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Shure sm7b vs. Neumann u87Ai

Audio Superfreak on January 13, 2011 02:25


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    Jim Thornton recorded on a Shure sm7b and Neumann u87Ai simultaneously. We hear the sm7b first. sm7b had no rolloff, presence lift engaged. u87Ai had no pad, no rolloff. Acquisition chain: Focusrite Red-8 to dbx 162 SL to Apogee PSX-100. There was also a LilFreq on the u87 (between preamp & compressor) for an 18dB per octave rolloff at 100 Hz.
    Picture of me, Jim and the microphones-
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    2 timed comments and 10 regular comments

    • evilstuffexpert
      evilstuffexpert on August 18, 2011 02:00

      no way You dudes can compare this two mics...
      I think it's simply inappropriate :)
      the only similarity of these two is that both can work as cardioid directional pattern .Only people who worked with Neumann trully knows it's real value
      That's my opinion .

    • Audio Superfreak
      Audio Superfreak on July 28, 2011 01:49

      @Tetrapak Prodzekt: I dare you to use an sm7 on a really quiet source, like delicate nylon string guitar. It simply doesn't have enough output to be valuable in that application. Likewise, it is very difficult to use a u87Ai as a snare spot mic because the internal electronics are so prone to distort and such a loud source. The point of comparisons is to learn how mikes sound, not declare winners/losers. Just because you got good results from one mic over another in one circumstance, doesn't mean the same will be true in a different situation. Recipes remove you from the process. Strategies help you approach similar situations next time while remaining open to new possibilities. And THAT'S why we compare them.

    • Tetrapak Prodzekt
      Tetrapak Prodzekt on July 26, 2011 22:35

      shure is far better, dont know why comparing

    • Audio Superfreak
      Audio Superfreak on May 23, 2011 17:28

      @Peterjordan12: I don't think in terms of winners and losers. My goal is to better understand how mikes compare on various sources. In this source in this application both work well, which makes the sm7b a great value. In other circumstances the differences could be significant to the point of making one or the other unusable. For example, I did some snare shootouts and the u87 electronics clipped because the source was so loud. I've had voiceover sessions where I couldn't use the sm7b because there wasn't enough output. I've had situations with each of these two mikes where it sounded significantly unnatural on a certain voice. So I say, let the shootouts be instructive not prescriptive.

    • Peterjordan12
      Peterjordan12 on May 17, 2011 13:41

      I was shocked too. I had just listened to the differences between the Neumann U87 and the AT4060, and the Neumann was clearly the winner. at least for me. Clearer and more defined. But here I think the differences are minimal and maybe don't justify the huge difference in price. Will keep my SM7b for the time being, great mike.

    • netveyance
      netveyance on April 12, 2011 19:29

      Right, if the U87 weren't in the picture, there's no reason to question the SM7B placement. It's aimed correctly and you would adjust your distance from the mic for the best sound. But that's a different situation.

    • Audio Superfreak
      Audio Superfreak on March 30, 2011 01:51

      Well netveyance, it seems rather presumptuous of you to call the sm7b mic placement "wrong" considering that's how we actually used it for the recording session prior to this shootout. But you are correct that they do not match very well in these different positions. I do not think the nylon hoop would have nearly as much effect on the sound of the sm7b as the foam sock that comes with it. You make a good point about the element inside the sm7b (end address) being further back into the body of the mic than the u87 (side address). As for the rolloff, I find for voice that low rolloffs are extremely helpful. I have also found that the 18dB/ octave rolloff in the LilFreq sounds much better than the one built into the u87. To your point, both mikes should have the same signal path for a fair comparison. I think more shootouts between these two mikes are definitely in order. Thanks for listening and commenting.

    • netveyance
      netveyance on March 24, 2011 23:10

      Thanks for this posting. However, I see a problem...

      When you enlarge the photo to see the mic positioning, the Shure SM7B looks to be incorrectly positioned. Since the mic positioning was correct for the Neuman U87 but incorrect for the Shure SM7B, the mic position favored the Neuman.

      How did that happen? The pop filter.

      The U87 NEEDS a pop filter. The Shure SM7B has one built onto the barrel. In this test, the audio is passing through TWO pop filters before it ever reaches the SM7B.

      But that's not all. For the mic positioning to be identical, you would need to be right on top of the Shure SM7B. You need to account for the two or three inches within the barrel of the Shure SM7B -- when your mouth is up against the end of the barrel, you are two or three inches back from the element. So, by placing the U87 pop filter into the mix, you doubled the distance between the mouth and the element in the Shure SM7B. (Doubled the distance, when contrasted to the distance between the mouth and the Neuman U87.)

      In our experience with the Shure SM7B, the distance from the mic greatly affects the presence. So..

      It would be great to hear this with the Shure SM7B positioned correctly. Just use a small pop filter on the U87, and put them side to side, both angled toward the mouth. Don't have the mouth favoring one mic or another (the angle of the pop filter suggests that the mouth favored the U87).

      The two mics have different wave forms, so they won't be identical. But at least the shoot-out can have identical circumstances.

      Oh, and wouldn't removing that extra 18dB per octave rolloff at 100 Hz on the U87 help make this apples-to-apples, as well? It costs over $3,000. It doesn't need any extra help.

    • Audio Superfreak
      Audio Superfreak on February 23, 2011 19:09

      I like both of these mikes David. I think each has value. The sm7b has a much lower output than the Neumann so for quiet sources I wouldn't likely choose the Shure. The sm7b certainly has excellent bang for the buck and makes a great workhorse. When I need clarity in the mids the u87Ai is a far better choice. Corey Burton made me aware of the "kiss" sound the u87Ai seems to have on voice - a good clue when trying to figure out if someone else used the mic or not. While the sm7b has a bit more sizzle, the u87Ai has more air. For really loud sources or when I want a full sounding low end the sm7b is a great choice. To my ears the Neumann always gives voice a classic, neutral VO sound and the Shure tends to sound like FM radio announce.

    • David Das
      David Das on February 23, 2011 17:20

      To say I'm shocked would be an understatement. (This given their relative price points of $300 vs $3000.) I find them very very similar. They seem to respond to variable dynamics (the natural ebb and flow between syllables) in a slightly different way -- the Neumann is more sensitive. The Neumann is a little clearer in the sibilance range while the Shure is a little more muted. But on the whole...they seem very close to me, and were this a blind test, I don't know that I would clearly favor either. My wallet certainly favors the Shure.

      Your thoughts, Randy? You post these but don't comment on them yourself. :)

    • Audio Superfreak
    • Audio Superfreak

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