What is Phantom Power? Do You Need This Great Power Source or No? (2023)

What is Phantom Power?


Phantom power, sound scary, right? If you’re new to home recording, this phrase can be complicated. If that is so, we may help. Phantom power was first utilized in copper wire-based landline telephone systems since the introduction of the rotary-dial phone in 1919.

The primary identified commercially out there phantom-powered microphone was the Schoeps model CMT 20, which came out in 1964. It is known as phantom power since it really works by transmitting power utilizing the identical cable that is carrying the audio signal.

So we needed to take a better take look at what phantom power is, find out how to use it, and the way it will have an effect on your studio.

What is it and how does it work?

When you’ve used any condenser mics in your home recording studio, you probably already know of the importance of phantom power. While a small number of condenser mics may be powered by other means, almost all utilized in studios use phantom power.

Phantom power is the mode of supplying DC voltage by a balanced audio connector to power a condenser microphone. To use phantom power, you will need a phantom power supply to produce the right power and a balanced XLR connector to transmit this power to the microphone.

Two elements are needed for phantom power, a phantom power supply, and an XLR connector. A condenser microphone makes use of active circuitry to perform. This circuit should be supplied with the right quantity of power to work. Plugging your condenser mic straight from an electrical outlet will destroy the delicate circuitry inside your microphone and likely trip your electrical service panel.

Therefore, a dedicated phantom power supply should be used to power your condenser microphone. A phantom power supply may sound difficult, but it surely’s similar to every other power supply. And similar to every other power supply, a phantom power supply consists of a transformer, a rectifier, and filters. The word phantom is used because the power supply is actually invisible, operating by the identical cord that the audio signal flows through.

What is Phantom Power
Source: Sweetwater

Phantom Power Sources

Phantom power could be sourced in several devices. Discovering the right device that matches the content material you need to create is a crucial consideration. Listed below are three of the most typical devices where you possibly can source phantom power:

1. Audio Mixer

These devices take microphone/instrument inputs and output audio signals via USB. Mixers even have pre-amps and various controls for mixing audio and include multiple effects on the fly. A mixer is a good possibility when you’re planning to go busking, streaming, or in every other activity where you perform live, and audio needs to be pre-processed.

2. Audio Interface

An audio interface also takes microphone/instrument inputs and outputs them via USB. Having just a few controls, similar to a gain knob and a phantom power button, audio interfaces are devices streamlined for audio recording. An audio interface will benefit you the best when you do podcasts, voice-overs, general home studio recordings, or any situations where the audio will probably be post-processed for the content material.

3. Phantom Power Adaptors

The only goal of those devices is to provide phantom power to your microphone. They often come as single or dual-channel adaptors. No extra options or controls make adaptors low-cost, pocket-sized, and uncomplicated. It is an excellent option for many who only need to power their condenser microphones and nothing more.

Dedicated Phantom Power
Dedicated Phantom Power

How Does It Work With Microphones?

Before jumping into the discussion of phantom power, let’s discuss a few of the numerous types of microphones. Probably the most common type is the dynamic microphone. A dynamic microphone doesn’t want any type of external power to operate. One other type of microphone is the condenser microphone.

A condenser microphone needs external DC power to function. Depending upon the design of the microphone, this power could also be provided by a battery, or bus power from a pc, as well as several other strategies, but quite commonly it’s provided by phantom power. In order for phantom power to work, a balanced microphone cable should be used.

A balanced mic cable has three conductors: Pin 1 is the floor, Pin 2 is audio positive, and Pin 3 is audio negative. Most microphones produce an optimistic voltage on Pin 2 when sound pressure is utilized to the diaphragm. It is very important to note that each condenser microphone has its personal power requirement, whereas every audio input device provides completely different levels of phantom power.

You’ll need to consult the owner’s guide on your device to find out if it does. On most devices, phantom power will be turned on or off through a change, button, or software program. You might discover this labeled as “+48V” as an alternative to “phantom power.”

Phantom Power

Why do we need Phantom Power?

Figuring out whether or not your microphone needs phantom power is important to ensure you are utilizing it appropriately and getting the very best performance possible. For more information on phantom power and tips on how to determine if your mic needs it, please continue reading.

Phantom power is mostly used with condenser mics as a result of the use of electrical circuitry to transform vibrations in the air into audio signals. Previously, this microphone type used bulky external power supplies to supply current to the electronics.

However, when FET transistors changed vacuum tubes in audio gear, microphones no longer needed high voltage energy to run. As a substitute, engineers realized the electricity might come from the console itself utilizing a clever design. If you’re running live sound, you in all probability won’t discover a lot of a difference if you have phantom power switched on for a dynamic mic.

Nonetheless, if you’re recording, you might find that you simply pick up some additional hum as a result of phantom power. It is best to turn off phantom power before plugging in a microphone and also you also need to turn off the power before disconnecting a mic. The loud pop that’s produced whenever you do either of those actions can result in damage to your equipment, not just the microphones, but probably your audio system, as well.

Phantom Power for Condenser Microphone

Damaging Equipment by Phantom Power

Yes, Phantom power can damage equipment. Although dynamic microphones are unlikely to be damaged, sending phantom power to a ribbon microphone could cause permanent damage. It is usually advised to turn phantom power off before connecting other equipment like line-in devices and monitors.

Various microphones, outboard equipment, audio system, instruments, and cables all form a studio setup. Every one of those devices has internal components and circuitry that widely differ from each other. One other type of tool that may be damaged by phantom power is line-in instruments.

Generally known as line-level gear, this category contains any keyboards, guitars, or other electrical instruments that don’t require external power to be recorded. If line-level devices are used with phantom power turned on, this may end up in the output electronics being fried. The longer you leave a preamp or line-level device plugged into an interface that’s producing phantom power, the higher the danger of damage.

In some cases, phantom power also can cause damage to unbalanced output devices. If you have ever turned on phantom power while your studio monitors are active, you’ve probably seen the sharp pop that’s sent via the audio system.

Though this “popping” sound is unlikely to damage the monitors noticeably, it definitely doesn’t do them any good. It’s the sound of the power surge being sent via the interface, into the output where the monitors are connected. It’s advisable to make sure that the monitors are both turned off before you activate phantom power, or at the least to show down their volume control in order that the pop sound doesn’t come via the audio system.


In conclusion, phantom power is a sort of electrical power supply used to provide power to active digital gadgets. Condenser microphones require phantom power to operate, whereas dynamic microphones don’t. If you’re utilizing a condenser microphone, make sure that phantom power is enabled on the device you’re utilizing it with.

Phantom power has made the life of sound engineers, artists, record producers, and many other music professionals a lot simpler. The ability to record the low frequencies on some instruments and vocals was mission impossible and thanks to this technology it’s one thing most people may even do at home.


Nikoloski is the founder and main content writer and editor of Mixing Tips. With his experience in audio engineering, mixing, and mastering for over 15 years, will provide hands-on experience and expertise in all the matters covered on this website.

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