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Image credit: Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Shure's $249 MV7 is a USB/XLR microphone built for podcasters

It's like the iconic SM7B, but cheaper and more flexible.
Devindra Hardawar, @devindra
October 26, 2020
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Shure MV7
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

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For many podcasters, Shure's SM7B just may be the holy grail of microphones. Its first iteration, the SM7, was a beloved radio workhorse that Quincy Jones used to record Michael Jackson's Thriller. If you've ever seen your favorite podcast hosts in action, you've likely seen the SM7B in their studios, like a monument to being a Serious Recording Artist. But the SM7B is clearly something aimed at professionals: At $399, it's too expensive for most amateur podcasters. It requires an XLR audio interface (for at least another $100). And it's so power-hungry, it usually needs an additional pre-amp (tack on another $150 or more).

Gallery: Shure MV7 | 10 Photos

The good news is, Shure decided to create something a little more attainable for podcasters and streamers: The $249 MV7, its first microphone with USB and XLR connectivity. That flexibility means you can hook it up to any computer, as well as other devices like smartphones, tablets and game consoles, without the need for any additional gear. But you can also use it with XLR audio interfaces and studio equipment as your needs evolve. (And yes, you can also record over both connections at the same time, a useful backup technique.) The MV7 is also a dynamic microphone, like the SM7B and other mics that professionals prefer, so it'll focus on your voice and tune out extraneous noise.

The first thing you'll notice about the MV7 is that it looks a lot like the SM7B. It still has a metal frame and a bundled pop filter, it's just significantly smaller than its famous sibling. There's also a metal mounting frame that can be attached to a stand or microphone arm (surprisingly, there's no stand in the box). Peek a bit closer and you'll notice a few touch controls for gain and headphone monitoring levels, as well as a mute option. I'm not a fan of touching my mics during recordings, but at least Shure didn't use any noisy buttons. Around the back, there's a micro-USB connection, XLR and a headphone jack to monitor recordings. (The company bundles USB Type-A and USB-C cables.) That rear panel alone makes it strikingly clear how different the MV7 is from the SM7B, which has archaic low-pass and presence boost switches that require a key or screwdriver to tweak.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Shure representatives were quick to point out that the MV7 isn't really meant to replace the SM7B. And there's no reason to think it would -- it has a smaller cartridge than its classic sibling, so it could never reach the same range. But its small size makes it an ideal travel companion for existing SM7B owners. And when it comes to sound quality, it's a considerable step up from entry-level condenser microphones like the popular Blue Yeti. (Condensers are great at capturing sound in studios and noise-isolated rooms, but typically they also record much of the background racket you don't want.)

While I'm not anything close to an audio expert, I've had plenty of experience with USB microphones as a podcaster for the past 12 years. Based on a few weeks of testing, the MV7 is something I think many budding hosts may want to consider. Over both USB and XLR (connected to a FocusRite Scarlett 2i2), it captured rich recordings that sounded almost as good as my trusty Rode Procaster, a well-reviewed dynamic XLR mic. There wasn’t much of the delicious low bass notes you’d hear from the SM7B, but recordings still sounded crisp and clear, with plenty of mid-range detail.

In the comparison above, it's hard to tell much of a difference between the MV7 in USB or XLR modes, a testament to Shure's built-in DAC. There's a clearer gap with the Procaster, though -- its recording sounds more open and detailed than either Shure connection. I also had a hard time finding a comfortable spot to use the MV7 without producing plosives, the thumps of air you hear when saying words that begin with "p." Even when I was recording off-axis with the MV7, with my mouth aiming away from its center, I'd still get more plosives than I'd like (as you can also hear in the demo). That's not a deal-breaker, it just means I can't really trust the MV7's foam pop filter.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Shure also gives you more customization options over USB with its MOTIV apps, something that budding content creators may appreciate. By default, the MV7 is set to "auto-level" mode, which tweaks your gain, compression and other settings on the fly. You can also set the level of your monitor mix (between the live input and playback from your device), and swap between close and far mic positions. You'd likely be using near mode most of the time at a computer desk, but the far setting could be useful for couch streaming sessions.

Swap over to manual mode and you'll be able to adjust your gain, choose from low-pass or presence boost equalizer settings, turn on a limiter, and choose from three different compression settings. As you can hear from the demo above, the MV7's "auto-level" mode sounds solid, if a bit cramped and lifeless. Manual mode gives the recording more room to breathe, and I appreciated having more direct control over my sound profile. In particular, the presence boost EQ setting would be helpful if you're aiming for more of a bright, NPR-style recording.

While I won't be giving up my Procaster anytime soon, I likely would have considered the MV7 if it was available earlier this year. It joins a new wave of multi-functional microphones, like Audio Technica’s ATR-2100X, which also offers USB and XLR connectivity. The MV7 produces solid recording quality for a USB microphone, and its flexibility makes it something you can use for years. And for many podcast producers, it could be a smarter choice than shelling out for the SM7B and all of its accompanying gear.

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