sE Electronics V7 by Arthur Stone
What is the V7? The V7 is sE Electronics first dynamic microphone (along with the V3) and sE's first handheld since the H-1 cardioid condenser (manufactured 2009-13).
The price (at time of review) is: UK-£85/EU-95euros/USA-$99
V7 Specifications: The dynamic capsule has an aluminium voice coil and neodymium magnet with a super-cardioid pattern. The frequency range is 40Hz to 19kHz; 300 Ohms impedance; low self-noise 2 mV/Pa (-54dB. The dimensions are 54mm/2.12” diameter and 184mm/7.24” long; weight is 305g/10.8oz. Connection by 3-pin XLR. The V7 is roughly the same size and weight as a Shure SM58 mic (our benchmark in this review).
sE say that the V7 has an 'innovative, specialized aluminium voice coil.'
“The DMC7 dynamic element in the V7 has been custom-developed for a crisp, open sound that perfectly captures your voice and instruments in the most natural way you've ever heard on stage - and its sophisticated super-cardioid capsule design helps isolate your voice from other instruments, ensuring vast amounts of gain before feedback. Proven Neodymium magnets, tight production tolerances & high-end workmanship ensure excellent sensitivity, superior sound quality and superb consistency.”
I can confirm that is 100% correct after my review.
There has long been an interest in sound and its manipulation; from the early Gearslutz experimenting with echoes in caves through to the holy temples, Greek and Roman theatres, to Francis Bacon's Sound Houses, onto the great cathedrals and concert halls. Through these ages, many of the technological advances in sound design manipulated the environment and exploited the mechanical nature of sound transmission.
When Wheatstone (1826) had coined the term 'microphone' (a term akin to 'microscope' i.e. an intensifier of signal) it was still basically a mechanical device, a mechanism of vibration-through-matter, a principle of folk-physics already in usage for centuries (and at my house in the 70's as two empty yoghurt pots connected by string).
In the 20th century it became possible to accurately record and replay an acoustic event – speech, music, and man-made or natural sound. Along with advances in electro-magnetics and the needs of industry (e.g. movies, telephony, military) the microphone evolved from a mechanical to an electromechanical device.
The first microphone using a dynamic, moving coil and magnet to convert mechanical vibration to electrical signal was patented by Siemens in 1874; portable, more reliable mics came of age in the 1920's and in the 60's matured into the Shure SM58 - a pinnacle of mic development, an evolution of form stretching back millennia to the early caveslutz carefully chipping away at stones. For sure, these early slutz were just as capable and intelligent as ourselves today; they could diagnose a stone's internal atomic structure by tapping it and listening to the sound and feeling its vibration in their hand.
It can be argued that the SM58 is a pinnacle. It's physical shape and dimensions have reached a perfect form: balanced in the hand or stand; not too heavy, not too light; it easily becomes an extension of the human arm – a tool to closer hear the human voice but also an iconic object that serves as a shaman's wand to captivate the audience. A stage prop. Stagecraft.
Internally the hand-held dynamic mic has continued to evolve: new materials, new manufacturing methods, new ideas but still the basic principle of operation is the same: sound in the air vibrates a diaphragm attached to a metal coil; this coil is suspended in a magnetic field and it's movement generates an electrical impulse that is correlated with the original physical sound. Once encoded as an electrical signal the original sounds can be played through a speaker (by reversing the process); further insight can be gained from study of Lenz Law.
In terms of the evolution of technology, the handheld dynamic mic inhabits a niche; it is successful in its environment (enabling singers to be heard) with only some competition from headset mics or specialized condenser mics. However, as the environment has changed with better connected equipment (clean pre's, gates, software), less stage feedback issues (in-ears, improved PA tech and studio monitoring), quieter studios with accurate equipment, and a better educated and more discerning user base, then any new entry in the marketplace needs to evolve its functionality – but not too much.
sE have introduced the V-series mics, their first dynamic moving coil handhelds and have managed to incorporate up-to-date technology into the classic form; they do this very well regardless of price. The V7 feels like an expensive mic. Does it sound 'expensive'?
Gold XLR connector; a good sign surely?
I already have several 'studio-quality' mics which fulfil the function of the V7 sonically for studio recording: did anything about the V7 lead me to think “I need one of these?” Not in the role of a large-diaphragm condenser (LDC) mic although the V7 is good enough to be used there especially with a quality studio preamp. The reason I would personally use the V7 is live capture tracking in the studio; that's where the V7 utilises all it's assets with it's super-cardioid ability to reject unwanted sound. I think that's the real sweet spot scenario for the V7 although it functions admirably in almost any other role. A useful mic then, and especially at the price.
So, the problem the V7 solves for me is in providing high-quality capture for live jam/tracking sessions mainly for vocals and in a fixed position (on stand) in relation to source with the advantage of rejecting the sounds of other instruments in the room. Before the V7 I had tested my own mics for that purpose, either: a large-diaphragm condenser (not focussed/lacked rejection/bulky) or a Sennheiser ME66/K2 shotgun (too focussed/phase in rejection/fiddly) or a Shure SM58, which I currently use (great mic but even through a decent preamp has some bandwidth limitation and 'colour'). Other mics I considered but don't own: SM7, RE20, new capsules for the Sennheiser. These are ubiquitous high-quality mics but at a much higher cost than the V7. The V7 has the attributes and quality I'm looking for in this role: extended bandwidth, focus and rejection, tonal flexibility with proximity effect – also, robust, elegant, fit-for-purpose.
For studio use, the V7's super-cardioid directionality and inherent proximity effect makes the mic flexible in terms of capturing 'source-EQ' (distance from source - position in room - size and texture of room). In the long-term, the user or engineer familiar with the sonic parameters of the V7 will get the best from this flexibility and be able to guide performers new to the mic. A wandering vocalist might produce an uneven proximity/polar response in the recording. This mic is a great tool for the novice or inexperienced to learn recording fundamentals and use the mic as a dynamic instrument during recording.
Although comparisons with the Shure SM58 are inevitable these really are different mics, the V7 possessing studio credentials usually associated with large-diaphragm condensers: a frequency range of 40 Hz-19 kHz. Would it also cut the mustard as a dynamic mic?
The V3, V7 and SM58 were tested simultaneously in one take, physically alongside each other , all using the same settings on JoeCo preamps. The V7 is super-cardioid compared to the V3 and SM58's cardioid patterns so that was placed centrally. I wanted to hear any differences between the mics in terms of gain-handling, proximity effect, character of the voice coil material (V7 aluminium, V3 and SM58 copper) and also for susceptibility to electromagnetic interference.
Prior to review I was concerned about the novel use of aluminium in the V7 voice coil; my previous experience was with the Hartke bass cabinets that had quite an 'aluminium sound' to my ears (although it has it's sweet spot). Here though the aluminium is used differently. Aluminium (Al) has 1/3 the mass of copper (Cu) but 2/3 of the electrical conductivity, also lower thermal conductivity and greater heat dissipation: this conductivity-to-mass ratio endows the V7 with a different characteristic to the copper-coiled V3 and 58. I interpreted this as an ability to capture the nuances of soft dynamic sounds; this is noticeable in the percussion audio file (below) particularly on the kalimba.
The gold XLR input? Well it will ensure the V7 sounds consistent in years to come due to gold's resistance to oxidation – particularly if it's a durable 'hard gold' alloyed with nickel or cobalt. There are reports that the gold actually sounds better than other metals, something to do with ions...but I'm sure there is a Gearslutz thread about that!
Using the V7:
The V7 is well-engineered, solid. It doesn't have a cheap feel. As a hand-held mic the V7 weighs as much as a juicy orange/SM58 and fits balanced in the hand without muffling the capsule. The spec charts show a super-cardioid directional pattern and this is confirmed in use with a relatively focussed on-axis response which I found comfortable to work with hand-held or on a stand. The pick-up area is not so tight that one cannot move at all but enough to capture nuances in performance.
I checked the mic for susceptibility to electronic interference and it remained very quiet; also it handled feedback very, very well on a small PA and Fender Acoustasonic combo. Although this review is primarily studio-focussed I did test in a couple of live performance scenarios: vocalist/guitarist or keys with the V7 and combo amp; also, a sound-system style of live instruments and with backing tracks through a small PA. I'd be happy to use the V7 for live performance but it would require a bit more concentration on placement-source than the SM58 and V3; OK for a fixed position e.g. on a stand next to keyboards but perhaps a cardioid pattern is better for vocalists who move off-axis.
I was surprised at how well-voiced the V7 is for a mix, closer to a LDC mic than the usual hand-held; a clear bright representation with plenty of detail in the vocal range; also this voicing worked well when used through my small PA and combo amp...less mud, less potential for feedback, good response to amp EQ. Prior to review I had been concerned that an aluminium voice coil might sound too 'aluminium' but it sounded just right.
Not saying it's impossible to get a bad sound with the V7 - but you'd have to be unlucky.
Listening tests with Soundcloud files:
The idea behind the audio files is that you can hear the similarities and differences between the V3, V7 and a known benchmark (the SM58), all recording the same source through identical signal chains. The files are 24-bit/48kHz WAV: https://soundcloud.com/gearslutz-rev...58-vs-v3-vs-v7
The 3 mics tested were placed alongside each other in a row connected to a JoeCo BlueBox preamp at equal gain setting; the BlueBox converted the analogue signal to digital (@24/48) and this was sent via USB2 into the DAW session. No DAW effects have been applied apart from the Reason (SSL-style) bus compressor (a few dB's of slow attack/auto-release/2:1 ratio). The files were then exported and uploaded to Soundcloud (@24/48).
The 'vox' file consists of spoken word at 3 distances (4ft to 6 inches); male singing vocals and some 'punk shouting' (thanks to Lee Ving for inspiration!) to overload the mics. The male voice used is quite deep and with vibrato on trailing notes and with a LDC mic has a tendency towards sibilance around 2, 4, and 7 kHz, roughness at 900Hz-1kHz and boominess at 200-400 Hz.
The 'gtr' file starts with a finger-picked Martin D15 mahogany acoustic guitar, then a semi-acoustic with soapbar P90's (rhythm) and a custom Tele with humbuckers played through a Blackstar HT1R combo amplifier (lead and arpeggio). The mics were positioned directly facing the amp speaker at around 4 feet distance. The amplifier tone control was moved from the bass to mid to high emphasis through the sections; onboard digital reverb was added.
The 'perc' file contains: thumb harp/kalimba; djembe; shaker; dub fx; and, hand claps.
My opinion is that all 3 mics do a great job and I would want them all in my locker, especially given their affordability. On my vocals, whilst the V3 was immediately characterful, I felt that the V7's neutrality allowed for easier post-tracking/mix manipulation and more control of sibilance. The V7 was more refined and 'condenser-like' than the V3, 58 and other dynamic mics I've tried; there was no sense of clouding in the lower reaches of the bass capture.
In the guitar amp test they all capture some pleasing character in different parts of the audio spectrum: the V3 is bright in the high-mids and captures the grit well, whereas the V7 has a fuller range with more emphasis on low-mids, with the SM58 somewhere in the middle. The differences between the mics was also revealed in the acoustic guitar recording; I felt the tonality and dynamics was best represented using the V7. My impression is that either mic will work well on small drums (e.g. snare, possibly toms for the V7) and general percussion very well with the V7 adding more detail from the softer transients.
The differences (and similarities) I heard between the V7, V3 and SM58 were reflected in their frequency plots: the V7 and 58 sharing a 2-6 kHz boost of a few dB but the V7 having a slightly higher second peak just above 10 kHz with a nice 'air' and also having a smoother curve than the 58. The V3's frequency plot shows one boost peak from 2-11 kHz and it does have that kind of tilted presence which I liked on the guitar cabinet and I guess would help vocal cut through at gigs particularly given that, like the V7, it handles sibilance very well.
sEV7 frequency plot:
sE V3 frequency plot:
Shure SM58 frequency plot:
The polar pattern charts show more rear rejection for the V7 and more focussed front and this on-axis emphasis is more apparent in use. My general observation, post-tracking/mix, is that the V7 has more controlled high-mids/presence and a nice air which negated the need for EQ – the tracks just sat well in the mix. I thought the V7 handled sibilance very well and better than the benchmark or V3. With that easy presence comes engineer's responsibility; incorrect mic/source placement can lead to thinness in that range, although that can be used to advantage sometimes.
The neutrality of the V7 may also be an advantage in applying plug-ins, or when using different hardware preamps as it doesn't stamp its character but conveys the message. All the mics in the comparison reacted well to the room sound (in this case 12x14x8' semi-treated soft slight boxiness)– not picking up too much room but the V7 even less so due to the super cardioid polar pattern; this could be useful in difficult rooms/positions.
As good monitors reveal flaws in a mix created on inferior equipment so the V7, with extended bandwidth and sensitivity, reveals flaws in the source or placement; there is no obvious 'character' curve to assist or cover-up a mediocre vocal. I use LDC mics so often that I forgot how good moving-coil dynamic mics can sound in the right circumstances; albeit, I was using the excellent (neutral and sweet) JoeCo BlueBox pre's. Each mic had its own merits and character in the recordings that wouldn't necessarily be captured with other types of mic (whatever the price tag). This further supports the philosophy that every piece of gear has it's sweet spot.
Should it stay or should it go?
The review is studio-focussed; my experience is that the V7 has proven itself as competent, flexible and with a good-quality sound in a home-studio setting. One proviso in my review is that I didn't have the mic for long time: around 3 weeks, this meant I was unable to 'bond' or explore the mics deeply in different genres or establish, in detail, how they reacted with different preamp impedances or post-tracking to EQ or fx. My gut instinct is that the V7 has a lot more to offer.
It's difficult to make objective judgements about microphones; so many variables: source, room, environment, role, preference. All I can offer is my opinion. I have covered the nuts-and-bolts stuff but ultimately the only sure way of knowing if a particular mic is suitable is to try it...and the V7 is worth a try. I think most people will like it. I'm not a working professional, more an advanced hobbyist; my home studio is probably similar to many of you reading this review. In this setting with which I'm familiar, where I like to make 'pro-level' recordings, the V7 has a future: it's a good investment and a useful spare general-purpose mic if it doesn't excel in one role.
Ultimately whether or not the V7 is the mic for you depends on usage, your needs, how the V7 interacts with your equipment and ears. There's no substitute for trying a mic before purchase; if not, if you must buy unheard, then my opinion is that the V7 has a wide sweet-spot and you won't be disappointed unless your particular voice or usage is not suited – and this can be true of any mic.
In the V7 sE Electronics have a well-judged product that sits well with the excellent competition and is a level above similarly-priced 'budget' mics. It feels solid enough to last a lifetime in the studio or for general live use. I read some of the other media reviews after my appraisal of the V7 and I agree with the comments, no hype, no fake news. I think these mics are a useful update to the classic design: the best of the past with design and sonic qualities for the future.
Sound quality: 5/5 for the price bracket and in general comparison to a range of budget and high-end mics. The V7 did have a character: light, airy, polished but with a nicely controlled low-end; sibilance was not an issue. The character reminded me of the RK12 condenser capsule.
Ease of use: 5/5 – maybe 4/5 for a complete novice, not a criticism of the mic at all but it's flexibility requires some operating skills (particularly placement). Physically it feels balanced and solid.
Features: 5/5 the flexibility of proximity and polar pattern add a point this time, as does the extended bandwidth which allows a greater range of use. The looks, design and balance are very good and the anti-roll design will undoubtedly avoid issues. Great internal dampening/suspension; low self-noise.
Bang for buck: 5/5 sE should be commended for the quality of the mic particularly at the price; excellent value. The accessories are perfunctory but do the job perfectly.
Overall: Seems like a great buy; only a 'novice' point lost for initial ease-of-use but long-term the V7's tonal flexibility is an advantage opening up a range of applications: vocal, amp, percussion, somewhere on a drum kit and a myriad of other uses. The super-cardioid pattern is something I'd like in a small live performance or for 'live' studio tracking; the mic reacts well to the vocalists physical nuances and the room.
With a quality mic in this price bracket, compromises might be expected, but none are evident. The obvious economies are packaging; cleverly-folded card and bubble wrap safely guard the important items - the microphone, a good-quality soft dust case, a spare internal foam windshield, the stand bracket, and a small, informative manual. I checked the street price for the V7 after initial testing and was pleasantly surprised: given the design, material quality and sonic results I expected it to cost more.
So there's real value in this mic: robust, ergonomic, subtly stylish, and it sounds good. The greater the awareness of the vocalist/engineer of polar patterns and proximity effect, the more flexible the V7 is; but for a pacey novice you might need an X on the studio floor.
Further reading and references:
- History & Development of Microphone
- How They Did It: Inside the SM58® | Shure Blog
- Microphones page 2
- Sound-Houses :: Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments
Andrew pmk~commonswiki for the Shure SM58 frequency plot which I have cropped (CC-BY-SA-3.0 migrated):
Ear Trumpets By Frederick Dekkers - mechanical reproduction of 2D image, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/inde...curid=18697834
sE Electronics and Arthur Stone photos used with permission.