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The Shure SM7B

Part of being a studio sound engineer is based on knowing the tools you can use to capture the audio signal (sound) you are targeting. It is somewhat vital to know which microphone is well suited for the mission you are trying to achieve, depending on the microphone choices you have available and the sound source you are recording. It is your responsibility as a sound engineer to consider aspects like frequency response, polar pattern, the microphone’s sensitivity and many other microphone aspects before the recording can begin.Most people tend to overlook this important aspect of recording which can lead to bad microphone choice resulting in a recording that would lack the relevant frequencies which define the sound source.

Your microphone choice is very important in vocal recording as it is in instrument recordings. By choosing the proper microphone for the voice you are recording, you ensure that all the frequencies contained in the recorded voice are well and fully captured, making the mixing process of the song much more effective. Most people tend to choose condensor microphones as their “go to” type of microphones when it comes to vocal recording; but I would like to take this time to introduce you to the Shure SM7B broadcast microphone, a dynamic microphone that has been used by a large number of well established artists like Michael Jackson (On his album Thriller) as a vocal microphone.

Microphone Specifications  SM7B 1

Type Dynamic Microphone
Frequency Responce 50 – 20,000 Hz
Polar Pattern Cardioid

Sensitivity

(at 1 kHz, open voltage)

-59dBV/Pa (1.12 mV)

Hum Pickup

(At 60 Hz)

11 dB

 

Most dynamic microphones have a frequency response that end up to 16 kHz which would not do justice for sound sources that contain very high frequencies. The Shure SM7B has a frequency response that reaches up to 20 kHz making it a suitable microphone for capturing sound sources that have upper harmonics such as guitars, pianos or vocals.

The Shure SM7B (looking at the graph below) also contains a bass rolloff switch which starts rolling off around 300 Hz and is 10 dB down around the 50 Hz, and also has a presence boost kicking in from about 1 – 10 kHz. These settings merge well with the flat and wide range frequency response of the microphone, which can be quite helpful if you are looking to bring out the crisp clean sound of a vocal sound source or an instrument that has harmonics within the higher frequency ranges.

 

SM7B Frequency Response 1

With a cardioid polar pattern which is uniform with frequency and symmetrical about the axis it provides good rejection and minimum coloration of off-axis sounds. This ensures that the microphone captures sound sources that are directly facing its diaphragm.

Due to it’s low sensitivity the Shure SM7B can require more gain on the preamp being used especially in the case of quiet sound sources which could limit the number of consumer – grade preamps that can be used with the microphone, as it would require more clean gain than most consumer – grade preamps can provide. Although this may be seen as a disadvantage, it also helps in terms of not capturing unexpected sounds during your recording process as it capture loud sound sources pretty well with its high SPL.

The dynamic microphone has superb shielding against electromagnetic hum which could be generated by computer monitors, neon lights, and other electrical devices contained in your recording space.

 

Polar Pattern

Conclusion

By looking at the polar pattern and sensitivity of the microphone we can state that the SM7B is quite suitable for home studios apart from being also well suited for proffessional studios. It can easily reject unwanted off-axis sounds that are distant from it’s positioning, which would be ideal for a person recording in a home studio enviroment. With its flat frequency response you are garanteed a very natural sound, which is very much similar to that of the sound source, making the mixing process of the sound much more desirable.

Through taking into account the specifications of a microphone, it is easier for a recording engineer to make a smart and well informed choice of the microphone they would use for the task they want to achieve or type of sound they want to capture.  It also sets them up for a good and more natural sounding mix of a song for example, where they would have to worry about the clashing of frequencies between diffirent recorded sound sources, than the unwanted frequencies in an individual sound source.   

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