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While trying to decide between the Sterling ST55 and the ST59 I have a few specific questions. The ST55 has a 32mV/Pa sensitivity rating, while the ST59 has a 16mV/Pa sensitivity rating. However, the ST55 has slightly more self noise (22dB SPL — A Weighted) while the ST59 has a self noise rating of (14dB A weighted).

In order to record quiet sound sources with minimal self noise, which mic would be more useful (higher sensitivity but more self noise or lower sensitivity with less self noise)? In other words does the fact that the ST55 has greater sensitivity compensate for the slightly higher self noise, or would it be better to use the ST59 and turn up the gain a little bit to get softer sounds?

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I can't be certain from the product pages, but it appears that it may be the same diaphragm with different mounting and processing to allow for different pickup patterns. If that is the case, then you are not going to get a significant difference in the gained up sound, it would come down to the quality of your gain vs the quality of the mic circuitry as to which would give you a cleaner sound.

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