This guide will look at what the dB switch does on a microphone. It is common to see a variety of numbers on the side of a microphone (-6dB, -10dB, -12dB, -15dB, or -18dB), but they all do the same thing.
Quick Answer: The dB switch acts as a pad, which will attenuate (reduce) the microphone signal. This is useful if you have the microphone in front of a loud source like a guitar amp or drum kit. Your microphone may have a different number (-6dB, -10db, -12dB, -15dB, or -18dB), but they all do the same thing
What Does the dB Switch Do?
The dB switch on the side of the microphone is known as a PAD “Passive Attenuation Device”. It will reduce the input level of the microphone by the amount you set on the switch.
By default, this setting should be set to 0 dB. You can adjust it as necessary to reduce your microphone level.
Where To Find dB Switch
On some microphones, you will find the switch on the microphone’s front, back, or side. It’s more typical to find an attenuator on a condenser microphone than on a dynamic microphone.
It’s especially common on wide diaphragm microphones, pencil condensers, and shotgun microphones. It’s common to see any of the following:
- -6dB Microphone Switch
- -10dB Microphone Switch
- -12dB Microphone Switch
- -15dB Microphone Switch
- -18dB Microphone Switch
Related: Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones
When To Use The dB Switch
You should use the dB switch to reduce the microphone level any time you notice your channel is peaking, clipping, or distorting on your audio mixer before you’ve engaged the preamp. In this case, you must reduce the microphone signal to a reasonable level before mixing or recording.
This is very common when you have a condenser microphone in front of a guitar amp or drum kit.
Sometimes you may even find that you need to engage the dB switch on the microphone AND use the input pad on your audio mixer.
What If Your Microphone Doesn’t Have One?
If your microphone doesn’t have a pad or attenuator and you need to reduce the level, you can use the pad on your audio mixer or an in-line XLR pad.
Most audio mixers over $500 will have an input pad/attinuator at the top of each channel strip. Commonly you will see something that says -25dB or 25dB pad. Of course, depending on the manufacturer, you may see values between -15dB and -30dB.
If your audio mixer doesn’t have an input pad on the channel strip, you can purchase an in-line XLR pad. We love using the Shure A15AS because it lets you adjust the attenuation between -15dB and -25dB, depending on your needs.
Popular Microphones With Built In Pad
Below are some common microphones that have a built-in pad or attenuator. This isn’t a complete list.
- AKG C3000B
- AKG C414 XLII
- AKG P220
- Aston Spirit
- Lewitt LCT 940
- Neumann U 87 AI MT Microphone
- Neumann KMR 81 i
- Shure SM27
- Sennheiser e 965
- Sennheiser MKH 60
Microphone dB Pad Switch FAQ
The -10dB switch will attenuate your microphone’s input to make it 10dB quieter. This can be useful when the microphone is in front of a loud sound source (guitar amp, drum kit)
The -15dB switch will attenuate (lower) the microphone’s input to make it 15dB quieter.