The Shure SM7B has a storied history—Quincy Jones used it for Michael Jackson’s vocals on Thriller, and Jack White, Jeff Tweedy, and Sheryl Crowe have all used it—as well as a relatively affordable price compared with other studio options. Its crisp, rich sound makes it ideal for radio/podcast and music vocals. So when Shure announced a hybrid XLR-USB microphone based on the SM7B design and geared toward podcasters, we were intrigued. The Shure MV7 costs $249 compared with the XLR-only SM7B’s $399, but it would be a mistake to consider them identical in build. The MV7 is reminiscent of the SM7B in its swivel-mount, front-address design, but is ultimately its own beast. It marries the versatility of Shure’s USB mic line with pro gear characteristics for the best of both worlds. Podcasters and musicians looking for an easy to use, clarity-first vocal mic will find a lot to like in the MV7.
Available with black or silver metallic enclosures, the MV7 may be based on the SM7B, but as mentioned, they aren’t identical. The SM7B’s iconic oblong grille isn’t present in the MV7’s design—the front-address mic’s overall shape is similar, but the capsule is covered by a screw-on foam pop filter/windscreen, and when this is removed, instead of a grille, you see the actual unprotected dynamic capsule. (The filter is only removable so it can be replaced with various color options—it needs the filter on to properly protect the capsule.) The MV7’s capsule has a cardioid pattern and a frequency range of 50Hz to 16kHz, and the mic’s A/D converter can record 16-bit or 24-bit audio at 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rates.
The MV7’s swivel mount is designed to screw into any standard mic stand (an adapter for smaller thread mounts is included), and Shure also sells a desktop tripod stand, mic stand, and a boom arm stand—all can be bought along with the mic for an additional $10, $20, or $80, respectively. Having to pay extra for these is a bit of a bummer—it’s par for the course in the XLR mic world, but most USB mics we test come with their own stands. The MV7 needs a stand or mount of some sort in order to be used properly, so you can add at least $10 to the price.
The mic’s top panel has a control strip along the border of the pop filter’s edge. Here, there are touch-sensitive controls for Mute, a slider for adjusting levels, and a button for switching the slider function between mic gain (slider LEDs are green) or headphone volume (slider LEDs are orange). There’s also a Lock icon—holding both the Mute and Level buttons simultaneously will lock or unlock the control panel so you don’t accidentally change settings once they’re set.
The back panel of the MV7 houses an XLR connection for standard pro-studio cables (an XLR cable isn’t included, as is usually the case with pro mics), as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack for live monitoring and a micro USB connection. The MV7 ships with two USB cables—one terminating in USB-A and the other in USB-C.
Garageband recognized the MV7 with no issue, and I was recording in no time on an iMac. The Shure Motiv app (for PCs and mobile devices) opens up more of the MV7’s possibilities—in it, you’ll find EQ presets, tone presets, dynamic compression and limiting, and the ability to adjust the monitor mix during playback. The best part is that it’ll control the mic’s parameters in real time, while you record in another app. You can switch between Dark, Natural, or Bright presets, and adjust compression and limiting (or turn them off), all while recording in, say, Garageband. So you can get the unadulterated clean signal, or Shure gives you some basic tools to work with.
Of course, most recording software has similar EQ and compression tools for you to play with, but having more doesn’t hurt. And the Motiv app allows for quick Muting and Gain control from the software window, so the mic doesn’t have to be touched in order to make adjustments.
The MV7 is compatible with Mac OS 10.13 to 10.15 and Windows 10. It also works with iOS 12 and Android (8.0 and up), but you need to make sure you have the right cable for the job. You need a Lightning cable to connect with an iPhone, for instance, and Shure makes one, but it’s not included.
The ability to use the mic with a pro-gear, analog XLR-style setup, or with a digital USB connection for computers, makes the MV7 one of the more versatile mics we’ve tested. First, we compared the MV7’s signal with that of the SM7B in ProTools. Using the same mic pre (a Millennia HV-3D, known for its transparency) and the same cable, we recorded similar vocal passages, with no EQ or compression. The signal for the MV7 is indeed comparable—not identical, but very similar—with the SM7B’s. Both offer rich low-mids and excellent clarity, and both respond well to high-mid EQ. The MV7’s signal seems somewhat louder than the SM7B.
In XLR mode, as is to be expected, the onboard gain controls no longer work, nor does the headphone output (and obviously not the Motiv app’s digital signal processing)—it’s a pure analog signal with no DSP. The XLR connection doesn’t feel like a gimmick—it’s certainly useful if you bring the mic to a studio, or any sort of setting where XLR inputs are used. But as the primary use, the XLR connection isn’t terribly compelling—it might be worth it to spend more money on an actual SM7B if your main use case will be XLR.
But if you plan on using the USB connection more often or exclusively, the MV7 starts to make a lot of sense. It’s versatility is a huge bonus—you can record with USB one session and use XLR the next, and the clean signals will sound pretty similar, although, as mentioned, the Motiv app is for USB use only, so any EQ or compression settings won’t necessarily carry over. But this is typical of both XLR and USB mics—XLRs generally don’t have any effects built in, and USB models often do. You’ll most likely want to record with the least DSP possible when in USB mode if you want to try to go back and forth between XLR and USB connections for the same recording scenario. Having both modes available, even if they don’t always match perfectly, is going to be a meaningful convenience for some users.
Using the USB connection with Garageband and the Shure Motiv desktop app, we were able to get a wide variety of podcast-friendly vocal sounds—crisp and compressed, or relatively mids-focused and clean. For those with less recording experience looking for a plug-and-play, ready-to-go vocal mic that will deliver quality results, the combo of the MV7 and Motiv app will get the job done, applying the DSP needed for your vocals to sound clean, pop-free, and dynamically even. Of course, the mic can also be used on instruments, but the primary use for the SM7B is for vocals, and the MV7 is marketed as a “podcast mic,” so that was our focus here. Still, it’s a dynamic mic that can handle a variety of applications.
The Shure SM7B is an iconic vocal mic, and the MV7 is a worthy USB take on it. The DSP in the Motiv app helps approximate the way an SM7B might sound after a mix engineer applies some EQ and compression to it, while its XLR analog signal is quite similar to the SM7B’s. If your main recording scenario will be analog, we suggest going with the actual SM7B or another XLR option, but if you want versatility, or will be using an exclusively digital/USB connection, the MV7 is an excellent mic worthy of its price. In the higher-priced USB mic realm, we’re also fans of the $350 Apogee Hype Mic, the $285 Blue Raspberry, and the $200 Razer Seiren Elite. But the Shure MV7 easily stands among these options, bringing something different to the table with its dynamic capsule and its XLR/USB versatility.