Line In vs Mic In – A Detailed Comparison

Which Is Better?

Line In vs Mic In

Confused between line in vs mic in? Read the instruction manuals but don’t understand what line in or mic in means? Well, you’re not alone!

Although line in input and mic in input appear to be the same, they are as different as chalk and cheese. However, people cannot differentiate between the two because they lack basic information on voltage levels. Not only this but line in vs mic in is technical jargon and everyone may not know how they’re different.

Therefore, identifying and understanding the difference between line in vs mic in is crucial for getting the maximum quality from the inputs on your devices. This article will help you understand the differences between line in vs mic in.

Types of Audio Signals

Type of Audio Signals
Type of Audio Signals

Welcome to the world of sound. Let us introduce you to four sound audio signals, categorized based on electrical signal strength or volume. Microphone (mic) level signals, Instrument level signals, Line level signals, and Speaker level signals are all examples of these types of signals.

Mic level is the least effective of the four. The instrument-level signal is in the middle of the mic and line levels. Before amplification, line-level signals are the highest level signals. Speaker level signals are post-amplification.

What Is Line In?

What Is Line In

If you have gone shopping for headphones or earbuds, you must have come across a salesperson telling you about this headset’s feature: an inline microphone. He is telling you that the device has a microphone incorporated into the wire of the headphones, allowing you to answer phone calls or use voice commands without having to remove your headphones.

The microphone on a headset that comes out in front of your mouth is not an inline microphone. Instead, an inline microphone is built into the shell or the connecting band of wireless headphones and earbuds.

The term “line in” refers to a stereo input into which you can plug your instrument to record. Mic in is a mono input that you can use to talk to other people in a video chat or record sound. Although line in and mic in are two different inputs, they both create sound; one is easier to use than the other.

For ease of understanding, your computer’s line in jack is where you connect your guitar, keyboard, microphone, and other musical instruments, as well as other external devices.

In most cases, you’ll plug your instruments into line in ports and your microphone into the mic in port.

If you work with modern and sophisticated equipment, line in is ideal. You can get all this information from the product manual and ensure that you connect everything right.

Can You Use Line In for a Mic?

Line inputs are not for microphones. Line inputs can’t be used as microphone inputs because they’re too quiet. Although it is possible to use them and won’t harm your mic, there is not enough gain to amplify the microphone’s level to a line input. Because the mic signal is so faint that the line input cannot hear it, connecting a microphone to a line-level input produces almost no sound. So, the next time you’re using the best karaoke microphones or best podcasting microphones, ensure you use mic in only.

What Are Microphone Inputs and Outputs?

We use microphones daily, whether for making a phone conversation, chatting in a Zoom meeting with headphones, producing a podcast, or simply capturing something with audio.

But have you ever taken a moment to marvel at this technological wonder? First, you need a strong understanding of your devices’ input and output systems if you work with audio daily (or even if you’re just curious). Before explaining what the microphone’s inputs and outputs are, we’ll go through the complete definitions of what input and output devices genuinely are.

Difference Between Input Device and Output Device

The difference between an input and output device lies in their function. For example, an input device provides or inputs data to a computer system, whereas an output device receives or reproduces data from a computer system. When determining if a device is an input or output device, consider the computer I/O (input/output).

So, according to this definition, microphones are input devices. When you connect a microphone to a computer (either through an audio interface or another analog-to-digital converter), it sends/inputs data. Microphones are hence input devices. Digital mics with built-in headphone amps that receive info from computers are input/output devices.

Most gadgets we use today, such as a phone or laptop, now contain input and output capabilities, whereas specialist equipment focuses on a single function. Two of the most common I/O devices on the market are your computer and phone. Many apps, such as text-to-speech software, have made I/O conversion simple and extremely helpful.

What Is Line Level?

Image Depicting Line Level
Image Depicting Line Level

If you are making any audio connection, it is essential to know this information. For example, if you connect a microphone to an amplifier with only line-level inputs, the audio level will be too low to be useful. For example, the signal will distort if you connect a device with a line-level out into a mixing console with mic-level inputs. So it’s critical to understand what you’re dealing with.

The term “line” is derived from “telephone line.” The average level of a telephone signal traveling down telephone cables was around one volt when the telephone network was being constructed in the early twentieth century. As a result, a signal of one volt was considered “line level.”

Before amplification, line-level signals are the highest level signals. Line-level is the type of level that flows through a recording system between the preamplifier stage and the amplifier that powers your speakers. There are two line-level types: consumer and professional.

Line level refers to the typical level (strength or amplitude) of the audio signal from mixers, signal-processing equipment, and other consumer and professional equipment.

dBu and dBV are decibel units for measuring voltage. Unlike the dB (a decibel), they are actually units because they can be converted to an actual voltage value. dBu is dB relative to 0.775 volts; such that 0dBu = 0.775 volts. dBV is dB relative to 1.0 volt; such that 0dBV = 1.0 volt. 

A signal level of -10 dBV is the consumer line level (0.316). CD players and DVD players are examples of consumer line-level equipment. Professional line level is a signal of +4 dBu (1.23 volts or significantly higher). Signal-processing equipment and professional mixing consoles are examples of professional line-level equipment.

What Is an In-Line Mic?

An In-Line Mic
An In-Line Mic

When shopping for headphones or earbuds, you may discover that one option available is the inclusion of an “Inline Mic.” The purpose of this feature may be apparent to some, but it may leave others confused.

An Inline Mic is a microphone that comes as part of a headphone cable, usually positioned closer to your mouth when the headphones are on. This feature is excellent if you’re using a gadget like your phone while wearing headphones or earphones.

You’ll be able to answer calls without taking off your headphones, and the person on the other end of the line will hear you without having to hold your phone up to your mouth. You should be able to change the volume, answer, and end calls in most cases.

Another helpful feature is that when you’re listening to something through your headphones, the noises will immediately fade out, so you may accept a call and then restart after you hang up. But, hey, that was clever!

Each brand and model with an inline microphone will have a distinct appearance and set of capabilities, so shop around for the one that best meets your needs.

What Is the Difference Between Mic and Line Input?

You might have never given this a thought, but there is a massive difference between line-level and mic-level input. Mic in is a type of input that connects wired and wireless microphones. A mic level signal is a signal produced by a microphone. A line in is an input utilized by more powerful devices, such as musical instruments and audio equipment. You can’t use a mic as a line in because of the significant disparity.

Let’s look at line in vs mic in differences in a little more detail.


A mic generates mic-level signals when it captures sound at around 1,000th of a volt voltage. A-line signal is 1,000 times more potent than a microphone input signal, so you cannot use a mic as a line in.

Audio Signal

Line inputs have a louder audio signal than mic inputs because they connect to line-level signals. Line-level signals are 1,000 times more powerful (in voltage) than mic-level signals and don’t require the same level of amplification. However, mic inputs enhance quiet sounds because they have a significantly higher gain capability than line ins.


A microphone and a line don’t share the same input. Mic ins connect microphones while recording, whereas line ins connect instruments. For example, you will plug a microphone into a mixing console or an audio interface to record voice or an instrument. This microphone goes into a mic-level input on the mixer or audio interface, coupled to a pre-amp.

Converting Signals

There are a variety of devices that assist in the conversion of mic levels to line signals, for example, a mixer, mic-to-line amplifiers, pre-amps that convert mic-to-line, and other multi-channel equipment. In addition, you cannot use line inputs in a mic input. Firstly, there would be no sound. If there is one at all, it will be so quiet that it will be difficult to hear.

You can use mic in for microphone inputs, and line-level signals for other equipment, including consumer electronics and professional musical instruments. If you connect a line-level input to the mic input, the sound produced will be noisy and distorted. Inputs and outputs on some higher-end mixers are mics and line-level switchable.

If you wish to connect your instrument or a line-level signal but only have mic-level inputs, you’ll need a DI box to convert the signal to the proper level.

Accessories and Connectors

Line ins have two sockets and need either an RCA or phone jack connector. Mic ins contain only one socket and need an XLR or quarter-inch jack cable to connect. Both line and mic inputs are accessible to most commercially available mixers, audio pre-amps, and audio interfaces.

A mic–level input is usually a female XLR connector. Generally, a line-level input is an RCA, 1/4″ phone jack, or 3.5 mm phone jack. Don’t assume the levels are the same because one connector fits into another. Inputs are generally very clearly marked.

Final Words

We sincerely hope we you’ve understood the differences between line in vs mic in. We recommend that you study your product manuals and make sure you have the correct inputs for your devices so you do not damage your equipment.