SM7B or SM7dB: Which Microphone is Right for You?
The SM7B is an audio icon cherished by musicians, podcasters and streamers. Now, the new SM7dB offers the same legendary sound, but has a custom preamp designed by Shure inside. Which of these dynamic microphones is right for you?
Fifty years after its initial introduction, the SM7 is still going strong. And now this family of extraordinary mics is growing! The SM7dB takes everything you love about the SM7B and gives it more onboard gain to boost the audio signal. Both sound as amazing as always.
So which one should you choose? That naturally depends on your specific situation. But don’t fret, we’re going to break it all down here to help your selection between these two great mics.
SM7B vs SM7dB:
- SM7B is an audio icon known for its legendary broadcast sound
- SM7B requires around +60dB of clean gain
- SM7dB has a Shure-designed onboard preamp
- SM7dB is more affordable than buying an SM7B plus an extra preamp
Beloved by recording engineers since the 1970s, the SM7 went on to become the industry standard for podcasting in the 2010s as its latest SM7B iteration. The audio professionals who predominately used this dynamic microphone understood it was designed to focus on a specific sound source – such as your voice – while blocking out everything else trying to bleed into your track.
Then came the streamers and content creators, a group of mostly digital natives that didn’t always immediately realize the SM7B requires either an interface with considerable juice, or some sort of in-line preamp with plenty of clean gain to increase the mic’s signal.
Enter the SM7dB: A novel take on the original SM7 with an onboard preamp providing all the boost necessary to use this fantastic sounding mic with any XLR input. No extra preamp or expensive interface required!
With its warm broadcast sound, the SM7dB clearly uses the exact same internals as the SM7B. But it’s slightly longer to accommodate the built-in preamp. Rest assured, Shure engineers have painstakingly safeguarded that it has the same sound signature as the original.
The Interface Question
So why would someone stick with the SM7B over the new hotness of the SM7dB? Well, there are lots of good reasons why you might prefer it, first and foremost the fact lots of people out there already have very high-quality audio interfaces. Especially if you’re making music, you’re likely recording several tracks at a time. And there’s one mic that’s going to sound great on vocals or even a guitar cab: Stick with the original SM7B here.
On the other hand, there are lots of streamers and gamers out there who want the SM7 sound but don’t need an expensive audio setup providing oodles of extra gain for a single mic. Or perhaps, you’ve got a perfectly good XLR interface hooked up to your computer already, but it doesn’t quite have the necessary oomph to power the SM7B you’ve long had your eye on. In both cases, the SM7dB is your choice.
Remember: Both of these are XLR microphones. If you want to connect it directly to your computer, you’ll need an interface with XLR inputs or some sort of XLR-to-USB adapter like the MVX2U.
The Preamp Issue
There’s a reason the SM7B remains so popular 50 years after its introduction: It was designed to get the most out of the human voice. Some people are at first confused by the dynamic mic’s low output – until they realize that it was made that way on purpose. That’s what gives the SM7B its distinctive ‘broadcast’ sound. You’re going to need around 60db of extra gain to get proper results with this iconic mic.
As the SM7’s popularity started to take the mic out of professional recording studios, a virtual cottage industry of preamp manufacturers started to spring up around it. You might already be familiar with the Cloudlifter, or FetHead, or that thing that looks like a stick of dynamite. Shure has designed its own custom preamp for the SM7dB, so the output is already boosted for you.
Another reason why you might prefer the SM7dB to the original is for traveling. If you’re a podcaster or content creator on the go, eliminating one more item (i.e. a clunky preamp) from your mobile recording setup is a huge win. Maybe your trusty SM7B will finally get to stay permanently integrated into your studio back at home.
The Price Point
If you’ve already invested a lot in your audio setup, the original SM7B is clearly going to the more economical choice. This is particularly true if you will be recording several people at the same time, such as for a podcast format with multiple guests – and multiple mics. Here again, the SM7B is the one for you.
However, if you’re just starting out, the SM7dB could be a more affordable option for you than buying an SM7B and an external preamp. Just need a single microphone for your stream? Go with the SM7dB.
Ultimately, these two great SM7 models will complement rather than compete with each other. In fact, there are undoubtedly some people out there who will own both!