Why I Hate The Shure SM7b!!!
If you know me, from any of my comments on forums and groups, you know that I’m no fan of the Shure SM7b. In fact, this is a mic that I have grown to loathe. Hate even.
Now I should say, that I do hesitate to knock any company’s product. Especially one that is fairly priced for people who can’t afford the mics that I typically use. But I also think I wouldn’t be doing my job, in the audio community, if I didn’t share my opinion of this mic.
Because if you too have noticed the issues that I have noticed, I want to reassure you that you’re not crazy. That I also have those same issues with this mic.
So I’ll start off by talking about my initial experience with the Shure SM7b. I worked in many major studios for years with many famous and established producers and at no point, did I even encounter this mic. Not sure why, but it never showed up on my radar.
Years later, my production partner was signed to a major label and was recording his record. The producer that recorded that record (the late Jerry Finn) used that mic on his vocal. So at some point, I was recording him myself and was struggling with the right vocal sound and he told me to get and try that mic. So we did. Ugh.
I hated it right from the beginning. It had no power (needed to boost my preamp a lot) and it still sounded pretty anemic compared to my other brighter condenser mics. And I didn’t really like the EQ curve at all. So we moved on and sent it back.
Years later, I was recording a metal record (not really my thing) and was also struggling with getting the right sound. I usually prefer a U47 FET for this but they were no longer being made and we couldn’t find one to rent.
So someone suggested the Shure SM7b. I remember not being a fan but I figured because this was a unique situation (a singer that screams) I would give it another chance. Ugh. Same impression. Still very different than what I needed. So, once again, I sent this mic back.
The next few years I spent very little time thinking about this mic. I was mostly producing and mixing my productions. But then I started mixing a lot more records that I didn’t produce and starting noticing a troubling trend. Not only was this mic being used quite often, but whenever I was having trouble getting the vocal to sit correctly in the mix, I would ask the producer what mic they used on the vocal. And it was always the Shure SM7b. Without fail.
So what is the issue I had? Let me start off by saying that I like a very up-front, present and bright vocal sound. Like it’s right in your face and is as top end EQ heavy as possible. To get this sound with this mic is very hard. If you boost the top end too much, it becomes brittle and harsh very quickly. But…if you pull it back so it’s not harsh or shrill, it quickly becomes too dark or muffled. Unlike almost every other mic I’ve ever used (even the cheaper SM57) there is no perfect balance. So while mixing the song I’m working on, I’m constantly making the vocal brighter, noticing it being too harsh and then backing down that EQ and getting a muffled tone. Rinse and repeat.
If this isn’t bad enough, it’s the same issue on the low end. One of the best ways of removing “mud” from a vocal is to reduce the lower midrange frequencies. Somewhere between 250Hz to 450Hz. And again, if you pull too much out with this mic, it quickly becomes too thin. So then I put it back in, and it just as quickly it sounds too muddy or woofy again.
I never find a perfect balance and I’m tweaking this and the top end pretty much throughout the mix. Something I don’t have issues with when I record my own vocalists with my mics or any other mics used in the production process.
Unfortunately, it’s always this mic.
But, I do want to be fair here. The vocal sound that I go for, may not be the vocal sound that you’re going for. We all have different targets. But if you like the same type of up-front, in your face bright vocal like I do. Don’t be surprised if the Shure SM7b doesn’t do it for you. Because it definitely isn’t doing it for me. Good luck.
You can learn more by watching my videos at www.groove3.com
I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia