Understanding the performance of sensors and recorders is prerequisite to making appropriate use of them in seismology and earthquake engineering. This paper explores a critical aspect of instrument performance, the “self” noise level of the device and the amplitude range it can usefully record. Self noise limits the smallest signals, while instrument clipping level creates the upper limit (above which it either cannot produce signals or becomes unacceptably nonlinear). Where these levels fall, and the “operating range” between them, determines much of the instrument's viability and the applications for which it is appropriate.

The representation of seismic-instrument self-noise levels and...

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