Acoustic emission (AE) sensors and ultrasonic transducers were characterized for the detection of Rayleigh waves (RW). Small aperture reference sensors were characterized first using the fracture of glass capillary tubes in combination with a theoretical displacement calculation, which utilized finite element method (FEM) and was verified by laser interferometer. For the calibration of 18 commercial sensors and two piezoceramic disks, a 90° angle beam transducer was used to generate RW pulses on an aluminum transfer block. By a substitution method, RW receiving sensitivity of a sensor under test was determined over the range of frequency from 22 kHz to 2 MHz. Results were compared to the sensitivities to normally incident waves (NW) and to other guided waves (GW). It was found that (1) NW sensitivities are always higher than RW sensitivities, (2) differences between NW and RW receiving sensitivities are dependent on frequency and sensor size, (3) most sensors show comparable RW and GW receiving sensitivities, especially those of commonly used AE sensors, and (4) the receiving sensitivities of small aperture (1 mm diameter) sensors behave differently from larger sensors.