September 20

A Producer’s Review of the Shure SM7B Microphone

The Shure SM7B microphone seems like it’s everywhere these days. It’s certainly all over the internet, sitting in front of streamers’ and vloggers’ mouths as they talk to audiences or narrate their gaming sessions. And it’s growing in popularity for other vocal uses, as well, including vocal recording in home studios.

So what’s with all the hype? Is the Shure SM7B mic really the best choice for your upcoming project (be it a vocal album or a podcast)? If you’re thinking about picking up a Shure SM7B, check out my producer’s review of the microphone first.

In this Shure SM7B review, I’ll give you my honest and unbiased opinions on the microphone, plus share some scenarios where the microphone might and might not make the best sense.

What Is the Shure SM7B Microphone?

Shure SM7B Microphone

The Shure SM7B is a dynamic microphone designed with one thing in mind: the human voice. It’s the latest incarnation of one of Shure’s earliest massive successes, the SM7.

Shure’s early Unidyne III cartridge was first created in 1959 and prioritized the frequencies of the human voice, making it a desirable choice for vocal work in many forms. That cartridge was used in the original SM5 and then later in the SM7, and it forms the basis of the modern SM7B as well.

Shure calls the SM7B the “First choice for voice,” and a great many vocal performers (in music, broadcasting, and spoken word) would tend to agree. In the last decade, the SM7B has enjoyed a tremendous resurgence as a favorite microphone for podcasters and streamers.

The Shure SM7B mic is a dynamic microphone rather than a condenser microphone, something I’ll explore in greater detail later on. But for now, just note that there’s a significant difference in how these two types of microphones respond. Some vocalists definitely prefer one over the other, while others have the opposite opinion. And, of course, the type of recording you’re doing will make a difference, too.

The microphone sells for $399, which is a price point that remains approachable for professionals and hobbyists alike. It might be a bit pricey for beginners, but the price to performance ratio is definitely there, making the Shure SM7B a frequent choice for vocal recording (both musical and nonmusical).

Check current prices on Amazon for the Shure SM7B Microphone

Shure SM7B Specs

Specs for dynamic microphones are a little bit sparse because it’s all about the quality of the capsule, and that’s not something that’s easy to measure or spec out. You simply judge by the results, which are (in this case) quite excellent.

This is a pretty hefty microphone, weighing in at 1.5 pounds. It’s designed to be stand- or arm-mounted, not used as a handheld microphone. The housing is thick and durable; many pros will tell you that this microphone can take a serious beating and keep on ticking.

The pickup pattern is cardioid, which makes sense as a vocal microphone since you want to exclude sounds not emanating from in front of the microphone. Like other cardioid microphones, you’ll get pretty decent off-axis rejection — even more so since it’s a dynamic mic.

Unlike some microphones on the market, this one offers only one pickup pattern, so it’s not a great choice if you want to use one microphone in lots of different scenarios. Again, this is a vocally-focused microphone and it doesn’t apologize for it.

Along the same lines, the microphone requires a decent amount of gain to work smoothly, and it’s less sensitive than many (including pretty much all condenser microphones). That’s fine—even desirable—in many scenarios for vocal recording, where you don’t want to capture any background noise. But you’ll definitely need the right preamp to use this microphone to its maximum potential. If you're on the hunt for a great preamp for your Shure SM7B mic, check out Best Preamps for Shure SM7B in 2024.

Around the internal cartridge, Shure has built an internal air suspension shock that reduces both mechanical noise and electrical interference, and the microphone ships with a sizable pop filter preinstalled. There’s also a detachable windscreen available if the pop filter alone isn’t enough.

The Shure SM7B focuses on great vocal reproduction, and it gives users three options before their content ever hits their mixer or DAW. The “flat” response features the classic vocally present signature frequency response (which, of course, isn’t truly flat).

There’s also a bass roll off switch that gradually lowers bass response starting around 150 Hz, plus a presence boost mode that combines bass roll off with a mid to mid-high boost.

Who Has Used the Shure SM7B Dynamic Microphone?

The Shure SM7B (and its predecessors, the SM7 and SM7A) have a long history, and many well-known artists have employed the microphone for vocals across the decades. Some notable artists who used this family of microphones include these:

  • Mick Jagger
  • Michael Jackson (Thriller)
  • Producer Bruce Swedien
  • Quincey Jones
  • Velvet Negroni
  • Conan O’Brien
  • Joe Rogan

For many years, the microphone was well-respected among pros but not wildly popular outside of commercial studios. That all changed in 2008 with the podcasting revolution.

The Microphone of Choice for At-Home Broadcasters, Podcasters, and Streamers

Starting in 2008, the SM7B took on an entirely new life and just exploded in popularity for more democratized methods of vocal recording work. Nearly overnight, a new generation of content creators started making podcasts, often from makeshift home studios. Only a few years later came the streaming revolution, with creators streaming live content on Twitch and YouTube, among other platforms.

Everyone in these spaces needed a good microphone if they wanted to sound good on stream or on the pod. There were many good choices, but the SM7B took hold and gained a significant share of this market.

Why? In part because it’s just a great vocal microphone, but there’s more to the story than that.

Most of these new creators didn’t have the luxury of a perfect studio space in which to record or stream. Often, they did their work from a spare bedroom or even their own normal bedroom. Soundproofing, acoustic treatments, and the like just weren’t a part of the picture.

And that’s what makes the SM7B so perfect. It’s not all that sensitive, so a lot of that background noise just doesn’t pick up. By the nature of how the microphone was created decades earlier, it ended up being great at capturing sound from DIY creators recording in settings that were far from ideal.

When Does a Dynamic Microphone Make Sense Instead of a Large-Diaphragm Condenser?

You’ll find a lot of content online about how condenser microphones are the best for recording. These kinds of statements aren’t exactly wrong, but they’re incomplete (if they aren’t more nuanced than I’m making them out to be).

If you want the absolute best in terms of capturing every detail on a beautiful soundstage with crystal-clear, lifelike reproduction, then yes: you want a quality large-diaphragm condenser.

If you want a highly versatile mic with multiple pickup patterns that can capture the fine details of soft (or widely ranging) instruments like acoustic guitar, again, yes: a condenser is the way to go.

But by the very nature of being so sensitive, condensers have some limitations and flaws, too. Blasting away at a sensitive condenser with your guitar amp cranked to infinity isn’t typically the best plan.

And as I alluded to when talking about podcasting and streaming, sensitive microphones pick up every nuance — which isn’t always what you want when those nuances are passing cars, dogs barking in the next room, and so forth.

There are numerous situations where a quality dynamic microphone will actually outperform a condenser, even if it’s true that by the measure of sheer beauty and perfect sound reproduction, condensers have the edge.

Now, let’s get specific. When should you choose a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM7B over a good condenser microphone, like the Aston Spirit or the Shure KSM32? Here are some suggestions.

  • Steady speaking content, like podcasting, broadcasting or streaming
  • Vocal situations where you don’t have an ideal environment (background noise, poor acoustics)
  • Instrumental applications with high levels of sound pressure (amps, drums)
  • Sung vocals for stronger or louder voices

That said, I can’t tell you for certain exactly what’s best for your recording needs. Only you can decide that. Ultimately, there’s plenty of subjectivity to the decision of which microphone to use. If you can, borrow or rent a few different types to see what works best for your particular use case.

So, Should You buy the Shure SM7B?

We’ve finally arrived at the most important question in this entire review: should you buy the Shure SM7B mic?

It depends on what you’re looking for. Here’s when you should not choose the SM7B:

  • If you’re looking for one single microphone that can do absolutely everything, then no. This isn’t it.
  • If you’re looking for the absolute best vocal reproduction money can buy, a microphone that captures every nuance and every detail: again, nope. This isn’t it.
  • If you’re looking for a cheap, entry-level mic to start exploring podcasting or streaming and you don’t have a decent audio interface already set up: nope again. (Remember, this microphone needs a decent preamp.) You’re likely better off with a Blue USB mic . . . though you’ll soon want to upgrade it once you get the right gear in place.

On the other hand, there are plenty of scenarios where you should pick up an SM78:

  • if you’re looking for a sturdy, reliable vocal mic that can take a beating and keep on running, the SM7B fits the bill.
  • If you need good-quality vocal recording that ignores some background noise and acoustic unpleasantness, then go for it.
  • If you’re podcasting or streaming and you have a proper audio interface, the SM7B is a stellar upgrade from any entry-level mic.
  • If vocal recording is all you plan to do, you’ll do just fine with the SM7B.
  • If you’re adding the SM7B to an existing lineup of microphones, you already know what you’re doing and don’t need my endorsement!

While it won’t be right for everyone, the Shure SM7B mic is a fantastic choice for voice recording, including podcasting, broadcasting, streaming and more. It’s durable, reliable and effective, and there’s a reason so many people doing similar things have already chosen it.

If it fits the bill for what you’re doing, go ahead and pick one up. I doubt you’ll regret your choice.

If the SM7B isn't quite right for you, definitely check out some of the best Shure SM7B alternatives to find a mic that better fits your needs.

Shure SM7B Dynamic Vocal Microphone
View Price at Amazon View Price at Guitar Center
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