A dynamic mic for recording vocals in a studio?
I know we generally think of studio recording as a job for condenser mics, but dynamic ones aren’t as rare in the studio as you might think.
Of course, you don’t want to use just any old microphone.
You want a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM7B.
What makes this mic so good for recording vocals? And is it a better choice than a condenser mic?
In short, the SM7B gives you much punchier vocals. That makes it the perfect mic for anyone who needs that. If you don’t, then a condenser mic would probably better suit your purposes.
Let’s take a closer look at the SM7B from Shure and see just what makes it such a special, and such aa hugely popular, microphone for recording vocals in the studio.
Shure SM7B Mic Review: Overview And Features
At first glance, you might think that you have a condenser microphone on our hands here. It’s pretty large and even heavy and it has a reputation as an excellent studio vocal mic. But, as mentioned, it is not a condenser mic.
This is a dynamic mic with a moving coil that covers all frequencies between 50 Hz and 20 kHz. The response is relatively flat in the mid-range to high mid-range part of the spectrum, somewhere between 1000 and 4000 Hz. As for the lowest part, there’s a noticeable drop between 50 and 100 Hz. We also have just a slight “indent” between 200 and 900 Hz, but that’s barely detectable in most cases.
In the higher parts of the spectrum, the ride gets a little “bumpier.” For instance, the area between 4 and 6.5 kHz is more pronounced, while there’s a drop between 6.5 and 8.5 kHz. After a brief boost around 12 kHz, there is a sharp and significant drop as we go towards the very end of the microphone’s range at 20 kHz.
There are two few switches on the microphone’s backside that provide tone-shaping options. They give you the option to roll of the very low-end or to boost the area between 1000 and 10,000 Hz. This results in the presence boost that makes this microphone so famous.
Combined with the cardioid pickup pattern, this frequency response curve makes for the perfect studio vocal microphone. But that is not its only possible use. We’ll get into some other potential uses below.
Shure SM7B: Key Features
- Dynamic studio microphone
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Frequency range between 50 Hz and 20 kHz
- Bass roll-off and presence boost options
- 11 dB self-noise
Sound Capture Quality
We can safely say that this microphone lives up to its reputation. In fact, this exact model was used by Michael Jackson to record the lead vocals on the legendary “Thriller” album, at the recommended of Quincy Jones.
Even when not adding any bass roll-offs or presence boosts, the microphone still doesn’t have much of that “popping” sound when recording vocals, even at close proximity. You don’t really need a pop filter for the Shure SM7B.
The additional tone tweaks give more functionality for any type of recording and can come in handy for different types of voices or singing styles. The frequency range is pretty wide, but the highest end of the spectrum is weaker.
This is not a bad thing, but you should know that the microphone lacks some brightness, at least compared to condenser-style models. Other than that, it does give that presence boost in the lower parts of the high-end spectrum.
There’s some slight self-noise of around 11 dB SPL. However, this is considered low, even by professional studio standards, so it’s not a cause for concern.
Design And Build Quality
The SM7B is a relatively large microphone, weighing slightly below 1.7 pounds. This is pretty heavy for a microphone, but it has its specific use, namely in the studio. That means you’ll almost certainly have it hanging, or on a stand, anyway. It is intended as a hanging microphone and everything you need to hang it is built in.
It’s also worth noting that SM7B is a moving-coil dynamic microphone, which explains the weaker brightness in the capture tone. Generally, this makes for a good live microphone, but some of the other features do not make it as good for standard live shows as other dynamic mics.
The most common use is for studio vocals. In fact, there are few other microphones out there, dynamic or condenser, that outperform the SM7B for studio vocals.
It is especially great when the particular style of music demands more “punch” and presence in the vocals. Some musicians and producers prefer condenser microphones due to their “flatter” response over the spectrum, but if you want those “in your face” type of lead vocals, the SM7B can’t be beat. This makes it one of the best mics for rap vocals.
Due to its specific frequency response, the SM7B is also a great solution for acoustic instruments, and even electric guitar and electric bass amplifiers. For instance, you can record an acoustic guitar with this mic and a condenser mic to get the full picture, which each mic on its own can’t deliver.
The microphone’s voicing works well for electric guitar amps, because it can capture some great tones even at very close proximity. The pronounced mid-range is just what you need, making it a great alternative to Shure’s SM57.
While it’s not very practical for live vocals, it can be used for miking-up amps on the stage. At the same time, it’s also pretty useful for standard location recording. You’ll also see it used for radio broadcasts, live streams, and podcasts. The specific voicing makes it great for regular speech and narration.
Advantages And Disadvantages
- Great sound quality, especially for lead vocals
- Can be used for acoustic instruments and electric instrument amplifiers
- Additional functionality with bass filter and presence boost
- Lacks brightness
Shure SM7B Vs Rode NT1
While it’s generally a bit strange to compare dynamic and condenser microphones, Shure’s SM7B and Rode’s NT1 have a pretty similar scope of use. Both are cardioid mics that are most often used for solo vocals.
But they have a completely different frequency response. In addition to having a wider spectrum (from 20 Hz to 20 kHz) the Rode NT1 is way better at capturing high-end tones. It’s more useful for situations where you need to capture more brightness.
On the other hand, it is weaker in the low-end, especially with the lack of controls to filter out the sub-bass and bass frequencies. For this reason, using a pop filter is pretty much mandatory with the NT1. Overall, the Rode mic is also much “flatter” across the spectrum than the Shure SM7B.
Which of these two is best comes to your preferences and the overall scope of use. The SM7B is somewhat more versatile, because it also works well for electric guitar and bass amplifiers. Sure, you can also use Rode for this purpose as well, but you might get a less “focused” sound, especially with the lack of mid-range.
Learn more in our Rode NT1 review.
Shure SM7B Vs SM58
Over the last few decades or so, the SM58 has became the industry standard for live vocalists. Of course, it’s not uncommon to see it in studios, but it is best for live use.
It’s definitely more practical and compact than the SM7B and it’s also well-known for its sturdiness and durability, even in settings with an unstable climate. This makes it much better for live use. As a studio mic, it’s mostly used for cheaper or demo recording.
To be honest, the SM7B and the SM58 are completely different microphones. First off, the SM58 covers a more narrow scope of frequencies, going from 50 Hz to 15 kHz. This is exactly what you need for live stages, especially if the vocalist is moving all over the place.
The SM58 also has a significant cut below 100 Hz, similar to the SM7B when the bass cut is switched on. For other uses where the SM7B shines, like radio broadcasts or narration, the SM58 sounds kind of “dull”.
Shure SM7B Vs AKG C214
Interestingly enough, it makes a lot more sense to compare the SM7B to a condenser mic like AKG C214, than the dynamic SM58. So let’s do that.
With the AKG we have a slightly wider spectrum, going from 20 Hz up to 20 kHz. It’s also a cardioid mic, but it has a -20 dB pad and a bass cut-off filter below 160 Hz. The higher-end is significantly more pronounced with the C214, and it has a pretty wider capture area for these parts of the spectrum.
While they have a similar use, the AKG C214 can be a better solution for acoustic instruments and can even serve as a good room mic. Recording guitar amps with it is also possible, although you’d get that “grainier” high-end tone. Meanwhile, the SM7B is still a better solution for live settings (though that is not its strength), as well as podcasts and narration-style recordings.
Shure SM7B Microphone Review: Conclusion And Rating
Although not a condenser mic, the Shure SM7B serves a similar function. It is perfect for studio vocals, just like a condenser, but it is a slightly different mic.
It pronounces the higher mid and the lower part of the high-end register. The result is a strong punch for lead vocals that sets it apart from other studio mics. If this is what you are looking for, this is your microphone.
The most surprising about this microphone might be the relatively low cost, given the very high quality. But then again, dynamic mics are always less expensive than condenser mics.
This is a fully professional mic at an unexpectedly low price. Of course, there is no point in a microphone like this, unless you are also willing to spend the money on a good audio interface and good room acoustics.
The great price to performance ratio really boosts the SM7B’s score, but it does lose a few points for it’s very specific application. Overall, we give it an excellent Musicaroo rating of 4.8 out of 5.