Amplifiers, mixers, interfaces, and every audio equipment you can think of has some form of output. Most of this audio equipment even come with multiple outputs that serve different purposes. Unfortunately, most people tend to mix up one audio output for the other whenever they need to hook up or do audio connections.
This confusion can be attributed to the fact that; they have limited knowledge of these outputs. From my interaction with friends and family, I have realized that two of the most commonly misunderstood outputs are the Recording Out and the Line Output.
If you are seeking to learn about these two audio ports, look no further. You are at the right place so read on to the end. However, if you are only looking for a brief overview of what a Rec Out and a Line Out are, here you go.
Rec Out or Recording Out refers to an audio output that sends out a raw audio signal that has no effects or coloration in it, whiles a Line Out is an output that sends processed audio signals that have been colored with effects, EQ, and other modifications.
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Recording Out (Rec Out)
A Rec Out is an output that is used to send an instrument or vocal signal to a recording setup without adding the effects and coloration that have been applied to the audio signal. What this means is, a Rec Out sends a dry and unprocessed audio signal to the recording setup to create the cleanest possible signal for recording.
A Rec Out port allows you to send the output of an audio device without including the master volume and gain as well. This is because the sound produced by a Rec Out port does not vary with volume and gain setting. Due to all these, audio signals from a Rec Out port are clean and direct recordings of audio signals.
It is not surprising then that, an audio signal transmitted by a Rec Out port is referred to as an original audio signal. That is why, even if a guitarist has applied effects to their guitar signal for playing through an amplifier, a clean guitar signal can be recorded by simply using the recording out port.
This is because the recording output on the guitar amplifier will send the signal from the guitar to the recording interface without applying any of the effects projected through the amplifier’s speaker.
Recording Out is commonly seen on equipment such as guitar amplifiers, effects units, modelers, profilers, and audio interfaces. However, this output can also be found on mixing consoles as well. This type of audio output is less common than a Line Out.
A typical Rec Out port is designed to accept a two-pin RCA cable. If you have no idea what an RCA connector is, read this article.
A Line Out is an audio port that sends line-level audio signals from one audio device to the other with all applied coloration like effects, EQ, etc. This output is generally used to send an audio signal to audio equipment like amplifiers, mixing consoles, or a preamp.
Line Out ports can be used for recording as well. However, as long as coloration is added to the signal before the recording setup, any recording using a Line Out will capture all of the effects and EQ in the signal.
Line Out outputs are very common in most audio equipment. They can be found on audio equipment of all types. Some of this audio equipment includes mixers, DI boxes, audio interfaces, amplifiers, pedals effect units, modelers, profilers, and almost all other audio devices with a balanced output.
It is worth noting that, most Line Out signals are not strong enough to be useful on their own and need to be amplified in some way before being used, either by an amplifier, preamp, or another device capable of increasing the signal strength from a Line Out.
Depending on the hardware of audio equipment, a line out port can take the form of ¼” jack outputs, XLR, or even RCA outputs. XLR output ports and ¼” ports have been talked about extensively in this article titled “XLR vs ¼”: Which is a Better Choice?”. You should check it out.
Difference Between Line Out and Rec Out
There are quite a few differences between a Recording Out and a Line Out. Understanding these differences will help you fully appreciate these outputs.
The main difference between a Recording Out and a Line Out is that a Recording Out is a pre-effect port whiles a Line Out is a post-effect. What this means is, a Rec Out sends out its signals before effects are applied to them. On the other hand, Line Out ports send audio signals after effects have been applied.
Due to the fact that Rec Out ports are pre-effect ports, any EQ or effects changes to the output of an audio device do not affect the Rec Out signal. That is why Rec Out ports do not transmit modified audio signals. Hence, Rec Out ports are considered to be dry signal outputs.
Dry audio signals are unprocessed audio signals that do not have any effects or distortion. An audio signal from a Rec Out is not affected by audio signal coloration and tone controls. Volume control does not have an effect on it as well.
On the other hand, since audio signals from a Line Out are post-effect audio signals, they have been enhanced and modified. Due to this, they are known as wet signals.
Another point to note is, audio signals transmitted by Rec Out ports are of a higher quality than that of Line Out ports. What most people do not know is that coloring sound by adding effects, EQ and other modifications actually reduce the quality and originality of an audio signal.
The processing of an audio signal adds some amount of distortion to it. This ends up degrading the quality of the audio signal. Due to this, audio signals transmitted by Line Out ports are usually of a lesser quality than that of Rec Out ports.
That notwithstanding, the sound from a Line Out may sound more pleasant to the ear due to the added effects and coloration.
When to Use Line Out Vs. Rec Out
Every type of audio signal output is designed to serve a specific function. The Rec Out and the Line out ports are no different. In order to correctly use Line Outs and Rec Out ports, you need to understand their functionalities.
In general, most recordings must be clear and must bear close resemblance with the real thing or source for them to be usable. A Rec Out is particularly useful for recording such audio signals.
Therefore, a Rec Out can be used for applications, such as broadcasting, recording of speech, acapella recordings, instrumentals production, and other audio demonstrations.
What this means is, a Rec Out should be used whenever a clean and unaffected audio signal recording of an instrument or vocals is required.
On the other hand, a Line Out should be used when the full, affected signal needs to be sent from one audio device to another. This is particularly useful for live sound, amplification, sending audio to speakers, or boosting audio signals.
It is worth noting that, a Line Out can be used for recording as well. It can be used for recording if the full audio signal with the applied effects and EQ needs to be recorded. That notwithstanding, for most people, the signal from a Line Out is not always ideal for recording purposes.
Rec Out and Line Out are two audio signal output ports that are commonly found on most audio equipment. Unfortunately, there has always been some element of confusion around them.
A Rec Out is an audio output that transmits a raw and direct signal from an audio device before any effects and EQ are applied. A Line Out, on the other hand, transmits audio signals that have been colored with effects and EQ.