Shure SM57 vs SM7b

Learn about the differences between these two famous microphones.

Previously, we posted a guide that explains the differences between the Shure SM58 en Beta58A. However, other microphones also deserve our attention; in this guide we compare Shure's SM57 with its SM7B.

Shure introduced the SM7 in 1976 - today it is known/being produced as the SM7B. Initially, the SM7 was developed as a broadcast microphone and the successor of the late SM5. The concept of the design was fairly simple: the engineers at Shure were assigned to the development of a new and improved microphone based on the SM57 cartridge elements (Unidyne III) and were given carte blanche in terms of costs and size. Of course, the SM7B was born a SM57 on steroids.

 

 

A closer look

There are quite a lot of variations on the Unidyne 3 cartridge to be found in Shure's dynamic microphone range. Still, there are some significant differences between the design of the SM7B cartridge and the SM57's:

  • The diaphragm of the SM7B is optimized for increased low end
  • De larger housing of the SM7B has more volume behind the cartridge, which expands the low frequency response
  • The SM7B's internal shock mount reduces stand vibrations, while the shock mount in the SM57 is built for handheld applications
  • The SM7 was originally designed as a universally applicable full-range microphone
  • The SM7B has a flatter and wider frequency response than the SM57 but its presence peak and low cut filters make it extremely versatile and potent, even in situations where the SM57 excels
engineer's darling

Throughout the years, the SM7B has collected a large, trusty following. The microphone got a lot of attention and recognition because Michael Jackson used it for virtually all of his vocals. Due to its wide frequency range and smooth high frequency response the SM7B is the darling of many popular and famous recording studios. It is mainly used as vocal microphone but can also be used with guitar and bass amps, bass drums, hi-hats, snare drums, wind instruments, etc. The SM7B is used by artists such as John Mayer, Billy Idol, Red Hot Chili Peppers, My Chemical Romance, Metallica and Meshuggah.

Conclusion

Choose your microphone according to the application and/or room. The SM57 performs best with guitar cabs and snare drums, when you really need to cut through the mix. Then again, the wider frequency of the SM7B makes it more diverse, yet it is flexible due to the selectable filters.

Naturally, you will always get the best results by using your ears. Just listen to what you want to record. If you're recording a thin, fragile or a high pitched voice, the traditionally privileged condenser microphones easily might make things harder or worse. In that case, the SM7B might be what you're looking for: more depth and smoothed highs.