Building out a studio is a difficult task. Quality equipment is everywhere, but the costs add up quickly. You may find yourself looking for places to cut corners, especially as you find microphones ranging into the thousands of dollars. But with microphones like the Shure SM7, that's not necessary.
The Shure SM7 and its competitors are all studio microphones that are in the $300 to $600 price range. Even better, these are microphones that have proven time and time again that they are up to the task, whatever that may be. But is the Shure SM7 the best fit for your studio, or is another here the one that is right for you?
Shure SM7 and Other Brands Comparison Table
The audio industry is one full of stiff competition. Shure is up against some of the best microphone companies out there with its SM7 model. We've chosen to compare it to the AKG C214, the Audio-Technica 4033/CL, the Electrovoice RE-20, the Rode NTK, and the Sennheiser MD421. All of these microphones are in a comparable price range to the SM7 and work in similar studio applications.
How We Reviewed
The microphones included were chosen based on lists of best microphones from websites such as Mic Reviews and Sweetwater. We looked at the sound quality, price, and performance of each microphone. The mics that work well with both vocals and music were given priority. In our list, they are in alphabetical order rather than in any sort of ranking.
- Sonic character of the C414 XLII for beautifully detailed recording of lead vocals and solo instruments
- Outstanding dynamic range and ultralow noise for close-up recording of high-output sources of up to 156dB SPL
- Switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter for close-up recording and reduction of proximity effect
- Integrated suspension to reduce mechanical noise and vibration from stage
- Roadworthy design all-metal die-cast body with shock- and scratch-resistant finish
AKG advertises the AKG C214 as a smaller, simpler version of their C414 microphone. The C214 uses the same technology as its more famous (and more expensive) counterpart but is limited to a cardioid pickup range. It provides a detailed sound for both vocals and instruments. The AKG C214 also uses a low-cut filter, meaning it is more useful for louder applications than standard condenser microphones. Its integrated suspension limits mechanical noise and stops the microphone from picking up stage vibrations.
Customers who purchased the AKG C214 from Sweetwater rated it highly. They emphasized the warmth and character of the microphone and agreed that its quality was as good as the more expensive C414. Amazon customers rated the AKG C214 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone 4.6 out of 5 stars. You can buy this microphone for $$ to $$$.
- Transformerless circuitry virtually eliminates low-frequency distortion and provides superior correlation of high-speed transients
- Precision-machined, nickel-plated brass, acoustic element baffle provides enhanced element stability and optimal sensitivity
- The 2-micron-thick, vapor-deposited gold diaphragm undergoes a five-step aging process so that the optimum characteristics achieved remain constant over years of use
- Floating-construction capsule assembly provides isolation from noise and vibration
- Open acoustical environment of the symmetrical housing assembly minimizes unwanted internal reflections
The Audio-Technica 4033 is a condenser microphone, which already sets it apart from the SM7. According to the Audio-Technica website, the 4033 was the first studio condenser to fall under $1,000. Since it is a condenser microphone, it is more susceptible to loud noises. As such, the 4033 is a bluegrass favorite. The sensitive diaphragm of the AT 4033 is better for picking up the soft instrumentals and vocals of bluegrass music in greater detail. As far as sound quality, the 4033 has a filter which allows you to diminish ambient noise and voice pops if desired.
Customer reviewers on Sweetwater Sound were positive towards this microphone. While condenser microphones are not generally known for durability, one reviewer said theirs had served them for 16 years. They even claimed it surpassed the SM7B and Rode NTK (also on this list) regarding sound quality. Many said it would outlast a microphone that costs twice as much. Consumers on Amazon rated the Audio-Technica 4033 Large Diaphragm Condenser microphone 4.1 out of 5 stars. This microphone has a price of $ to $$$.
- Professional-quality dynamic cardioid microphone
- Heavy-duty internal pop filter reduces proximity effects
- Internal element shock mount reduces vibration-induced noise
- Blast and wind filters cover each acoustic opening
- Frequency response: 45Hz-18kHz
The Electro-Voice RE-20 is a standard of broadcast recording. It is best-suited to voice recordings, although it has been widely adopted by musicians as well. Its Variable-D design prevents bass sbounds from overpowering other sounds as they get closer to the microphone. The Electro-Voice RE-20 is a dynamic cardioid microphone, making it more durable. According to the Electro-Voice website, it performs similarly to a studio condenser microphone to pick up more subtle sounds. However, its superior cardioid pattern and design mean that sounds to the rear of the microphone are almost completely undetected.
On Sweetwater Sound, customers were pleased by the lack of background noise on the microphone. They said it was easy to set up and useful for podcasting and narration, as well as for a variety of musical applications. Amazon reviewers gave the Electro-Voice RE-20 4.6 out of 5 stars. The price for this microphone ranges from $$ to $$$.
- Amazon as the seller is the ONLY authorized Fulfilled by Amazon Dealer, and purchases from unauthorized dealers carry No Warranty
- A premium valve condenser microphone designed to provide incredible detail and warmth in the studio
- The cardioid polar pattern is perfect for most single instrument recording scenarios
- The electronic circuitry complementing this very sensitive transducer includes a hand-selected twin-triode 6922 valve and audiophile grade components
- Features an ultra-wide dynamic range, low noise, and stunning tube warmth
Rode's NTK valve condenser microphone is the most expensive option on this list, although it earns this price tag through its engineering. The Rode NTK is a tube microphone, which is an older style of manufacture that gives a more vintage sound. While this is not necessarily better than the sound that other microphones on this list offer, the warmer sound makes for an attractive option. The Rode NTK has a wide dynamic range which makes it ideal for recording vocals and music. Rode suggests using the NTK for vocals, acoustic instruments, pianos, and guitar amps, among others.
Reviews on Sweetwater found the NTK to be an excellent microphone that challenged microphones worth thousands of dollars more. It works best when used for high and low sounds, but loses a little in the mid-range. Reviewers were also impressed by the warmth and silkiness of its sound. Amazon reviewers gave the Rode NTK Tube Condenser microphone 4.2 out of 5 stars. You can find this microphone for between $$$ and $$$$.
- Rugged professional microphone
- Five position bass roll-off switch
- Effective feedback rejection
- Clear sound reproduction
- Easy handling due to pronounced directivity
The Sennheiser MD421-II is a continuation of what Sennheiser calls one of its most popular dynamic microphones. As a dynamic microphone, it is one of the most similar microphones to the Shure SM7 among the microphones on this list. Like the SM7, it handles louder sounds and high-pressure recording well. Its magnetic construction handles rock guitars, drums, and vocals better than condenser microphones might. Sweetwater Sound suggests using the Sennheiser MD421 for diverse applications, such as group vocals.
Customers who reviewed the MD421 on Sweetwater found that the microphone was best for drums. Its ability to withstand high pressure made it ideal for toms, kick drums, and bass guitars. Reviewers also recommended the MD421 for broadcast vocals, citing its excellent high range. Consumers from Amazon gave the Sennheiser MD421-II Cardioid Dynamic Microphone 4.8 out of 5 stars. This mic has a price range of $$ to $$$.
- Flat, wide-range frequency response for exceptionally clean and natural reproduction of both music and speech
- Bass rolloff and mid-range emphasis (presence boost) controls with graphic display of response setting
- Improved rejection of electromagnetic hum, optimized for shielding against broadband interference emitted by computer monitors
- Internal "air suspension" shock isolation virtually eliminates mechanical noise transmission
- Highly effective pop filter eliminates need for any add-on protection against explosive breath sounds, even for close-up vocals or narration
Shure got its start in 1925 as a radio parts wholesaler. Six years later their first microphone was made, and they have been a major player in the audio industry in the near-century since. In that time, Shure has spread their business across all forms of audio equipment. Their products have become standards in the industry, with the Shure SM7 included among them. Now in the 7B model, the Shure SM7 is a go-to for many recording artists.
The Shure SM7 is a dynamic-model microphone for professional applications. According to Shure's website, it works well for both vocal and musical settings. It includes a stable microphone stand that is effective no matter how you place it and a windscreen for close-up talking. As a dynamic microphone, it can handle louder volumes better and is a standby for rock vocals.
Why Pick the Shure SM7?
What makes the Shure SM7 different from other dynamic microphones? For one, it has specialized shielding to prevent it any electromagnetic hums. Devices such as neon signs and computer monitors could be picked up on other microphones, but the Shure SM7 helps block them out. It also has internal air suspension to help dampen unwanted noise transmission. Included in the microphone is an advanced pop filter, which helps to keep vocals and narration clean and easy to understand.
The Shure SM7 also features a unidirectional cardioid pickup pattern. Cardioid pickups have a heart-shaped range that focuses on the front of the microphone, cutting down on background noise. It also has a yoke mounting to allow for precise microphone placement. This overhead mounting allows the microphone to hang down close to whatever source you may require. Perhaps most importantly, its flat wide-range frequency response allows it to receive vocals and music cleanly.
What Reviews Say?
Even a cursory look at opinions on the Shure SM7 will tell you one thing: the microphone is "legendary." It has a reputation for being used by some of the top recording artists in the industry. Other reviewers from American Songwriter call it the "grail" of microphones, and the "multipurpose microphone of choice." Because of the microphone's natural sound, crisp lows, and smooth highs, the Shure SM7 has a reputation that spans decades. Even its update to the SM7B kept everything that made it great and only made improvements on stability and structure.
Customers who reviewed the microphone on Sweetwater Sound called the microphone a workhorse in the studio. They said it was useful for producing an authentic sound from nearly any source. On Amazon, 210 reviewers rated the Shure SM7. Of them, 84 percent rated it 5 stars, giving the microphone a total of 4.4 out of 5 stars. Most of the consumer reviews matched with the professional reviews, although some were critical. One such reviewer mentioned that the sound rejection was not great outside of a studio setting. Others agreed, saying that a proper sound studio would help this microphone work as intended.
The SM7 is available on the Shure Americas website. It is also available at other retailers, including Amazon, Sweetwater Sound, and Guitar Center. Across these three retailers, the price is between $399.00 and $499.00. Even at this price, the Shure SM7 is a low-cost microphone. Other microphones suitable for professional studios can run well over $$$. Despite that, this microphone adapts well to even the most prestigious studios. It provides clear sound over a wide range, earning it a spot where microphones several times its price might otherwise sit.
Pros and Cons
The Shure SM7 faces some daunting competition among those selected today. Each serves its purpose well, and any would be an excellent choice for your sound studio. Here's why the SM7 may be the best one for yours.
- The multipurpose microphone of choice in the music industry
- Durable, dynamic construction coupled with an excellent sound range
- Electromagnetic shielding from outside noise
- Dynamic structure is less specialized and less sensitive than condensers
The Final Word
The Shure SM7 is a powerhouse of a microphone by any standard. It has existed and earned its reputation over the decades, cementing its place among the top studio microphones available.
What's more, its versatility and utility mean it deserves a spot in any recording studio. Rock musicians with screaming vocals and guitars and levelheaded podcasters both will benefit from the impeccable range. The SM7 can handle high-pressure recording so that it will stand up to your drums and bass as well.
If you're looking for a more specialized microphone, one of the condenser microphones on the list may be for you. The Audio-Technica 4033 offers a more finely-tuned audio experience. It can pick up the nuances of acoustic instruments better than the Shure SM7 might be able to, and it can do so at the same price as the SM7. The Rode NTK is easily the most specialized of the microphones on this list. Its warm sound and strong highs and lows make it work for special applications, but not for general purpose use.
Any microphone on this list would be a strong contender for a place on your mic stand. They are all legendary in their own right, but only the Shure SM7 found its way into Michael Jackson's recording studio. If that's not enough for you to seriously consider this microphone, it should at least demonstrate where this microphone has cut its teeth. It's a legend, and it belongs in your studio.