Updated on Dec 14, 2020
If you’ve recently purchased yourself a Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone, well first off allow me to say congratulations. You now own one of the best XLR microphones under $1000 ever known. But if you’re like many others, myself included, who didn’t understand enough about the microphone before buying it, you might’ve plugged it in and been highly disappointed with the low output.
Fortunately, there are many solutions to this. And while we plan to get into them, let’s first talk about why the Shure SM7B is so quiet in the first place.
The Shure SM7B comes with a very low output level of -59.0 dB. Our ideal recording volume is around -20dB to -5dB. So, a preamp with an output volume of 40dB would be in theory a great choice, but it’s not that straight forward. As a lot of you likely know, if your amp needs to be set to max volume, you’re probably not doing it right. This is going to be the experience for most people who buy a Shure SM7B without any additional components because of how quiet it is.
I personally used an Ultra-Gain Pro preamplifier for my Shure SM7B when I first acquired it, but even with a lot of tweaking, I wasn’t happy with the output. The volume was okay, and I was able to increase it a bit in production, but it certainly could’ve been cleaner.
The worst thing you can do for your recording is to have a lot of white noise and hissing sounds. Even with an amplifier that let me tweak the different frequencies, I was not able to get a simple, loud, and clear recording from my microphone. So, we know we need it to have a lot of gain, but let’s talk about the different strategies at our disposal for doing this.
One strategy we tested was to record at the low volume and raise in our DAW (Digital Audio Interface). This adds a lot of hissing noise and overall, just unclear sound. Electronics have their own noise, which is why we often talk about different microphones having lower self-noise than others. This applies to all components of your set up, from your preamp to your speaker to the cable carrying the signals through. The Shure SM7B has very low self-noise, but when we jack up the gain through our DAW, we’re jacking up the self-noise of all other components as well.
So, what is clean gain? It’s a method of increasing the loudness of our audio without increasing the white noise or hissing sounds. This does not mean “not increasing the background noise”, it purely refers to the white noise from your equipment.
There are numerous devices out there that specifically do that, including the recommended Cloudlifter CL-1. This is a device I use for my audio set up as it’s really simple to use, though it still requires connection to a preamplifier (with Phantom Power) to work.
What’s great about it is it’s purely a pass-through device. You plug your microphone into it and then plug it into your amp. That’s it. No buttons, switches, lights, or cables. The difference in my audio recordings after using it was extremely noticeable, with my voice booming loudly without any background noise or hissing.
It’s actually quite marvelous the first time you hear it, if you’re not used to using high end microphones with absolute clarity.
There are other options on the market that you can acquire for a more affordable price than the CloudLifter. I only use it as it’s recommended by Shure to be paired with the SM7B, and I often see them bundled together on various music sites.
A more budget-friendly option that does a great job is the sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite, which works exactly the same. Run your cables through it to your preamp and you’re in business.
The Shure SM7B is an amazing microphone with so much going for it. There is a reason it’s used by professionals in all areas, from Michael Jackson to The Breakfast Club. With just a little bit of work and the right additional components, you can expose the true power of this microphone and create the most high-quality recordings.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why the Shure SM7B is so quiet, and how you can fix it. I recommend playing around with different settings, trying the “solutions” that we said won’t work, and just have fun with it. The more you experiment, the more you’ll understand how audio and microphones work.
If you found this article helpful, let us know in the comments below. If you have any tips for us that you think we should take into consideration, we’re always open to feedback! Good luck.
Posted on Dec 10, 2020
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