The SM7B has long been a favourite in the broadcasting and audio recording world, highly revered by professional audiophiles and amateur audio enthusiasts alike ever since it was released by Shure in the early 70s.
Originally inspired by the bulkier SM5 microphone, the SM7B was specifically engineered and altered over the years to suit a TV and radio broadcasting environment, however, its popularity soared in the late 2000s when the microphone was picked up by podcasters. This popularity was compounded further through word of mouth amongst the podcasting community and over platforms such as YouTube where it was able to be seen and heard to excel in the application of speech focused audio.
This popularity began to set a real benchmark in regard to what was the desired ‘podcast sound’. As a dynamic microphone, the characteristics of the microphone style already leant itself towards the podcasting application, with a low noise floor, slight high-end roll off (useful for reducing sibilance) and excellent in-built shock mounting all helpful for achieving that radio ready sound. The included wind shield (for reducing plosives) and customisable rear frequency response switches also give the microphone extra added value.
What is arguably the most important and favoured characteristic of the microphone though is the extended low-end response, which is created by a modified cartridge, larger rear acoustic chamber and a more compliant, moveable diaphragm. This gives an intimate, quite desirable up-close vocal that is bound to focus the attention of any listener.
The New Kid on the Block – Shure’s MV7
In late 2020 Shure made the move to try and build on the success of the highly rated SM7B through a new microphone aimed even more specifically at the home podcasting market. Enter the Shure MV7!
Straight out the gates Shure describe the MV7 on their website as “Inspired by the legendary SM7B” and just by comparing both microphone’s exterior shells, there are already clear similarities when examining the shape and iconic windshields possessed by both products.
However, rather than just resting on their laurels to create a slightly more updated, sleeker, more polished looking SM7B, Shure have packed in an astounding number of new features into the MV7 that make it not only an excellent microphone choice for the general hobbyist starting out their podcasting passion, but also for any audio professional that wants a slightly cheaper mic to compete well against its predecessor.
Some of these new features are:
- XLR & USB Compatibility – This is a game changer for home podcasters who don’t have the budget for mic’s that require an XLR connection and subsequent audio interface for recording. Instead, just plug straight into your computer via USB and you’re all set!
- 3.5mm Headphone Jack – This is inbuilt onto the rear panel of the mic and again makes it very useful for those of you on a budget, allowing for direct monitoring of your voice or associated DAW. It also frees up your computer’s headphone output for a separate device such as a pair of monitor speakers or separate headphones.
- Voice Isolation Technology – Like the SM7B, the MV7 possesses excellent external noise rejection and vocal isolation. This is largely down to it being a dynamic mic but it also has specifically designed microphone capsule technology that enhances this isolation further.
- Touchscreen Panel – This allows quick and easy access to a majority of the microphone’s key functions such as; mic gain, headphone level, direct monitor vs playback level and muting. This is both intuitive and doesn’t require knowledge of any software to get to grips with.
- ShurePlus MOTIV Desktop App – Arguably one of the coolest features integrated by Shure into this product, the free MOTIV app allows for control of the same touch panel features mentioned previously along with some more in-depth processing options (e.g. EQ, Compression, Limiting). These controls and customisation options are without complication, easy to understand for any beginner and hence you can great sounding results quickly and without any headaches!
If you want to see some of these features in action check out this excellent review of the MV7 by Ray Ortega here:
Shure SM7B vs MV7 – How they Compare
Of course, the big question here is how does the MV7 stand up against its counterpart, the SM7B?
After watching through a lot of reviews from reputable audio enthusiasts comparing the two mics, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised! A lot of different audio samples recorded by the pair of mics were played, and most of the time it was very hard to distinguish between the two.
Check out this review from Curtis Judd who compares some of these samples from the two mics and see if you can tell the difference.
Arguably the SM7B still possesses a slightly richer lower end with smoother low mid frequencies while the MV7 rolls this off a little, giving more emphasis to the high end around 10kHz. See 04:00 on this review from Julian Krause who has created a very useful frequency response differentiation graph comparing the two mics.
Ease of Use/Accessibility:
As described previously, the MV7 is marketed more towards the novice podcaster who maybe isn’t as experienced working with audio (hence USB connectivity and built on touch panel) however, make no mistake, this is an excellent microphone that any pro audio engineer could choose to integrate into their setup for half the cost of the SM7B. It is also futureproof if you wanted to purchase an audio interface later down the line.
In this sense the SM7B might be a stretch too far for those with a limited budget and no audio interface as this, or an audio mixer that has computer connectivity, is what is required to record your podcast into your DAW.
This is going to be of major importance for anyone podcasting in an untreated environment such as a noisy home, or in an environment that maybe has a lot of external ambient noise.
I found that experiments comparing the ‘off-axis’ rejection of both the MV7 and SM7B were quite consistent and both mics dealt with the reduction of this type of noise very well. Both also dealt very well with Radio Frequency interference, meaning that you won’t be picking up too much of that horrible ‘static’ kind of sound from other electronic devices nearby that can often pose a problem.
However, the MV7 was slightly let down when it came to reducing noise from bumps and knocks when hitting the stand, typing on keyboards and any general interaction with the surface that the microphone was placed on. This comes down to the effectiveness of the shock mount within the mic and some improvement could be achieved by using a boom mic stand or something similar to reduce this noise.
One major issue that some users of the SM7B find themselves running into is that this mic is not very sensitive and needs A LOT of gain to achieve an adequate signal level. For some this means purchasing an external preamp or ‘cloudlifter’ style device to add more gain to the signal. This is something that may pose issues for those on a tight budget who cannot afford a device like this, let alone the audio interface that is required!
However, the MV7 deals with this much better on both its USB and XLR connections, giving an adequate amount of gain to the signal with more still to spare if needed. Hence, this makes it arguably a more attractive option again to those of you just starting out in the podcasting world.
On the fan favourite SM7B the only extra features that it possesses is the rear EQ switches that allow for some extent of vocal customisation or pre-treatment (e.g. LF roll off, HF boost etc.).
However, when compared with the MV7 there is both USB and XLR connectivity, 3.5mm headphone jack output, intuitive touch panel and a dedicated app for further customisation and processing.
You could argue that a some of these features present in the app are unnecessary and that the same results could be achieved with post-processing, but I think they make for an excellent addition to the product, especially if extra processing is needed on a vocal for a live podcast for example. It also provides any audio novice with a great introduction into some of these processing terms, allowing one to start to develop their podcasting skills even further.
Is the SM7B Worth Buying in 2021?
My overall consensus on whether the SM7B is worth its price tag really depends on your current situation as a podcaster or audio enthusiast.
There is no doubt that the SM7B has and always will be a legendary mic of outstanding and highly favourable audio quality, hence, for any audio professional looking to achieve that radio ready podcast vocal sound, this is a sure-fire way to achieve it.
However, this microphone poses a substantial investment for most people, hence if you are someone who is just starting out in the podcasting/audio world or who has a limited budget it is probably advisable not to go straight in with this microphone as you may find yourself falling out of love with the hobby (god forbid) or just not get as much use out of it as you thought you would. This leaves you with a pretty expensive desktop decoration lying about.
Therefore, it could be a better idea to look at something like the MV7 we have discussed in this article which allows a beginner to still achieve a quality vocal sound for half the price, while also allowing the user room to expand their setup (via XLR connection) later in the future.
My Experience with the SM7B
Having used the SM7B for both musical recording and podcast vocal applications I have found that this mic actually excels in both areas.
Undoubtedly most of you reading this will know its fame in the area of podcasting but I also find that for the application of recording sung vocals it also stands out. In particular, when sometimes dealing with inexperienced vocalists or ones with poor mic technique, a condenser mic might only bring out some of these negative nuances. Conversely, the SM7B as a dynamic mic rolls off some off the high end and gives a smoother vocal sound that often sits a lot better in the mix.
In conclusion I would still highly recommend the SM7B in every sense as it still does hold good value for money and give you amazing audio, however, for any new podcaster out there just delving into their hobby I would encourage you to make sure that you have the adequate equipment and budget for it to fit into your setup. If not, then the MV7 or other similar microphones would provide an excellent starting point.