The Shure SM7B dynamic microphone is probably the most talked-about, most spoken-into, most reviewed, and most visible podcast microphone of our modern age. Even if you’ve never heard the name “Shure SM7B,” you would likely recognize this iconic black podcasting microphone from countless YouTube videos and channels.
This microphone is trusted by professional talk-show hosts, podcasters, and streamers alike, with big-name celebrities like Conan O’Brien and Joe Rogan using it for their podcasts.
If you’re here because you’re wondering whether to invest in this legendary microphone, you’ve come to the right place. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding the Shure SM7B, you might think that making this purchase is a no-brainer. However, it’s worth noting that this is not the most beginner-friendly microphone.
In this Shure SM7B review, we’ll cover the ins and outs to see whether this iconic microphone can live up to its incredible hype.
At a Glance
The Shure SM7B, an iconic podcasting microphone, has graced the desks of renowned talk-show hosts and celebrities. Recognizable by its sleek black design, this mic boasts a legacy dating back to 1973.
The SM7B boasts impeccable build quality, ensuring durability and longevity. When it comes to sound quality, this mic delivers unparalleled warmth and clarity, making vocals and spoken word sound rich and professional.
While its reputation is unparalleled, the SM7B is not for the faint-hearted beginner. It demands a quality preamp and an understanding of its unique characteristics.
History of the Shure SM7B
The history of the Shure SM7B dates back five decades to when the first model, known as the SM7, was introduced in 1973.
The Shure SM7 dynamic mic utilized the Unidyne III capsule, developed in 1959 by Ernie Seeler, a protégé of Ben Bauer. Bauer was the creator of the famous Unidyne 55 microphone, which was notably used by Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.
The Unidyne III capsule was first employed in the iconic SM57 and SM58 handheld dynamic microphones in 1966, as well as in the predecessor to the SM7, the SM5 broadcast microphone. However, the SM5 had a design flaw: it resembled a gigantic pill that even Neo from “The Matrix” would rather not take. It measured an enormous 252mm in length and 108mm in diameter!
Shure audio engineers were given an unlimited budget to create a broadcasting microphone that would be smaller and superior to the SM5. The result was the development of the Shure SM7 in 1973. This new model featured several improvements on the Unidyne III cartridge: the rear end of the microphone housing was enlarged, the diaphragm was optimized for better low-end response, and the internal shock mount was refined to minimize vibrations from the microphone stand.
The new design of the SM7 dynamic mic offered a wider and flatter frequency response than the SM58 and SM57, as well as a very warm and rich low-end for which the SM7B is now known. As Shure historian Michael Pettersen aptly puts it, “The SM7 is like a Coca-Cola bottle—it’s a design that is just perfect and will last forever.”
However, it wasn’t until 1982 that the Shure SM7 truly skyrocketed to stardom. This happened when the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, released his groundbreaking “Thriller” album. Record producer Quincy Jones and recording engineer Bruce Swedien used the SM7 to record the majority of Michael’s vocals for the album, which sold an unprecedented 110 million copies worldwide.
The next two decades saw further revisions of the SM7. The first revision would be the SM7A in 1999, which featured a better humbucking coil for improved rejection of electromagnetic hum from TV monitors in radio stations. The final version would be the SM7B that we know today, it was released in 2001 with a larger windscreen.
Design and Build Quality
The Shure SM7B boasts the most iconic design among all podcasting microphones, with its cylindrical, all-black elongated body suspended by a fixed yoke mount and a cupped pop filter windscreen.
Many microphone manufacturers have attempted to capitalize on the success of the Shure SM7B, producing dynamic mics like the Fifine K688, BEACN Mic, PreSonus PD-70, and Logitech Blue Sona that mimic its design. The PD-70 even features the exact same mesh grille as the SM7B!
The Shure SM7B is an exceptionally durable and robust dynamic mic, built with an all-metal body and yoke mount designed to last a lifetime.
The metal construction not only lends durability but also shields the microphone from broadband interference and electromagnetic hum from computer monitors. Its humbucking coil further enhances this protection.
Fixed Yoke Mount
The yoke is permanently affixed to the Shure SM7B with two tightening nuts, and the mic mount features a swivel nut, making it very easy to attach to a boom arm or mic stand without having to rotate the entire microphone.
You might expect Shure to implement this same design in their modern MV7 USB/XLR mic; however, surprisingly, it uses a fixed nut that necessitates turning the entire microphone when attaching it to a boom arm or mic stand.
Unlike most microphones, which have their XLR port located at the base, the Shure SM7B ingeniously positions the XLR port on the yoke mount to facilitate cable management. This design prevents the XLR cable from protruding from the rear of the microphone and dangling haphazardly.
Internal Shock Mount
The Shure SM7B dynamic mic features an internal “air suspension shock isolation system,” which is essentially a rubber bushing around the center of the dynamic mic capsule. This allows the capsule to be freely suspended within the microphone housing.
This internal shock mount is highly effective at minimizing handling noise from table bumps or even accidental knocks against the SM7B. Unlike with other microphones, you don’t experience that typical resonating low-end bump.
Aesthetics and construction alone will not make a microphone the most famous podcasting mic in history. When it comes to the Shure SM7B, it’s all about the sound quality. It is often pitted against the Electro-Voice RE20 in that aspect.
The Shure SM7B has an incredibly deep and warm low-end with a very smooth and clear mid-range tone that makes your voice sound professional and authoritative. You will be surprised how important good audio is in making you sound trustworthy, and the Shure SM7B is renowned for that.
The Shure SM7B dynamic microphone has a relatively flat frequency response that sounds natural, but it does not sound as clinical and uncolored as a condenser mic.
It does not have a wide treble extension; in fact, its frequency response is slightly attenuated between 7 kHz – 10 kHz, and it starts to roll off sharply after 12 kHz. This characteristic causes the Shure SM7B to lose some clarity in the high frequencies, but this trait also removes sibilance from your voice and seems to make the mid and low-frequency notes sound more prominent.
Remember what I said about the Shure SM7B not being the most beginner-friendly microphone? While the Shure SM7B is lauded for its impeccably warm broadcasting tone, it’s also notorious for its lack of sensitivity. At a mere 1.12 mV/Pa @ 1kHz, this is one insensitive mic that will hurt your feelings.
Lame jokes aside, if you’re a hobbyist or have just started your new podcast channel and think you can achieve that perfect studio voice with just the Shure SM7B and a budget preamp or audio interface, think again.
You may find the SM7B dynamic mic too quiet even when you’ve turned the gain dial all the way up. And when you attempt to boost the levels in post-production, you’ll be greeted with a cacophony of hissing noise from the low-quality preamp you used.
It’s advisable to pair the Shure SM7B with a high-quality preamp or audio interface capable of providing at least 60 dB of clean gain. Most home studio audio interfaces, like the Scarlett 2i2, offer only around 50-55 dB of preamp gain, which is insufficient.
To address this issue, some people opt for a microphone activator, such as a Cloudlifter, in their podcasting or streaming setup. This device has a very low noise floor and provides an additional +25 dB of gain but comes with a $150 price tag. As if the Shure SM7B weren’t pricey enough, you’ll have to contend with these additional costs!
If you anticipate having multiple guests on your podcast, you might consider investing in a modern audio mixer like the RODECaster Pro II. This mixer can accommodate up to four microphones and offers more than enough gain (80 dB) for the Shure SM7B. But, of course, it all comes down to your budget.
Low sensitivity might not be entirely a bad thing for a microphone. Unlike highly sensitive condenser microphones that require phantom power, dynamic mics are known for their low sensitivity because the electromagnetic induction of the dynamic coil generates only a very small signal.
The low sensitivity of a dynamic microphone, combined with its cardioid polar pattern, makes it highly effective at rejecting unwanted background noise.
Moreover, the Shure SM7B has even lower sensitivity than a typical dynamic microphone, enhancing its noise-rejection capabilities. This feature makes the Shure SM7B an excellent choice for untreated rooms or noisy cafes.
This attribute is also particularly useful if you’re a singer recording a vocal track in a recording studio with a band. The Shure SM7B’s cardioid pattern will help isolate your voice, while its noise-rejection capability will minimize mic bleed from other instruments, making it an excellent vocal microphone.
You might have noticed that people using the Shure SM7B rarely employ one of those large round pop filters in front of the microphone. This is because the Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone that handles plosives exceptionally well.
In addition to its high-quality detachable windscreen, which serves as an external pop filter, the microphone has a simple yet effective trick to counter those pesky Ps and Bs.
When you remove its external windscreen, an elongated protective cage covering the microphone capsule becomes visible. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see there’s a significant 1.5 to 2-inch gap between the microphone capsule and the tip of the mesh cage.
This gap creates added distance, preventing you from getting too close to the microphone capsule, which could otherwise mar your recorded audio with plosives and heavy breathing.
The SM7B also includes a larger and more effective windscreen. However, its bulbous and somewhat unsightly appearance means few would choose to use it during live streams or video podcasts.
While other microphones, such as the Electro-Voice RE20 and Shure KSM8 vocal microphone, employ sophisticated mechanical designs to counteract the proximity effect, the Shure SM7B utilizes that simple 2-inch gap between the mic capsule and mesh grille for the same purpose.
Although there is a buildup of bass frequencies when you get close to the Shure SM7B, it doesn’t sound overpowering.
In fact, the proximity effect produced by this microphone is pleasantly warm and tasteful, unlike some microphones where the voice starts to get muddy and unintelligible. Many individuals often leverage this characteristic to impart a deeper broadcasting tone to their voice.
While the Shure SM7B doesn’t come with bells and whistles, it does feature a few EQ filter switches on the base of the microphone, concealed by a back cover plate.
There’s a bass roll-off switch (or high-pass filter) that gradually rolls off the bass frequency starting at 300 Hz. This filter is effective at eliminating low-frequency rumbles from appliances such as air conditioners and fans.
Additionally, there’s a presence boost switch that adds some mid-range emphasis, giving your voice a bit more ‘presence’ to stand out in a mix. This presence boost switch is particularly useful if you have a deep and resonant voice.
Who is the Shure SM7B for?
While the Shure SM7B is primarily recognized as a recording studio microphone for podcasters and radio hosts, it’s versatile enough to serve other purposes as well.
The Shure SM7B is an excellent mic for vocalists seeking a rich and smooth tone for vocal reproduction. After all, if it was good enough for the King of Pop to record vocals for “Thriller,” it’s certainly good enough for you!
Additionally, as previously mentioned, the sound isolation and background noise rejection capabilities of the Shure SM7B come in handy when recording vocals alongside other instruments in a recording studio, helping to prevent mic bleed.
Being a dynamic microphone, the Shure SM7B can handle very high sound pressure levels, making it ideal for recording loud instruments like electric guitar cabs and kick drums. However, since it lacks crispness in its high-ends, the SM7B might not be the most ideal microphone for brighter instruments like the acoustic guitar, violin, or flute.
Also, since it’s a gain-hungry vocal mic that requires professional-grade equipment to achieve optimal sound quality, the Shure SM7B might not be the best fit for streamers. In such cases, a plug-and-play USB microphone could be a more suitable option.
If you still have doubts after reading this Shure SM7B review, whether due to its price, lack of physical controls, or software, we have other excellent alternative recommendations. These range from budget podcast mics, premium instrument and vocal mics to cutting-edge microphones equipped with modern software for streaming.
The Shure SM7B dynamic microphone has undoubtedly cemented its place in the audio history books. Its iconic design, unparalleled audio quality, and versatility make it a favorite among professionals and enthusiasts alike.
While it carries a legacy that spans decades, it’s essential to understand that this microphone isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Its unique characteristics, from its gain requirements to its richwarm frequency response, make it a tool that, when used correctly, can produce audio magic.
For those just embarking on their podcasting or recording journey, the Shure SM7B may present a steeper learning curve, especially when considering the additional equipment needed to unlock its full potential. However, for those willing to invest both time and resources, the rewards are evident in the rich, warm, and natural sound it delivers.
In a world inundated with a plethora of microphone options, the Shure SM7B stands out not just because of its storied history but because of its continued relevance in today’s digital age. Whether you’re a budding podcaster, an established radio host, a vocalist, or even an instrumentalist, the Shure SM7B offers a timeless quality that few microphones can rival.
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid pattern
- Transducer Type: Dynamic (moving coil)
- Power Requirements: None
- Frequency Response: 50 Hz to 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity: -59 dBV/Pa (1.12 mV/Pa) @1kHz
- Output Connection: XLR
- Weight: 850g (1.877 lbs)
- Accessories: Foam windscreen, close-talk windscreen, and locking yoke mount
- Bass roll-off and mid-range boost filter switches with graphic display
- Internal air suspension shock isolation
- Yoke mounting with captive stand nut for easy mounting