Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

Discussions around meetinghouse sound systems, microphones, assisted listening devices, and translation equipment
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drepouille
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Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#1

Post by drepouille »

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Windows 10 (or is it Realtek HD Audio Manager, or Waves MaxxAudio Pro?) displays the above pop-up each time I connect something to the TRRS jack on my Dell laptop. This implies that I can connect either a "Mic in" or a "Line in" device, and the computer will adjust to the given input voltage level.

Perhaps that is why I got such horrible results with the Comtek and Lavalier receivers? They are both powered devices. If my TRRS port is set to "Mic in" then perhaps it is expecting an unpowered microphone. So maybe I should have selected "Line in" when I connected the Comtek and Lavalier receiver output to my TRRS jack?

I just bought a wired Lavalier mic with a 16-foot cord and a male TRRS plug with a TRS adapter. I am hoping that will give me a better experience than using the powered Comtek and wireless Lavalier receivers.
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
russellhltn
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#2

Post by russellhltn »

Interesting find! This isn't a feature of Windows 10 as much as it's a feature of the hardware being supported.

It sounds like you should be able to connect a plain 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable to the sound system. Set your laptop to "Line in". Worst case, you'll have audio in only the left channel. There may be software settings to compensate for that (such as webcasting in mono).

Absolute worst case, you'll need:
  • A 3.5mm stereo to two RCA connectors
  • An RCA "Y" cable
  • A 3.5mm to RCA (either mono or another stereo one)
Connect the mono cable to the sound system, "Y" it to feed the stereo line input on the laptop. If you're using two stereo adapters, then use just the left (white) channel when connecting to the sound system.

Out of curiosity, does your laptop have both a headphone jack and a headset jack? I'm wondering what visual cues there might be to allow others to see if theirs might support that feature.
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drepouille
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#3

Post by drepouille »

My Dell Inspiron 5770 has a single 3.5 mm TRRS combo jack. I tried using a Y-splitter, but that didn't work for me. I will talk about that in a separate post.
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
drepouille
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#4

Post by drepouille »

I think this pop-up probably comes from the sound card driver. It sure would have been less confusing if it was displayed as a group of mutually-exclusive radio buttons: Mic in, Line in, Headphones/Headset, or External speakers. For some silly reason, I thought I could choose one input option and one output option. Silly me.
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
drepouille
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#5

Post by drepouille »

I found a Dell community forum post from 2012 that sheds light on this:
The bad news is that on the Lenovo models they discussed, the mic portion of the combo jack is only mono. One person wrote: "In my T410 the 4-pin Audio pinning is (counted from Tip): left ear - right ear - Gnd - Mic "

If the Dell combo jack is similar then you cannot record line-in even with an adapter. You would need an external audio interface. Looks like the combo jack is a throwback to the situation of 6 or 7 years ago when the only input jack on most of the Dell laptops was a mono mic jack.

Dell provides almost no documentation on the audio functions of the laptops -- either the hardware or the software. People need to know how these gadgets work, and it would be best to have the information before the purchase so that folks can make a choice based on their needs. Dell should be providing both specific technical specs such as jack impedances and such, and also general instructions on how to use the audio. For example the manuals should have screen shots of all of the tabs of the Sound properties with a full explanation of the functions of every control and option. One should not have to learn these things by trial & error or by going to Lenovo's website.
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
drepouille
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#6

Post by drepouille »

Here is a 2018 post by the same author on the Dell community forum:
At some point Dell lost interest in customers who use a laptop for regular audio purposes, such as digitizing records and tapes. The combo jack (audio port) that Dell is now using is basically the same type that was originally meant for smart phones. The purpose of the combo jack is to accommodate a headset. Headsets are used primarily by online gamers and people who want to Skype. The combo jack is meant for Communication, not audio production. People like you and me who want to do conventional audio work are now expected to buy outboard gear for that purpose. Other laptop manufacturers have also turned away from conventional audio jacks.

[Historical note: when I got my first Dell 14 years ago, only a few of the models at that time had a line-in jack. Most models then only had a mono mic jack, and a separate headphone jack. But around the time that Vista came out, Dell started using "configurable" jacks in all of the laptop models, which allowed the input jack to be either a mic jack or configured as a stereo line-in. That was probably about the time you got your old laptop that allowed you to digitize.Then about 7 years ago Dell started phasing in the smart phone combo jacks and eventually it was back to just a mono mic input in the laptops. So I guess one could say Dell has gone full circle regarding the jacks.]
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
russellhltn
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#7

Post by russellhltn »

So, one solution would be something like this, which costs about as much as some of the cables.
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drepouille
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#8

Post by drepouille »

Sadly, I learned today that the TRRS headset jack on a Lenovo Thinkpad P50 is not as flexible as a Dell. It refused to accept the TRS audio cable I inserted today.

I will try a Y-splitter and hope the Record Out signal from under the Sacrament table doesn't blow out the Mic input on the Lenovo.

Dana
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
russellhltn
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#9

Post by russellhltn »

While it's possible to use TRRS inputs, the cables tend to be expensive and there seems to be wide difference in mic sensitivities.

I'm of the opinion one would be better off with a USB sound card that can take line in directly using a cheap, easily available cable.

An example is one mentioned in this post.
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drepouille
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Re: Connecting Mic In vs. Line In to a TRRS port

#10

Post by drepouille »

When we were discussing this topic last year, I was just about to buy either a splitter of a USB adapter when I discovered that Dell computers accepted either TRS or TRRS plugs without problem. Since then, my stake purchased refurbished Lenovo laptops, so I just ordered the Sabrent USB adapter, which should arrive in two days.
Dana Repouille, Plattsmouth, Nebraska
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