9 Best Preamps For Shure SM7B (All Budgets)

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  • In the market for a preamp for your SM7B?
  • We round up 9 perfect choices.
  • Including dedicated preamps and audio interfaces.
  • Also, check out our shootout between the SM7B vs MV7

As is the case with most mics, the SM7B requires a preamp. However, you don’t necessarily need a dedicated preamp or Cloudlifter (although, you might want an overview of Cloudlifters).

A simple audio interface with a built-in preamp will be enough to amplify your Shure SM7B to the right level for podcasts, voiceovers, streaming, and music.

Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
$399.00

The SM7B dynamic microphone has a smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response appropriate for music and speech in all professional audio applications.

Why We Love It:
  • Dynamic versatility
  • Brilliantly built
  • Built to last
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What Is The Best Preamp For Shure SM7B?

In our humble opinion, the best all-around preamp for the Shure SM7B is the DBX 286s Microphone Preamp.

We’ll also look at some other options, including the best audio interfaces for the Shure SM7B.

1. DBX 286s Microphone Preamp (Best Dedicated Preamp)

BEST DEDICATED PREAMP
DBX 286s Microphone Preamp
$199.00

Equally at home in the studio as it is in your live rig, the 286s channel strip puts four powerful vocal processing tools at your disposal. 

Why We Love It:
  • Studio quality at a good price
  • Switchable +48V phantom power
  • Built-in compressor
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Features:

  • Switchable +48V phantom power
  • Built-in compressor
  • Frequency tunable De-Esser reduces sibilance and high-frequency distortion
  • Program adaptive Expander/Gate
  • Enhancers for high and low-frequency boosts 

The DBX 286s has four processors that can be used independently or in any combination.

It offers a full complement of metering and status LEDs to visually guide you towards the right level for recording.

The addition of de-essing, expanders, gates, compression, and enhancers makes a great bang-for-buck alternative for users who already own an audio interface and are looking for a little more hardware control of audio dynamics & effects.

2. Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1

Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator
$149.00

Place the Cloudlifter in your signal chain, hit it with phantom power and your dynamic mics will shine like never before!

Why We Love It:
  • Noise-free amplification
  • Totally transparent boost
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Features:

  • Plug-n-play
  • 48v Phantom power
  • Gives passive mics up to +25 dB additional active output
  • Compatible with tube, battery, or power supply-driven microphones
  • Provides two distinct stages of clean gain

As stated in the features, the CL-1 provides up to 25 decibels of gain in two stages with optimal impedance loading for dynamic ribbon mics to perform best.

With this pre-amp, all you have to do is connect your ribbon or dynamic mic to the input, connect a mixer or preamp to the output, and the Cloudlifter (or equivalent alternative) will do the rest.

Cloudlifters work a little differently than normal preamps and rely on phantom power exclusively.

They provide “clean” gain and will only boost the sound you want amplified without boosting the noise as well.

3. ART TubeMP Tube Mic Preamp With Limiter

Art Tube MP

This compact, single-channel tube pre comes in very handy, adding just the touch of warmth you've been looking for to your digital recordings.

Why We Love It:
  • Affordable
  • Portable
  • Versatile
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Features:

  • XLR, 1/4 input and outputs 
  • Clip LED
  • +20dB switch
  • Analog VU meter 
  • +48v phantom power
  • Phase reverse

This tube preamp definitely adds some of its own color to the sound, which may be preferable to some users.

Its primary function is to be used with a microphone, but it can also function as a direct box because of its ability to impedance match, amplify, and improve the sound of any instrument plugged into it.

Some users have reported negative feedback on the product, however, saying that it is very noisy. This may point to deeper wiring issues in a studio that cannot be blamed on the ART Tube MP.

Having said that, tube preamps are hardly transparent to begin with, so don’t pick this one up if you’re after the cleanest signal possible.

4. DBX 580 Professional Mic Preamp

dbx 580

The dbx 580 preamp module for 500 series racks has a transparent sound that lets you capture the sonic character of your microphone or instrument, not the preamp itself. 

Why We Love It:
  • Low noise, with up to 60dB of gain
  • A workhorse of a preamp
  • Remarkably transparent gain
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Features:

  • Premium low-noise Mic Pre with up to 60dB of gain
  • Variable-frequency low-cut filter
  • +48V Phantom power
  • 1/4″ Input on the front 
  • Polarity invert

The dbx 580 preamp is a great pair for your microphone. With its remarkably transparent gain, it can transform low-level input to line-level without adding extra noise.

The dbx 580 will deliver up to 60 decibels of gain and features a frequency-adjustable low-cut filter as well as a unique high and low detail EQ control.

5. sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite

sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite Active Inline Preamp
$99.00

The sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite is an active in-line preamp that boosts the signal of your passive ribbon and dynamic mics by a robust 28dB.

Why We Love It:
  • State-of-the-art Class-A circuit
  • Great design
  • Designed for neutral, balanced sound quality
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Features:

  • Low noise floor 
  • 28dB of gain
  • Very affordable

The cheapest option on this list, the DM1 Dynamite packs 28 decibels of gain into its small design.

The company claims that the DM1 Dynamite only produces half of the noise of any of its competitors on the market, and many reviewers seem to confirm this.

So, if you’re after clean, transparent gain without breaking the bank, the sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite is a great option.

Best Audio Interfaces For SM7B (With Preamps!)

As mentioned earlier, a dedicated preamp is not essential and if you are just doing basic podcasting or voiceover work, then an audio interface will suffice.

Keep in mind that the preamps on audio interfaces are generally quite utilitarian.

This means they are designed to give you control over the input gain over whatever you’re recording, and not much else.

If you’re using a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM7B with your audio interface preamps, you’ll need to crank them up nearly to the max.

This will generally result in a noisier signal compared to a dedicated preamp, but this noise will still be low enough for most applications.

1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen) (Best Value)

BEST OVERALL INTERFACE
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen)
$179.99

Two of the best performing mic preamps the Scarlett range has ever seen, now with switchable Air mode to give your recordings a brighter and more open sound.

Why We Love It:
  • Award-winning
  • Compact
  • Super-low latency
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Features:

  • 24-bit/192kHz converters
  • 2 line inputs
  • Headphone output

The Scarlett 2i2 is Focusrite’s bestselling audio interface (read our full review here) that is extremely popular among bedroom music producers and musicians alike.

The Scarlett 2i2 interface is instantly recognizable and you’ve no doubt seen this iconic red box many times before.

The Scarlett is popular as it provides all the essential capabilities for home recording, giving you two XLR / instrument inputs, monitor-outs for your speakers, and a headphone jack for tracking and monitoring.

It’s very affordable but a step up from the cheapest options out there in terms of quality.

For a full, in-depth review of the Focusrite Scarlett family, check out our deep dive into the Scarlett family.

2. UAD Apollo Twin MKII (Best Premium Option)

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Duo
$1,498.97

Apollo Twin MkII Duo and Quad are hugely popular professional desktop recording interfaces for Mac and Windows that deliver enhanced audio conversion with the tone, feel, and flow of analog recording.

Why We Love It:
  • Sounds amazing
  • Unison technology
  • Compact
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Features:

  • Zero-latency for recording
  • Access to UAD plugins

UAD are well-loved for their dedication to exceptional audio quality, and its products are in the upper tier in terms of both cost and prestige.

The UAD Apollo Twin MKII (read our full review here) has zero-latency for recording, which basically means that it allows you to record vocals or an instrument with the SM7B and listen in real-time with no annoying delay to throw off your timing.

Any recording musician will tell you that low latency is one of the biggest priorities when it comes to choosing an audio interface.

Of course, one of the greatest deal-sweeteners is the fact that owning the UAD Apollo Twin MKII gives you access to the famed UAD plugins – a go-to and favorite for some of the greatest mix engineers and producers in the game.

If you’d like to learn more about the UAD family, you can check out these articles:

3. Behringer UMC-202

Behringer UMC202HD
$78.20

If you're looking for a one-stop-shop for home recording, the Behringer UMC202HD USB 2.0 audio interface is worth checking out. 

Why We Love It:
  • Affordable
  • Built-in preamp
  • Perfect for singer/songwriters
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  • 2 XLR line inputs
  • Headphone jack

Behringer is known for delivering gear that gets the job done while costing much less than the competition.

With this in mind, you can consider the UMC-202 a “budget” version of the already very affordable Scarlett 2i2.

The Behringer UMC-202 is perfect for someone on a budget who records vocals and also plays an instrument.

Like the 2i2, it has two line inputs and enough power with its built-in preamp to amplify your SM7B.

4. Behringer UMC-22

Behringer UMC22
$145.99

Recording quality audio in your Mac or Windows PC home studio is easy and rewarding, when you're recording with a Behringer UMC22.

Why We Love It:
  • Value for money
  • MIDAS preamplifier technology
  • Easy to use
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Features:

  • Headphone jack 
  • 1 XLR line input
  • 1 Mic input
  • 48v Phantom power

The Behringer UMC-22 is very similar to the UMC-202, except it is a little bit cheaper and features only 1 mic input instead of 2.

This is probably your best budget preamp for the SM7B but its features may be lacking for some.

For example, if you want to record guitar and sing at the same time, the UMC-22 won’t be enough with its single input.

Final Thoughts

Shure’s SM7B is a great all-around microphone that just happens to be particularly well-suited to voices.

Podcasters, professional streamers, and content creators of all types can rely on the SM7B for its warm, clear tone and professional looks.

To be able to record at a quality level with the Shure SM7B, I’d recommend simply purchasing an audio interface with a built-in preamp.

Any of the options listed here will be great, but if you are a vocalist working with music or a mix engineer recording vocalists for music, I’d recommend a dedicated preamp for that professional touch.

FAQs

Is An Interface The Same As A Preamp?

No, an interface is not the same as a preamp but will have a built-in preamp.

Simply put, a preamp amplifies a signal while an interface connects to a computer to facilitate recording and playback. An interface will often incorporate one or more preamps in its design.

For a more in-depth look at this, check out our guide to Audio Interface vs Preamp.

Does Shure SM7B Need Phantom Power?

The SM7B does not require phantom power because it is not a condenser microphone.

This widely popular microphone is not affected if phantom power is active; however, some third-party external preamps that are commonly used with the SM7B require phantom power to operate.

So the only thing that may require phantom power when using your SM7B is the preamp itself.

Does Phantom Power Damage Shure SM7B?

No, phantom power does not damage a Shure SM7B.

It is advised, however, to turn off phantom power before connecting equipment such as microphones, line-in instruments, and monitors.

In some cases, phantom power can damage preamps and other equipment; however, dynamic microphones like the SM7B are unlikely to be damaged.

Sending phantom power to a ribbon microphone can cause permanent damage so be careful here.

Does Shure SM7B Need An Audio Interface?

Yes, the Shure SM7B needs an audio interface if you want to record with it on your computer. As we’ve already seen in this article, audio interfaces have built-in preamps, so an interface is good enough for most people.

If you don’t want the hassle of an audio interface, you can look at the Shure MV7, which connects to your computer via USB. It doesn’t quite have the same sound as an SM7B but it may be all you need.

To read more about how these mics stack up, check out our article Shure SM7B vs MV7 (Mic Shootout & Comparison).

Do I Need An Amp For Shure SM7B?

Yes, you do need an amp for a Shure SM7B, but you don’t necessarily need a standalone preamp. 

I have a Shure SM7B and a budget audio interface and the built-in preamp works fine for me. I also rent a studio where we have an SM7B – we have preamps but it doesn’t need them either.

It depends on your situation but people who say you NEED one might be remembering the not-too-distant past where audio interface preamps were sub-par at best.

With, modern technology and an audio interface that’s at least $100, you can bet on not needing a standalone preamp for your SM7B.

Do I Need Cloudlifter With SM7B?

It is unlikely that you’ll need a Cloudlifter with an SM7B, but these devices do give you a lot more of a “clean” boost before the signal hits your interface or mixer.

A Cloudlifter or “in-line preamp” can be very useful for situations where the preamps on your interface just aren’t cutting it.

Is Cloudlifter A Preamp?

A cloudlifter is essentially a preamp but it works in a different way than a normal preamp does. A Cloudlifter takes phantom power instead of an external DC power source.

It can boost the volume of your audio signal up to 25dB in most cases.

Why Is The Shure SM7B So Popular?

Initially, the SM7B was known as the Shure SM7. It was used in broadcasting for its warm and clear tone that complements the human voice.

Then it gained popularity in recording studios after being used by Michael Jackson on Thriller.

More than two decades later, the SM7B (as it was now known) started to become popular as a podcasting microphone for the same reasons it was popular in broadcasting.

Its distinctive visual design is undoubtedly attractive to those who also want to look and sound professional when podcasting and streaming.

Is The Shure SM7B Worth It?

Yes, the Shure SM7B is totally worth it. If you’re just looking for any old microphone, there may not be much point to picking the SM7B specifically, mostly due to its high cost.

But if you think of a good microphone as an investment, then the SM7B is a safe bet.

It’s worth every penny with its solid and hefty construction, unmistakable stylish looks, and warmth and clarity rarely found in other microphones.