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I’ve searched and there are already similiar questions here on line vs. mic-level, but I’m unfortunately not able to deduce from the answers to my particular situation.

I want to record from my digital organ line out into the tascam dr-40. I use separate unbalanced TRS cables for L/R channel.

However using line input on the tascam makes a very low signal around -30dB. So I tried switching the input on the tascam to mic-level and use the input level settings to level around the recommended -12dB without getting peaks.

For me that sounds better and from my (very basic) understanding of signal theory it’s always better to get the highest possible input level to get good SNR.

So my question is:

Besides the preset input level for line level input, is there any difference in the signal way between mic and line level input? If I get better input level from correctly leveled mic inputs should I stick with this or is there good reason to better take the lower level line input and adjust signal level later in software?

(Similar questions may be arise for digitizing vinyl etc. using this device. I saw some comments on amazon from people complaining about low line level in this case, but no discussion on solutions.)

Update: I reviewed both files in Audacity and checked quality after normalization and they are both OK for my purposes. I had no noticeable noise after normalisation of the -30dB file, so this issue is none in practice in my case.

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There are a few points to hit here but I will just address one:

However using line input on the tascam makes a very low >signal around -30dB. So I tried switching the input on the >tascam to mic-level and use the input level settings to level >around the recommended -12dB without getting peaks.

There are different reference points for line-level. There is a distinction between “pro audio” and “consumer audio” equipment.

  • +4 dBu = Pro (balanced)
  • -10dBV = Consumer (unbalanced)

Most likely you are using an instrument which puts out -10dBV as the line output. Looking at the specs for the Tascam you will see that the nominal input level for the LINE input setting is +4dBu and your EP is putting out -7.8dBu so it’s going to be quite a bit lower than it’s supposed to be for the Tascam’s LINE input, whereas the MIC input can handle between -19dBV and -3dBV which is where your -10dBV output lives.

  • What does EP mean? So basically you say it’s ok? There are no other differences in the chain between line and mic besides different expected input levels, right? – Peter Oct 18 at 7:47
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    @Peter electric piano. I say it’s okay but I don’t know what you are actually using. It’s always good to look at the detailed specs of your equipment if you’re unsure about it. I read somewhere that IEC regulations require consumer gear to output 2kOhms or less which would mean the Tascam’s 2.2kOhm impedance is above that but I also have heard the standard is 10kOhms. Hopefully someone can read that and chime in on the correct number. Anyways if you’re not trying to sell your recordings or anything you should be fine because any side effects will not be detrimental. – Timinycricket Oct 18 at 8:26
  • I’am using a Viscount Jubileum 230 organ. I have the manual and the schematics, but both don’t say anything about output line level. I suppose one could figure it out from the schematics, but not me ;-( – Peter Oct 18 at 11:55
  • @Peter I’m sorry I was not able to find any manuals for a jubileum 230 or a jubileum 230 at all but if the audio sounds okay to you then I would not worry too much about it. – Timinycricket Oct 18 at 22:01
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You are right in saying that a better SNR is achieved through a well aligned gain-structure, however there is something here that isn't sitting quite right - and that is the fact that your line output from the digital organ isn't achieving a decent signal level into your line input signal path on the Tascam.

Having said that, the mic level equivalent input would be at least +30dB higher so you would definitely want to be careful of clipping the input converter when what should nominally be a line-level signal is attached to a mic-level input.

I note that the Tascam has the option of recording at 24-bit, so really the danger of significant preamp noise on the input if you were to use a line-level setting on the Tascam is somewhat low. 24-bit resolution gives you a significant amount of dynamic range to play with and if it's necessary to gain up a little bit in post, then this won't affect the sound significantly.

Also make sure that there is no input pad configured as this would also lower the input level.

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