as it bodes well for both speech and music. The disadvantage, however, is that if you’re recording with a particularly bass-heavy instrument or a vocalist with an unusually low voice, you may find that the proximity effect hampers low-midrange recording.
- Bass rolloff: this mode acts similarly to applying a high-pass filter on a digital audio interface. Low frequencies are gently attenuated, which further quiets low-frequency electrical hums and potential distortion that, again, could be caused by the proximity effect.
- Mid-range emphasis (presence boost): this setting appears similar to the bass rolloff response but with slightly more amplification to the mids and treble. This is good for recording a high-pitched string instrument, say a violin or guitar.
How does the Shure SM7B sound?
The Shure SM7B reigns as king of studio recording for good reason: vocal recording and reproduction are clear and crisp, especially when recording in a controlled environment with the flat frequency response selected. In the demo below, the flat frequency response is selected, and my voice sounds accurate. This audio snippet was recorded from my makeshift kitchen island desk with the dryer running just a few meters away. Suffice it to say, this wasn’t recorded in a sterile room, yet, the untouched audio file doesn’t sound nearly as noisy as it was in real life.
Shure SM7B flat frequency response demo:
The bass rolloff and presence boost selections are difficult to differentiate from one another, both by ear and when comparing the frequency response charts. Mids and treble are ever so slightly amplified with presence boost mode compared to the bass boost, but one thing is for sure: they sound distinctly different from the previously mentioned flat response. In the bass rolloff demo below, you may hear my voice sounds slightly “off” when directly compared to the flat demo.
Shure SM7B bass rolloff frequency response demo:
Shure SM7B presence boost frequency response demo:
This is because my voice has a relatively low fundamental frequency (~150-175Hz), so the gentle attenuation until 650Hz makes my vocal fundamental and overtones roughly half as loud as my formants and harmonics. It’s not a huge deal—and isn’t noticeable to a passive ear or to someone unfamiliar with my voice — but it’s something to be aware of if you’re striving for absolute accuracy.
Which frequency response do you prefer?
Should you buy the Shure SM7B?
If you’re tired of thinking about how the grass is always greener, you should just go ahead and get the Shure SM7B microphone. Shure is a legacy audio company that has built and defended its reputation through generations of reliable, durable, high-quality audio products.
Presidents, pop icons, and newscasters have used Shure’s mics, and the Shure SM7B is one of many top-notch company products within its portfolio. Whether you plan to record solo vocalists or for your personal podcast project, the Shure SM7B will serve you well.
What should you buy instead of the Shure SM7B?
The Rode NT-1A ($269 at Amazon) is a condenser microphone as opposed to the Shure SM7B’s dynamic recording mechanism. This means that the Rode requires phantom power, so while it seems cheaper at face-value, you’re investing in extra hardware to make it usable. This may make the Shure SM7B more appealing to users who want their setup to be as straightforward as possible, with few variables.
There are benefits to a condenser: their default higher sensitivity reproduces a more natural sound at higher frequencies. If you intend to record wind or string instruments, the Rode NT1 will serve you well.
Then there’s the Shure MV7 ($249 at Amazon), a close cousin of the SM7B. This mic is a real performer. Its compact design makes it much more portable, and more streaming-friendly than the Shure SM7B. Although the MV7 audio quality can’t match that of the Shure SM7B, it has a few tricks up its sleeve to make it more appealing to producers on a budget. The Shure MV7 lets you record to both the XLR and USB outputs simultaneously, which allows you to preserve a high-resolution audio file from the XLR output, and a low-res one from the USB output for reference.
The ShurePlus MOTIV app is available on desktop and makes the microphone extremely easy to control. Novices, or those who don’t want to fiddle with too much customization, can select one of three presets from the auto level recording mode, and never touch the app again. Those who enjoy having more granular control over their recordings can switch to manual mode and make adjustments on the fly.
Frequently asked questions about the Shure SM7B
The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid recording pattern. It can withstand loud noises with minimal distortion.
The SM7B has a lower output than most mics -59 dBV/Pa (1.12 mV so needs a good amount of gain applied at your preamp or audio interface.
The usual culprit that can cause noise with a Shure SM7b is that it needs a lot of preamp gain in order to reach a usable output volume. If your preamp is of a lower quality, a lot of gain can introduce noise. Using a Cloudlifter will offer clean gain that should solve the issue if it’s the preamp to blame. Also check your XLR cable to ensure it isn’t damaged.
You only need a Cloudlifter if your current preamp doesn’t supply enough gain to create a recording with enough level from the SM7b.
There is a huge price disparity between the Shure SM58 and SM7B microphones. While it’s nice to have the best equipment, it’s not necessary, especially since you’re just starting out. It’s more important that you have workable tools to hone your craft and tell your story; you can up the production value later. The SM58 is better suited for live performances and is built for the road.
Take a listen to our SM58 microphone sample below and let us know your thoughts.
Shure SM58 microphone demo:
How does the microphone sound to you?
The Shure MV5C is a very compact little mic that was designed for video meetings. It can connect to a Windows or Mac computer via a USB cable, and you can place it on or off-screen. Just make sure the mic faces you. It features a Voice Enhancement Mode that equalizes the audio to focus on your speech. It’s not nearly as high quality as the Shure SM7b, but is an affordable office mic made to be convenient.
The SM7B and 55SH Series II are elegant microphones that excel at vocal reproduction. The cylindrical SM7B is more versatile than the 55SH Series II due to its integrated frequency response switches. However, the Elvis microphone, as it’s so affectionately known, is a better live performance companion for someone without the budget for separate studio and gig mics.