For instance I've put my eye on two mics (cardioid condenser ones).
One has -90dB sensitivity and frequency range of 20 - 20 000 Hz.
The other on has -46dB sensitivity and frequency of 50 - 15 000 Hz.

It's going to be used at the distance of no more than 11 inches / 30 cm from me.
I wouldn't like to buy something that would give me a sound not better than a smartphone, I want to get more clear/detailed speech.

Which specs should I prefer?

2 Answers 2


You cannot choose based on those numbers alone.

Though 50Hz - 15kHz might seem a little limited, if all you are recording is spoken word, then it's sufficient. The values alone don't give any indication as to how flat the pickup is across the audio spectrum.

The dB sensitivity figures have no proper units so cannot be compared at all.
You have no way of telling if that's dBV or dBFS, or whether they're Peak or RMS values.

You would naturally be drawn the the first one because the "numbers look bigger" but without the other information, it's not something to base your judgement on.
The second mic is potentially for use in high SPL conditions, so it doesn't overload easily.

If you are judging expensive equipment, rent it first to test; if it's budget then you may as well pick one on the flip of a coin as use those figures to judge.

  • 1
    Tetsujin's right, but if you can't rent or test and you don't know what the detailed specs like "THD" and "SNR" mean, just read some reputable reviews. SD mags love reviewing mics of all budgets. And you don't need a bigger bandwidth than 50 - 15000 Hz for any vocals. I doubt even Stevie Wonder could get lower than 300 Hz.
    – n00dles
    Commented Sep 11, 2020 at 3:50

These specs don't tell you in much detail how the mic will sound. A full frequency response plot gets a bit closer, but it remains difficult to compare audio devices using just their specs.

One thing that jumps out from the specs is the massive difference in sensitivity. This makes me think the specs either can't be compared directly (because they have been measured using different standards), or something else is off with the -46 dB microphone.

The best way to find out is to record the same sounds with both mics, and compare the recordings.

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