Which Microphones Have the Lowest Self-Noise?

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.

The quietest condenser microphones are Rode NT1 and Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero, they have a self-noise of only 4dB and are extremely quiet.

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:

  • 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:

MicrophoneSelf-Noise, dB Price, $ 
Rode NT14 $              269.00
Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero4 $              699.00
Rode NT1-A5 $              229.00
AKG Pro C4146 $              880.00
Lewitt LCT 4407 $              269.00
Rode NT2A7 $              399.00
Neumann TLM 1037 $          1,100.00
Lewitt LCT 9408 $          1,700.00
Sennheiser MK 410 $              300.00
Neumann TLM 10710 $          1,400.00
Neumann TLM 19310 $          1,500.00
AT 203512 $              119.00
AT 404012 $              300.00
Neumann TLM 10212 $              700.00
Neumann U 8712 $          3,600.00
AKG Pro C21413 $              345.00
Neumann KM184 MT13 $              850.00
Sennheiser MKH41613 $              999.00
AKG Pro P42015 $              179.00
AKG P22016 $              134.00
Blue Spark Blackout SL XLR16 $              200.00
AT 205017 $              252.00
AT 405017 $              699.00
AKG C 451 B18 $              349.00
Neumann KMS 10518 $              700.00
Lewitt LCT 240 Pro19 $              149.00
MXL 44020 $                69.00
MXL 77020 $                73.00
MXL 99020 $                76.00
AT 2020 XLR20 $                79.00
Sennheiser e 96521 $              500.00
MXL V67G22 $                95.00
Lewitt DGT 45025 $              299.00
Lewitt DTP 640 Rex28 $              329.00
Self-noise in popular condenser microphones. (Source)

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