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Understanding Microphone Preamplifier Noise

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A question we often hear in Technical Support goes something like this, “I’ve cranked up the gain of my [pick a Sound Devices product] microphone input and it sounds noisy. What gives?” The short answer is, “that is a meaningless ‘measurement’”. The long answer is far more interesting for those who want a better understanding of microphone preamplifiers. Performing a valid, meaningful measurement of microphone preamplifier input noise requires more than “cranking open” an input and listening in headphones.