Do you have a condenser mic that you're not sure if it needs phantom power? In this article, we'll discuss what phantom power is and what it does, how to tell if your condenser mic needs it, why you might need it, and how to get it. We'll also discuss some alternatives to using phantom power with a condenser mic.
Suppose you're interested in making music and you want to buy a cheap but good quality microphone that doesn't break the bank but sounds half-decent.
You might have heard that there are two types of microphones:
- condenser microphones, and,
- dynamic microphones
Do condenser mics need phantom power? Condenser microphones are better for making high-quality recordings for things like songs and podcasts, but, yes, many condenser mics need phantom power to work. Read on to learn about phantom power and when it is not needed.
What Is Phantom Power and What Does It Do?
Phantom power is a term used in professional audio production and sound engineering to describe the 48 volt DC power supply that is typically sent down a microphone cable along with the signal.
Phantom power provides DC current to active microphones, wireless microphone receivers, and other equipment that requires it. This allows for the use of condenser microphones, which require phantom power to operate, without having to provide an external power source.
Phantom power is usually supplied by the mixer or console, and it's sent down the same cable that carries the audio signal. The microphone then converts this phantom power into electrical energy, which is used to operate the internal amplifier and circuitry of the microphone.
How To Tell if Your Condenser Mic Needs Phantom Power
If you're not sure if your condenser mic needs phantom power, it probably doesn't. Most modern microphones designed for general use (including most new condenser mics) don't require phantom power.
However, you may be considering buying a microphone that does require phantom power, and want to know what to look for.
If you're interested in this, this is what to look for:
1. If your microphone has a battery compartment and/or an external power switch, then it does not require phantom power to operate and can usually be plugged into any mixer or recorder that has mic inputs. Simply insert the cable's connector into the microphone and you're ready to record.
2. If your microphone has neither a battery compartment nor an external power switch, then it will require phantom power from the mixer or recorder to operate. You'll need to check that the mixer or recorder either provides this phantom power itself or that it will accept the mic without it powering on.
Mics that have active electronics (such as ribbons and electret condenser mics) or that require high voltage (usually more than 12 volts) need phantom power in order to work properly.
If you're not sure whether your mic falls into one of these categories, check the manufacturer's specifications, website or contact the company directly.
Why You Might Need Phantom Power for Your Condenser Mic
As stated above, if your mic requires phantom power to operate, it may not do so without it. If this is the case and you're looking for a way to make sure your microphone functions properly, use an external phantom power supply with the appropriate voltage output.
This will definitely work as a solution, however, it's important to note that many high-quality preamps already supply phantom power to microphones through the preamp's internal circuitry (and thus do not need an external supply).
If you're using a microphone with one of these preamps, you may experience some problems if your cable or adapter fails to send phantom power properly. You'll notice this because your preamp won't "see" the mic and thus won't turn it on.
How To Get Phantom Power for Your Condenser Mic
These are the different types of products you can purchase that supply phantom power.
- Mixer or Console with Phantom Power - If your mixer or console has phantom power available, it's probably a good idea to use the same piece of equipment for both making and recording your music. This ensures that you're saving space and not using more gear than necessary. When using a mixer for this purpose, just make sure that it can provide enough power.
- Audio Interface with Phantom Power - If you're using an external control surface or audio interface to record, you may want to opt for something that has phantom power rather than relying solely on your mixer. This ensures that even if your mixer fails, your interface will still be able to provide the necessary power.
- External Phantom Power Supply - Sometimes it's preferable (or even necessary) to use a separate phantom power supply. These can be used with either mixers and consoles or audio interfaces and often feature different voltage outputs for specific equipment types.
If you're looking to buy one of these, it's important to check the manufacturer's specifications, website or contact the company directly in order to get more information on what types of power supplies your equipment will accept.
A Condenser Mic That Doesn't Need Phantom Power
On the market these days, there are many USB condenser mics that offer plug 'n' play operation. They don't require additional power of any kind and so, they can be plugged into any device that offers mic inputs or USB ports.
Some may need to plug into both your USB and mic jack, while others will only need the USB port.
Although it's not required, always check your manufacturer's specifications and website to see if you're going to have any issues using this type of mic. Many people read the words "condenser mic" and then assume it needs phantom power or is used for one specific thing.
As well as looking at the power needs of your chosen microphone, you will also want to learn about different features such as; omnidirectional, cardioid, etc. So you are not just deciding based on one component. Your needs will determine the type of mic you choose.