I have both the API 512 and Great River. 9 times out of 10 I go with the Great River and it's pretty much the go to for vocals in my studio. The API is good for somethings and sometimes I find it better suited on some of the female vocals I do as well as aggresive and punk rock. When I want a Pop or over the top big rock vocal I go Great River. I'm sure a Neve would work great as well. The Chandler gets a lot of praise too.
Narrowing it down with that mic my choices would be Great River, Never, Chandler. I also hear the ma5 is great, but haven't really tried it. The Great River has that Neve sound, but it's very versatile! I'd get a lunchbox with the GR and then you have room to grow and add later while saving a bit.
The 'best' preamp for an sm7, as someone might've already mentioned, is the one you pop up during the session and the both you and the client agree that it's the one! Seriously, there are times my Octopre wins over some high end pieces. It depends on the song and vibe. I've used it into Manley pres, Vintech, Burl...everything I have...it's at one point or other been puts through. Honestly, it sounds good going through everything. That sm7 is amazing! Awesome hi-hat mic too!!
Buy one Neve 1073lb and one Classic API VP26 and a lunchbox for a round-about figure of $1825. Now you have the two of the most widely used flavours of the studio and by everyones recommendation in this thread. Crisis averted!
If that's going to cost too much, start with lunchbox and a API flavour, as the Neve flavours will be more pricey due to the extra bits and pieces they use in their design. Buy a Neve flavor later + 4 extra spaces in lunchbox
I use the SM7 a lot for male vocal. It holds up well against some very nice LDC's and ribbons.
I have a good selection of pre's. If I use te Great river mp2nv, which is 1073ish, I need to eq some lows out, but its juicy. If I use the Pendulum quartet, same thing. In Both cases, I need almost all the gain available in the pre so there is some noise.
The sm7 is more like a ribbon in terms of output. So the tracks are a bit noisy unless the pre is really quiet. If I use the the AEA RPQ, in "no phantom" input mode, the results are stellar, the rolloff can be done with quality in the hardware, a tad of high end can be added if required, in the hardware, the track is noiseless, and the gain is effortless. You can really hear the mic.
I woud say the crane song pres are a good fit for this too. You can kind of have your cake and eat it too with the Crane Song "fat" switch. Big quiet gain and a bit of juicy to go with it, and a high quality built-in rolloff.
So... IMO the key to that mic is effortless big clean gain + high quality rolloff thats variable f. Its easier to add distortion/color later (I often patch in a daking FETII), but getting great clarity is a good starting point.
Sm7 into an LA610 is just a wonderful combo, IMO, for vocals. It imparts a kind of big softness to the Sm7...still retaining the chewy middle freqs. The EQ, I usually go ahead and click the first notch of +1.5db at 10k on the way in...which results in a very nice realistic level of air to the vocal.
Manual says they "voiced the LA610's pre amp brighter than other 610s"...so, I will refrain from just blanket saying that the 610 is a great match.
Working on a new album and just got an SM7 to add to my collection. It does sound really great, but that required +/- 60db of gain really taxes some of my pre-amps, so great thread here. I found that though all my pre's allow for 60db, it's at the extreme end of the knob, something they probably didn't expect people to use, so lots of noise in silent passages in my case.
Caveat: none of these sounded "bad", but they were noisier than I expected. Tried it in a JoeMeek oneQ, a Focusrite Liquid Channel (in the Saffire56), a dbx 376 and a Samson cValve. So then I went ahead and purchased an Aphex Channel. All I can say is wow! The Aphex coupled with the SM7 is an amazing match. The Aphex has a nice gain knob of 70 or 80 db, so it's the only one of the ones I tested where I didn't have to crank it all the way up. I left de-essing and the gate OFF on the channel and still the silent passages were... silent! Even when I ran it through compressors and EQ in post, the quiet parts still stayed quiet (unlike the other pre's I tested, hiisssssss).
I have a Pre73 coming in Monday, thanks to this forum, so will check that out. But I was really impressed with the Aphex Channel.
Neve seems to be the classic match but I'm surprised no one has mentioned the John Hardy preamps. Clean gain for days but with balls. I've used this combo on everything from scientific narration to punk and it's very good.
I really like the pairing of the Daking preamps with the SM7.
Dakings, BAE312a's, 512c's and now even my VP25's are my faves with this mic but I also agree with what Jim's saying. The mic is so coloured that pairing it with a nice, fast, transparent pre can be just the ticket. In fact, I loved my (much maligned around here) 737sp with the SM7b for this reason.
But this mic sounds great thorough the Daking and we had GR mic amps too,but a/b's setting up the singer, I never cared for the GR as much with this particular mic, but love that pre nonetheless.
I really like the pairing of the Daking preamps with the SM7. Most of the Daking pres have a LOT of gain which i think it super helpful with the SM7. Also because the SM7 can get a little dark and woofy in the lows, found that the highpass filter on the mic-pre one is really helpful. I was cutting everything under 120k, and it just sounded ballsy and awesome on all the vocals we did.
+1 for Daking. I've run vocals on our sm7 through BAE, LaChapell, and NPNG pres but surprisingly the Daking is my favorite for that mic.
This is what Ethan Johns used on all of Ray LaMontagnes records, great vocal sound for him.
In the new record (done by Ryan Freeland).. I think he used his M49 and an MA5
There's a thread on GS full with tech details and pics.. Ryan is a great guy and defintely knows his stuff..no ego whatsoever..
But I guess that with a talent like Ray you could use just about anything..
Just reading this now, as it was revived...I'm surprised that no one ever mentions the SM7 with a Forssell... When recording voiceover for narration, I ALWAYS choose the 7B, and the Forssell is always the best choice for me. Clean, powerful gain. So reliable that I no longer experiment with other combos. The 7b and Forssell is like a perfect marriage.
Yes Cheu, that's correct, Ryan put up both an SM7 and the M49 on Ray LaMontagne's last album. They went with a different aesthetic using a more compressed and forward vocal for Ray this time. It works I think and I like the album.
Charlie Peacock did a similar thing with The Civil Wars. Their Poison and Wine EP was a Neve 1079 and the SM7 but for the Barton Hollow album they switched to a Manley Ref and a Sony 800G.
In both of the above mentioned instances the change from the SM7/dynamic to a condenser mic is noticeable. For vibey singers with lovely timbre to their voices I prefer the dynamic/SM7. I find it picks up less mouth noise, voice noise, etc and leaves you with just the "gutsy" trademark tone and timbre of the singers voice. There's a little less of a lot of extra stuff and just a focus on the sweet spot of the voice. You just have to commit in Pre production to the aesthetic direction of the dynamic and not get wowed or distracted by the detail and crispness of the condenser, unless of course that's what you're after.
The best preamp for an SM7b is a Cloudlifter Inline mic amp. It's a phantom powered gain booster for dynamic mics that's the size of a Direct box. Then use whatever preamp you want, and open up a huge range of possibilities for your sm7 or other low output dynamic mics. I bought the two channel one with my Cascade ribbons, and now I never use the SM7 without it! It's really a great tool and quite uncolored, and there's even one with a variable impedance knob now!