Who makes the quietest microphone?!



We're preparing to do an interior foley-type recording session that requires extremely low self-noise microphones. Schoeps? DPA? Earthworks? Your opinions are appreciated!

Jay Jennings

Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 15 432




All hail Rob Danielson for posting these specs. These are pure specs, but check it out: CAD ES100S with a theoretical 3.7dBA self-noise level! :-) Not every available mic is mentioned, but this list is authored to describe what might be the best nature recording mics (as per Chuck's point, above), primary above all else is low self-noise.

I understand that the Earthworks are "true" and "transparent," but their small condenser elements are a wee bit noisy - they're not on this chart. I have not used the Earthworks, though, and they have lots to recommend them besides their self-noise level.

Me? I use an MKH50/30 pair in the field for MS ambience and nature recording. They are simply amazing, noise-wise.


Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 11 088


When I am recording quiet sources, I use a couple of the Sennheiser MKH series mics (MKH800, MKH40) they are very quiet and used by a lot of nature recordists due to their low self noise.

Chuck Russom

Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 4 359

MKH 800 is $5100 and has EIN of 10 dB SPL.

MKH 40 is $2000 and has an EIN of... 12 dB SPL?

For $2000 you would think they'd be able to afford to write a spec sheet that makes sense: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/professional_wired-microphones_studio-recording-mics_mkh-classics_002645

– endolith – 2010-07-12T20:44:24.980

@endolith Despite the EIN specs, these are 2 very different mics. The major differences in the 800 vs the 40 is that the MKH800 has a extended freq range to 50Kkh, it has 5 patterns, and it just doesn't sound the same as the MKH40. They have similar characteristics, but the 800 is better on transient material, for example. I always use it when I record metal. Also very good for gun shots and gun mech. Both have great low-end response, with the 800 picking up even more lows. – Chuck Russom – 2010-07-12T22:59:29.620



The Lewitt LCT540 has the quietest specs I've seen available in a commercial mic.

Bennett Shapiro

Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 21


Why is the nt1a limited to the studio?

If you dont need a directiomal mic, the nt1a works in a pinch anywhere


Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 41

@Sean, the issue is wind. Even in the slightest breeze, the NT1a will be all but unusable outdoors, and there are no commercial windscreens that I'm aware of that are made for that mic. You can absolutely cobble together something for windscreens for the NT1a, but it's inelegant and hard to transport. There are nature recordists who do use stereo pairs of NT1a's in the field, though; it can be done, just not super easily. Handling noise is also a big deal, so I'd not suggest anyone use one handheld on a boom! – NoiseJockey – 2010-12-07T20:30:54.737


Amon Tobin uses Earthworks mics in Foley Room.


Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 11

A new link for that video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFWgJjKQ2Jo

– Mark Durham – 2012-08-04T09:15:51.490


Røde claim 5dBA on their NT1A...


Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 5 521


I have a Rode NT1-A which I am very impressed with! Super quiet, but limited to studio environment recordings if you're trying to do foley sounds.

Andre Feldmann

Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 762


Not extensive by any means, but I've got a comparison experiment up on my website: http://www.dynamicinterference.com/2010/08/11/noise-floor-tests-the-big-guns/

Shaun Farley

Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 14 704

Way cool, I had missed that one. Thanks for sharing, Shaun, great test! – NoiseJockey – 2010-12-08T04:48:02.047


I have tried the CAD ES100s alongside a Rode NT1a........ The Rode is much quieter. I sent the CAD back and got a replacement thinking it might have been faulty but the replacement was still noisier than the NT1a. Data sheets can mis-lead but they also only give you part of the story. I find most Rodes that I have tried to be a bit harsh.

Steve Cummings

Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 9


Neumann TLM 103. The most quiet microphone I know.

But I think the preamps are more important here. The Preamps from RME Fireface 400 are absolute quiet.


Posted 2010-07-12T19:09:46.707

Reputation: 207