Engineers and recording studios have certain favorite pieces of gear that are referred to as “secret weapons.” What’s a “secret weapon,” you ask? It’s an inexpensive, but super high-quality piece of gear that people generally either don’t know about or disregard because of its low price tag. Without a doubt the greatest of the recording industry’s secret weapons is the Shure SM7B. It is a staple in the mic closet of every great studio in the world.
For starters, at Clinton Recording Studios we used our SM7B to record vocals for Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and Dr. John, and I recently saw a video of Scott Weiland using an SM7B to record vocals on “Big Bang Baby.” I also noticed that SM7B’s are used as vocal mics in the “Live From Abbey Road” series. Obviously, the SM7B is detailed and smooth enough to be used as a top quality vocal mic. But what I find interesting about the SM7B is that it’s a dynamic mic (as opposed to the other two main types of microphones – condenser and ribbon), and dynamic mics are not the usual choice for vocals. For the most part, engineers choose condensers on vocals to get maximum clarity and accuracy. However, many engineers choose the SM7B as a vocal mic over highly regarded condenser mics in their arsenal. The fact that it can rival top condensers on vocals speaks volumes about its quality.
But being a dynamic mic offers other important benefits that make it an excellent all-around mic. For one, dynamic mics are able to handle very high sound pressure levels, which is why they are used as close mics on drums or on loud speaker cabinets. For this reason, the SM7B is also a known choice for amps and drums, especially for the all-important kick and snare.
Another feature of the SM7B is its superb off-axis rejection – in other words, it has a very focused, directional pickup. This comes in handy if you’re recording in a space without a lot of isolation (hence, the use of SM7B’s for vocals in the “Live From Abbey Road” show), or if you’re trying to close mic a single drum in a set.
The SM7B is an amazing all-around mic that offers all of the benefits of a dynamic mic with all of the quality of a condenser. And its low price of $349 puts it firmly in the “secret weapon” category. For more information visit www.shure.com.
by Michael Vecchio