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The Shure Sm7b, is it worth it without a pre amp?


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I've been looking into the Shure SM7b and there's no doubt that it's an incredible mic, but since I don't have a decent pre amp, I wonder if it's worth buying it. I would use it to record vocals for jazzy flavoured songs. Would there be enough gain if I plugged it directly into my mixer? For example when I plug an Sm57 into the mixer there is very little signal. Once I add gain from the mixer it adds way too much noise. Another question would be, are there good pre amps (clones?) out there based upon smaller budgets?

I'm at the point of chosing either a Rode K2 or a Shure Sm7b to upgrade from my B1..

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You should drop $30 and get an Art MP. They have a few different models and it's the best $30 you're gonna spend. You'll get way better results from the mics you have and at that low price, you can't afford to NOT have a mic preamp of some sort.

 

And trust me, the day you start using a preamp vs some console input/etc is the day your recordings go from one level to the next.

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I've been looking into the Shure SM7b and there's no doubt that it's an incredible mic, but since I don't have a decent pre amp, I wonder if it's worth buying it. I would use it to record vocals for jazzy flavoured songs. Would there be enough gain if I plugged it directly into my mixer? For example when I plug an Sm57 into the mixer there is very little signal. Once I add gain from the mixer it adds way too much noise. Another question would be, are there good pre amps (clones?) out there based upon smaller budgets?

I'm at the point of chosing either a Rode K2 or a Shure Sm7b to upgrade from my B1..

 

Unless the K2 comes with its own power supply, you'll need to power it somehow, and if you're not plugging into a mic preamp with phantom power, I'm not sure how you'd do it.

 

I am not familiar with the Art mentioned above, but you could consider a Soundcraft mini-mixer for $100, Mackie mixers, etc. I also highly recommend an FMR RNP, which is $475 for two mic preamps and is an excellent mic preamp. But although that is considered a budget-priced mic preamp for its quality, it's still noticeably more expensive than these others that we are mentioning here.

 

And finally, whether you choose a Rode K12 or a Shure SM7b, you'll still need a nice mic preamp to bring out its full sound.

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Hi, the sm7b requires SO much preamp gain for vocals, you're going to think the mic is broken. If your preamp has a lot of dirt at high levels, expect to get all of it in your sm7b vocal tracks.

 

That said, it is a cool mic (don't expect revelations--people who have been working with budget condensers are often surprised at how dark and middy the sm7b sounds at first, but it's beauty gradually becomes clear when you are working with it in mixes.)

 

You should have a decent pre anyway, so view it is a package deal...

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I find the SM7 to be "OK," but nowhere near deserving the hype it seems to be getting. :confused:

 

It's very "colored," and I suppose would work well for some vocalists, but in general I much prefer the large diaphragm condenser mike approach for vocals. With those you get it all, and then you sculpt it into what you need for the mix.

 

Last track I recorded with an SM7 and ended up keeping was a cello. I used it for a close mic on the cello in case that instrument was a little underweighted or thin sounding in the overhead mics for the entire string section.

 

Terry D.

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I like the EV RE-20 and Sennheiser 441 way more than the SM-7 as far as large diaphram dynamics go. There are several descent mics for around two bills or less. The AT 3035 is surprizingly cool and doesn't have the typical Chinese hi end hype.

 

For pre's, I hate the ART ones if it's your only pre, they don't stack well at all, lots of building up of crud. The RNP is good as is the Grace 101. I'd rather use a Mackie mixer than an ART.

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I find the SM7 to be "OK," but nowhere near deserving the hype it seems to be getting.
:confused:

It's very "colored," and I suppose would work well for some vocalists, but in general I much prefer the large diaphragm condenser mike approach for vocals. With those you get it all, and then you sculpt it into what you need for the mix.


Last track I recorded with an SM7 and ended up keeping was a cello. I used it for a close mic on the cello in case that instrument was a little underweighted or thin sounding in the overhead mics for the entire string section.


Terry D.

 

I don't have one, but when I've been in other studios, I've noticed it's not always the first one people grab for, but when the other mics don't work because someone's voice is too "this" or too "that" (usually "thin" or "lispy" or "strident"), I notice that the engineer will often reach for the SM7b. What I am suggesting is that it might not be the first choice, but for a studio, it seems like a really handy thing to have. I usually use a Lawson L251 first, and almost everyone sounds good through that...but if they don't, then I start exploring other options.

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Unless the K2 comes with its own power supply, you'll need to power it somehow, and if you're not plugging into a mic preamp with phantom power, I'm not sure how you'd do it.

 

The Rode K2 is a tube mic, so you'd plug it into its own power brick, and then use an XLR to plug that into your mixer, or audio interface. You do need a mic preamp for it, but you don't need phantom power for it - that's handled by the included power supply.

 

As far as the SM7b, it's going to need about as much mic preamp gain - if not more - than the SM57.

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For pre's, I hate the ART ones if it's your only pre, they don't stack well at all, lots of building up of crud. The RNP is good as is the Grace 101. I'd rather use a Mackie mixer than an ART.

 

Good point about the ART. I was only thinking of price when I mentioned it. I just mentioned the ART because it's so cheap, you can at least have another option besides your input preamps. My main emphasis being that a dynamic mic will perform way better if you get that signal up to a robust level.

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I've been looking into the Shure SM7b and there's no doubt that it's an incredible mic, but since I don't have a decent pre amp, I wonder if it's worth buying it. I would use it to record vocals for jazzy flavoured songs. Would there be enough gain if I plugged it directly into my mixer? For example when I plug an Sm57 into the mixer there is very little signal. Once I add gain from the mixer it adds way too much noise. Another question would be, are there good pre amps (clones?) out there based upon smaller budgets?

I'm at the point of chosing either a Rode K2 or a Shure Sm7b to upgrade from my B1..

 

This is just my experience but I rather have a decent pre and a cheap mic, like a 57. If you don`t own a 57, you owe it to yourself. Its a very deceiving mic. You can record vocals with some sort of pop filter and it works great on amps. Save yourself about $700 and get something decent. A good pre will completely raise the level of your recordings far more than a decent mic with a bad pre. Somethings are worth waiting for.

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Thanks everyone for all your thoughts, I've been recording since a few years on a Behringer mixer (UB1002) with their B1 mic and so I'm looking into good upgrades. Something that really increases the quality of vocals and acoustic guitars.

 

Ken, the FMR RNP pre amp that you mentioned, is that something that won't have too much noise? I've seen some people on youtube demonstrating pre amps, for example the ART MPA ->

and it has so much noise it makes me wonder who would ever buy that. I wouldn't mind a pre amp but it should'nt blow thunderstorms trough my headphones.
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Ken, the FMR RNP pre amp that you mentioned, is that something that won't have too much noise? I've seen some people on youtube demonstrating pre amps, for example the ART MPA ->
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C2qpCZh2Vk
and it has so much noise it makes me wonder who would ever buy that. I wouldn't mind a pre amp but it should'nt blow thunderstorms trough my headphones.

 

Well, the noise issue with FMR is an interesting thing. On their website, Mark McQuilken goes on about how he thinks the thing is sort of noisy. I think Mark is brutally honest, but he's getting really geeky with his description. The truth of the matter is that the RNP is NOT a noisy preamp by any stretch, and most tube mic preamps are far noisier than it, yet nothing is ever made of that.

 

If you are recording rock, pop, etc. music, especially if you are in a house, you have far greater things to worry about than whether the RNP is noisy or not. It's definitely not noisy. If you are recording chamber music in an acoustically pristine environment, then sure, I'd be concerned about mic preamp noise.

 

I find the mic to be really open and clear. It does not impart character, so if you want that, look elsewhere. I think it's one of the best bargains in mic preamps I've ever encountered (The Brick might be the other one, but I don't own that).

 

And you know what? I'll quote directly from Mark:

 

http://www.fmraudio.com/RNP8380.htm


The RNP is relatively noisy when evaluated by lab measurement. Many mic pres these days (including the really cheap ones) have very low noise floors (EINs of -127dB or better). The RNP's EIN of -120dB is obviously not as "good" as these others.


I decided that the sonic character (or lack thereof) and a decent price point were more important than the absolute noise floor. Why? First, many of the sought-after vintage mic pre noise levels are much worse than the RNPs. So in actual use, I concluded, many folks (particularly those "in-the-know") prefer good tone, even if it's slightly noisier. Second, even though we have internal versions of the RNP with a lower EIN, we'd have to charge at least $100 more for the privilege of meeting lab measurements that few actual applications would challenge. Third, the trend in microphone development has been to raise the output level of microphones, thereby reducing overall gain requirements of external mic pres. Are there some applications using the RNP that may be problematic? Yes. Will most of us encounter them? No.

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Every mic pre can be "noisy".

 

Paul Wolff and API (when Paul owned it) were sued by a school that purchased an API console because the preamps were too "noisy". Once the case started it came out that the school was using the console to record the sound of ice melting. HA! Case closed.

 

Picking the right mic and preamp for a given source is essential. BTW, what is the right choice for recording ice melting?

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Picking the right mic and preamp for a given source is essential. BTW, what is the right choice for recording ice melting?

 

Uh, I don't know, something super ultra quiet, I suppose...but you'd have to have the mic to match that.

 

What was it? Ice cubes in water? An iceberg?

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Every mic pre can be "noisy".


Paul Wolff and API (when Paul owned it) were sued by a school that purchased an API console because the preamps were too "noisy". Once the case started it came out that the school was using the console to record the sound of ice melting. HA! Case closed.


Picking the right mic and preamp for a given source is essential. BTW, what is the right choice for recording ice melting?

 

Think of how many tax payer dollars were spent before this was realized! :thu:

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Many mic pres these days (including the really cheap ones) have very low noise floors (EINs of -127dB or better). The RNP's EIN of -120dB is obviously not as "good" as these others.

 

This.

 

It's noisier than some preamps, but not what I'd call noisy.

 

Personally, I think the FMR products are some of the best "bang for the bucks" units out there, and are fully capable of giving you professional quality results when you use them properly. They perform way above their price brackets.

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Uh, I don't know, something super ultra quiet, I suppose...but you'd have to have the mic to match that.


What was it? Ice cubes in water? An iceberg?

 

I believe they had the ice suspended and a mic up on it so that they could get "the sound" of the ice, not the drip. Silly people.

 

The case was tossed as the API was sold to a music department for recording and mixing music, not sounds that the ear can't hear unassisted.

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Consider this another vote for the Grace 101, although I have not tried the RNP. I also recommend getting a Mackie mixer or something better, since at some time you'll probably need to use more than two mics at once. Getting enough gain without noise on the Mackies has never been an issue for me.

 

When I recorded vocals recently I compared the SM7 with four other under $350 mics including from Audio Technica, Marshall, Studio Projects and the Sennheiser 421. We liked the SM7 best with our vocalist.

 

A recently tried the SM7 with a standup bass and I could not get enough gain, so I would say that it is too low gain for some applications. A Shure SM57, or even better, an Audix i5 is a necessity for recording instruments for any studio, no matter how small. A large diaphragm condenser and/or i5 will give you more flexibility than the SM7, although I like the SM7 a lot for certain uses. If I had only one large diaphragm condensor I would not get a tube version, so the mic is less colored and thus more flexible.

 

Bottom line: For a tight budget I recommend getting an Audix i5 for instruments and an Audio Technica AT2020 for vocals, which cost approx $100 each. Then get a Mackie mixer and/or a Grace or RNP preamp.

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Thanks a lot for all your thoughts guys, especially on pre-amps! That's still an unknown field to me so you can imagine it can be a little scary at first. I usually don't buy on just impulse or a good review so I will go trough all the suggestions here and do my research to pick what fits best to my needs.

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I've been looking into the Shure SM7b and there's no doubt that it's an incredible mic, but since I don't have a decent pre amp, I wonder if it's worth buying it. I would use it to record vocals for jazzy flavoured songs. Would there be enough gain if I plugged it directly into my mixer? For example when I plug an Sm57 into the mixer there is very little signal. Once I add gain from the mixer it adds way too much noise.

Unless you have a really wretched mixer, a preamp (as you see it) isn't going to help you very much. Most preamps, including those built into mixers have 60 to 65 dB of gain - not much difference across the board there.

 

You need to do one of three things:

 

1. Sing louder

2. Get closer to the mic

3. Change your concept of how much "signal" you need.

 

I'm not a big fan of the SM7. The part that makes the volts is essentially an SM57 so as far as signal level is concerned, they'll be about the same. If it's any comfort, with today's equipment (including "pro" equipment) most of the time you'll need to turn the gain up all the way to get reasonable level with a quiet singing or speaking voice into a dynamic mic.

 

Also, understand that not all condenser mics are "hot." Back about 20 years ago, hobbyists who could afford condenser mics of the day complained that they were too hot and overloaded their inputs, so the newer manufacturers of condenser mics backed down the output level so that they more closely matched the output of the dynamic mics.

 

The mixer/preamp manufacturers, not wanting their users to thing that their gear overloaded too easily reduced the input sensitivity to match the mics they thought people would be using. And in the meantime, nominal operating levels, even on hobbyist equipment, jumped from -10 dBV to +4 dBu.

 

So in short, a new preamp won't make a big difference with an SM7, but better recording techniques might, though I've never been a big fan of that mic myself.

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A SM57 and a SM7 share the same mic capsule. But having a larger body cavity the 7 has more bottom end and less proximity effect. According to Shure’s specs they are only 3 dB different in level. A mic pre in any mixer should handle it with no problem unless younare standing back 20 feet from it when you sing.

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