In recent years, one dynamic microphone has gained almost legendary status in the music business as well as the world of podcasting. The Shure SM7B is a microphone with magic properties that have seen its reputation soar to iconic levels. For example, Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum Thriller album was recorded using a Shure SM7B. And today its reputation continues with the SM7B making a weekly appearance on Spotify’s wildly popular podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. The Shure SM7B is a microphone with a reputation for a warm and intimate sound that podcasters and vocalists love even though it has a few peculiarities.
The SM7B sure sounds great but it needs a bit of skill and know-how to be able to get the best from it and help it work at its full potential. Sometimes the low gain from the SM7B can need a helping hand by using something called a “Cloudlifter” to boost its relatively low signal. It also needs to be addressed head-on and at fairly close quarters because, unlike a condenser mic, the SM7B’s slight lack of gain means it needs a bit of knowhow to get the best from it. Finally, the SM7B isn’t cheap; you can expect to pay around $399 for one. If you’re setting up a podcast with one or two guests, the cost can soon mount up if you buy one microphone for each participant.
Because podcasting and home recording have become so popular, Shure decided to build on the terrific heritage of the SM7B and produce a microphone that captures the luscious warmth of the SM7B but with the convenience of a USB interface and zero-latency monitoring. The result is the all-new Shure SM7V, a dynamic microphone for the podcasting age that delivers much of the SM7B’s character with a USB interface as well as a traditional XLR connection. An XLR connector enables the SM7V to be connected to an analog sound mixer or recording device should podcasters and musicians want to upgrade to an analog recording studio in the future.
There aren’t very many XLR/USB microphones on the market. Samsung sells one and so does Samson, but the Shure SM7V is the only premium microphone I can find that offers both USB and XLR interfaces so it can be connected directly to a computer, iPad or iPhone as well as an analog mixing desk or pro digital recorder. The SM7V is also part of Apple’s MFi Certified Program enabling the microphone to be used with iOS devices. The SM7V is a home broadcaster’s dream as it can be connected to a SIP codec and be used with Skype, Microsoft Teams, Facetime or almost any audio-capable app.
The Shure SM7V has zero-latency headphone monitoring so a pair of headphones can be plugged into the rear of the microphone, enabling the user to hear their voice as well as the sound feed from the computer. The zero-latency monitoring is also great for overdubbing while listening to playback when recording at home using software packages like Audacity or Garageband. Any software that uses USB Class audio input can be used with the Shure SM7V.
To make it easy to get great sound from the SM7V with the minimum of fuss, Shure developed MOTIV Audiosoftware for iOS, Android, macOS and Windows platforms. It’s a great piece of software that controls the SM7V in Auto and Manual modes. With Auto Mode, the recording levels are dynamically adjusted, and the microphone can be set for either Near and Far modes so the user can speak into the microphone close up or back a little distance when necessary. There are even EQ settings for Warm, Medium and Bright sounds, plus compression for brightening the sound when recording at lower bitrates or for AM broadcasting.
The Shure MOTIV Audio software also features a Manual mode that can be used to adjust the microphone’s gain and the balance between the microphone’s output and source audio coming from a computer. All the settings can be stored as presets that can be recalled at the click of a mouse. The current audio settings are stored in the microphone thanks to an advanced DSP chip. This means that even if the SM7V is being used without the Shure MOTIV Audio software, it can still recall the settings for gain, volume, compression, limiter and all the other settings that can be set in Auto or Manual modes. Settings can also be locked into the microphone and is a great feature for broadcasters who might want to supply a remote program contributor with a microphone pre-adjusted for the audio profile the sound engineers prefer to use.
The microphone gain settings and headphone monitoring volume can also be set manually on the microphone by using touch-sensitive buttons on the body of the SM7V. The levels are indicated by a series of colored LEDs, showing green for gain and orange for the volume level. There’s also a Mute button for the occasional coughing fit or simply when the mic needs to be turned off to speak to a colleague or guest.
As well as having a Micro USB port for connecting the SM7V to a computer, there’s also a traditional XLR connector and both outputs can be used at the same time. And why would anyone want to do that? Well, you could be doing a two-way podcast with a remote guest over Skype or Zoom. In this setup, the Shure SM7V could be connected to a digital recorder (such as Tascam’s excellent MK100 Mk3) using the XLR output so that a high-quality local recording can be made, bypassing the USB connection that’s being compressed by the Zoom or Skype codec. If the remote interviewee does the same at their end and sends out the audio file, the two separate audio streams can be knitted together to produce a podcast that sounds as if it was recorded professionally in a studio.
Another great feature of the Shure SM7V is how it’s so good at stopping plosives. These are the annoying popping sounds that can sometimes be heard if someone is talking too close to a microphone. The SM7V also comes fitted with a large foam windshield and it works like a charm. It’s very difficult to get the SM7V to misbehave. And because it’s not hypersensitive, the SM7V sounds superb even when it’s used in an untreated space. Normally, broadcasting and recording studios are acoustically treated to deaden the sound reflections and echoes, but the SM7V can make almost any space sound like it’s being used in a studio.
If you’ve ever recorded audio with a condenser microphone, you’ll already know that these types of microphones are super sensitive, and they can easily pick up unwanted sounds like the distant roar of traffic, the background hum of a fridge or knocking on the microphone’s stand. With the SM7V, unwanted sounds aren’t picked up so easily thanks to excellent isolation. This isolation and a unidirectional pickup pattern makes the SM7V sound as if it’s being used in a recording in a studio.
The last clever little trick the SM7V has up its sleeve is that two of them can be used on one computer when running the MOTIV Audio software. I’ve never been able to find a way of using two USB microphones on a computer at the same time. This great function is ideal if you occasionally record a podcast with a guest and don’t want to splash out on an audio mixer and headphone amplifier. It’s also a brilliant feature if you want to record a voice and an instrument using two microphones.
Verdict: The new Shure SM7V dynamic microphone is a stunning performer. There are plenty of good USB microphones on the market but the SM7V is in a different league. In addition to having a USB connector, the SM7V makes it possible to upgrade to a professional setup using an analog mixer with XLR inputs. The MOTIV Audio software is also a great way of controlling the sound from the microphone in a way that very few other USB microphones can. The software’s Auto mode makes recording professional-quality audio easy. There’s also that classic warm sound that’s similar to the iconic SM7B. The SM7V isn’t intended to be a replacement for the SM7B which is still one of Shure’s premium models. However, the SM7B does need careful handling to the best results from it. The beauty of the SM7V is it can produce superb sound without needing any special technical know-how. Finally, the zero-latency monitoring is the ideal tool for anyone recording at home or doing a two-way remote interview for a podcast or when contributing remotely to a live radio show using a SIP codec or a platform like ipDTL. The Shure SM7V is probably the most advanced podcasting USB microphone that I’ve reviewed. It’s certainly a microphone to shout about.
Pricing and availability: $249 / £255 / €285
More info: www.shure.com
- Type: Dynamic (moving coil).
- Polar Pattern: Unidirectional (cardioid).
- A/D Converter: 16 or 24-bit, 44.1 or 48kHz.
- Frequency Response: 50Hz to 16,000Hz.
- Adjustable Gain Range: 0 to +36 dB.
- XLR Sensitivity: -55 dBV/Pa (1.78mV) at 1kHz.
- USB Sensitivity: -47 dBFS/Pa at 1kHz at Minimum Gain, Flat Mode 1 Pa = 94 dB SPL.
- USB Maximum SPL: 132 dB SPL.
- DSP Modes (Presets): Near/Far, Dark/Natural/Bright.
- Headphone output: 3.5 mm (1/8″).
- Power Requirements: Powered through USB or Lightning connector.
- Apple MFi Certified: Yes.
- Software Compatibility: ShurePlus MOTIV Audio, Video, and desktop apps.
- XLR Impedance: 314Ω at 1kHz.
- Connector Type: Micro-B USB and XLR.
- Mounting Type: 5/8″-27 thread mount.
- Housing: All-metal construction.
- Net Weight: 0.55 kg (1.21 lbs).
- Dimensions: 53.6 x 66.5mm.
- Dimensions in yoke: 164 x 153.6 x 90.2mm (H × L x D).
- Cable: 1 x 3m Micro-B to USB-A cable 1 x 3m Micro-B to USB-C cable.
- Finishes: Silver or Black.