In a world with more microphone choices than breeds of dog (ok, I might be exaggerating a little), it’s easy to understand why so many people flock to one tried and true model.
While ubiquitous, Shure’s SM7B dynamic mic comes with a hefty price tag that makes it inaccessible and frankly unnecessary for many users. (Unless you’re recording the next Thriller. In which case, please continue …)
Top 3 - Shure SM7B Alternatives
Sure, the SM7B is a versatile, durable mic with a clean signal that EQs well live or in post and handles off-axis rejection with precision. But other reputable mic manufacturers are stepping up to offer products that rival some of the SM7B’s most desirable features.
Let’s look at a few …
No matter what kind of content you’re creating, there’s a crystal clear dynamic mic to suit your needs, and it doesn't always have to be the SM7B. As we explore some of the best alternatives, it is important to have a precise picture in your mind of the use case for your mic, the conditions of your environment, and your budget.
1. Samson Q9U
As far as SM7B alternatives go, Samson’s Q9U ranks right at the top for a fraction of the price. Right down to the hardware level EQ.
Off the bat, you’ll notice two toggles on the back of the microphone that mimic those found on the SM7B: mid boost allows you to boost the frequencies you want to hear in spoken word and low cut reduces any boominess in the signal’s sound.
So, if you want to perform some basic EQ without spending too much time down the audio engineering rabbit hole, the Q9U delivers.
For those of you that already dwell in that rabbit hole, the Q9U features an XLR output in addition to USB-C so you can plug into any audio interface you prefer.
While this mic doesn’t come with a stand, it does feature a useful swivel yoke mount that not only looks great and super broadcast-y but functions well.
As for sound quality, the Q9U’s cardioid polar pattern is exceptionally good at rejecting background and off-axis noise. It’s a bit sensitive to vibration, and there are better choices out there for musical use cases. But overall, it’s a sturdy, intuitive microphone that is ideal for voice work.
And, at the price point, the Q9U is great for podcasters who want more than one high-quality, hyper-focused microphone for their setup.
2. RØDE PodMic
RØDE’s plosive-vanquishing PodMic is an extremely handsome, vintage looking microphone featuring the quality, modern technology one expects from this company.
How does it vanquish plosives, you ask? With an integrated pop filter, of course. And to be sure, it actually works really well. This mic shines at close distances, and even vocalists who tend to hug the mic will be pleased with a crisp and clear signal.
Constructed of all metal, the PodMic is a sturdy and heavy microphone that will need an equally sturdy mount but benefits from a handy built-in swing arm. It should be noted, however, that the XLR connection impedes the swing arm’s full range of motion.
As for connections, XLR is the only choice with the PodMic which may be a dealbreaker for anyone who isn’t already set up to broadcast or record. You will indeed need to purchase an audio interface in order for this mic to work.
Thankfully, the RØDE PodMic integrates seamlessly with the RØDEMaster Pro, the company’s proprietary podcast production console.
Ultimately, if you’re creating voice-related content and looking for a mic that rivals the best, the RØDE PodMic is an affordable, high-performing choice.
3. FIFINE Amplitank K688
Plug-and-play is the name of the game with FIFINE’s Amplitank K688. With both XLR and USB-C outputs, hardware level gain control and headphone monitoring, this microphone was designed for even the technophobe-iest of streamers and content creators.
This is not to say that creators who are comfortable with audio engineering won’t find a quality mic at a low price with the K688. Anyone who was a fan of the K658 predecessor microphone will be pleased to hear less harsh trebles, an overall clearer and smoother sound, as well as a more intuitive design.
As for noise rejection, the K688 has a few features to assist. First, a permanent shock mount means that bumps, knocks and other unwanted vibrations won’t muddy your sound. Perhaps my favorite feature is the digital mute button which is backlit when you toggle it. Because it is not an analog button, the muting process is smooth and virtually noiseless.
I’m also a fan of the K688’s minimalist look. There is nothing flashy about this microphone and it just looks like it belongs in anyone’s home studio.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a quality entry-level mic that can evolve with you throughout your engineering journey, look no further than FIFINE’s K688.
4. Audio-Technica AT2040
A trusted name in the microphone market, Audio-Technica offers its AT2040 as an ideal entry point for emerging content creators.
Right out of the box, you’ll appreciate the AT2040’s sturdy build and sleek design — especially for a quality mic that comes in at a lower price than many of its competitors.
It comes outfitted with an integrated pop filter as well as a shock mount to minimize noise from unintended bumps and vibrations. As an added bonus, the AT2040 package also includes a ⅝” to ⅜” thread adapter to fit just about any mic mount on the market.
As for sound, this mic does Audio-Technica’s reputation well by producing a warm and crisp sound in addition to superior off-axis noise rejection. Indeed, content creators who want more than one voice in the room will be pleased with the AT2040’s performance.
Keep in mind, however, that the AT2040 only has an XLR out, which means you’ll need an appropriate audio interface to use it. Regardless, this is a buy-it-for-life microphone that is ideal for anyone who is ready to get serious about their sound but doesn't have SM7B money.
5. Electro-Voice RE20
A pro-level mic at a pro-level price, Electro-Voice’s RE20 is one of a handful of direct competitors to the Shure SM7B. To be sure, this mic comes with all the bells-and-whistles that professional audio engineers expect from high-end products.
Chief among its high-end features is E-V’s Variable D technology that virtually eliminates the proximity effect. You can be on top of this mic without hearing any boom or significant variations in clarity. This is a tremendous benefit to particularly animated speakers.
For similar reasons, this mic can be used for a variety of instruments that are notoriously challenging to mic. Think stand-up basses, bass drums and acoustic guitars. The genius of the RE20 is that it has the sensitivity of a condenser mic with the power to withstand high levels of sound pressure.
This, in addition to an integrated pop filter, is why you will find the RE20 in broadcasting booths around the world. Voice talent can practically put their lips on this mic without experiencing overwhelming boom or explosive consonants.
RE20s are expertly designed to reduce line noise and other sources of hum and buzz in your chain. They’re also virtually unbreakable. (I mean, don’t go trying to use it as a hammer, as the legend goes; but this is one seriously rugged microphone!)
To return to the opening analogy, there are just as many factors that go into choosing the right mic for your content as choosing the right dog breed for your lifestyle. The Shure SM7B, while about as popular as the Golden Retriever, may not always be the most suitable for your needs!
XLR or USB? Hardware level controls or minimalist interface?
The answers to these and similar questions can go a long way in helping you narrow down your list of candidates.
For example, if you are brand new to content creation, or are looking to improve your streaming experience but aren’t sure where to start, a microphone with USB connectivity may be a better choice. USB mics are typically plug-and-play, and they don’t require expensive or complex audio interfaces to function.
Some mics even feature hardware level settings that can help you adjust your sound without getting too deep in the nitty-gritty of audio engineering.
That said, if you’re new to the game but might be curious about the science of sound, it might be wise to choose a mic with both USB and XLR capabilities that can grow with you and your budding engineering skills.
Environment & Use
The type of content you plan to create as well as the environment you’ll be working in has a big impact on your choice of SM7B alternatives.
For example, most of the alternatives out there are rated for voice work which is fine if you’re streaming, podcasting, or doing any other kind of voice-based broadcasting.
But if you’re also interested in recording music, some mics fare better than others. The industry-standard E-V RE20 is so well-designed that it shines even when recording acoustic guitar or stand-up bass!
Similarly, some mics perform better than others in noisy environments. If you’re using your mic in an untreated room with lots of traffic in the background, you may want to select a mic that has a reputation for superior off-axis noise rejection, like the Samson Q9U.
Creators in well-treated or otherwise “quiet” rooms can probably get some great sound with something as basic as the FIFINE K688.
It goes without saying that budget is always a consideration when it comes to quality sound.
And when you consider how much SM7Bs cost, not even including additional costs for an audio interface, preamp, cables and the like, most creators are keen on finding a more affordable alternative.
Thankfully, there are suitable choices at nearly every budget level. FIFINE’s K688 is a clear and well-balanced mic at entry-level pricing. Indeed, everything you need comes in the box.
Moving up the price ladder gets you more desirable features, such as hardware level EQ as found on the Samson Q9U. Right at the tippy-top, in direct competition with the SM7B, you get high quality proprietary technology as with Electro-Voice’s RE20.
Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that if you’re not already an expert engineer (amateur or pro), the nuances heard at each of these price points may not concern you just yet. Go with what sounds good to your ear and your wallet.
That’s A Wrap!
At the end of the day, finding a well-constructed, silky smooth microphone akin to Shure’s iconic SM7B is easy if you know what you’re looking for. Reputable microphone manufacturers from Audio-Technica to RØDE to Samson all have exceptional offerings to suit content creators or every genre, every technical ability, and every budget!