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Choosing your mic and recorder - Noise Calculator

Noise is one of the issues with wildlife sound recording, and manufacturers often present noise specs in different ways, making it harder to work out if there are unnecessary limitations in a particular equipment combination.

This calculator is an attempt to relate the noise and level specs of your microphone and recorder to give you an indication of the maximum and minimum sound levels you can handle. It is necessarily an approximation, based on the assumption that your microphone and recorder noise are reasonably evenly spread across the frequency spectrum. The unweighted recorder noise is scaled down by 5dB to approximate the effect of A weighting. This calculator uses similar principles to this page.

Raw numbers don't tell the whole story about noise, but gives an overall feel of possible issues. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, but mistakes are possible - consult the manufacturer's literature to confirm specs - most items are linked to the manufacturer's page.


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Sennheiser MKH20 MKH30 MKH40 MKH50 MKH60 MKH70 MKH80 MKH800 MKH416 MKH418 (S) ME66 ME67

Rode NT1-A NT4 WL183 Sony MS957

Sensitivity (mV/Pa)

Self-noise (dBA)

Self Noise (dBu)


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HiMD NH-700, MZ-RH1 Sound Devices 722 Marantz PMD660

Min signal for 0dBFS (mV)

Max signal before clipping (mV)

Self Noise (dBu unweighted)


sound level needed [1] for 0dBFS (dBA)

System noise floor ref input (dBu) (A weighted)


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  1. Note this only really applies to wideband sound sources. If you are recording grasshoppers and match these perceived volume levels you will be severely over-recorded. Descriptive interpretation of sound levels in dBA from

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