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SM7B Preamp Recommendations (ME-1NV, WA73, BAE 1073, etc)
Old 14th August 2020
  #1
SM7B Preamp Recommendations (ME-1NV, WA73, BAE 1073, etc)

Hey guys!

Working on updating the home studio and looking for preamp recommendations. We use an SM7B for most vocals and record mostly metal/prog, so lots of screaming and singing. I’ve heard great things about the Great River ME-1NV, Warm Audio WA73-EQ, and the BAE neve clone also. Can’t seem to find many samples especially with an SM7B.

Keep in mind that in modern metal vocal recording, there are often 3-5 stacked layers of vocals recorded for most of these songs. I hear the GR has quite a bit of low end and this may not be ideal with all that tracking, but only assuming.

Open to suggestions! Thank you!
Old 14th August 2020
  #2
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Why an 1073 style preamp? It's extremely colored. Push the lowmids and mids in a way that isn't always nice. Especial for an already mid heavy mic as an sm7b.

It also saturates fast. You should add something cleaner to that list if I where you and demo if you can
Old 14th August 2020 | Show parent
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen ➡️
Why an 1073 style preamp? It's extremely colored. Push the lowmids and mids in a way that isn't always nice. Especial for an already mid heavy mic as an sm7b.

It also saturates fast. You should add something cleaner to that list if I where you and demo if you can
Makes sense! Totally open to ideas. What might you recommend?

I guess another point I should make is that we typically record and send out to engineers... We don’t do the mixing/mastering in-house. In terms of color, we’d probably want to avoid too much EQ changing, but adding some “livelihood“ or depth/musicality to the signal would be nice.

I guess the reason for the 1073 list is because of their popularity. They are constantly recommended, but you are right in that the SM7B may not benefit from the lower end color of those preamp’s.
Old 14th August 2020 | Show parent
  #4
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Makes sense! Totally open to ideas. What might you recommend?

I guess another point I should make is that we typically record and send out to engineers... We don’t do the mixing/mastering in-house. In terms of color, we’d probably want to avoid too much EQ changing, but adding some “livelihood“ or depth/musicality to the signal would be nice.

I guess the reason for the 1073 list is because of their popularity. They are constantly recommended, but you are right in that the SM7B may not benefit from the lower end color of those preamp’s.
It just feels people go for a 1073 just because haha! And maybe think twice and at least try something different. Especially if you're outsourcing the mix to someone else. Ive heard from quite a few mixers that they're a bit fed up because ppl keep sending them oversaturated vocals aka pushed neves haha..

I really liked my Crane Song spider I had. Dave hill have half affordable options too. The Dave Hill Europa seems super interesting, haven't tried it though!

I do think the rme ufx preamps sounds nice if you want clean and silent pres.
Old 14th August 2020 | Show parent
  #5
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cheu78's Avatar
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Makes sense! Totally open to ideas. What might you recommend?

I guess another point I should make is that we typically record and send out to engineers... We don’t do the mixing/mastering in-house. In terms of color, we’d probably want to avoid too much EQ changing, but adding some “livelihood“ or depth/musicality to the signal would be nice.

I guess the reason for the 1073 list is because of their popularity. They are constantly recommended, but you are right in that the SM7B may not benefit from the lower end color of those preamp’s.
- Avedis MA5 (in a lunchbox) is a great match with the sm7. (Yes it’s a neve topology, although not a clone, very high headroom, unlike many 500 series pre).
- in case you need an “cleaner” alternative the Avedis MD7, has a little bit less “meat” in the low-low-mids, also high headroom and quiet and might work very well too.

- Crane Song Europa1 might be a great choice if looking for “clean-ish” to a little bit more coloured.

- Tree Audio The Branch MK2, is a channelstrip, so includes a lovely 2 band eq and a comp/limiter, excellent tube piece.

- a used Pendulum Quartet, really good, also on the clean side of things, but with a nice vibe.

- Forssell SMP 500 or smp-2, great clean piece.

- ADT TM101, you need their rack, but you could get a small eq and a comp too and build a channelstrip.. also on the clean side... very well priced for their quality.

test some out if you could and keep the one you prefer.. all of these are top contenders, can’t go wrong.



Cheu
Old 14th August 2020 | Show parent
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheu78 ➡️
- Avedis MA5 (in a lunchbox) is a great match with the sm7. (Yes it’s a neve topology, although not a clone, very high headroom, unlike many 500 series pre).
- in case you need an “cleaner” alternative the Avedis MD7, has a little bit less “meat” in the low-low-mids, also high headroom and quiet and might work very well too.

- Crane Song Europa1 might be a great choice if looking for “clean-ish” to a little bit more coloured.

- Tree Audio The Branch MK2, is a channelstrip, so includes a lovely 2 band eq and a comp/limiter, excellent tube piece.

- a used Pendulum Quartet, really good, also on the clean side of things, but with a nice vibe.

- Forssell SMP 500 or smp-2, great clean piece.

- ADT TM101, you need their rack, but you could get a small eq and a comp too and build a channelstrip.. also on the clean side... very well priced for their quality.

test some out if you could and keep the one you prefer.. all of these are top contenders, can’t go wrong.



Cheu
Thank you! Happy to check these out. Although, I don’t have a lunchbox, nor does it seem intuitive for me to go that route. Any of those Avedis models available in a more standard variation?
Old 14th August 2020
  #7
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Wiggy Neve Slut's Avatar
 
🎧 20 years
Phoenix drs or John hardy 990.. still fast but with some girth
Old 14th August 2020
  #8
How about the UA SOLO/610? Or even the LA-610? Might be open to spending the extra few hundred dollars if the compressor is included!
Old 14th August 2020
  #9
Here for the gear
 
I just picked up a Great River to go with my sm7b and distressor. I also record a lot of metal vocals. There is definitely a lot of bottom end the Great River adds but the overall tonality of the chain adds up to a vocal that sits very well in a mix right off the bat and has a gnarly aggression to it. You can also clean the mic pre up by leaving the gain lower and increasing the output gain which is nice.
Old 14th August 2020 | Show parent
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by thallsohard ➡️
I just picked up a Great River to go with my sm7b and distressor. I also record a lot of metal vocals. There is definitely a lot of bottom end the Great River adds but the overall tonality of the chain adds up to a vocal that sits very well in a mix right off the bat and has a gnarly aggression to it. You can also clean the mic pre up by leaving the gain lower and increasing the output gain which is nice.
I was thinking of the same chain! Do you have the outboard distressor or the UAD?
Old 14th August 2020
  #11
Gear Head
 
I recently picked up a Warm Tone Beast to try out as I have seen a few in a couple of studios I worked out of last year.
I liked what I heard with a SM7b tracking male vocal. While not screamo, it was a guttural rock vocal that sounded full, cut through, and clear without that not-enough-gain-blanket sound I did NOT like it on a borrowed WA73. I liked the Tone Beast enough after spending a week with it 4-8 hours a day, I will probably pick up another one for stereo stuff. It sits next to Miktek Pre (Nevish), API3124, and ISA 828.
Old 14th August 2020
  #12
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Ward Pike's Avatar
 
15 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Honestly, and not a joke . . . when I'm tracking a band live off the floor, I'll use an SM7b for vocals. And the best it sounds? Through and old lowly Aphex 107 'tube-essence' preamp. Those things that cost $100 now that were only $599 new back in the day. They actually work with dynamics. 2 channels for 100 bucks. Try it and see. LOL
Old 14th August 2020 | Show parent
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by BStone ➡️
I recently picked up a Warm Tone Beast to try out as I have seen a few in a couple of studios I worked out of last year.
I liked what I heard with a SM7b tracking male vocal. While not screamo, it was a guttural rock vocal that sounded full, cut through, and clear without that not-enough-gain-blanket sound I did NOT like it on a borrowed WA73. I liked the Tone Beast enough after spending a week with it 4-8 hours a day, I will probably pick up another one for stereo stuff. It sits next to Miktek Pre (Nevish), API3124, and ISA 828.
Huh interesting. Always thought of Tone Beast to be more of a pre or DI for strings...hence the name LOL. May look into it.

Side note - heard a bass DI comparison video the other day and the tone beast sounded fantastic for that also.
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #14
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cheu78's Avatar
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Thank you! Happy to check these out. Although, I don’t have a lunchbox, nor does it seem intuitive for me to go that route. Any of those Avedis models available in a more standard variation?
The lunchbox is basically the power supply of the units you decide to use, there’s basically everything..eq’s, comps, etc..
You could build a channelstrip/chain or just use preamps in it..

You can buy from different brands.. API has 6slot, 8slot, and a 10slot, BAE has 3 slots, 6 and 11 slots, Fredenstein also have several different ones..

I don’t know if Avedis has plans for a 19” rack MA5.. in any case is not avalaible right now.

The 500 series is pretty cool if you ask me, and you could build whatever chain you want.. but need to choose carefully, while there are tons of modules outthere, not so many are really stellar imho. Some are exceptional though, like the Avedis ones, there are others that are quite good too..



Cheu
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheu78 ➡️
The lunchbox is basically the power supply of the units you decide to use, there’s basically everything..eq’s, comps, etc..
You could build a channelstrip/chain or just use preamps in it..

You can buy from different brands.. API has 6slot, 8slot, and a 10slot, BAE has 3 slots, 6 and 11 slots, Fredenstein also have several different ones..

I don’t know if Avedis has plans for a 19” rack MA5.. in any case is not avalaible right now.

The 500 series is pretty cool if you ask me, and you could build whatever chain you want.. but need to choose carefully, while there are tons of modules outthere, not so many are really stellar imho. Some are exceptional though, like the Avedis ones, there are others that are quite good too..



Cheu
Might not be a bad option considering all the great lunchbox units I've seen. Still, would like to avoid it ideally.

What are everyone's thoughts on the Focusrite ISA One? For the clean gain needed for the SM7B, seems like the Great River or ISA One have great reputations. Would the Great River really be worth 2x the price as the ISA?
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #16
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
I was thinking of the same chain! Do you have the outboard distressor or the UAD?
Hardware Distressor. That entire chain is a solid pick if you're focusing on metal vocals in particular. Both the Great River and especially the Distressor are excellent on a lot of sources. There are a lot of cool options out there, but I am very happy with what I've got.
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by thallsohard ➡️
Hardware Distressor. That entire chain is a solid pick if you're focusing on metal vocals in particular. Both the Great River and especially the Distressor are excellent on a lot of sources. There are a lot of cool options out there, but I am very happy with what I've got.
Glad to hear. Again, I'm seriously considering this exact chain. What interface do you use? LOL.

But aside, one concern I have for the Great River is that it is very colored...according to others...and sometimes color can be dominating in a mix or a little more difficult to tame. Considering the GR adds low-end and mids to a mid-heavy mic like SM7b, thoughts on your experience?
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #18
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Glad to hear. Again, I'm seriously considering this exact chain. What interface do you use? LOL.

But aside, one concern I have for the Great River is that it is very colored...according to others...and sometimes color can be dominating in a mix or a little more difficult to tame. Considering the GR adds low-end and mids to a mid-heavy mic like SM7b, thoughts on your experience?
Ha, I use a Babyface Pro. Honestly SM7b into the Babyface sounded really good as it was, I just found I had to do a ton of compression/saturation after the fact because it was such a clean setup. The Distressor helps a lot with both keeping things consistent on the way in but also provides a much more powerful headphone mix for the vocalist which usually improves the performance. I haven't had a chance to do a lot of mixes with the GR yet, but I just did a session last weekend with it and I really liked how the tracks were sitting raw after adjusting the fader. I like the low end heft the GR adds to things. In the end a lot of it will get removed with a HP but I suspect I'll still have some weight to the vocal without thinning it out. The plus of the GR imo is that even if you decide you don't like all the color the input transformer adds, just turn the input gain down and boost the output gain. The GR is actually very transparent when you're not driving the input transformer.

I've got plenty of clean preamps between the Babyface and the Focusrite Clarett Octopre, I wanted something that was fun. Depending on what your setup is, the Distressor might have a more significant impact than a preamp ultimately will. Just something to consider.
Old 15th August 2020
  #19
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
the sm7b is a low output mic. so you will want a preamp with a lot of strong clean gain, or your will want to use a cloudlifter to convert the phantom power to additional clean gain for the mic. or maybe even both (a strong preamp and a cloudlifter).
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by thallsohard ➡️
Ha, I use a Babyface Pro. Honestly SM7b into the Babyface sounded really good as it was, I just found I had to do a ton of compression/saturation after the fact because it was such a clean setup. The Distressor helps a lot with both keeping things consistent on the way in but also provides a much more powerful headphone mix for the vocalist which usually improves the performance. I haven't had a chance to do a lot of mixes with the GR yet, but I just did a session last weekend with it and I really liked how the tracks were sitting raw after adjusting the fader. I like the low end heft the GR adds to things. In the end a lot of it will get removed with a HP but I suspect I'll still have some weight to the vocal without thinning it out. The plus of the GR imo is that even if you decide you don't like all the color the input transformer adds, just turn the input gain down and boost the output gain. The GR is actually very transparent when you're not driving the input transformer.

I've got plenty of clean preamps between the Babyface and the Focusrite Clarett Octopre, I wanted something that was fun. Depending on what your setup is, the Distressor might have a more significant impact than a preamp ultimately will. Just something to consider.
I hear great things about the Babyface. Currently using an Audient iD22, which is surprisingly great with the SM7B but needs quite a bit of gain...around 3-4 o clock.

Hoping the next addition will add a little more personality. Distressor seems essential for metal vocal chains! How about singing? How does the chain sound for that?
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by gearstudent ➡️
the sm7b is a low output mic. so you will want a preamp with a lot of strong clean gain, or your will want to use a cloudlifter to convert the phantom power to additional clean gain for the mic. or maybe even both (a strong preamp and a cloudlifter).
Really not sold on the CL. With a quality pre that has clean gain, should be no reason for one
Old 15th August 2020
  #22
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chrischoir's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Hey guys!

Working on updating the home studio and looking for preamp recommendations. We use an SM7B for most vocals and record mostly metal/prog, so lots of screaming and singing. I’ve heard great things about the Great River ME-1NV, Warm Audio WA73-EQ, and the BAE neve clone also. Can’t seem to find many samples especially with an SM7B.

Keep in mind that in modern metal vocal recording, there are often 3-5 stacked layers of vocals recorded for most of these songs. I hear the GR has quite a bit of low end and this may not be ideal with all that tracking, but only assuming.

Open to suggestions! Thank you!
GR is a modern twist to 1073, The GR bottom end is much much tighter than a traditional 1073 clone. Warm WA73 is an inexpensive vintage sounding clone. BAE is an overpriced vintage sounding clone. It depends on your budget really.
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #23
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cheu78's Avatar
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Might not be a bad option considering all the great lunchbox units I've seen. Still, would like to avoid it ideally.
If it’s not a bad idea, (actually is a good one) why avoid it?
I just don’t understand the reasoning (which might be legit, in the end is YOUR chain)

An Avedis MA5, into a JDK V12 or a Hairball FET500 or a PP BAC500 would do a very nice chain (and you could add also an Avedis E12G for quick eq moves IF needed).
You might also get a 1RU lunchbox like the BAE R53 or the (now discontinued) Empirical labs 2 slot 500 and combine with 19” rack comps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
What are everyone's thoughts on the Focusrite ISA One? For the clean gain needed for the SM7B, seems like the Great River or ISA One have great reputations. Would the Great River really be worth 2x the price as the ISA?
Both have their space, the ISA is a different type of preamp.. and it’s somewhat “cleaner”.. although the GR also is rather on the clean-ish side (considering its ’73 style nature, but can be pushed if desired unlike the ISA).

Above I suggested other pieces, all of them are pretty stellar, some cleaner than others.. besides the Avedis, none is a 500series unit (the forssell is avalaible in a 2 channel rack unit).

Btw I agree with you, you don’t need any cloudlifter, just a good preamp with enough gain that is NOT noisy.

I have to agree that the Babyface preamps works pretty good with the SM7 too (or dynamics like the cool 441) surprisingly.. it’s not the same match as an MA5, but it’s also a different price point/product alltogether, so not comparable really.

The Dave Hill Europa1 should be on your list to test..
Do you have a budget limitation?

The distressor might be a decent allrounder indeed (like an 1176 or the very nice Crane Song Trakker).

One of my fav chains with an SM7 (for vocals) is:

SM7b - Avedis MA5 - (Avedis E27 or E12G *) - Crane Song Trakker doing the “heavy” lifts - BAE 10DC doing just 1-3db of GR max and using its make up gain which is incredible.. finished vocals from the get go.

*(or Crane Song Insigna... add your fav eq here, which is also not really mandatory when tracking)

I hope this helps,



Cheu
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️

What are everyone's thoughts on the Focusrite ISA One? For the clean gain needed for the SM7B, seems like the Great River or ISA One have great reputations. Would the Great River really be worth 2x the price as the ISA?
ISA one - very noisey for SM7b (and ribbons). Thought mine was faulty, borrowed a friends, it was identical, sold mine and bought EL Mike-e which is quieter and a much less hissy noise spectrum (the noise is more LF, which is weird but also better IMO). RME UFX preamps are even quieter and my DAV too. Definitely would not recommend ISA one for SM7B.
Old 15th August 2020
  #25
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YRLK's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Hey guys!

Working on updating the home studio and looking for preamp recommendations. We use an SM7B for most vocals and record mostly metal/prog, so lots of screaming and singing. I’ve heard great things about the Great River ME-1NV, Warm Audio WA73-EQ, and the BAE neve clone also. Can’t seem to find many samples especially with an SM7B.

Keep in mind that in modern metal vocal recording, there are often 3-5 stacked layers of vocals recorded for most of these songs. I hear the GR has quite a bit of low end and this may not be ideal with all that tracking, but only assuming.

Open to suggestions! Thank you!
BAE sounds great on everything. And is really freaking expensive.

I was very impressed with the Great River my buddy had. He chose something else, but it would’ve been my choice hands down.
Old 15th August 2020
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
dranzangos's Avatar
Of all the listed options, I have and use an SM7b with a Tonebeast, ISA Two and a Great River ME1NV. Most often I leaned on the Tonebeast for rock vocals because it helped to push the upper mids a bit more for rock mixes. It can also be set very clean. Ditto for the GR, can be thick and vibey or sparkly depending on the gain settings and impedance/loading or dialed back on the input to clean up too. The ISA is also nice, more neutral and doesn’t saturate like the others. Loads of clean headroom though. No issues whatsoever with noise on my unit. It’s neutral character helps when a mic or source is overly colored to begin with. Also great as a line amp or a sleeper DI (really nice).

Truth is, when set clean, all three have subtle differences but no one will wreck your vocal take. Ample gain to amplify the low output of an SM7b. When they get pushed they show their true colors though and it is HERE where you might think of which flavor or set of options might help you down the road:

ISA is neutral and more utilitarian. It takes most sources well and won’t screw them up.

GR can be big or warm or shifted towards high end sparkle with many options in between.

TB can be clean and spanky or mid range gritty with good cut, but is a swiss army knife with its tone options and transformer selects.
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Guru
 
chessparov2.0's Avatar
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ward Pike ➡️
Honestly, and not a joke . . . when I'm tracking a band live off the floor, I'll use an SM7b for vocals. And the best it sounds? Through and old lowly Aphex 107 'tube-essence' preamp. Those things that cost $100 now that were only $599 new back in the day. They actually work with dynamics. 2 channels for 100 bucks. Try it and see. LOL
Ward. Aphex 107. Shhh...
(letting the secret out)

That's a cool sleeper Pre IMHO on harsh sounding mics and/or vocalists too

Another nice cheapie, especially if you can find one used/under $100...
Is the Studio Projects VTB-1. Just keep it on Solid State, or very mild "Toob".

Another cool approach with the SM7/57/58, is the Soyuz Launcher.
Vocal clip below, of the similar sounding 58, going through it.

The Launcher was originally designed, with the SM7 specifically in mind BTW.

If/when I do a Pre upgrade, the Daking Mic Pre One is tops on my list.
(I love the Trident A Range "Sound")...
Moving into a higher price range, from my Low End $$ stuff.

The Launcher is a "serious flavoring" though, on dynamics/ribbons/tube mics.
Chris
Attached Files
Old 15th August 2020 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
dranzangos's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinny554 ➡️
Glad to hear. Again, I'm seriously considering this exact chain. What interface do you use? LOL.

But aside, one concern I have for the Great River is that it is very colored...according to others...and sometimes color can be dominating in a mix or a little more difficult to tame. Considering the GR adds low-end and mids to a mid-heavy mic like SM7b, thoughts on your experience?

Reading this thread in bed really got my noodle cooking, so I thought I’d really put my GR through some tests. I used a CM67se which was already up in the booth, but is plenty rich with mids. Huge variation in tone from 25 to 45 on the input, where 25 is fairly clean and 45 is fairly thick and intimate in the low mids. With the GR loading button in and 25 on the input, the upper mid characteristic was similar to the tonebeast (gain noon, output noon, nickel transformer) though the GR still had more low end. I actually had a hard time picking a favorite between the 25 and 45 settings. They were very different but very cool in there own right. Kind of a Betty and Veronica thing. I definitely wouldn’t worry too much about low mids on the GR. They can be there if you saturate the input, but it cleans up remarkably well.
Old 15th August 2020
  #29
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TS-12's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I would recommend getting SM7 instead of SM7B in the first place, then picking the preamp is way easier
Old 15th August 2020
  #30
Gear Guru
 
chessparov2.0's Avatar
 
I don't know that even with my very "fussy" hearing (22 KHz+ at 6!/still excellent at 61/easily over 17KHz now)...
I could hear the difference of the SM7 or SM7B, as to "which Pre". Especially in a Mix.
Chris
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