I am a bit of a newbie to the audio world, so please bear with me. What would be the difference between getting a high sensitivity microphone and using a low/medium sensitivity microphone and using some software like audacity to increase the gain of the output signal?

  • \$\begingroup\$ To maximize signal to noise ratio when using high gain . it is best to choose the largest R load that gives the most gain without clipping . \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jul 11 '18 at 4:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ S/N is the biggest difference between the two methods. \$\endgroup\$ – jonk Jul 11 '18 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know this is kind of late, but I think this would fit better on signals.stackexchange.com . Anuraag, would you agree? In that case, we can open a request to move it to that site, dedicated to signal processing. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jul 11 '18 at 14:33

From a really basic point of view: you can't amplify what you can't see.

There's two things to that:

  1. Your microphone converts sound waves (changing air pressure) to voltage. The sensitivity is how much volts you get per sound volume. That voltage get digitized by some sound card to digital values; that means that some range of very low voltages get mapped to a discrete set of digital numbers. The less sensitive your microphone, the smaller the voltages, the more get mapped to a single value, for example 0. You can amplify zero all you like: it's going to stay zero. The same goes for all other digitization bins: The smaller your mic's output amplitude, the fewer of the potential "bins" get actually used, the more quantization noise you get.
  2. The digitizer in your sound card sees the voltage-converted sound signal, and it sees additional noise, for example from random electron fluctuations in its electronics, and from cables picking up electromagnetic waves etc. The lower the sensitivity, the lower the wanted signal, the worse the ratio between signal and that noise – you get bad SNR. You can't "solve" SNR afterwards: if you amplify, you just amplify the noise part as much as you amplify the signal part, so you lose.

TL;DR: Can't recover information you never got.


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