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What is the difference between line-in and mic-in?Learn the four types of audio signal levels – including mic level và line level


Line-in và mic-in pop up frequently in setup related questions. People often struggle khổng lồ tell the difference because it involves some basic knowledge of voltage levels. But you can kết thúc up damaging the sound if you set up the two.

Line-in & mic-in are audio inputs but they are indicative of the voltage màn chơi of the audio signal. Line-in can handle strong (think loud) currents whereas a mic-in can handle very low level of currents.

With audio signals, sound is transferred as a voltage into our mixers, audio interfaces, amplifiers, & speakers. These levels can be low or high và the inputs are designed khổng lồ ‘anticipate’ a certain level of currents. This is where we get the terms mic-level (for mic-in) và line-level (for line-in). Knowing the difference is important và in this article, we’ll flesh out the differences between signal levels và the corresponding inputs.

The Difference Between Mic-in and Line-in

A line-in (line input) is an audio socket that is found on audio interfaces, computer sound cards, and some mixers. It’s used to connect an external audio device such as an instrument, microphone, or CD player (remember those?).

Conversely, mic-in is for microphones – you connect a wired or wireless mic to lớn a mic-in. A line cấp độ input is not designed for microphones.

It might be cumbersome, but reading a sản phẩm manual is the best way lớn understand an audio device lớn figure out the right inputs. Several wireless receivers, for instance, have different đầu ra levels. Reading the manual ensures that you’ll connect it properly & avoid any damage to your equipment.

Key Differences:

The line-level signal is about one volt, or about 1,000 times as strong as a mic-level signal. The two signal types do not ordinarily use the same input. This signal travels from your pre-amp khổng lồ the amplifier.

You have an RCA, quarter-inch jack, or 3.5 mm jack for a line cấp độ input. You typically use a female XLR connector for the mic-level input.

Line-in is the highest pre-amplification cấp độ in both consumer and professional audio products. It runs at 10kohm as opposed to lớn a mic-ins paltry 600-1Kohm.

A mic-in is the input designed lớn handle the mic-level signal intensity (from a microphone) and line-in is designed khổng lồ handle line cấp độ intensity. That’s why you have an inaudible signal when you plug your microphone into a line-level input. So you can think of signal cấp độ as “volume” if you want khổng lồ simplify things.

The Four Type of Audio Signals

We will detail the difference between line and mic level in detail, but let’s brush up on the four types of signals that you will encounter in the audio world.

Microphone (Mic) màn chơi signalsInstrument level signalsLine level signalsSpeaker màn chơi signals or post-amp signals

What Is A Mic level Signal?

This is for directly plugging in microphones without preamps. This will almost always be via an XLR cable. Mic-level is the weakest audio signal of all the types. It’s mono with terribly low-level signals, usually around between -60 lớn -40dBU. You have khổng lồ bring up mic level signals lớn line màn chơi somehow, most commonly by using a preamp or a mixer.

Most audio interfaces have a pre-amp to bring the mic level of a microphone up to line level. You can also buy standalone preamps that are better than the built-in preamps of your audio interface. Some standalone pres are famous for being transparent (clarity) while others are sought out for their ‘tone color’ or quality sonic character.

What Is A Line-Level Signal?

Line-level signals are one volt, which may sound small but it’s still a big leap from mic level signals. That is why the line level input and mic input cannot be used interchangeably. A line-in signal carries the signal from the pre-amp to the speaker amp. Typically, mixing desks and mic-pres work with line level operators.

Based on the types of audio gear, line levels exist in two forms:

a) consumer electronic equipment such as DVD players, audio players, or trang chủ theater systems (-10dBV / consumer line levels)b) pro-grade music/recording gear such as signal processing units and mixing desks (+4 dbu / standard line levels)

Boosting Mic màn chơi To Line Level

Mixers, preamplifiers, standalone preamps, and inline mic preamps are the most commonly used devices to boost microphone levels lớn line-level signals. This boost ranges from 45 to lớn 70db based on the quality of the preamp. Standalone preamps can be single or multi-channel & mixers allow you lớn combine multiple signals lớn a single output.

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Inline mic-preamps like Triton Audio FetHead of Cloudlifter CL-1 are also used for a +25 dB boost on dynamic microphones khổng lồ bring them up khổng lồ line level. They are popular with ribbon and dynamic microphone users, especially in the broadcasting & podcasting realm.