Microphone vs. Line In | The Difference Between Mic Level and Line Level Explained

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  January 9, 2021

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Start hanging around any type of recording, rehearsal or live performance facility and you will hear the terms ‘mic level’ and ‘line level’ being thrown around a lot.

Mic level refers to the inputs where microphones are plugged in, whereas line level refers to the input for any other audio device or instrument.

Mic vs line in

The key difference between microphone and line-in include the following:

This article will take a deeper look at the differences between microphone and line in so you have some good basic audio tech knowledge.

What is Mic Level?

Mic level refers to the voltage that is generated when a microphone picks up sound.

Typically, this is just a few thousandths of a volt. However, it can vary depending on the sound level and the distance from the mic.

As compared to other audio devices, the mic level is typically the weakest and often requires a preamplifier or mic to line amplifier to help it get to the level of the line in instruments.

These are available as single-channel and multi-channel devices.

A mixer can also be used for this task and is, in fact, a preferred tool for the job because it can combine multiple signals into a single output.

The mic level is usually measured by the decibel measurements dBu and dBV. It typically falls between -60 and -40 dBu.

What is Line Level?

Line level is about 1,000 times as strong as mic level. Therefore, the two usually don’t use the same output.

The signal travels from a preamp to an amplifier that produces noise through its speakers.

There are two standard line levels including the following:

You will also find audio signals in instrument and speaker levels. Instruments like guitar and bass need preamplification to bring them up to line level.

Post amplification speaker levels are what comes out of the amp into the speakers.

These have a voltage that is higher than the line level and requires speaker cables to transfer the signal safely.

The Importance of Matching Levels

It is essential to match the right device with the right input.

If you don’t, you will not get the desired result, and you may risk embarrassing yourself in a professional setting.

Here are some examples of what could go wrong.

Helpful Hints

Here are some other tips that may help you out when you’re in the studio.

Now that you know some audio basics, you are better prepared for your first tech job.

What are some essential lessons you feel techs should know?

For your next read: Best Mixing Consoles For a Recording Studio reviewed.

          Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of his passion, and together with his team, He's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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