One of the forms in which sound is represented is known as audio signals. This is an essential concept for videographers as sound plays a huge role in any given video clip. While some expert videographers can simply plug in a microphone and obtain a decent sound others may have a tough time achieving that due to unwanted noise and low audio level. Line level and mic level are both types of voltage levels for audio signals, measured in dBV i.e. decibels relative to voltage. Right off the bat, the main difference is that audio devices are connected to line level while all wired and wireless mics use mic level. In this article, we will walk you through line level vs. mic level.
You can also read: How to Make Your Voice Sound Better
What is Line Level?
The audio signal that flows through your recording device before being broadcasted through the sound output is known as a line level. Measuring approximately 1 volt depending on the type of line level, it’s thousand times much stronger than mic level.
With that being said, there are two types of line levels. The one that is suitable for consumer devices such as MP3 or DVD players stands at -10 dBV i.e. 0.316 volts, while the type that is ideal for professional devices such as signal processing gear and mixing desks stand at +4 dBV i.e. 1.23 volts. The latter is pretty common in the music industry due to the use of different types of audio gear and professional consoles. So, when someone mentions line level, it usually indicates professional line level.
The professional line level is significantly higher than the lower line level which is why it is less sensitive to any additional noise. On the other hand, the consumer line level uses multiple inter-connecting wires which increase the chances of catching unwanted hum or noise up to four times.
What is Mic Level?
As the name suggests, mic levels are suitable for microphones measuring approximately up to a thousandth volt. In comparison to a line level that is used in professional musical equipment, a mic level works on an extremely low voltage.
Since it’s one of the weakest out of all the audio signals it needs a pre-amplifier to match up to line level if required. Mic level usually ranges from -60dBV and -40dBV i.e. 0.001 Volts and 0.010 Volts respectively. A microphone can only pick up this low range. Plus, it also depends on the volume of the equipment as well as the distance between the mic and the source of the sound.
What Is The Difference Between Line Level and Mic Level?
As you can see line level and mic level differ drastically based on the voltage level. While connecting a microphone to a line level will not produce any sound, connecting any professional sound equipment to a line level will create unwanted, distorted audio. Plus, the latter scenario will cause the signal to be extremely hot.
However, it can be adjusted to some degree by turning the volume down or reducing the input gain to a great extent. But even then, it’s clearly not the right way as it will just lead to an overall poor audio quality. Another major visual difference between line level and mic level is that the former uses a jack cable while the latter works through a female XLR connector.
You must understand that sometimes even if the connectors fit doesn’t mean that it will create good sound output. So, the correct level should be plugged in depending on the audio device you’re using. Also, some higher-end mixers allow the switching of line level and mic level. However, the output will still not be as clean as it should be when the right level is used.
How To Change A Mic Level Into A Line Level?
If you’re stuck with a mic level but want to experience a sound output of a line level, you should incorporate preamps such as Cloudlifter CL-1 to boost the audio signal. Using that will take your mic level up to +25 dBV.
Tips For New Operators
- Look at the marking on the input generator before plugging them in.
- A line level usually has a 0.25-inched phone jack, RCA jack, or a 3.5mm phone jack, while a mic level has a female XLR connector.
- Sometimes, a balance line level input may utilize an XLR jack but that does not mean it’s a mic level.
- If you’re working with a microphone you can assume that a mic level will be the appropriate audio signal. On the other hand, if you’re working with music players or professional sound equipment, a line level will be the ideal audio signal.
- A line level will not produce a clean output on a microphone even while using a preamplifier so prevent yourself from doing that.
- Based on the type of wireless receiver, the output signal will differ. If you’re not sure of it, go through the manual guide provided by the manufacturer.
- Levels may not match just because they fit perfectly with one another.
- Use a Direct Injection Box or an attenuator to reduce the voltage if you need to connect a mic input to a device with a line level.
Line level and mic level make up half of the types of audio signals you can find. Often users get confused about the actual differences between line level vs. mic level – the two types of audio signals. To put it in simple terms, there is a significant difference in voltage of line level and mic level which is important for users to know. If the correct level is not used for a particular device, a mismatch in connection will occur causing distortion.
We’re positive that our article will help you understand the difference between line level vs. mic level to the dot, and you’ll be able to produce high-quality audio by utilizing the correct audio level input.