7 Things You Need to Know About Phantom Power

Author: Michael Back  Date Posted:8 December 2021 

Phantom power. It’s a term that is thrown around a lot and to the beginner musician or audio enthusiast, it’s hard to know what it really means. Phantom power is the term given to delivering DC (direct current) power through a microphone lead from an amplifier, mixer or audio interface. All Condenser Microphones require Phantom Power to function. 


1. How Phantom Power Works

Phantom Power is a voltage that is sent through the microphone lead from the mixer, amplifier or audio interface. Historically, this voltage is between 1 and 52V, but the industry standard for modern microphones is 48V. Some microphones will have batteries installed that provide phantom power to the microphone, but the majority of condenser microphones on the market require phantom power from the mixer, interface or amplifier.


2. When You Should Use It

Phantom Power is essential for condenser microphones to function. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones and small diaphragm condenser microphones alike need power to function.

Superlux CMH8B Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone


3. When You Shouldn’t Use It

Phantom Power shouldn’t be used when using any other kind of microphone. It’s important to check the specifications of your microphone if you’re unsure. Phantom power should not be used on Dynamic or Ribbon microphones.

Superlux PRO248 Dynamic Microphone

It’s also worth noting that phantom power should not be used on unbalanced cables. An example of an unbalance cable is a guitar lead. The reason for this is that typically microphone cables have 3 cores, 2 that send the signal and one that is a ground. If phantom power is sent through an unbalanced cable, there’s no grounding for the power.


4. Phantom Power can damage equipment if used incorrectly

Yes, you read that correctly. Phantom Power has the capacity to damage your microphones or other equipment if it’s used incorrectly. Sending Phantom Power to a ribbon microphone can cause the microphone to be damaged irreparably. If you send phantom power to a bit of equipment that is already powered, such as a Keyboard, it can damage the circuitry within the keyboard.
Phantom power typically does not damage dynamic microphones, but it’s best practice to leave it turned off when using anything other than a condenser microphone.


5. How do I Turn Phantom Power On or Off?

Most mixers and amplifiers will have a button or switch on them that is labelled “48V’ or “Phantom Power”. On a mixer with multiple channels, this will typically be towards the top of the channel strip. Otherwise it’ll be next to or near the microphone cable input.

Phantom Power Button on Joyo MoMix Mixer

On interfaces, the phantom power button may be on the front of the interface, but it’s quite common to need to use the software included with the interface to control Phantom Power.


6. You Don’t Need Separate Phantom Power if you are using a USB Mic

USB Condenser microphones don’t require phantom power, as they plug directly into a USB port on your computer, completely circumventing the need for an amp, mixer or interface. The USB microphones use an interface that’s built directly into the microphone, which supplies the necessary power to the microphone.

SuperLux E205UMKII USB Condenser Microphone


7. Where does the name “Phantom Power” come from?

The Name “Phantom Power” has been around for such a long time, it’s hard to pinpoint its exact origin. Condenser style microphones have been around since the mid 1900s, and in that time, the power was supplied to the microphone from an external power supply. With the introduction of Phantom Power, suddenly the microphone was powered without any visible supply. As the power supply was not visible, it was dubbed “Phantom” power, as the origin of the power wasn’t visible!


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