Reviewed in the United States on August 12, 2019
I'm a musician/singer/songwriter and produce/engineer my own music with 3 album releases, yet being independent I have no claim to commercial funding so every piece of equipment I buy is a precious investment. I bought my SM7B after much research and have done numerous audio tests in my studio, with some preliminary recordings for a planned new album. (I put in this boring self-description so you can judge where I'm coming from in writing this review).
I believe many/most people buy this microphone without fully understanding what they are buying. The Shure name and the hype about Michael Jackson recording with it tends to cloud the judging process, so for many it's a quick decision to buy. But a more detailed analysis reveals more characteristics and with better understanding you can put aside the hype and probably appreciate theSM7B for what it truly is : a fantastic Dynamic microphone with a SM58-like character that works for robust studio-recordings IF you have a high-quality high-gain preamp to use with it.
Being a dynamic microphone, it does not have it's own preamp and is thus not as sensitive as a condenser mic. It's therefore not very useful for recording delicate singing voices, it's just not sensitive enough. But it will handle loud,screaming vocals easily, the capsule is robust enough to take in all that high energy. This is just the physics/science of microphones: dynamic mics handle loud sounds better, condensers handle delicate things better.
But the SM7B is not like the Shure SM58 dynamic mic, it's capsule elements are thinner and much more sensitive, so it's sensitivity does lean towards the condensers, but being a dynamic mic this sensitivity comes at the expense of it only being able to produce a weak signal, so it needs a preamp with plenty of clean gain before the signal can be used.....if you really think hard about it, it is thus trying to be like a condenser mic, but whereas a condenser mic has a built-in preamp, this SM7B needs an external preamp! In-between, that's where it is.
But the story gets more interesting. The SM7B has "character"... the audio pattern mimics the legendary SM58's presence-boosting curve, so the SM7B can give your recorded voice the classic Shure SM58 "live" character if you know how to use it right (though again you need to keep in mind that it's never going to be as delicate as a condenser mic, still if you know what you're doing you might find it a worthy trade-off to get great character with the loss of some delicate-ness. Post-recording engineering, a bit of compression and you're back in the game.)
Misconception: There is a presence-boosting switch. Nope. What the switch does is take away the presence to give you a flat-response curve, i.e. in its natural state the presence is already boosted, the switch is misleading, the flat-response is the altered state.
Misconception: The pop-filters (windscreens) provided give you a natural sound. No they don't. They filter off the high-frequencies, giving you a flatter sound. This is perfect for podcasting, and you can speak with your mouth close to the mic without having pops (use the thinner or thicker filter, depending on how robust your POP-ing is getting), but for singing you want to take off the windscreens, leave the metal grill exposed, and use a proper external POP filter.
For recording of a singer, the magic comes with a proper external POP filter, no need for a super-expensive one, but one with at least a double-grille and larger (6inch minimum) diameter. Shure sells such a POP filter, good enough for the task. Once you're using a proper external pop filter, you can place it really close to the metal grille front, have your SM7B switches without bass-cut and with the presence-boost on (as I said it earlier this is actually a no-presence-cut position rather than a real boost)...and you can record your singing in all it's glory, your voice gets recorded as if you were winging with a Shure SM58 on steroids, i.e the "character" of the mic is there. There is no need to switch off this presence, you can always do so in the mixing stage. You thus end up recording with a high degree of sensitivity yet having a very low noise floor (the advantage of a dynamic mic).
The is not much proximity effect with this mic, the metal grille extends far beyond the capsule element so your mouth cannot get really too close to the capsule. (Hats off to the Shure engineers for this bit of idiot-proofing). Imagine a super-sensitive SM58 with a Blues singer planting his lips of the grille and you're recording his voice in a studio, and you're in 'POP hell...now you appreciate the engineering :)
Apologies for the lengthy review, but I do believe I've given an honest description of the important details. PODcast users may find this mic overkill but hey if you have the cash then flout it, though you could get the same audio with a cheap condenser with a big windshield and some EQ work. Recording vocalists with a more dynamic vocal range is where the SM7B will probably shine, and especially with louder vocalists, or for recording alongside other instruments being played simultaneously, where the bleed from other sounds is significantly reduced with such a cardiod-pattern dynamic mic.
I'm very happy with this mic, have done tons of audio tests with it. I'll use it for my more rocking vocals, leaving the delicate ballads to a condenser mic. Hope this review helps you decide what's best for you, make the best use of your hard-earned $. Cheers.