The Best, First Microphone!
I'm now over a decade and a half into audio production and have a collection of more than 30 microphones, ranging from high end multi-pattern tube condensers to vintage ribbons. Each microphone has its purpose and is used when the time is right, even if I do have my favorites. However, I remember how overwhelmed I was when searching for my first microphone all those years ago. I ended up choosing an MXL-4000 solely due to marketing terms and "specs". Like I said before, each microphone has its use and I do still use this mic sometimes, but I typically have to knock off the dust first before mounting it. To help all you new engineers with little ear training make the best decision when searching for your first microphone, I thought I'd offer one of my all-time favorite mics that gets way more use than the fancy high end mics in my locker.
If I had to start all over, my first microphone would hands-down be the Shure SM7B. I'm sure you've read all about it elsewhere, and if you haven't, you've certainly seen it. This legendary black blimp of a mic costs a bit more than the standard SM57 (also a legend) but has so many advantages and uses.
• Sound Quality - Marketed as a broadcast microphone, it's tailored for voice and has a nice rich, warm, smooth presence that can be processed liberally without sounding too harsh. Even without processing, it provides a natural response that sounds pleasant in nearly any context.
• Features - My favorite feature is the large detachable windscreen. It's not to be confused with or used in place of a pop filter but it definitely helps reduce plosives, breathiness and not surprisingly....wind noise! Perfect if you're singing or interviewing outside. Other features to note are the bass rolloff and mid-range boost switches located on the back. The bass rolloff helps further reduce plosives or accidental stand bump noise and the mid-range boost increases presence.
• Durability - This thing is extremely durable! It's a large diaphragm dynamic microphone with the stand mount attached, which means no missing or broken clips and no replacing shock mount bands. The only real possible issue you may experience is an accidental cross-threading of the stand adapter (just pay attention and that won't be a problem).
• Applications - Though built and marketed as a speech/vocal microphone, it can be used on nearly any instrument or source where you need to capture a warm natural sound. The Shure SM7B is just as at home in a home recording studio capturing vocals or a floor tom as it is podcasting or vlogging. The dynamic design and windscreen also allow this mic to shine in a live recording setting which is why it's seen in so many live performance videos like the Acoustic Corner videos I produce for Corner Music's YouTube channel, which you can check out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb4qMBUIf7c&list=PLVdbS_KkRQ3WozC3V0blvJjcwwvB9afmm
• Ease of Use - It doesn't get much easier than plugging in an XLR, setting the gain and pressing record. The SM7B isn't a condenser mic, therefore, it doesn't require phantom power. It is meant to be mounted on a stand or boom arm but works just as well being handheld. Check out my fellow Nashvillian, Marc Martel, using an SM7B in his famous "Somebody To Love" audition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dREKkAk628I&list=RDdREKkAk628I&start_radio=1
To recap, the Shure SM7B is a large diaphragm dynamic mic that's suitable for multiple applications but shines on vocals. It's overbuilt, to last years and years of use, and produces a warm, smooth natural sound. If you're searching for your first microphone and want something that checks all the boxes, I hope you consider the legendary Shure SM7B. Check out Shure's website for more information: https://www.shure.com/en-US/products/microphones/sm7b