Very quiet lavalier microphone when plugged into my laptop.

I bought this Sennheiser XS USB-C lav mic recently which is supposedly quite a good one. Attached is a sample recording of me testing the microphones of both my Ipad and the Sennheiser at equal distances from my mouth; the Sennheiser was plugged into my Dell Latitude 7430 laptop via one of its two USB-C ports. Why is the Sennheiser so quiet?? I’m so annoyed. I first tested this mic with a friend’s phone (a Samsung Galaxy model I think) and it sounded great! I could speak at a very casual volume and the mic would pick it all up perfectly. Now I have to speak like I’m talking down the phone in the 1990’s just to make sure it picks up at a reasonable level. I’ve tried adjusting the settings in Windows 11 for external microphones to no avail.

Is it too much to ask of Microsoft to get plug-in-and-play microphones to work on their computers? Is that too demanding for them? Would it stress their developers too much to try and do that? So do I need some peripheral recording device for this mic instead? I have a USB-C to Miro-USB adapter coming in the post that will hopefully allow it to connect to my cheap IMO Q2 phone, so hopefully that will be better, but I’m not hopeful at all…

There may be Windows microphone level and/or boost sliders in the Dell computer …
mic level boost sliders

While you’re there, turn off any “Enhancements” on the microphone.


I’ve tried adjusting the settings in Windows 11 for external microphones to no avail.

no i couldn’t see any “enhancements” options at all, despite your link

There is a “dilemma” with USB mics that don’t have an analog level control.

If they are too sensitive, you can easily clip (distort) the analog-to-digital converter built-into the mic.

For that reason they are usually designed with low sensitivity.

Checking the specs, that mic is rated for 110dB SPL. That means you’ll only bit 0dBFS (digital) at 110dB SPL (acoustic loudness).

…A lot of USB “podcast mics” have a recording volume knob.

Microphone Boost should be built-into Windows.

The Audacity Amplify effect is functionally the same as Microsoft Microphone Boost except you have to Amplify after recording.


Thanks for all that detail. I don’t have the knowledge to know exactly what those specs you gave meant, but the gist seems to be that it’s designed to be that way.

The “Microphone Boost” option doesn’t seem to be available for my mic; but amplifying the sound-file in Audacity afterwards wouldn’t be difficult and could be a good work-around.

As a bonus question, would you be able to advise on how loudly it would be safe to talk or sing or ‘yell’ into this mic? would that answer relate to those dB specs you already quoted?

You aren’t going to overload it with normal voice. 110dB SPL is LOUD! There’s probably nothing in your house that loud. Here is a chart. You might overload it if you stick it in front of a drum or guitar amp.

It can be a little deceiving because it’s the peaks that cause digital or electronic clipping, but perceived loudness depends more on the short-term average and frequency content. A live symphony can go over 100dB on the peaks but it’s not “painfully loud” like a rock concert can be, because the rock is more “dense” (and in-fact probably louder on the peaks too).

The 0dBFS digital reference level is the “digital maximum” so digital dB values are normally negative. With integer formats is as high as you can “count” with a given number of bits. (The numbers in a 24-bit file are bigger than the numbers in a 16-bit file, but everything is scaled to match your digital-to-analog player so the 24-bit file is not louder during playback.)

The 0dB SPL loudness reference is approximately the quietest sound humans can hear so SPL levels are positive.

There are also electrical dB references and if you’ve ever seen an analog VU Meter, most of the scale is also negative.

There is no automatic calibration between SPL and acoustic levels. When you’re recording, it depends on how close you are to the microphone, the sensitivity of the mic, and the gain of the preamp, etc. Similarly during playback, it depends on the volume control, your amplifier, the speakers, how close you are to the speaker, etc.

But there is a direct correlation - If you turn down the digital level by -10dB (a bigger negative number) the SPL level also drops by 10 dB.


Thanks for explaining that, I understand it now. Yes I’m sure there were VU meters on the sound-systems in the house when I was a child.

Well as long as I don’t flatulate when using the mic I don’t think I’ll ever break it then… and that’s interesting about orchestral and rock concerts.

I saw someone comparing lav mics on YT and they were showcasing some pretty expensive ones that all looked like they fed into some sort of ‘pre-amp’ which had dials on it; is that what you meant by having a volume-knob?