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Shure Sm7B microphone: is it possible to get close to its quality by using good post production ?

ManicMiner

in the Skylab landing bay
I've been looking at the Shure SM7B, seems to be the industry standard for vocal narration.

Its an OK price, but the fact that you have to buy a Clouflifter for an extra $160 dampens my enthusiasm a bit.
And still I see online that some people are still complaining that it can be a little noisey. Fair enough, you can get rid of this noise with RX or something else.

I just wondered if there is any way of buying a less expensive mic and using some good post production techniques to achieve something close ? (I am speaking in terms of spoken word narration, and singing vocals.)
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
I've been looking at the Shure SM7B, seems to be the industry standard for vocal narration.

Its an OK price, but the fact that you have to buy a Clouflifter for an extra $160 dampens my enthusiasm a bit.
And still I see online that some people are still complaining that it can be a little noisey. Fair enough, you can get rid of this noise with RX or something else.

I just wondered if there is any way of buying a less expensive mic and using some good post production techniques to achieve something close ? (I am speaking in terms of spoken word narration, and singing vocals.)
It’s not the industry standard for vocal narration- that would be the Neumann U87. But considering those are $2k and up USED ($3200 new), it makes the Shure look like a steal.
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/U87Ai--neumann-u-87-ai-large-diaphragm-condenser-microphone-nickel
Even the shock mount for it (essential yet not included) is another $400.

And no, you can’t get close with a cheaper mic. If you are really looking for something cheaper that will work for vocals then go for a Shure SM 58 ($90) or an 87A ($240). It’s at least a decent capsule that can be sculpted, but the mics won’t sound similar. If you really love the sound of the SM7B then just save your pennies. It’s only a few hundred. Not that much more than an 87A.

But once you get one you’ll be looking at larger condenser mics and salivating, the clarity, weight, and smoothness just can be matched by a dynamic mic. Then when you buy one you’ll look back and say “why did I think the SM7B was so expensive?” ;)
 
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chrisr

Active Member
With respect, I would suggest that whilst the SM7B is clearly enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the vlogging world (because who doesn't want to look like Chris in the Morning?) ... but that large diaphragm condensers are still the "standard" for most voice recording duties. Also, depending upon your mic-pre I would think that you can very probably get away without the cloudlifter. I don't use the mic but I have used some pretty quiet mics and with good 24bit converters you can easily record low signal, low noise audio and boost digitally. (I have a feeling I'm going to be slated for saying that but I've found it to be true)

For what it's worth, I've always thought that the Rode K2 was an absolute steal for a super versatile, fairly low noise, great sounding mic, for about the same $$ as you would spend on a sm7b and cloudlifter.
 

wst3

my office these days
once upon a time there was the SM7, and it is a wonderful microphone. It was up there with the EV RE-20 as a much used broadcast and voice-over microphone!

But at that time people expected/wanted to hear that sort of sound when they watched or listened to the news. It was the "norm", just as ribbon microphones were the norm a decade before that.

Some clever engineer or producer got the wild idea to put the SM-7 in front of some famous singer and all of the sudden it was popular in recording circles as well. I think it was always considered a great workhorse microphone, but I remember it leaping in popularity, just don't remember the details. (Sorry)

After a bit some enterprising voice-over artist (with the talent to back it up) switched to a large capsule condenser (probably a U-47 or U-87) just to differentiate himself. It worked. And fashion changed once again.

Each microphone era had a specific sound, and if you are trying to capture or emulate "that" sound you'll likely need "that" microphone, or something very similar.

I am a little surprised that you need the Cloud-Lifter for an SM-7, I've used the SM-7 (not the B model, so maybe that is a difference?) with a variety of preamplifiers and never had a noise problem.

I'm not sure there is a good but less expensive option I'm afraid.

There is a more expensive, but more flexible alternative, and I mention it only in passing - the Townsend Labs Sphere L22 is an extremely neutral, accurate, quiet, dual large diaphram condenser microphone. By itself it sounds fantastic, and it would probably be very interesting as a narration or voice-over microphone.

The software, on the other hand, sets it a step or two above. The emulation of the Coles 4038 is frighteningly close, the SM-7 and RCA DX-77 are also really good. Maybe not quite as convincing as the Coles, but pretty close. The emulation of the U-67 is another favorite. I have very little experience with the U-47, Sony 800, or some of the other more esoteric (expensive) microphones, but I like the emulations. And the four (count them 4) versions of the C-414 are a real eye opener.

So, last I looked it was selling for $1400, so it isn't an impulse buy (at least not for me!) But I have not had a moments regret since I bought one. I'm saving pennies to buy a second one!
 

Quasar

Senior Member
FWIW, the Fethead generally compares well with the Cloudlifter and it's somewhat less expensive. (I have the Fethead, but no Cloudlifter with which to compare.) Here's a video where Booth Junkie looks at both:

 

Sean

I don't know what I'm talking about
The SM7B is a great mic for untreated rooms I've found. I've tried similarly priced condensers (nothing over $1k) and I've liked the SM7B a lot more. If you really want to record vocals and can't afford the SM7B then get an SM58, but don't expect anywhere near the same quality in sound.
 
OP
ManicMiner

ManicMiner

in the Skylab landing bay
thanks, good input so far.
I wonder how much the SM7B comes down on Black Friday? I did a couple of Googles searches but it looks like it doesnt come down much.
 

Joe_D

Active Member
I would suggest going over to the Voiceover Bulletin Board gear section, and seeing which other mics VO artists use:

http://www.vo-bb.com/phpBB2/viewforum.php?f=3

You can also listen to a bunch of mics (from very cheap to expensive) used for VO here:

http://vomictest.blogspot.com/

Believe it or not, I set up a VO system for an aspiring artist with a cheap AT875R shorter shotgun mic (the shotgun pattern largely rejects room sound; one ideal for VO is "a voice going right into your ear/brain") because it was recommended by some VO artists. I never followed up to see how well it worked out in the long run, though.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
I've been looking at the Shure SM7B, seems to be the industry standard for vocal narration.

Its an OK price, but the fact that you have to buy a Clouflifter for an extra $160 dampens my enthusiasm a bit.
I wouldn't spend the money on a Cloudlifter, and it's not true that you need it to use this or any other dynamic mic. Will explain.

First, dynamic mics have a lower output than condenser mics because they're passive - there's no active (meaning powered) amp stage built in as there is on condenser mics. To be somewhat more precise, the noise you're talking about is because you have to turn up the mic preamp, i.e. it makes no logical sense to talk about passive electronics as being noisy! :)

Now, I've never used an SM7B, but I've used many other dynamic mics, and noise absolutely shouldn't be an issue if you get close to it. How many vocalists have you heard on records recorded through a Shure SM70, for example, all way before Cloudlifter was born?

However, the SM7B does have some proximity effect (meaning a bass emphasis in lower freqs when you get close to it), which can be good or bad depending on your voice. I think the SM7B's popularity is because it's so forgiving and durable.

If noise does become a problem - with that or any other dynamic mic, or for that matter a ribbon mic - ideally I'd suggest putting your $160 toward a good mic preamp that doesn't get noisy at high gain. Great mic preamps also improve the sound... but you have to spend 5X as much for a good one. However, even a $100 Mackie mixer will solve the problem.

While people use all kinds of mics to record VO, I agree with you 100% that the SM7B has become a standard. You see it on every YouTube video of a podcast (Joe Rogan, for example), VSL video sometimes... it's everywhere.
 
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Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
By the way, condenser mics are generally more detailed and (if you get close) intimate. They also tend to have more dynamic range, because the heavier mass of the moving coil on a dynamic mic provides some acoustic compression. That's what makes them more forgiving.

Also by the way, the Sennheiser MKH70 - a shotgun mic - is another traditionally popular VO mic. It's very expensive and I'm not recommending it in the context of this thread, but shotgun mics are a good choice if you're shooting video as well as audio, or just if you're recording in a room that's not soundproof and want the rejection a really tight pickup pattern has.

I took some voice acting classes a while ago, and they used a MHK70 in the studio. All the people in the class (all professionals except me!) sounded great through it.
 

VinRice

... i am a robot ...
Never been a fan of 7B's. I think its main claim to fame is that it could survive James Hetfield screaming into it. To much top end roll off and too much proximity effect - and a ridiculously low output. I tried an SM7B, and RE20 and a RE320 recently and went for the cheapest - RE320. Higher output, flatter top end. Just a more versatile mic in the dynamic, strongly-cardioid sector. The Aston Stealth gets good reviews but I haven't tried one.
 

smallberries

member at small
Never been a fan of 7B's. I think its main claim to fame is that it could survive James Hetfield screaming into it. To much top end roll off and too much proximity effect - and a ridiculously low output. I tried an SM7B, and RE20 and a RE320 recently and went for the cheapest - RE320. Higher output, flatter top end. Just a more versatile mic in the dynamic, strongly-cardioid sector. The Aston Stealth gets good reviews but I haven't tried one.
You definitely need a pre-amp with this one, that audio interface you already have is not up to this task. The Hetfield reference is news to me, I had always heard of this as the "Thriller" mic.

I like it because it makes me sound on tape like I sound in my head. But I am pretty green as a singer, and I suspect professionals have already made peace with their actual sound being different from what they hear in their head. Or maybe they all have 7B's, who knows? A few times when I have worked with a singer uncomfortable with a mic (yes! it can happen to you), I grabbed this one and all was copacetic.

It is funny to me that this mic is not designed to be hand-held, yet that happens alot.
 
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thesteelydane

Senior Member
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ManicMiner

ManicMiner

in the Skylab landing bay
Also, in this test the sm58 actually beat the sm7b for voice over work
Interesting. I have an SM58 at work which I can borrow anytime. I wonder if you get close enough to it to get that proximity it could be as silky as the SM7B? I'll have to try the 58 out. I've sung into it "from a distance" but not got that close to it.

The Aston Origin is about $300, so not a huge price difference from the SM7B. I wonder if thats gain hungry & needs a Cloudlifter too ? One or two Amazon reviews seem to suggest so.
 
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