The world of audio and musical equipment can be a tricky one to navigate at the best of times. With so many different products, conflicting opinions and confusing reviews, it’s hard to know what’s actually the best product for your needs. Luckily, the team at Mixdown have put in the legwork for you, sifting through the spec-sheets and putting the products through their paces to bring you Mixdown’s Picks - a new series of expansive, category defining product guides across our digital channels. Anything that has made the cut has rated highly across the board with the Mixdown staff, garnering a unanimous tick of approval from our staunch critics.
For this installment, we're diving deep into the world of studio microphones, exploring the massive range of ribbon, condenser and dynamic options on the market for savvy producers, engineers and project studio enthusiasts.
Category: Dynamic (Large Diaphram) | Pattern: Cardioid
Key Features: Very rarely has there been a more era appropriate microphone than the Shure SM7b is for right now. The darling of the DAW revolution of the 2000s, the reigning podcast king, the official accessory of SoundCloud rappers across the world, the SM7b always finds a way of resurfacing on the cutting edge of whatever is happening, both culturally and technologically. Originally finding favour as an industry standard in the broadcast sector before finding its way on to some of the biggest albums of all time (Michael Jackson’s Thriller for one) the obvious upside of the SM7b has been apparent for years and yet it still somehow manages to find new and interesting ways to impress.
An absolute staple for the modern, intinerate engineer, the SM7b’s ability to ward of nasty room reflections, whilst retaining only the key elements of the sound source, have seen it become the defacto recording mic for the travelling artist, with multiple examples of #1 songs being tracked in hotel rooms with only a SM7b for a vocal mic. Ever the consumante performer, the bulky cardioid SM7b has a knack for drawing out studio quality vocals from acoustic environments that are anything but studio quality. Sure, it’s seen some previous incarnations (the latest B revision only arrived in 2001, so it was in fact a Shure SM7 featured on Thriller) but the core design of the SM7B has been around a long time: long enough to see it garner a cult like following from the army of engineers, who swear by the mic as an indispensable tool in their arsenal.
On paper, it’s a large dynamic mic with a broadband frequency response from 50 Hz to 20kHz. Its cardioid pattern design rejects off-axis audio, while it’s presence boost in the higher frequencies helps to keeps things clear and ledgible even at close proximity. Both its larger housing (which allows greater rear volume) and its enlarged diaphragm are optimised for increased low-end response. A noticeable takeaway with the SM7b is it’s ability to fatten and flatten a sound, giving vocals a compressed, condenser-like quality-partially a throw back to it’s roots as a broadcast mic.
Mixdown Says: With an insane 180dB max SPL, it’s little wonder the SM7b has grown become the most popular microphone in the world for metal and rap vocals, or anything that requires a massive dynamic range with zero chance of distortion at the mic. Additional features like its internal air shock suspension and an inbuilt pop filter only help to eliminate unwanted mechanical noise and breathiness, while advanced shielding inside the chassis helps protect the mic from unwanted hum from neighbouring electronics.
All this sophisticated engineering results in an unrivalled dynamic microphone at its price point. The Shure SM7B is the go-to for anybody looking for a flexible dynamic microphone capable of capturing warm, present vocal recordings in untreated environments.
Overall: With its already formidable reputation within gear circles and its continued dominance in the podcast realm, don’t be surprised to see the SM7b continue to find more and more applications as these mediums evolve.
Check out the entire Shure microphone range here.