For most of 2017, I was stuck in a situation that forced me to use one microphone model for pretty much every recording application. For most of the year I haven't had the chance to experiment with microphone choice or placement, instead, I was struggling just to get half decent sounding recordings because I was working in a room that was woefully unfit for studio purposes.
The Situation That Forced Me To Use One Microphone For 7 Months
Regular visitors to Pro Tools Expert will most likely know I recently completed my soundproof home recording studio build. While we were planning and building the studio I had no choice but to set up my studio temporarily in my conservatory just to keep my business afloat... not ideal.
The conservatory didn't have much going for it... it was dry... and I don't mean acoustically. Everything else about this space was totally unsuitable for studio use, it was hell for 7 months.
Between my surrounding neighbours and our family, there must be in the region of 8-10 dogs that bark throughout the day around the perimeter of my garden. When dogs bark in our neighbour's gardens I don't usually notice but when I was in recording sessions using microphones in the temporary conservatory studio I found it almost impossible to get clean takes without a distant bark of a dog coming through the mic.
Over the years I have typically used AKG condenser microphones for pretty much all my vocal recordings. I thought I could continue using these mics when I started working in the temporary studio... how wrong was I? One of my first client attended sessions in the conservatory turned out to be an utter car crash. When I was recording my client's vocals using one of my AKG microphones we had to keep re-recording sections because of noise from outside world, such as dogs barking, lawn mowers, planes, etc. All this noise from the outside world was constantly coming down the microphone.
As I'm sure you could imagine, this was quite embarrassing so I decided to ditch the AKGs for my trusted Shure SM7B dynamic microphone in the hope that the noise from the outside world would not be picked up quite so easily in my next lot of recording sessions.
Recording In A Room That Sounded Worse Than A Bathroom
Every single surface in the conservatory including the floors and ceilings had hard reflective surfaces, so you can imagine what the reverberation time was like. It was so bad I had to drape old curtains from the ceiling and use every single bass trap I could get my hands on just to try to get the room sounding half decent. Did it work? To a point, but there was no getting away from the tone of the room sounding honkey. This was another reason why I ditched my AKG condenser microphones and chose only to record with my Shure SM7B until we moved into the soundproof studio.
Knight In Shining Armour
The Shure SM7B is a large-diaphragm cardioid dynamic microphone commonly used by podcasters and broadcasters. I use the SM7B for all the video content I produce for Pro Tools Expert, including the recording of my voice for our Podcast. I use my SM7B in conjunction with a Cloudlifter CL-1 mic activator because the SM7B has a fairly low output. The CL-1 boosts the output of the SM7B into my microphone preamp which stops me having to drive the gain on the mic pre hard (which results in hissy sounding recordings).
Unlike handheld dynamic microphones, such as the Shure SM58 or SM57, the SM7B has a very good extended frequency response. Sure, the SM7B doesn't have a shimmering top end like many condensers microphones but it does capture great mid-range and low tones across a variety of sources such as voice (spoken and sung), acoustic guitar, electric guitar amps and even snare drums.
The cardioid pattern makes this microphone an essential tool capturing dry performances in reverberant rooms. Performers have to get up close and personal with the SM7B but that's all good as it can handle high sound pressure levels and does a great job of making performers sound like they are not swallowing the capsule.
I am so grateful that this microphone got me through 7 months of studio hell, without it I would have been up the creek without a paddle. An added benefit I discovered using the Shure SM7B exclusively for 7 months was that it made me learn more about the characteristics of this mic. I got to experiment with the SM7B in ways I previously wouldn't have done before as I would have just reached for a trusty condenser microphone. So there you have it, the Shure SM7B, not just for podcasters and broadcasters...