What’s the Difference Between the Shure SM57 & The SM7B?

Regular followers of this blog will be familiar with similar FAQ posts, including: describing the differences between the SM58 & SM57, and another post explaining the difference between the Beta58 and SM58. Today we demystify another one of those principle questions. But first, a little background on the SM7B.

SM7B and SM57

Shure’s SM7 was introduced in 1976 and is available today as the SM7B. The mic began life as a broadcast microphone and was essentially a development on the earlier SM5 model. For the development of the SM7, Shure engineers were given the SM57 cartridge elements (Unidyne III) and asked, without restrictions on size or cost to essentially make it better. For this reason, the SM7b is sometimes referred to as the SM57 on steroids. You can read the full history surrounding the SM7 by clicking here.

What Does the “SM57 on Steroids” Mean – What Makes It Different?

Shure unidyne III variations can be found in many Shure dynamic microphones, however, there are a few differences between the SM7B cartridge and the SM57 cartridge design:

  • The SM7B diaphragm is optimised for increased low-end response
  • The larger housing of the SM7B allows for more volume behind the cartridge, which extends its low-end response
  • The internal shockmount of the SM7B is optimised to reduce stand vibrations, while the shockmount in the SM57 is optimised to reduce noise in handheld applications
  • The SM7 was designed as an extended, full range microphone and intended to be universal in its applications
  • It has a flatter and wider response than the SM57 but its selectable low cut and presence peak filtering allow it to fulfil (and enhance) applications where the SM57 excels

Loved by Musicians, Trusted by Engineers

The SM7b has gained a huge following in recent years and is perhaps best known for being the microphone used on pretty much all of Michael Jacksons vocals.

Thanks to its extended frequency response and silky smooth high frequency response, the SM7b continues to be a popular studio microphone on major recordings. The SM7b is often used as the lead vocal mic and on other applications, such as guitar amps, bass amps, kick drums, hi-hat, snare drums, horns and many more. The following are some famous examples of artists using the SM7:

  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • John Mayer
  • Metallica
  • My Chemical Romance
  • Meshuggah
  • Billy Idol
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Bottom Line

Microphone selection is a matter of application. The SM57 is voiced particularly well for guitar cab and snare drum applications, where the presence peak helps cut through the mix. On the other hand, the wider frequency response of the SM7b allows for a more diverse range of applications, while still providing the flexibility of selectable filters to suit particular needs.

The best results can be achieved by using your ears first. Listen to what you’re about to record! For example: if you’re recording a thin, brittle, or higher pitched vocal; traditionally favoured condenser mics might actually make things worse in this application. A mic like the SM7b might be just what you need to add a little depth and smooth off the high frequencies.

Sound is subjective, and only you can decide what works. Listen to engineers, do your homework, but ultimately experiment and trust your ears.

We recently interviewed legendary producer Chris Kimsey (Rolling Stones, Peter Frampton, Peter Tosh). Chris has been a long term advocate of the SM7 and had a few stories to share with us prior to our recent Call For Legends unsigned band competition. Here’s a video featuring Chris and his vintage SM7A:

The shure.co.uk website allows you to hear audio samples of Shure mics – head over here to listen to the SM7B.

Do you have experience with the SM7B? What applications do you use it for?

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Marc Henshall

Marc forms part of our Pro Audio team at Shure UK and specialises in Digital Marketing. He also holds a BSc First Class Hons Degree in Music Technology. When not at work he enjoys playing the guitar, producing music, and dabbling in DIY (preferably with a good craft beer or two).

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