Shure SM7B Review (Is It Worth The Hefty Price Tag?)

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Shure Sm7B Review
VERDICT
The Shure SM7B is a classic mic for a good reason - it simply sounds fantastic. It adds an instantly recognizable "broadcast" quality to any voice. It's pricey, but also a solid investment that you won't regret.
Sound Quality
10
Build Quality
9
Value For Money
8.5
PROS
Rugged construction, classy aesthetics
Smooth and warm for speech and vocals
3 frequency response settings
Low noise and natural reproduction
CONS
Pricey (but worth it)
Limited polar pattern
Needs a capable preamp or in-line mic pre for gain boost
Not ideal for novices or people on a budget
9.2
OUR SCORE
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I’ve also conducted a shootout and comparison between the Shure MV7 vs Shure SM7B. I highly recommend you check it out!

Shure SM7B – A Mic That Rarely Needs Any Introduction

From legendary broadcast boom mics (SM5) to the OG of the podcasting mics, Shure’s entire catalog of dynamic mics can be found all over music studios, sound stages, and live music venues worldwide. In 2021, Shure continue their reign as one of the most sought-after brands of microphones, monitoring systems, and audio accessories.

In the 1970s, Shure was out to replicate the success of the SM5 and SM57. The engineers were given a free hand (and unlimited budget) to create an ‘SM57 on steroids‘. They came up with the SM7 design. Shure redressed it as the SM7A with some hardware improvements in 1999.

Two years later it reappeared with a larger windscreen as the SM7B, the avatar we venerate with dewy-eyed wonder. Nearly 50 years after its launch in 1973, the SM7B has inadvertently become an iconic podcasting mic due to its excellent sound quality and rugged design.

History lessons apart, what makes the Shure SM7B one of the most hyped mics of our generation? Is it just a storied history that commands its legions of fans or is it truly – in 2021 – the ultimate dynamic cardioid mic that professional musicians and industry veterans should carry in their arsenal?

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.

Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Sweetwater
06/12/2021 07:40 pm GMT

SM7B Review (Verdict)

It’s 2021, the Shure SM7B is not going anywhere. It is an industry approved workhorse that sounds brilliant in everything from an island desk to a blanket fort to a controlled environment. From construction to performance and everything in between, the SM7B is impressive at every level for every voice. I highly recommend it for its performance alone – the storied history is just an added bonus.

Based on the price and workings of the SM7B, it may not suit the budget for beginners or hobbyists, especially if they intend to record music in a home studio. They would be better off with a more economical Rode NT1 or a plug-n-play USB microphone like the Blue Yeti. However, you can ‘future-proof’ and get one preemptively if you are in it for the long haul – you won’t be disappointed.

(If you’ve ever wondered how a Shure SM58 stacks up against a Rode NT-1A, check out our detailed comparison in Shure SM58 VS RODE NT-1A: Microphone Shootout.)

Pros & Cons

ProsCons
Rugged construction, classy aestheticsCost – worth it, but pricey
Smooth and warm for speech and vocalNeeds a capable preamp or in-line mic pre for gain boost  
3 frequency response settingsNot ideal for novices or generalists
Low noise and natural reproduction

Who Uses The Shure SM7B?

When Bruce Swedien picked the dynamic SM7 to record Michael Jackson, every ultra-high-end condenser microphone fiend hooted hysterically at the idea. It was an odd choice for recording vocals – especially for a singer with such a uniquely high voice. But it created studio magic – we know that moment as ‘Billie Jean’ – one of MJ’s greatest hits.

Since that day, James Hetfield, Keith Urban, Dave Grohl, John Mayer, and a laundry list of iconic musicians have used the Shure SM7B as a vocal microphone in live performances or recording studios. It has also doubled up as a must-have studio mic for recording drums and guitar amps.

Build Quality – 9/10

The SM7B is a testament to Shure’s attention to detail and top-notch construction. It is an XLR mic with a detachable close-talk windscreen, internal shock mount, and toggle switches on the back panel with a graphic display of the setting.

The three responses include presence boost, flat, and bass roll-off. It also includes a switch cover plate and shock isolation (with internal air suspension) that makes it impervious to physical vibrations. This makes it great for mounting to a desk for a podcast – any rumble or noise is simply ignored thanks to this feature.

It features a large black foam windscreen and a smooth yoke mount with a 5/8” and 3/8” adapter. You don’t need a pop filter as the windscreen can deal with most plosives.

The microphone stays firmly in place with any type of boom arm. It is simple to attach and detach the yoke to aftermarket microphone boom arms and the yoke can be flipped over for desk stands as well.

The sound quality benefits from the off-axis sound rejection. The hum rejection is fantastic and the electromagnetic shielding thwarts any noise from electrical devices. It has 150 Ohm output impedance and weighs 1.69 lbs. The mic dimensions are 7.47” x 2.5”.

Sound Quality – 10/10

“They say with careful positioning, you can use a Shure SM7B to record the future”

– Gearslutz.com User

Podcasters like Bert Kreischer, Joe Rogan, Lex Fridman, and PhillyD have contributed to the SM7B’s reputation as the best podcasting microphone. It’s possible that the passing of Michael Jackson led the world down memory lane, which circled around to the Shure SM7 at one point.

However, its brilliance isn’t merely the import of celebrity endorsements or public opinion. A closer look at this dynamic microphone reveals that its iconic ‘big radio sound’ is a result of subtle but clever design.

The large diaphragm and large housing are designed for an extended low-end and wide frequency response. The flat response switch (think mid-range emphasis) yields natural and transparent audio that is ideal for talking/speech and recording instruments.

The bass roll-off will gently cut the low-end below 350Hz, which can be helpful when you want to mic a kick drum in a studio recording or to counterbalance a bassy voice.

The high sound pressure levels make it ideal for loud bursts of sound. I’ve not had any complaints using it to record an amp blaring out a loud guitar solo or an involuntary, maniacal cackle while talking. Overall, it responds to a wide range of applications with high-quality recordings.

The presence boost adds some zing to the mid-range and rolls off some lows. It works well when you want your voice to cut through. It also happens to be my go-to setting for recording guitar amps and instruments.

This video does a great job of demonstrating the capabilities of Shure SM7B.

What Type of Polar Pattern Does the SM7B Use?

Shure’s SM7B is a unidirectional dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. It only picks up sound from a single direction – the front. If you are disappointed, perhaps you are looking for the wrong mic. Within this limited domain, it is an all-rounder that delivers versatile performance.

The heart-shaped cardioid polar pattern is impervious to background noise and is forgiving when it comes to precise mic placement. The vocal specialization makes it a great choice for singers, announcers, and podcasters. As it is a dynamic mic (not a condenser), it isn’t as sensitive to loud noises and subsequent signal distortion.

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.

Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Sweetwater
06/12/2021 07:40 pm GMT

What Is The SM7B Best Used For?

In a nutshell, this dynamic vocal mic has a distinct frequency response that gives your voice a ‘broadcast’ tone like none other. If you want to hear it for yourself, lean in close and take advantage of its unique proximity effect.

Aside from this, the SM7B is built like a tank and will last for years and years. Its unique design minimizes rumble and noise, delivering exceptionally clear sound.

There is one undeniable fact: even massive variations in the setups and use cases don’t change the consistency of its quality. That is why you’ll see one everywhere – ranging from TV to radio stations, to podcasters, to the Foo Fighters at BBC’s LiveLounge.

The SM7B is great for:

  • Talk shows, voiceovers, and streaming
  • Recording guitar amps, vocals, and loud instruments
  • Broadcasting and radio
  • Location recording for film and TV

‘Gaining’ the Most From The SM7B

As a low-sensitivity dynamic microphone, the SM7B’s signal needs amplifying, so you will need a way to boost the gain more than other dynamic mics. Shure recommends at least 60dB of gain for speech recording at a 3-inch distance from the mic.

This can be tricky because most mic preamps are designed for condenser microphones, so they tap out at 50dB of gain. Plus you’ll start hearing the noise floor of a preamp if you add a lot of gain. Although to be fair, most podcasters and streamers are going to be a lot closer than 3-inches – more like 1-inch away.

Plus, you will need an in-line mic preamp for clean gain such as the Cloudlifter CL-1, Radial McBoost, or sE- DM1. These mic activators will give a boost to the signal going into the mic preamp or USB audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett.

As an aside, I have achieved great results while using the GAP Pre-73 MKIII (80dB) and ART Tube MP (70dB gain) with the SM7B.

ART Tube MP Professional Mic Preamp/Processor

The ART Tube MP will allow you to obtain professional results at a fraction of the cost of comparable equipment.

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Accessory Recommendations

I recommend a reliable mounted boom arm or mic stand for the SM7B. My Samson 38-inch Boom Arm has served me well. I’ll gladly get another if it ever needs to be replaced. You’ll also need an XLR cable. A simple Amazon Basics XLR gets the job done. Or, you can knock yourself out with a Mogami Gold Studio-15.

Do You Need a Pop Filter for the SM7B?

The built-in mesh and sponge filter do an excellent job on the SM7B. It gets the job done on spoken word and any imaginable close-talk use cases.

Perhaps it is the tone of my voice (prone to sibilance), but I prefer having a third-party filter on hand. Either way, a decent pop filter is inexpensive and can be easily purchased on Amazon.

You can also grab the A7WS detachable windscreen here.

What I Don’t Like About the SM7B

In truth, I don’t have any complaints about the Shure SM7B after a year of using it. It is a truly great mic that deserves the reputation it has gained over the years. When I picked it up, I was cringing over the price tag. For the sake of fairness, I will list a few finicky complaints that aren’t all that significant but worth noting nonetheless.

Firstly, the switches on the back panel are a bit too recessed. I have to use a pen or a screwdriver to change them. Although, this could be intentional as it does prevent any accidental switching while gripping the microphone.

For a dynamic microphone, the SM7 is chunky and can’t be used as a handheld mic. However, the 10” SM5 – its predecessor – is a more apt depiction of chunky. Now that I own Shure’s MV7, I have grown to enjoy the USB connection and MOTIV App.

Lastly, it isn’t the most affordable mic on the market. It faces some, though not too serious, competition from the Blue Yeti, Rode NT1, and a few other condenser mics (all cheaper options). Luckily, the performance, looks, and high-quality construction have helped the SM7B retain its heavyweight title.

Pros:

  • Rugged construction, classy aesthetics
  • Smooth and warm for speech and vocal
  • 3 frequency response settings
  • Low noise and natural reproduction

Cons:

  • Cost – worth it, but pricey
  • Needs a capable preamp or in-line mic pre for gain boost  
  • Not ideal for novices or generalists
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.

Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Sweetwater
06/12/2021 07:40 pm GMT