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, Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero and CAD Audio E100S 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:

Here is a list of popular condenser microphones and their self-noise levels:

MicrophoneSelf-Noise, dB Price, $ 
CAD Audio E100S3.7$500
Rode NT14$269
Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero4$699
Rode NT1-A5$229
AKG Pro C4146$880
Lewitt LCT 4407$269
Rode NT2A7$399
Neumann TLM 1037$1,100
Lewitt LCT 9408$1,700
Sennheiser MK 410$300
Neumann TLM 10710$1,400
Neumann TLM 19310$1,500
AT 203512$119
AT 404012$300
Neumann TLM 10212$700
Neumann U 8712$3,600
AKG Pro C21413$345
Neumann KM184 MT13$850
Sennheiser MKH41613$999
AKG Pro P42015$179
AKG P22016$134
Blue Spark Blackout SL XLR16$200
AT 205017$252
AT 405017$699
AKG C 451 B18$349
Neumann KMS 10518$700
Lewitt LCT 240 Pro19$149
MXL 44020$69
MXL 77020$73
MXL 99020$76
AT 2020 XLR20$79
Sennheiser e 96521$500
MXL V67G22$95
Lewitt DGT 45025$299
Lewitt DTP 640 Rex28$329
Self-noise in popular condenser microphones. (Source)

5 thoughts on “Which Microphones Have the Lowest Self-Noise?”

  1. Pingback: How to Remove Background Noise in Audacity? - Voice Over Tip

    1. From my experience, a pre-amp won’t add any noise, unless it’s a cheap one and you run it at maximum gain. But even a cheap pre-amp should be quiet if you don’t set it at max.

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