Question: What is “line” level and what is “mic” level?
Answer: Sorting through the definitions of mic and line level can be confusing because there are varied definitions of the terms among audio engineers and manufacturers. Before getting into an in-depth definition, it would probably be a good idea to talk about why you should be concerned about whether an input or output is mic or line level. If you are making any type of audio connection, it is very important to know this information. For example, if you connect a microphone to an amplifier that has only line level inputs, the audio level will be too low for practical use. If you connect a device with a line level out into a mixing console with microphone level inputs, the signal could be distorted. It is important to know what you are working with.
Line level refers to the typical level (strength or amplitude) of the audio signal from mixers, signal-processing equipment and other consumer and professional audio gear. There are two line level types: consumer and professional. Consumer line level is generally thought of as a signal whose level is at -10 dBV (0.316). CD players and DVD players are examples of consumer line level equipment. Professional line level is generally thought of as a signal whose level is at +4 dBu (1.23 volts or significantly higher). Signal-processing equipment and professional mixing consoles are examples of professional line level equipment.
Mic level is the typical level (strength) of a microphone signal. Mic level is generally significantly lower than line level, although that is not always the case. Depending upon the microphone and the sound pressure level (SPL) put into the microphone, the level may range from a few microvolts, for a whisper, up to several volts, for a microphone placed in front of a guitar cabinet. The output of most microphones and wireless microphone receivers are mic level.
Please note that some devices, such as our AT-MX341B mixer, have inputs and outputs that can be configured as either line level or mic level.
If you have additional questions or would like a recommendation for an Audio-Technica product, feel free to contact the Audio-Technica Audio Solutions Department. We are always happy to help.