Whether you are new to recording or not, you will most likely be familiar with the look and sound of the SM7B.
This microphone is widely popular among podcasters and singers alike and is a go-to for anyone looking for top-quality audio no matter what level of experience. Simple to use, and capable of broadcast-quality audio out of the box, stick around as we answer your top questions about the Shure SM7B.
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The Shure SM7B – THE Podcasting Mic to Own
Released in 2001, the Shure SM7B entered the market as a refresh to the SM7, which was first introduced in 1973. With an already enormous legacy, thanks to the success of its predecessor, the SM7B had some serious boots to fill – and it did just that.
Over the years this microphone has come to be seen as the gold standard for recording vocals. Featuring a built-in pop filter, shock mount, and electromagnetic shielding, you’d be hard-pressed to find a high-end recording setup that isn’t making use of this microphone, and for good reason.
The SM7B is a masterpiece of a microphone. Optimized specifically for vocals, this mic offers a smooth and flat frequency response giving providing top-tier audio quality with minimal fuss.
While such a warm and natural tone by itself would make this mic a hit in any professional podcast situation, the low sensitivity, coupled with the cardioid pickup pattern all but ensures that this microphone will shine in spite of even the roughest recording situation.
What makes the SM7B special is its ability to block out noises efficiently while making what it does pick up sound incredibly good.
Shure SM7B – Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it so Quiet?
As mentioned earlier, one of the major advantages of the SM7B is its incredible rejection of unwanted sounds, however, this comes at a cost. Part of the reason this mic is so effective at eliminating sounds is due to the fact that it has such low sensitivity. This, however, means that the overall volume is lower as a result.
Another reason you might find this microphone to be considerably quieter than a condenser of the same price is because of a lack of any amplification circuitry. Instead of relying on active components to increase the output level, if you are after a decent signal, you will need to look to external gain-boosting solutions.
Does it Need a Cloudlifter?
One such way of boosting gain is by using an inline mic activator. This tiny box sits in-between your mic’s output and your interface, and through phantom power, this box provides an otherwise weak signal with clean, transparent gain.
Just how much gain? While the standard Cloudlifter offers a fixed 25dB, more expensive models – such as the Cloudlifter Zi instrument DI and mic activator (Amazon) – give you a few different output level options.
Small and effective, the Cloudlifter is a go-to for podcasters looking to get the most out of their dynamic microphones without breaking the bank, and with such a low noise level, these activators are sure to help your SM7B shine.
Does it Need a Preamp?
If you find yourself wanting a greater degree of control over how much gain you are using to boost your signal levels, then a preamp may be what you are looking for. Being a naturally quiet microphone, while you can certainly get by with using the SM7B without a preamp, by boosting the signal with such a device, your listeners will be sure to love you.
Preamp noise levels vary from model to model, and unlike Cloudlifters (which aim to be as transparent as possible when boosting), one of the sometimes-overlooked advantages of a preamp is how it colors the signal.
The SM7B is a warm and natural-sounding microphone which may be more than good enough on its own, but adding a complimentary preamp may take the audio quality from good to great. For example, tube-driven preamps may give your audio signal some sparkle in the high end, helping it cut through the mix and provide a clearer listening experience.
Does it Need Phantom Power?
With no active circuitry, one of the advantages of the SM7B is that it requires no power to run. This has many advantages, for example, you may be looking to record using an off-the-grid setup, and needing phantom power would require additional gear to take into consideration.
Most if not all dynamic microphones require no phantom power, however, condenser microphones require phantom power simply to activate the built-in amplification components to boost their output.
While this amplification is useful in some circumstances, such delicate internals make these microphones relatively fragile and may require lots of money to repair if broken. The SM7B on the other hand is more than equipped to deal with the hardships of everyday wear and tear, making it a great workhorse of a microphone by any standard.
Will Phantom Power Damage an SM7B?
Phantom power can be potentially fatal if used with the wrong microphone. The most common example of this is how the ribbon in ribbon microphones is likely to break if any electrical current (including phantom power) is introduced.
While you can rest easy knowing your SM7B won’t break if you happen to leave your phantom power on, this mic is dynamic meaning it isn’t built to utilize this power.
Shure’s official statement on the matter is that the SM7B won’t break under prolonged exposure to phantom power, however, as with any equipment, it is inadvisable to make a habit of using it wrong – as there may be expensive consequences.
Can you use it Live?
By now you should understand the SM7B is a force to be reckoned with in a studio setting, but how does it hold up when gigging out and about?
Clearly, the quality of this microphone is going to be better than that of an SM58, and the high-quality pop, shock, and electromagnetic shielding mean that it will provide a clearer sound despite all the commotion around it.
One commonly cited issue with using the SM7B live, however, is that it can be a struggle to get a decent signal level out of it. This isn’t an issue in a studio with preamps or Cloudlifters at their disposal, when left with just a front-of-house mixing desk, you may run into some vocal level issues, so keep this in mind if you decide to take this microphone on the road.
Is it Good for Recording an Acoustic Guitar?
While the SM7B may be designed specifically for vocals, there is absolutely no reason you can’t use this microphone to record a guitar. The only thing to be wary of is the tone you are looking for.
You won’t be getting the crisp highs you would with a condenser microphone when recording an acoustic guitar, however, the SM7B’s mid-range emphasis will make for a full and warm-sounding tone. For this reason, the microphone will be at its best at the soundhole, as opposed to being further down the neck. As the nuances of playing may not be appreciable through this mic.
Why Does my Shure SM7B Sound Bad?
There are a couple of reasons why you might be experiencing poor audio quality when using the Shure SM7B – here are some ways to fix them.
If the tone of your audio sounds off then you may find that in setting up your SM7B you have knocked the built-in EQ controls. If your mic is sounding rumbly then you may have turned off the high pass filter, and if the mids are boomy, then you may have added the mid boost.
Noise can be attributed to your preamps rather than the mic itself. Due to such a low output, you will need to crank the gain quite a bit, and on budget preamps, this can raise the noise floor significantly. Try adjusting the gain and see if the noise level follows the overall signal level, if this is the case then you should consider buying a new preamp, or a mic activator.
Is There a Cheap Alternative to the SM7B?
There are many alternatives to the SM7B. If you are after a budget dynamic Shure microphone, then the SM58 is a reliable choice in a pinch.
If you are looking for a great vocal microphone, however, then the Rode PodMic offers incredible quality vocal recording at a low price tag. To learn more about what this mic has to offer, check out our article ‘Rode PodMic Q&A: Your Questions Answered’.
Here we have answered just a few of the top FAQs about the Shure SM7B – and having read this article you should now be well aware of the finer points of the microphone. Although we didn’t cover everything – these answers should be more than enough for you to get an idea about what you can expect out of this mic.
With all this in mind, there is still one question left – and it’s a big one. It’s all well and good knowing the details of the mic, but it’s a premium product and you need to be sure it’s the mic for you before investing. Do we think it’s worth it? Check out our article ‘Is the Shure SM7B Worth it?’ to find out!