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Line Out vs Direct Out – Differences & Similarities?

Amplification units, mixing boards, and other audio equipment all have several outputs. These many output ports include a line out and a direct out. Line-outs are the most often used of these two output ports. The word “line out” may be familiar to you if you’ve been around instrumentalists and musicians. What about the indirect out port, which is less well-known? How well do you understand this output port? Is there a similarity to a line out? Read on because this post will answer all of these queries and more.

What Is Line Out?

Line-level audio signals are sent from one piece of audio equipment to another via an audio output port known as a line-out. Keyboards, bass, lead guitar, and other musical instruments all have this port. Additionally, it is present on a variety of musical instruments and interfaces, including preamps, synthesizers, mixers, and amplifiers. One of the most popular audio outputs in the audio business is a line out.

This is so because the majority of devices have a line out. As a result, a line out can be used to connect output devices like headphones and external speakers to your audio device. Line-level signals are those that are transmitted by a line out. A line-level signal is powerful enough to be sent from one audio device to another, but it needs to be amplified in order to be audible.

What Is Direct Out?

An audio port that receives its audio signal right after the preamp stage is known as a “straight out.” Direct out can therefore also be referred to as pre-out or preamp output. A direct out signal is obtained after the preamplifier stage, therefore effects are not present.

This makes it possible for direct-out ports to send a clear audio signal to your mixing console, amplifier, or recording desk. As a result, it gives you the clearest signal path, free from EQ, fader level, and other effects. A direct-out connection is not a feature that is frequently available on audio equipment. However, some audio devices, such as combos, guitar pedals, and mixing consoles, could include a straight out port.

It’s possible that the tiny mixer you own doesn’t have a direct out port. Mixers with direct out ports take the direct output signals without any additional signal processing. This indicates that the mixer board’s EQ, compression, and other effects are not applied to the audio signals coming from the direct out port.

A direct out port can also be present on various guitar pedals, as was already described. You can bypass your guitar pedal by using the straight out to connect it to a certain amp. This means that the amp connected to the direct out will receive a clean guitar signal regardless of the guitar effect added to the signal channel of the guitar. A straight out is therefore perfect for musical setups utilizing several amps. Others utilize the direct out to record the clean guitar signal using an audio interface so they can use it later for reamping.

Thus, a mixing console’s direct out is perfect for doing a live show while retaining clear recordings of each input signal for later mixing.

Similarities Between Line Out and Direct Out

A line out is comparable to a direct out. Therefore, it is not surprising that different audio brands choose which term to use when labeling their devices and that most people naturally assume that they are synonymous.

The fundamental similarity between the two is that line-level audio signals are produced by both direct-outs and line-outs. Low-level signals are those at the line level. These feeble signals from both outputs are unable to power a speaker by themselves. As a result, both outputs send audio signals that require additional amplification from an external amplifier.

Line outs and direct outs provide the same amount of resistance because they both carry low-level signals. They can drive loads with high input impedance because this impedance is typically about 100 ohms or higher. A line-out port can also be an XLR port or a 1/4 inch port, depending on the audio device. Direct-out ports are similar to line-out ports in that they can be either 1/4 inch ports or XLR.

Differences Between Line Out and Direct Out

Line-outs and direct-outs technically serve the same purpose, but there are some differences between the two. Let’s examine these distinctions.

Signal processing

As you may already be aware, an audio stream changes after being processed by audio effects and equipment. And the finished product has a different tone from the original.

An audio signal is given character through effects like reverb, delay, and others as well as by compression and equalization. These front panel settings, including EQ and other effects, have an impact on a line out. This implies you can add compression or EQ to the signal when you plug the Line out of a musical instrument into a mixer’s input. A line-out signal can be processed in any way. This modification or addition will be transmitted over a line to the audio signal out port.

Direct out, however, cannot be altered by EQ or effects. Effects, compressions, and other modifications that are applied to audio signals have no impact on it. This is due to the fact that a direct-out signal is produced immediately following the preamp stage.

The circuitry for equalization is not used. So, a direct out port won’t transmit any changes made to your mixer or guitar pedal. Direct output signals are therefore colorless and dry.

Voltage Level

A line out’s voltage level is different from a direct out’s. A line out produces voltages between 0.750 and 1.4 volts. The majority of power amplifiers can be driven by a line out’s voltage level. A line-out produces a voltage level that is higher than a direct out.

A direct out has a voltage level of between 0.002 and 0.07 volts. This voltage is within the range that microphone level signals operate in. As a result, a mixer board’s microphone inputs can use a direct out. It cannot drive the majority of power amplifiers. Line outs and direct outs both transmit low-level signals; however, line out signals have a slightly higher voltage level than do direct outs.