Microphone Input Noise Comparison

The various manufacturers of portable audio recorders often use different and confusing specifications for their products that might prevent an reliable and objective evaluation of their capabilities for recording soft animal sounds in the field. This page provides more homogeneous specifications across the different recorder models. Details on the relevant properties of a recorder in conjunction with a specific microphone are available on the page Understanding microphone and recorder/preamplifier noise specifications. Other details on the properties of the recorders are available in the tutorial on Sound Recording in the Field.

Noise levels at the maximum available gain settings (except where indicated otherwise)

Equivalent Input Noise (EIN)
impedance: 150 ohms
Input Clipping Level [2]
corresponding to 0 dBFS
Dynamic Range at max gain! [3]
A-weighted unweighted
20Hz – 20kHz
dBu mVrms A-weighted
SoundDevices 722 -130dBu
-46dBu 3.8mV 84dB
SoundDevices MixPre-3M -129dBu
Fostex FR-2LE -129dBu -125dBu -45dBu 4.3mV 84dB
CEntrance MixerFace R4R -129dBu -127dBu -46dBu 2.8mV 82dB
Tascam DR-701D -128dBu -126dBu -50dBu 2.4mV 78dB
Zoom F3 -128dBu
Zoom F6 -128dBu
-126dBu -58dBu 0.95mV 70dB
TASCAM Portacapture X8
(16bit, 24bit and 32bit float)
-127dBu -125dBu
Tascam HD-P2 -127dBu -125dBu -40dBu 7.7mV 87dB
Tascam DR-680
Tascam DR-680MKII
-127dBu -125dBu -58dBu 0.95mV 69dB
SONY PCM-D100 -127dBu -125dBu -60dBu 0.7mV 68dB
(REC LEVEL 5, S/N100, 24 bit)
-127dBu -125dBu -27dBu 35mV 100dB
* not max gain!
Tascam DR-70D
-126dBu -124dBu -51dBu 2.1mV 75dB
Tascam DR-100MKIII -126dBu -124dBu -53dBu 1.8mV 73dB
SONY PCM-D50 -126dBu -124dBu -58dBu 0.95mV 68dB
* Tascam DR-70D
-125dBu -123dBu -36dBu 4.3mV 90dB
Marantz PMD661 -125dBu -124dBu -52dBu 1.9mV
Marantz PMD671 -125dBu -123dBu -50dBu 2.4mV
Olympus LS-100 (XLR) -125dBu -122dBu -48dBu 3.1mV 77dB
SONY Hi-MD MZ-RH1 (4) -124dBu -122dBu -64dBu 0.49mV 61dB
Roland R-26
-124dBu -122dBu -70dBu 0.25mV 54dB
(MIC ATT : 20)
-123dBu -121dBu -40dBu 7.7mV 83dB
* not max gain!
-122dBu -120dBu -57dBu 1.0mV 65dB
Olympus LS-5, LS-10, LS-11
-122dBu -120dBu -54dBu 1.6mV 68dB
Roland R-05 (5)
-122dBu -120dBu -57dBu 1.1mV 65dB
* Olympus LS-10, LS-11
(SENSE LOW, LEVEL 10, 24 bit)
-121dBu -118dBu -30dBu 25mV 92dB
* not max gain!
Zoom H5 -121dBu -118dBu -53dBu 1.8mV 68dB
Roland R-05 (5)
-121dBu -119dBu -47dBu 3.5mV 74dB
Olympus LS-12/14
(Rec Level 70)
-120dBu -118dBu -56dBu 1.3mV 64dB
Marantz PMD670 -120dBu -118dBu -52dBu 1.9mV
Marantz PMD660 -120dBu -118dBu -52dBu 1.9mV
Tascam DR-60DMKII -120dBu -118dBu -50dBu 2.4mV 70dB
-120dBu -118dBu -36dBu 12mV 84dB
* not max gain!
-119dBu -117dBu -36dBu 12mV 83dB
* not max gain!
SONY PCM-D10 -119dBu -117dBu -58dBu 0.95mV 61dB
TASCAM DR-100MKII -119dBu -117dBu -51dBu 2.1mV 68dB
Marantz PMD661MKIII
Marantz PMD561
-118dBu -116dBu -50dBu 2.4mV 68dB
Olympus LS-3/LS-7 -118dBu -115dBu -65dBu 0.45mV 53dB
Edirol R-09HR
(MIC Gain H)
-118dBu -115dBu -43dBu 5.0mV 75dB
* Olympus LS-12/14
(Rec Level 50)
-118dBu -116dBu -50dBu 2.5mV 68dB
* not max gain!
Roland R-26
(3.5mm PLUG-IN MIC)
-117dBu -115dBu -45dBu 4.3mV 72dB
Roland R-07 -117dBu -115dBu -48dBu 3.1mV 69dB
KORG MR-1000 -117dBu -115dBu -46dBu 3.8mV 71dB
SONY DAT TCD-D3 -117dBu -115dBu -56dBu 1.3mV 61dB
(REC LEVEL 3, S/N100, 24 bit)
-117dBu -115dBu -8dBu 310mV 109dB
* not max gain!
SONY PCM-A10 -116dBu -113dBu -54dBu 1.5mV 62dB
SONY ICD-SX1000 -116dBu -113dBu -41dBu 6.9mV 75dB
* M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (1/4″ input, +27dB) -115dBu -113dBu -48dBu 3.1mV 67dB
Tascam DR-1 (MIC 2 IN) -115dBu -113dBu -28dBu 31mV
Olympus LS-100 (External Mic) -114dBu -112dBu -45dBu 4.3mV 69dB
Olympus LS-P1/P4 -114dBu -111dBu -61dBu 0.6mV 53dB
Tascam DR-100
(GAIN : H)
-113dBu -111dBu -39dBu 8.7mV
Tascam DR-07
-113dBu -111dBu -46dBu 3.9mV
* Olympus LS-10, LS-11
(SENSE LOW, LEVEL 10, 16 bit)
-113dBu -110dBu -30dBu 25mV 81dB
* not max gain!
iRig PRE with
Samsung Galaxy SII
-113dBu -111dBu -53dBu 1.8mV 60dB
TASCAM HS-P82 -112dBu -109dBu -51dBu 2.1mV 61dB
Marantz PMD620 -112dBu -110dBu -40dBu 7.7mV 72dB
Tascam DR-680
-112dBu -110dBu -34dBu 15mV 78dB
Tascam DR-1 (MIC 1 IN) -111dBu -109dBu -41dBu 6.9mV
Tascam DR-05
-109dBu -107dBu -42dBu 6.0mV 67dB
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (1/8″ input) -109dBu -107dBu -32dBu 19mV 77dB
Tascam DR-07MKII -108dBu -106dBu -42dBu 6.0mV
Tascam DR-2d
-108dBu -106dBu -43dBu 5.0mV 65dB
Tascam DR-40
-107dBu -104dBu -43dBu 5.0mV 63dB
Zoom H4n (6) -107dBu -104dBu -47dBu
-107dBu -105dBu -53dBu 1.8mV 54dB
M-Audio MicroTrack II (1/8″ input) -106dBu -104dBu -46dBu 3.8mV 60dB
Tascam DR-08
-106dBu -103dBu -46dBu 3.9mV 60dB
Edirol R-09
-105dBu -102dBu -41dBu 6.9mV 63dB
* Olympus LS-10, LS-11
-103dBu -100dBu -30dBu 25mV 73dB
* not max gain!
Edirol R-09HR
(MIC Gain L)
-103dBu -100dBu -22dBu 62mV 81dB
* Olympus LS-12/14
(Rec Level 30)
-102dBu -100dBu -39dBu 8.7mV 63dB
* not max gain!
M-Audio MicroTrack II (1/4″ input) -101dBu -99dBu -41dBu 6.9mV 60dB
Zoom H2 (7)
-99dBu -95dBu -43dBu

Measurement conditions

  • Recording format: 44.1 KHz, 16 bit (unless indicated otherwise), mono (left channel). All parameters were measured at the maximum available gain setting (at which the lowest possible noise floor can be obtained), except where indicated otherwise. PIP, limiter and noise cancelation options were disabled. Note that a bit-depth of 24 bit would not improve the noise level figures at these high gain settings. Increasing the sample rate would also not improve the results because the decimation filters in the delta-sigma A/D converters already average the oversampled signals. When available, the figures in brackets indicate the manufacturer's specifications.
    The errors of the measurements should be less than +-2dB

  • The input (clipping) level at the maximum available gain setting represents the maximum input sensitivity (or "gain") of the recorder. 0 dBu is equivalent to 775 mVrms. Note that the dB gain figures that are often specified by the manufacturers do not represent a meaningful characterization of the relevant input sensitivities that would be needed in practice.

  • The dynamic range figure at the maximum available gain setting alone should not be interpreted as an indicator for the performance of a recorder because these numbers will of course depend on the individual maximum gain of the various recorders (a higher maximum gain tend to result in a lower dynamic range figure).

  • The SONY Hi-MD MZ-RH1 Measurements were done by John Beale.

  • The Roland R-05 measurements were done by Per Baekgaard.

  • The Zoom H4n measurements were done by John Lundsten.

  • The Zoom H2 measurements were done by Richard Mudhar.

    The calculation and filtering procedures were executed by using the Avisoft-SASLab Pro sound analysis software.

Noise Performance Test Sound Files

In order to evaluate the noise performance of the various recorders in combination with different microphones, the sound of an electronic alarm clock has been recorded subsequently with three different microphones and various recorders. All recorders were set to their maximum gain. The test arrangement was fixed throughout the entire test procedure (the distance between the clock and the microphones was 1 meter). The columns labelled “normalized” contain the normalized sound files. In order to compensate for the different input sensitivities of the various recorders, the normalization was done in such a way that all files exhibit a virtual input clipping level of -60 dBu (the original files were digitally amplified according to the previously measured input clipping levels listed above). Note that this kind of normalization does not compensate for the different microphone sensitivities. So, for evaluating the absolute equivalent noise levels of the various microphones, their sensitivities must be taken into account (50mV/Pa : 40mV/Pa : 25mV/Pa = 0dB : -2dB : -6 dB). The columns “original” contain the original and unmodified 16 bit .wav files. The last two seconds of each file represent the inherent noise floor of the recorder (the microphone input was terminated by a 150 ohms resistor).

  Sennheiser K6/ME66
50mV/Pa, 10dBA
noise floor: -108dBu
Sennheiser MKH60
40mV/Pa, 8dBA
noise floor: -112dBu
Rode NT1-A *
25mV/Pa, 5dBA
noise floor: -118dBu
  normalized original normalized original normalized original
SoundDevices 722
Tascam HD-P2, 16 bit
Tascam HD-P2, 24 bit
Marantz PMD671
Marantz PMD670
Marantz PMD660
M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96
Edirol R-09

* The Rode NT1-A studio microphone has been added to this comparison only for reference purposes in order to demonstrate the influence of the microphone specifications on the overall noise performance. Due to its large size, the relatively low directionality, the high sensitivity to moisture, mechanical shock and wind noise, this microphone model is not recommended for mobile sound recording of individual animal vocalizations in the field.

Due to the incompatible phantom power voltage of the M-Audio MicroTrack 24/96 (30 Volt only), the MKH60 microphone provides a very poor noise floor with that recorder.

See also the illustrated noise floor comparison of the various recorders and microphones.