Which Microphones Have the Highest Max SPL?

Maximum SPL refers to the microphone’s capability to withstand high-volume sounds. This specification is rarely considered when buying a microphone as most of them have high SPL and you’ll rarely need to consider it if you plan to record in a home or studio environment. However, in some instances, it could be important if you were to record super high-volume sound sources. Such can be concerts, gunfire, fireworks or earthquakes among others.

Dynamic microphones seldom display their SPL as they can withstand any sound level unless it’s physically making the coil within the microphone hit a capsule or a magnet around it. Therefore, max SPL is never a concern for dynamic microphones and the list below consists of condenser microphones only.

Condenser microphones have more electronics than dynamic microphones and that causes them to be more sensitive to high-volume sounds. When the max SPL is exceeded, it may distort sound and also possibly harm the microphone.

Some of the highest max SPL condenser microphones are AT2050 with an SPL of 159dB followed by AT2035 and AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII with SPLs of 158dB. All of these microphones use padding to achieve such high max SPL. Both AKG and AT have lots of microphones with high SPL.

However, other big-name microphone brands also offer microphones with high max SPL of 150dB or more. Neumann KMS 105 and Neumann KMS 104 are condenser microphones designed for stage performance where the high SPL could be a benefit, these microphones can withstand up to 150dB. Rode NT2A has a default SPL of 147dB, however, the 10dB padding option boosts it up to 157dB. Sennheiser e 965 is another stage condenser microphone with a 10dB padding option and an impressive max SPL of 152dB.

Among the 48 higher-end condenser microphones we have on this list the average max SPL is 142dB which is above the 130dB pain threshold.

A list of condenser microphones and their Max SPL values:

Microphone Price ($)ConnectionMax SPL (dB)
AT2050 $                  250XLR159 (dB)
AT2035 $                  150XLR158 (dB)
AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII $               1,115XLR158 (dB)
Rode NT2A $                  377XLR157 (dB)
AKG Pro C214 $                  340XLR156 (dB)
AKG Pro Audio P220 $                  145XLR155 (dB)
AKG Pro Audio P420 $                  177XLR155 (dB)
AT4040 $                  300XLR155 (dB)
Neumann TLM 107 $               1,450XLR153 (dB)
Sennheiser e 965 $                  400XLR152 (dB)
AKG C636 $                  434XLR150 (dB)
AT4060 $               1,815XLR150 (dB)
Neumann KMS 105 $                  730XLR150 (dB)
Neumann KMS 104 $                  850XLR150 (dB)
AKG Pro Audio C7 $                  255XLR150 (dB)
AT4050 $                  700XLR149 (dB)
MXL V67N $                  110XLR148 (dB)
Shure PGA27 $                  230XLR145 (dB)
AKG P3s $                    60XLR144 (dB)
AT 2020 XLR $                  100XLR144 (dB)
Neumann TLM 102 $                  730XLR144 (dB)
Lewitt Reference-Class Tube/FET $               1,700XLR143 (dB)
LEWITT LCT 240 PRO $                  160XLR142 (dB)
AKG Pro Audio C5 $                  210XLR140 (dB)
LEWITT LCT 440 PURE $                  270XLR140 (dB)
Sennheiser Professional MK 4 $                  300XLR140 (dB)
Lewitt DGT 650 $                  420USB140 (dB)
Neumann TLM 193 $               1,595XLR140 (dB)
Rode NTG1 Shotgun $                  185XLR139 (dB)
Neumann KM 184 MT $                  850XLR138 (dB)
Neumann TLM 103 $               1,195XLR138 (dB)
Samson MTR101 $                    50USB137 (dB)
MXL 770 $                  100XLR137 (dB)
Rode NT1A $                  200XLR137 (dB)
Samson C01 $                    80USB136 (dB)
Blue Blackout Spark SL $                  200XLR136 (dB)
Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero $                  700XLR136 (dB)
AKG C 451 B $                  400XLR135 (dB)
Rode NT1 $                  228XLR132 (dB)
MXL 990 Blaze $                  100XLR130 (dB)
MXL 440 $                  100XLR130 (dB)
MXL V67G $                  100XLR130 (dB)
MXL 2006 $                  115XLR130 (dB)
Sennheiser MKH416 $               1,000XLR130 (dB)
MXL R144 HE $               130XLR130 (dB)
Neumann U 87 Ai $               3,600XLR127 (dB)
Blue Yeti X  $                  170USB122 (dB)
Rode NT-USB $                  160USB110 (dB)
Condenser microphones and their max SPL (including padding). The prices are as of September 2022.

Some condenser microphones, especially those at the top of the list have a pad option that reduces input sound volume by a certain amount. This increases their max SPL and the padding option is represented in the table above.

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