Lately I was trying to find a microphone for a parabolic dish. I wanted a low-noise omnidirectional microphone under $1,000.
I looked in the regular forums. I browsed Facebook. I popped in and out of manufacturer websites. It took a lot of time to compare and contrast mic models, current prices, and technical specifications.
I thought: There must be an easier way to do this.
Microphone Statistics Chart
So, I decided to create a list of popular microphones for everyone to explore. Naturally, not every microphone is listed. I’ve focused on popular field recording microphones. If you think an important model is missing, please email me and I’ll add it. (Bonus points if you have a link to their specifications page.)
Here is the list as an image. Make your browser window extra wide and click the image below to view a large version, or view the chart on Google Sheets, which is much easier to read. You may also view a PDF in your browser.
Here are links to downloadable versions of the specifications.
- Blank fields indicate that the information wasn’t available or relevant.
- Some microphones with multiple capsules or patterns show more than one number in the relevant fields.
- The chart assumes every manufacturer uses similar measurement techniques. Check each manufacturer’s site for details. Do you see discrepancies? Let me know so we can build a community resource.
- Prices are sourced from the manufacturers and from B&H Photo Video, mid-2017. Prices prefixed with a tilde (“~”) are approximations based on currency conversion.
Decoding the Microphone Results
For each microphone, the list includes:
- Model and link to manufacturer’s model page.
- Directionality. The pick-up pattern of the microphone.
- Low and high frequency rating.
- Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N) in A-weighted decibels. This number is the spread between a standard signal and the level of background noise. Larger numbers are typically better.
- Self noise in A-weighted decibels (also known as Equivalent Input Noise (EIN)). The noise output of a microphone itself. A smaller number here is better, as it indicates the microphone’s components will contribute less noise to recordings.
- Maximum sound pressure level (SPL) in decibels. The is loudest level a microphone can accommodate, also known as its “clipping point.” Sounds with levels beyond this point will be distorted.
- Dynamic range. The span between self noise and maximum SPL.
- Sensitivity in decibels with reference to the standard of 1 kilohertz sine wave at 1 pascal (Pa) pressure or 94 decibels. This is the microphone’s output level at a standard measurement. So, given a test level of 94 dB, a microphone with a sensitivity rating of 25 produces a signal 25 decibels below the one volt reference. A number closer to zero means the microphone is more sensitive (i.e., -45 is better than -60).
- Impedance in ohms. The amount of “resistance” a microphone’s components have to an electrical signal (i.e., an audio signal). Lower numbers here are better. They mean the audio has less trouble “passing through the device.”
- Price and link to popular stores for price checks.
Feedback is encouraged. Please feel free to comment below.
- Microphone Data is a website with details on many microphones.
- Recording Hacks offers a database of microphones.
- Ilyés József of Debsound has created a chart of microphone specifications.
My thanks to TV for his help with this article.