Why the World's most favourite Microphone is being left in the sound booth.

Without wishing to sound like some kind of nerd and write a technical breakdown about microphones (who cares?) – We mustn’t ignore that the podcast listening marketplace has gone crazy mad over the past few years and if you are thinking about taking the plunge yourself then this short blog might just help you, enormously.  A little background first just to quantify my research. I’ve owned four ‘Pro’ microphones for voice work in the past seven years (two of them I found useless for my needs) I record Voice Overs every day and I’ve 17 years of Radio Broadcasting experience behind me.  So I’ve thrown my voice into mics for years (professionally)  and as I prepare for the launch of my own Podcast I’m making some important ‘audio’ decisions.  At the time of writing this, I’m in geek heaven.
When you listen to a popular podcast that isn’t recorded in a professional ‘acoustically sound’ room then there is every chance you will have heard the results of the worlds most ‘favourite’ microphone of them all  The Shure SM7B. During lockdown artists performed on Late Night talk shows  ‘Live from Home’ via webcam and a SM57B.  Joe Rogan the world’s most popular podcaster uses it, Green Day, Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, Dave Grohl have given it a go and let’s not forget pretty much every youtuber and content creator since 2009!  They all use it, and swear by it –  but it was Michael Jackson who first drew attention to it after he using it for the recording of the Thriller album.
Michael Jackson SMB Studio Recordingjpg
Why is it so good?  Three very good reasons (technical bit)
1. It’s got a huge frequency response, so it can make pretty much anything sound great!
2. You can be loud, a jet engine is 112 db, this handles 180 db.  So scream like Jackson in Thriller as much as you like, it’ll handle it.
3. It’s a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern – which means it rejects all the surround sounds behind the mic almost completely.
That means if you don’t have a room that has been acoustically treated it won’t matter.  No foam tiles or sound softeners required and if you’ve ever tried to get studio like results by ‘Proofing a room’ you’ll know just how much of a nightmare that really is (anyone want to buy three hundred foam tiles?  they’re in my garage).   So the Shure SM7B answers all our prayers right?  Well yes and no.
You see the truth is that this microphone (that costs around £350 – £400) will not be making you sound like Lenny Kravitz on his porch in Malibu during a lockdown ‘song cast’, or your favourite Radio broadcaster either without the part that is ignored by so many – you see, to match the microphones quality you really need a nice Audio Processor.  It’s not needed for the microphone to work (phantom power not required) but the difference is seismic.  I mean, you can hear the noises it picks up without the audio processor part but it sounds nothing like it should with a microphone of its quality.  Quick analogy; you can kick a football wearing slippers, or you could use football boots.  The difference is huge.  Trust me, I know.  I have my own and use it daily.  I have for 5 years now.  All from my ‘Home Studio’.
To get the true worth from the Shure SM7B my personal Audio Processor of choice is the DBX 286s.  You can compress (with a little attack), de-ess (making a voice sound less sibilant) , put a little EQ to perhaps highlight the bottom end? Then there is the expander gate to remove your breath intake and remove even more of those unwanted sounds…. the difference is massive, I can’t stress that enough.
A recorder like a Rhodecaster, or Tascam field recorder isn’t anything like what we’re talking about here – an Audio Processor is what is actually required.
So the question as I set myself up to start podcasting with a guest microphone is, do I double up and purchase another SM7b and Audio Processor?  err hell no.
Two Shure SM7b’s at £758, along with two Audio Processors at £130 each suddenly we are at the other side of a grand.  You see there’s a new (much much cheaper) microphone on the market that I’m rather keen on.
Enter the Podcasting Microphone from Rhode – at £103.  It too is a Dynamic Microphone to reject the surround sounds (the most important factor), it comes in white!  You can use XLR or USB-C for your signal output, apparently allowing you to plug straight into a phone.  I’m compelled to give it a run for it’s money after reading all the reviews.  What no Audio Processor requirement?  Post production will suffice, the classic V and light processing.   It’s all down to cost, I’ll level with you.  But if you have the Shure SM7B for your setup – or thinking about it, don’t forget the other hugely important factor in your ‘Chain’ so you can make it do what it’s meant for.
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