The Shure SM7b and Electro-Voice RE20 are two hugely popular recording mics. As large diaphragm dynamic mics, you get the best of both worlds: The wide “hi def” range of a condenser, and the low gain of a dynamic. This lets you record loud instruments (or vocals) with crystal clear audio.
Widely considered mainstays in the studio, the RE20 and SM7b are great for recording vocals (loud & soft), kick drums and guitar cabinets, as well as bass cabinets, acoustic guitars, pianos, brass/woodwind instruments and more.
As for which one is better, the answer is tricky. It ultimately depends on the tone you’re after, as well as the performance style of your musician (do they want proximity effect or not?) Below, we’ll explain all these details in layman’s terms. We’ll also give you some apples-to-apples audio samples to help you decide for yourself.
SHURE SM7B vs. Electro-Voice RE20: Comparison
High Pass Switch
Presence Boost Switch (*huge plus*)
Slightly Shorter Frequency Range (see chart)
No Proximity Effect (tone is same from any angle/distance)
High Pass Switch
Slightly Wider Frequency Range (see chart)
|Good For:||Vocals, Radio / Podcasts, Guitar Cabs, Kick Drum
Presence boost makes it great for rock music - where the voice needs to “cut through” a loud mix
|Vocals, Radio / Podcasts, Bass Cabs, Kick Drum, Acoustic Guitar, Brass
Wider/Flatter range makes it great for acoustic instruments
|Sound Pressure Level (SPL)||180 dB (It can handle extremely loud sounds)||140 dB (It can handle very loud sounds)|
|Where to Buy?||Amazon (New & Used)||Amazon (New & Used)|
Shure SM7b Review
Feature-Packed & Versatile
The Shure SM7b is an extremely versatile microphone. Its low gain-yet-wide freq response makes it great for recording a huge range of instruments: From soft vocals to screams, guitar amps, kick drums, trumpets and more.
Literally speaking, the SM7b features a bass rolloff switch, presence boost switch and 2 removable windscreens. Altogether, these nick nacks help you get a huge range of tones. The mic itself also has a proximity effect: You can record right up against the grill for a boomy “movie trailer” style voice. Or, back away a few inches for a more balanced vocal tone.
Compared to the RE20, the SM7b is slightly less wide. It doesn’t get quite as deep for recording kick drums & bass guitar. Also, it lacks some uber high-end that can make voices sound sibilant (breathy) or make acoustic guitars shimmer. Unless you’re specifically looking for these tones, however, the SM7b isn’t going to disappoint. On the flipside, the SM7b has a presence boost that can make vocals/guitars sound much more lively than the RE20.
Electro-Voice RE20 Review
Full, Flat & No Proximity Effect
The Electro-Voice RE20 was designed with the unique goal of eliminating all proximity effect. Proximity effect is how your tone changes based on your distance to or angle from the mic. Examples are how your voice gets boomy too close to the mic and brittle far away.
With an RE20, your voice sounds the same regardless of your distance or angle. This makes it great for radio DJs conducting interviews (when guests are not paying attention to their mic proximity.) Likewise, it’s great for less-experienced vocalists who may unknowingly move around while performing.
On the other hand, the RE20 can be limiting to more experienced singers who utilize proximity effect to their advantage. Some vocalists have a more dynamic relationship with the mic, moving back and forth with the intensity of their stanzas. The RE20 is not a great fit for these singers, as these subtleties will not shine through.
Wider, Flatter Response
The other major way the RE20 is different from the SM7b is it’s wider frequency response. In particular, you get more dBs in the 60 to 100 Hz range, which adds depth to kick drums and bass guitars. You also get more highs around 8 kHz and upwards, which adds “airiness” to vocals and other instruments. [Note: The SM7b is still present in these ranges, and is still commonly used for recording kick drums & airy vocals. It’s just not quite as pronounced.]
On the flipside, the Electro-Voice is much flatter than the SM7b. As you’ll see in the frequency chart below, it’s almost completely flat from 70 Hz all the way up to 8 kHz. While some engineers love the darker tone that results from the flat EQ, others prefer the SM7b for precisely this reason. The presence boost offered by the SM7b can make recordings sound much more lively. Especially when you’re trying to make something stand out over a loud mix (like vocals in a rock band).
SM7b vs. RE20: Frequency Charts
Depending on the type of engineer/musician you are, you’ll either love or hate this next comparison. Here I’ll dive into the frequency response of each microphone to highlight their differences. If you’re not hip on the audio frequency spectrum, fear not. I’ll explain everything in layman’s terms:
|Less Bass (rolloff at 100 Hz)
More Presence (1.5 - 5 kHz) helps enunciation of vocals. Helps instruments stand out in mix
Less Sibilance (8 kHz) controls “S” sounds
Less Airy (10 - 20 kHz)
|More Bass (rolloff at 70 Hz) adds depth to bass guitar and kick
Less Presence (1.5 - 5 kHz)
More Sibilance (8 kHz) adds "breathiness" to vocals. Can also cause unwanted “S” sounds
More Airy (10 - 20 kHz) adds shimmer to acoustic guitars, cymbals and other percussive instruments
The main takeaway is that the EV RE20 is a bit wider: It’s more pronounced in the 60 to 100 Hz range which adds depth to kick drums and bass guitars. (This has virtually no effect on vocals or electric guitars, however.)
At the same time, the RE20 has more highs around 8 kHz and upwards. This is the point where vocals and instruments start to sound “airy.” You hear less of the voice itself, and more breath noises or shimmering room reflections. It’s really up to the artist if this is a range they want to explore or not. A lot of engineers will cut it, as these tones can sound harsh/distorted. On the other hand, if you’re shoegaze singer or acoustic solo artist, you might just relish in these frequencies.
SM7b vs. RE20: Examples
Here’s two samples that do a fantastic job of comparing these mics. The recording is of an acoustic guitar, which let’s us hear (almost) the full frequency spectrum:
Samples were created by guitarmax_99 and originally posted to GearSlutz. Check the thread for more comparison samples, including vocals.
The RE20 (2nd file) definitely has a wider range. You can hear deeper bass during the forceful strums. There’s also more super highs in the “shimmering” range - like those pick/string noises.
In my opinion, however, the SM7b (1st file) actually sounds much nicer. The presence boost seems to be enunciating all the right frequencies. It sounds thicker and more lively. It’s almost as though this track was already mixed and mastered. But in reality, that’s just the beauty of the SM7b presence boost.
Remember, this is just my preference. In many applications, the darker tone of the RE20 may actually be a better choice. If you agree or disagree, feel free to voice your own opinions in the comment section below.
Whether to choose an SM7b or an RE20 ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want a mic with a very wide & very flat range that also masterfully eliminates proximity effect (RE20)? Or, do you want a mic with more versatile tone options, including a presence boost that gives your recordings “pre-mixed” tightness and clarity (SM7b)?
Personally, I’ve found more luck with the latter option. But I wouldn’t hesitate to use the RE20 when the opportunity called for it.
As a final bit of inspiration, here’s Thom Yorke showing us the RE20 in action. Notice how the tone doesn’t change no matter how much he shakes!