On November 30, 1982, Michael Jackson’s Thiller was released. Within months it was an international best seller, and over thirty years later it’s known as one of the best albums of all time. However, Thiller wasn’t made over night—it took seven months (from April to November) of recording for the seven singles that make up Thiller to make it on vinyl. And during those seven months, Jackson and his crew depended on a single microphone: the Shure SM7, now known as the Shure SM7B. It’s a microphone beloved by broadcasters and musicians alike, with a long history that starts all the way back to 1966.
From the SM5 to the SM7
The story of the SM7B starts with the Shure SM5. The SM5 was primarily a broadcast microphone used by radio and film studios. It was a favorite among broadcasters, but it was also huge (measuring about 10 inches long). Wishing for something a bit more manageable, Shure set out to create the SM7, a hybrid of the SM5 and the Shure SM57. At the beginning of the process, Shure gave its engineers the SM57 cartridge element (Unidyne III) and simply told them to make it better, no strings attached. According to John Born, Product Manager at Shure, “they went nuts,” creating a full range microphone that could be used for practically any application. It was debuted in 1976.
It’s a Thriller
The SM7 was a high-quality microphone. It had the capability to produce warm, rich vocals while blocking out breath sounds (a common problem for broadcasters who would speak close to the mic). Its internal shockmount reduced stand vibrations, and it was specifically optimized for low-end response (a characteristic that’s especially useful today due to our preference for deep bass sounds). However, for all of its bells and whistles, it had yet to take the industry by storm. That is, until Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was a decision made by recording engineer Bruce Swedien who considered the Shure SM7 “one of my absolute favorite microphones…I was allowed the freedom to make microphone choices, and nobody ever said a word. I just did it.” Up until then, the SM7 was still used primarily for radio broadcasting, but Thriller proved that the SM7 could handle musical applications as well. Its universality is one of the reasons why it’s a favorite among broadcasters and recording artists around the globe.
Turning the SM7 into the SM7B
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and that was the case for over 20 years. But as technology advanced, the engineers at Shure realized that they could improve the SM7, and thus came the SM7A and SM7B. The SM7A came along in 1999, introducing an improved humbucking coil (a transducer that cancels out interference) and yoke mount (a device that connects the microphone to the stand, allowing the user to tilt the mic up and down). The SM7B came along three years later, incorporating the SM7A’s improvements while also adding in a larger windscreen. Shure hasn’t looked back. The SM7B has become a fan favorite, reaching a level of popularity unheard of in the broadcasting and music industries. It’s not only its performance that gives it such a high level of fame—its affordability in comparison to other high-end mics is also an added plus in the SM7B’s favor. The Shure SM7B is a popular microphone, and rightly so. However, if you want to record the best audio possible, you’ll need more equipment than just the SM7B. At The Music Den, we offer plenty of pro audio equipment from Shure and other manufacturers that can fit any of your recording needs. Look through our inventory or give us a call at 800-479-1189 today to learn more.