August's Mic of the Month: Shure SM7B
What do Michael Jackson, Sheryl Crow, John Paul White and Sammy Hagar have in common? They've all recorded vocals on Shure's legendary SM7B microphone. I'm not saying that a microphone should be defined by its pedigree, but being featured on Michael Jackson's Thriller definitely doesn't hurt it's credibility, am I right?
The Shure SM7B has essentially permeated throughout the recording industry since its inception, and with good reason: this microphone is one of those rare 'do it all' vocal microphones. Not only does it shine on vocal styles from light and airy folk, to pop divas and heavy metal, it's also widely used in the voiceover and broadcasting industry. While the SM7B was designed primarily as a vocal mic, it's also a spectacular choice on instruments, as well. It's a great choice on the business end of a high SPL brass instrument, Leslie cabs, bass cabs, hi hats, or for beefing up the tone on a guitar cab or snare drum.
So why would producers and engineers choose such a relatively affordable microphone when they could have chosen something with a price tag easily three times as high? In my experience, the SM7B is forgiving, and that goes a long way. Some condenser microphones can take on a brittle character when faced with a high SPL or particularly sibilant source.
While the SM7B is a comparatively low-gain microphone, we have recently been gifted with solutions like The Simply Sound Company's SS-1, which takes a 48v phantom power source and converts it into an additional 20dB of clean gain. This enables home recordists with sub-par preamps to take advantage of the SM7B's rich, warm sound without introducing noise into an otherwise ultra-low-noise circuit design, which means this microphone is a necessity now more than ever.
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