All condenser microphones have self-noise (inherent noise) due to the electrical circuit within them. Most of the XLR condenser microphones will have a self-noise within the 5-30dB range.
However, there are some outliers with self-noise as low as 4dB. On the other side, most USB microphones don’t disclose their self-noise levels, but they are usually very high, often above 30dB.
Low-end USB microphones produce lots of self-noise and often are way above 30dB.
If you can’t find self-noise in the specification sheet for a condenser microphone it’s most likely because the self-noise is quite high and you are better to avoid buying such microphones.
What is considered a quiet microphone?
Microphones with self-noise below 10dB are considered to be extremely quiet.
Microphones with self-noise in the 10-16dB range are quiet enough for use in a studio environment and the noise coming from these microphones will be almost unnoticeable.
Microphones with the self-noise of 16-20dB are still solid and can be used in a studio environment, however extra adjustments using software might be required. Or you will have to purposely record at high levels to mask inherent microphone self-noise.
Self-noise of 20-25dB is considered quite high, however, you might be able to use such microphones in a noisy environment without noticing inherent microphone noise.
Microphones with self-noise above 25dB are to be avoided as inherent noise will be very hard to mask or remove in post-production.
Some of the quietest condenser microphones are:
- CAD Audio E100S
- Rode NT1
- Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero
- Rode NT1-A
- AKG Pro C414
- Lewitt LCT 440
- Rode NT2A
- Neumann TLM 103
Here is a list of popular condenser microphones and their self-noise levels:
|Microphone||Self-Noise, dB||Price, $|
|CAD Audio E100S||3.7||$500|
|Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero||4||$699|
|AKG Pro C414||6||$880|
|Lewitt LCT 440||7||$269|
|Neumann TLM 103||7||$1,100|
|Lewitt LCT 940||8||$1,700|
|Sennheiser MK 4||10||$300|
|Neumann TLM 107||10||$1,400|
|Neumann TLM 193||10||$1,500|
|Neumann TLM 102||12||$700|
|Neumann U 87||12||$3,600|
|AKG Pro C214||13||$345|
|Neumann KM184 MT||13||$850|
|AKG Pro P420||15||$179|
|Blue Spark Blackout SL XLR||16||$200|
|AKG C 451 B||18||$349|
|Neumann KMS 105||18||$700|
|Lewitt LCT 240 Pro||19||$149|
|AT 2020 XLR||20||$79|
|Sennheiser e 965||21||$500|
|Lewitt DGT 450||25||$299|
|Lewitt DTP 640 Rex||28||$329|