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:
|Microphone||Self-Noise, dB||Price, $|
|Rode NT1||4||$ 269.00|
|Lewitt LCT 540 Subzero||4||$ 699.00|
|Rode NT1-A||5||$ 229.00|
|AKG Pro C414||6||$ 880.00|
|Lewitt LCT 440||7||$ 269.00|
|Rode NT2A||7||$ 399.00|
|Neumann TLM 103||7||$ 1,100.00|
|Lewitt LCT 940||8||$ 1,700.00|
|Sennheiser MK 4||10||$ 300.00|
|Neumann TLM 107||10||$ 1,400.00|
|Neumann TLM 193||10||$ 1,500.00|
|AT 2035||12||$ 119.00|
|AT 4040||12||$ 300.00|
|Neumann TLM 102||12||$ 700.00|
|Neumann U 87||12||$ 3,600.00|
|AKG Pro C214||13||$ 345.00|
|Neumann KM184 MT||13||$ 850.00|
|Sennheiser MKH416||13||$ 999.00|
|AKG Pro P420||15||$ 179.00|
|AKG P220||16||$ 134.00|
|Blue Spark Blackout SL XLR||16||$ 200.00|
|AT 2050||17||$ 252.00|
|AT 4050||17||$ 699.00|
|AKG C 451 B||18||$ 349.00|
|Neumann KMS 105||18||$ 700.00|
|Lewitt LCT 240 Pro||19||$ 149.00|
|MXL 440||20||$ 69.00|
|MXL 770||20||$ 73.00|
|MXL 990||20||$ 76.00|
|AT 2020 XLR||20||$ 79.00|
|Sennheiser e 965||21||$ 500.00|
|MXL V67G||22||$ 95.00|
|Lewitt DGT 450||25||$ 299.00|
|Lewitt DTP 640 Rex||28||$ 329.00|