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View Full Version : SM7b and recommendations for gear




e.m.
Sep 5, 2006, 02:48 AM
Hello all.

I am planning on purchasing a SM7b for recording my vocals in the near future. I decided to go with this mic instead of similar or more expenisive condensors because there are lots of uncontrollabe noise in my room (such as the train), and thought it would work better.

I have been recording on my Roland VS 890 for about 10 years, and plan on using that as my multitrack in the future, although I have (finally) started looking at some software solutions as well (I have the last revision G4 PB15). The more I learn about software recording, the more it appeals to me.

If I were to continue recording on the VS, all I would need would be a good preamp (suggestions most definitely welcome if you have some) because my understanding is that the sm7 needs quite a bit of gain for it to really shine.

I was thinking though, if I go the software side, I would need an interface too. Are there any digital audio interfaces that has strong enough pre's (gains) that would work well with the sm7 (low noise at high gains)? Because if there is, I can bypass purchasing the stand alone pre, just get an interface, and record on my PowerBook now. But if there isn't an interface that can do this, I would purchase the nice preamp to use on my VS now, and that way, whenever I make the switch to the Mac (from the VS, not a PC :) ), I will still use it to plug into whatever digital audio interface I purchase.

Looking forward to your insights and knowledge.

e.m.



zimv20
Sep 5, 2006, 02:54 AM
great mic. you're right about the gain, so if it's in your budget grab an FMR RNP (http://www.mercenary.com/fmrrnmp.html) mic pre. it's one of those rare "better than what you paid for" pieces, and it's got a lot of nice, clean gain. the tracks recorded through it stack upon themselves nicely, i've found.

on the sm7, probably best to avoid using the presence boost switch, at least for vox. the few times i had it on, i regretted it.

e.m.
Sep 5, 2006, 03:19 AM
great mic. you're right about the gain, so if it's in your budget grab an FMR RNP (http://www.mercenary.com/fmrrnmp.html) mic pre. it's one of those rare "better than what you paid for" pieces, and it's got a lot of nice, clean gain. the tracks recorded through it stack upon themselves nicely, i've found.

on the sm7, probably best to avoid using the presence boost switch, at least for vox. the few times i had it on, i regretted it.

Thanks for your input. If i go the the RNP route (which is definitely on the list, and one of the most economical options as far as standalone pres, it seems), when (and if) I start recording on my Mac, the features most important to me for a digital interface would be the quality of the DA converter, right?

Do you have any recommendations for an interface that would have strong and clean enough gains for the sm7 so I wouldn't have to get a seperate pre? The bottom line is that I'm trying to save some money, but I guess in the end it'd be roughly the same, because I would have to get a DAW, even if I didn't need a stand alone pre.

Although money is precisous and I do have budget constraints, I am willing to shell it out for the most important factor: the sound.

zimv20
Sep 5, 2006, 03:43 AM
the features most important to me for a digital interface would be the quality of the DA converter, right?
are you asking if DA is more important than AD? i'd say your DA should be at *least* as good as your AD.


Do you have any recommendations for an interface that would have strong and clean enough gains for the sm7 so I wouldn't have to get a seperate pre?
i'm not very well versed in interfaces, sorry. maybe on the louder sources a pre with normal gains would be okay, but i've done tracking where none of my more expensive pre's could provide enough gain -- i had to go with the RNP.

i hear ya on the budget -- good stuff isn't cheap.

e.m.
Sep 5, 2006, 06:55 PM
are you asking if DA is more important than AD? i'd say your DA should be at *least* as good as your AD.

No, that's not what I meant. If I get a pre like the RNP, when I look into buying interfaces in the future, I should be most concerned with the quality of the digital/analogue converter (in the interface itself), because I'd have a good pre already. Or am I wrong? What would be the benefit of getting a standalone converter if I already had the interface? Isn't the digital audio interface bassically a combo of pres and a DA converter? Or am I missing something here? If I get the RNP (or some other pre) now to work with the VS, can I just get a digital/analogue converter and then record on the Mac, or do I still need an audio digital interface?

Wait, now I'm getting super confused.

zimv20
Sep 5, 2006, 07:18 PM
the term "interface", while useful, is a little confusing, as it's a box that combines several functions, and not always the same functions.

so we'll break it down. to record a vocal, you need:

singer -> mic -> mic pre -> analog/digital (A/D) converter -> digital recorder

to listen to it back, you need:

digital playback -> digital/analog converter (D/A) -> amplifier -> speaker

if you got an RNP, you'd still need an A/D converter for recording. there are standalone converters -- i.e. no mic pre's or any extra stuff -- such as the benchmark adc-1 (http://www.mercenary.com/beadandad.html).

but standalone stuff gets kind of expensive, so there are a lot of less pricey "interface" boxes which usually combine the pre's, the a/d, the d/a, a digital connection like USB or firewire, and a headphone jack.

....

it's not an either / or prospect, though. i have an interface box -- the digi002r. it has 4 mic pre's, 8 channels of a/d conversion, 8 channels of d/a conversion, and a headphone jack. and though the 002r is in my chain, i don't use any of those things.

i have standalone pre's feeding into an 8-channel apogee converter, which connects digitally (via ADAT) to the digi002r. on playback, i don't use the 002r converters, i have a benchmark dac-1 digitally connected (via s/pdif) to the digi002r. all the 002r ends up doing is:
1. serving as a connection hub to my computer
2. providing the necessary hardware dongle to pro tools

so, if you got the RNP and an interface box that already has mic pre's, you could use the RNP and connect it via the analog line ins to the interface box, bypassing its internal pre's. i do something similar on my 002r because, imo, the built-in pre's aren't that great. and the conversion isn't, either, so i bypass that, too.

....

it gets confusing, i know. probably the best thing for you to do right now is determine:
1. what software you want to use
2. how many simultaneous record channels you need
3. your budget

those answers will dictate what hardware you should be looking at.

e.m.
Sep 5, 2006, 08:27 PM
zimv20,

Wow. Thanks for the breakdown. I really appreciate it. Although I am now less confused, in a sense I am more overwhelmed because it seems like there are SO many ways of hooking up a mic to the Mac. With the VS (and other hardware multi track), it was easier, because I didn't have to mess with this digital/analogue stuff. But I guess anything is "easy" after you get used to it, and choices are good. Thanks for walking me through this.

I am looking at this as a long term transition, because I have the VS to act as the DAW for now. So although I do have a budget, I can spend more (I know that's super subjective; and since I'm looking into a sm7 and a RNP, I guess that might be more on the budget side) on each piece of equiptment, I feel. First will be the mic (and the pre that goes along with it). So we're talking about $700/800, or up to $1000 per purchase cycle. Then it would be the "interface" or everything necessary to plug in my recordings to the Mac. Ofcourse, I would have to buy some sort of DAW at that time too (leaning now towards Digital Performer now, but not certain yet). I know that I should choose my software first, then hardware, but as of now, I'm not ready to switch to software based recording yet (budget wise and also mentally/emotionally; also, I'm about to start recording a new project, and don't want to to switch to a brand new MTR timing wise), so I'm looking into gear that I can use both with my VS and the Mac later on. ProTools has been ruled out for this factor.

The only thing I will ever record (I know I shouldn't say that, but it's pretty safe to say since this has been the case for the last 10 years) are vocals and turntable scratches occasionaly, but not often. So I'd probably only need two simultaneous inputs (L and R for the tables). The way I make music now (hip hop, as the masses call it) is a producer sends me a beat, I load it into the VS and record my vocals, send that back to the producer, where the beat is resequenced, mixed, mastered, etc. This is because everyone I work with lives in Japan. So in other words, all I need is a way to record my vocals and occasionaly some scratches the cleanest and most high quality (another subjective word, sorry) way possible. I don't mix or master or make beats (actually I do for fun, but that's a whole another story), although I'd like to do those things in the future.

It's pretty funny, but I was never interested in recording with my Mac until one day I realized burning my vocals as .wav files on a cd and sending it to Japan is going to be a lot cheaper and easier than sending zip disks all the time. It's not looking so cheap anymore, but that's okay.

zimv20
Sep 5, 2006, 10:16 PM
Thanks for the breakdown. I really appreciate it.
you are welcome.

So we're talking about $700/800, or up to $1000 per purchase cycle.
yeah, that's the way i do it. i stopped buying throw-away pieces and concentrated on the always-keep-and-use stuff and am much happier for it.

I'd probably only need two simultaneous inputs
sounds like it. there are lots o' boxes that'll serve your needs, even some interfaces w/ pre's that you'd bypass.

I realized burning my vocals as .wav files on a cd and sending it to Japan is going to be a lot cheaper and easier than sending zip disks all the time.
nuts to that. set up an ftp server and share the files over the internet. i collaborate with people all over the place and frequently share files with a guy in brooklyn. we send mp3s of tracks and rough mixes back and forth until mixtime, then we'll post the full AIFFs to our website for the other to download. it's a little time consuming, but saves on media and post.

sm7 and rnp are a good combo. those are pieces you'll use for a long time. i'd be jealous if i didn't have them already :-)

e.m.
Sep 5, 2006, 11:30 PM
nuts to that. set up an ftp server and share the files over the internet.

I'll look into that. Thanks.


sm7 and rnp are a good combo. those are pieces you'll use for a long time. i'd be jealous if i didn't have them already :-)

I'm leaning more and more towards this. I wonder if there are any gear rental places where I can rent several pres I'm interested in and compare them in my environment.

For future reference, do you have any suggestions on all the stuff that would come inbetween the sm7/pre to Mac for my purposes? I just need the basics, no eq, gate, filter, because all those needs will be covered later by someone else. I would prefer an all-in-one, but it's not a requirement.

zimv20
Sep 6, 2006, 12:48 AM
I wonder if there are any gear rental places where I can rent several pres I'm interested in and compare them in my environment.
some pro shops will do that, like mercenary.com. but be warned that the RNP is the cheapest pre they have. you won't find the purveyors of consumer gear, like guitar center and sweetwater, doing that. GC, maybe, if you've bought a lot of stuff there and they know you. my SW guy wouldn't do that for me.

do you have any suggestions on all the stuff that would come inbetween the sm7/pre to Mac for my purposes? I just need the basics, no eq, gate, filter, because all those needs will be covered later by someone else. I would prefer an all-in-one, but it's not a requirement.
you need the a/d converter, obviously. for vox, i'll usually throw an 1176 (http://www.uaudio.com/products/analog/1176LN/index.html) in the chain, 'cuz it's so yummy.

if you have the budget, i'd seriously consider the apogee mini-me (http://www.mercenary.com/apminpreor.html), though its pre's may make the RNP redundant. i haven't used the mini-me, but i use apogee conversion at my place and i'm very pleased with it. the nice thing about the mini-me is, unlike some other two channel converters in this range, it's got USB built-in. the others tend to have AES or s/pdif only.

cheaper than that, i don't know. if i wanted to grab a sub-$500 converter box, i'd probably start my search with presonus, unless lynx or RME has something in that range. i don't have much experience with stuff in that range.

e.m.
Sep 6, 2006, 02:49 AM
if you have the budget, i'd seriously consider the apogee mini-me (http://www.mercenary.com/apminpreor.html), though its pre's may make the RNP redundant. i haven't used the mini-me, but i use apogee conversion at my place and i'm very pleased with it. the nice thing about the mini-me is, unlike some other two channel converters in this range, it's got USB built-in. the others tend to have AES or s/pdif only.

Are you saying that the pre's on this are comparable to the one on the RNP?

In that case, I could record with just this on my Mac? I notice that it is only an A/D converter and not a D/A converter. How would this limit me for my purposes? I'm confused because it seems that I could monitor through the headphones, which is all I would need when I record. Although this contradicts my previous post about not ditching my VS quite yet, it makes the thought of recording on the Mac much more exciting because that is all I would need to start off in the world of software recording(and I could add other pre's and whatever else later).

I noticed it's USB. I kind of blindly believed that it is always firewire over USB when possible. Considering I'll be recording only two tracks simultaneiously, it's not a problem?

I also just found out about the Mobile I/O ULN-2 when I was reading about the Mini-Me you suggested. As far as the concept of the product, this and the mini-me is similar right? The price is similar too. Except this one has Firewire. Do you know how well these two compare for their pre's and converters?

Although all this is overwhelming and still a bit confusing, it's exciting.

zimv20
Sep 6, 2006, 03:03 AM
Are you saying that the pre's on this are comparable to the one on the RNP?
i'm not saying that, because i really don't know. i wouldn't expect them to suck, though.


I noticed it's USB. I kind of blindly believed that it is always firewire over USB when possible. Considering I'll be recording only two tracks simultaneiously, it's not a problem?
USB can handle two tracks just fine.


I also just found out about the Mobile I/O ULN-2
::smacks head::

yeah, i forgot about that one. okay, i haven't used it, but i have heard stuff recorded through it, and it sounded good, to put it mildly. a friend of mine -- who has an amazing studio (neve AND api desks) -- uses one for remotes and he loves it. i greatly value his opinion. yes, if you can spring for it, seriously consider that piece for pre and converter needs. you can search the hardware forum at osxaudio.com for many, many positive comments on it. and as i'm sure you've noticed, it *does* have d/a converters on it.

if i weren't running pro tools, it's very likely i'd have some metric halo stuff here.

e.m.
Sep 6, 2006, 03:10 AM
Then both of these would be the wonder products if I was looking into recording on my Mac right away. If I don't feel the need to get a seperate stand alone pre with these products, this would save me money on the long run that I could use for the DAW. Decisions, decisions.

I am still not clear though, how (if any) would the lack of D/A conver on the Mini-Me be a problem for me?

It seems the price for these two products are comparable, though.

zimv20
Sep 6, 2006, 03:11 AM
i'd just remembered that with the sm7 you need to make sure you have enough gain. on the uln-2 spec page (http://www.mhlabs.com/metric_halo/products/mio/uln2/), it says it has 72 dB gain, which should be enough. the mini-me (http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/minime.php?show=features) has 65 dB.

zimv20
Sep 6, 2006, 03:14 AM
I am still not clear though, how (if any) would the lack of D/A conver on the Mini-Me be a problem for me?
we haven't even talked about your monitoring setup. you need good d/a so you can hear what you're doing. good monitoring includes good speakers and room, too, not to mention quality cabling. it's all important for mixing, of course, but even at tracking time you need to be able to play back and make sure you got a good take.

the mini-me not having d/a does put it at a disadvantage.

e.m.
Sep 6, 2006, 07:11 PM
i'd just remembered that with the sm7 you need to make sure you have enough gain. on the uln-2 spec page (http://www.mhlabs.com/metric_halo/products/mio/uln2/), it says it has 72 dB gain, which should be enough. the mini-me (http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/minime.php?show=features) has 65 dB.

I wonder if the pre is clean enough for a sm7 when the gain is quite high. It seems as if it would be.

e.m.
Sep 6, 2006, 07:13 PM
we haven't even talked about your monitoring setup. you need good d/a so you can hear what you're doing. good monitoring includes good speakers and room, too, not to mention quality cabling. it's all important for mixing, of course, but even at tracking time you need to be able to play back and make sure you got a good take.

the mini-me not having d/a does put it at a disadvantage.

right, of course. but I was wondering how monitoring on the minime is even possible (because it has a headphone jack) without a D/A. Is it able to just playback the source going in and that's it? Meaning I'd be able to hear my vocals as I'm recording, but not the beat? I doubt it, but I'm confused again.

zimv20
Sep 6, 2006, 07:42 PM
I wonder if the pre is clean enough for a sm7 when the gain is quite high. It seems as if it would be.
i do recommend you take the question to the osxaudio.com hardware forum (http://www.bigbluelounge.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=9). there are a number of MH users there.

zimv20
Sep 6, 2006, 07:45 PM
Is it able to just playback the source going in and that's it?
probably.

I'd be able to hear my vocals as I'm recording, but not the beat?
you'd need mix capabilities somewhere. some interfaces provide this, mixing the recorded track with the incoming signal and allowing monitoring. in PTLE, i simply turn on Low Latency Monitoring and do my monitor mix in there. some people use a hardware mixer and do the monitor mix in analog.

it'd be worthwhile to find out how both the uln-2 and mini-me handle that. i don't know offhand.

e.m.
Sep 7, 2006, 01:37 AM
I realized I am starting to loose my focus here. The initial plan was to get the sm7 and a good pre for it that I can use on my VS and later with the Mac. But because of some of the equiptment you told me about, I am now considering buying the mic/ULN-2/DAW at once. This would have to be in the future due to budget constraints, but in the mean time I can keep on recording with the same setup I've always had. Thanks for your help.