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Sept 27th, 2023
Microphone: 206 x 97 x 149 mm
For those in the recording industry, the Shure SM7 microphone needs no introduction. This tank of a dynamic microphone celebrated its 50th birthday in 2023. Selected to capture Bruce Dickinson’s huge dynamic range on Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast and Michael Jackson’s unmatchable vocal performance on the Thriller album, it’s as legendary as the artist who use it. In 2001, it evolved into the SM7B, which incorporated an additional larger windscreen and recently saw widespread adoption in the podcasting and streaming world. Shure has been paying attention and has produced a third major iteration: the SM7dB. Now featuring a switchable onboard boost, this should solve the issue of getting sufficient noise-free signal level from this low-sensitivity microphone if you’re using an entry-level recording interface.
Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
Shure states that its older SM7B operates best with 60dB of gain. I still use an older Focusrite Scarlett (Gen 2) at home, and its preamp maxes out around +50db of gain, so this new boost is a welcome feature for my current setup. If you were in this situation with the older model, you were left to spend more money to purchase an outboard booster like the Cloud Microphones CL-1 Cloudlifter to get optimal levels into your interface and take full advantage of the sound the microphone offers.
As a real-world example, in our recent SM7dB overview video, we kept our audio chain simple by running the SM7dB conveniently into the camera directly.
What’s it like to use the Shure SM7dB?
There is something special about holding a Shure SM7-series dynamic microphone in your hand. Its weight comes from the robust, all-metal construction, and the yoke design makes it easy to position in front of you on a mic stand or boom arm. After your XLR cable is connected and you set levels, speaking into the mic, you’ll immediately notice how great the SM7dB makes your voice sound. Once you’re happy with your settings, you can sit back, focus on performance, and let the mic do the rest of the work.
The quality pop filter incorporated into the mic deals with plosives and fricatives. Its classic cardioid pattern holds back any off-axis pickup, allowing you to get a decent sound in just about any room, treated or not. Speaking of noise, there is also an internal air suspension shock system that helps keep mechanical noises down, like the bumps and brushes of handling the microphone if you have to make a quick adjustment on the fly. Lastly, to ensure a low-noise electrical performance, the SM7dB is designed with top-notch shielding to keep any electromagnetic hum from computer monitors or other electrical devices at bay. All these desirable quality characteristics contribute to the sound and status of the Shure SM7dB microphone.
How do you control the Shure SM7dB?
You’ll find access to the new +18 and +28dB preamp boost feature on the rear control plate. To activate, simply slide the ‘bypass’ switch to the right and slide the ‘preamp’ switch to your desired gain boost setting. Remember that you’ll need to engage phantom power on your preamp or audio interface to use this boost feature. When in bypassed mode, you’re effectively holding a good old-fashioned SM7B, complete with traditional bass roll-off and presence boost toggles. These eq options are available to use with or without the gain boost engaged.
How does the Shure SM7dB connect?
As with the original, the SM7dB connects to your audio input via an industry-standard locking, balanced 3-pin XLR connector next to the threaded stand mount.
Phantom power is only needed when using the gain boost function.
What pickup pattern does the Shure SM7dB have?
The Shure SM7dB features the classic cardioid polar pattern, and it helps you get a decent recording with this microphone in almost any room. This pattern means it captures sound primarily from in front of the microphone and rejects sound 180° behind the capsule, attenuating any unwanted background noises and ensuring you’re left to hear the performance you want to capture. The cardioid pattern does offer some forgiveness from the sides, and while you’ll always get the best results speaking directly into the capsule, this does allow you to speak a bit more freely while in front of the mic.
How does the Shure SM7dB sound?
Thanks to its wide frequency response, getting a clear and full-sounding vocal performance out of this microphone is incredibly easy. For the following recordings, I ran the SM7dB into my Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (Gen 2) recording interface with the pre-amp gain knob set to around 4 o’clock, just shy of being maxed out. The +28db setting really brought the mic to life, immediately providing a warm, full replication of my voice.
Shure SM7dB with onboard +28dB boost demo:
How do the frequency response settings sound?
In the graph above, the solid line shows the standard “flat” response of the SM7dB. On the left side, the dashed line shows which frequencies are cut when the bass roll-off is engaged, and on the right side, which frequencies are boosted when the presence boost is engaged.
Starting with a flat response and using the +18dB boost setting, I recorded a few examples of how these EQ settings can change your sound.
Shure SM7dB bass roll-off frequency response demo:
Shure SM7dB presence boosts frequency response demo:
Shure SM7dB bass roll-off + presence boost frequency response demo:
Should you buy the Shure SM7dB?
If your podcasting, streaming, or home studio setup is low on input gain, the SM7dB is a safe buy all day. The onboard preamp ensures a healthy signal level for optimal performance, keeps your setup streamlined, and provides you with legendary SM7B performance without needing extra gear.
However, if you’ve already invested in a high-quality interface with plenty of preamp gain on tap, you might consider saving some cash and buying the original SM7B instead.
What should you get instead of the Shure SM7dB?
If the SM7dB doesn’t quite fit into your budget, but you like what the brand has to offer, the Shure MV-7 $249 at Amazon is a less expensive option. Geared more toward beginners, the MV-7 is inspired by the SM7B and packs several valuable features. While still a directional mic, it has dual USB/XLR outputs, built-in headphone output for direct monitoring, and is supported by the ShurePlus MOTIV app. You can adjust your EQ settings with this app or use the Auto-Level Mode, which will automatically change your gain and compression settings on the fly.
Frequently asked questions
The Shure SM7dB and original SM7B are both made in Mexico.
No, the Shure SM7dB is a dynamic mic, although it does require phantom power to engage the built-in preamp (gain boost) features.
Yes, the Shure SM7dB is a dynamic mic. However, it does require phantom power to engage the built-in preamp features.