In this guide, we’re going to take a look at 48V Phantom Power. You might have heard of it before, especially if you’re a musician or a sound engineer, but you might not know exactly what it is or why it matters.
Quick Answer: 48v Phantom Power is required for any active microphone (Condenser, Active Dynamic, Active Ribbon) or if you’re using an inline preamp. Using phantom power on a passive dynamic microphone won’t’ help it or hurt it in any way. If you use 48v on a ribbon microphone you risk damaging it.
What is 48V Phantom Power?
48V Phantom Power is a DC voltage sent through XLR microphone cables to activate active microphones, such as condenser mics.
The “phantom” part of the name comes from the fact that the power is invisible to the user – it’s not something you can touch or see. It’s just there, powering your mic and allowing it to do its job.
Although rare, you may see phantom power available in other voltages as well:
Why Do You Need 48V Phantom Power?
Condenser microphones require a power source to work. Unlike dynamic mics, which use the movement of a coil around a magnet to generate an electrical signal, condenser mics use a capacitor to convert sound into an electrical signal. The capacitor needs an external power supply (48v) to charge the microphone capsule and do its job.
How Do You Use 48V Phantom Power?
Using 48V Phantom Power is pretty straightforward. You can send it to your microphone three different ways:
- External 48v Power Supply
- Audio Interface
- Audio Mixer
Although it’s possible to use an external power supply, most people prefer to use the built in 48v supply from their audio interface or audio mixer. Connect your microphone your interface/mixer and turn on the Phantom Power switch. That’s it!
This will work on any popular interface, like the Scarlett 2i2.
Related: Dynamic vs Condenser Microphones
You might wonder what happens if you use a dynamic microphone with 48V Phantom Power. Will it damage the microphone?
The answer is no; dynamic microphones are not affected by 48V Phantom Power.
Phantom power will not help or hurt a modern dynamic microphone in any way.
Related: Best Dynamic Microphones, a complete guide for every budget.
Ribbon microphones are a different story. They can be damaged by 48v phantom power. For this reason, it’s best practice to leave 48v phantom power turned off when you don’t need it.
Inline Microphone Preamps
Inline microphone preamps (also known as mic activators) provide more clean gain to dynamic and ribbon microphones. These can be helpful when using low-output microphones like the Shure SM7B.
If you’re using an inline microphone preamp, you must supply it with 48v phantom power.
Another benefit of using inline preamps is that they will protect ribbon microphones from 48v and prevent them from getting damaged while providing more clean gain.
Related: Best Inline Microphone Preamps
Active Dynamic & Ribbon Microphones
Lately, active dynamic microphones have been getting more popular. These microphones are what you get when you combine a dynamic microphone with an inline preamp.
If you’re using an active dynamic microphone, you use 48v phantom power to activate the internal preamp on the microphone.
48v Phantom Power FAQ
Phantom power is required on any active microphone (Condenser microphone, active dynamic microphone). Without phantom power for these microphones, they will not work. If you use phantom power on a passive dynamic microphone, it will not improve your microphone in any way. If you use phantom power on a passive ribbon microphone, you will risk damaging the microphone.
48v phantom power can fix a quiet dynamic microphone if you use it with an inline preamp (Cloudlifter, Dynamite DM-1, Fethead, etc.). Otherwise phantom power doesn’t have any impact on
48v phantom power will not damage a dynamic modern (balanced) dynamic microphone. It’s still best practice to avoid using it if you don’t need it, but phantom power will not hurt a dynamic microphone like the Shure SM58.
You need to use phantom power if you’re using a condenser microphone or inline preamp (Cloudlifter, etc.).
The most common voltage for phantom power is 48v, but in rare circumstances, you may see 12v, 15v, 18v, and 24v as well.
Phantom power does not work on 1/4″ cable. Technically, it’s possible. But audio interfaces and mixers don’t send 48v out of 1/4″ line inputs.
Simply, turn on the 48v or Phantom Power button on your audio interface or mixer to send phantom power to your microphone. In rare circumstances, you may need to purchase an external phantom power supply if your mixer/interface doesn’t have one.
Condenser microphones will not work without 48v of phantom power. You must turn on 48v phantom power using your audio interface, mixer, or external power supply for your condenser microphone to work.
The Shure SM7B does not need 48v phantom power unless you use it with an inline preamp (Cloudlifter, Dynamite, Fethead, etc.).
Yes, phantom power can damage passive ribbon microphones. It’s best practice to turn phantom power off when using ribbon microphones.