Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Robert Mejia
Condenser microphones require phantom power. However, you can record using a condenser microphone without phantom power, but this is not recommended.
While most people have used condenser microphones in music recording and stage performance, most of them do not think about the power used by these mics.
If you don’t know much about condenser microphones, you may wonder whether they require phantom power, or they can function without it. But these should not worry you.
The truth is, using a condenser microphone without the phantom power may lead to a handful of problems.
Here, we will discuss the reasons why condenser microphones need phantom power. But before we get to that, let’s see what a condenser microphone is, and what it does:
Condenser mics are microphones that can capture both high and dynamic sound frequency sound. They generally have a higher output as compared to other types of microphones.
Unlike dynamic microphones, condenser mics have a diaphragm suspended at the front of the plate, electrically charged. The vibration of this diaphragm varies the charge on this plate, thus sending a signal to the mixer or an audio interface.
For you to charge this plate, you must supply power to the microphone. Electric current is supplied to the microphone by the phantom power through the cable and XLR socket.
The 48V phantom power button is available on most audio interfaces and mixers. If yours does not have one, then it is high time you look for one that does have, for best experiences with condenser microphones.
Although most condenser microphones tend to be expensive compared to other microphones, their high prices are justified by the fantastic sound they deliver. This high-quality sound can be credited to the fact that the 48-volt phantom power powers them.
Condenser microphones come with high sensitivity and abilities to filter residual or self-noise.
With such advanced features, these mics are used to record sound effects and instruments like piano guitar, percussion, and other percussion instruments.
What is Phantom Power, and What Supplies it?
Phantom power is a DC voltage usually 12-48 volts used to supply power to the electronic parts in condenser microphones. This voltage is transferred through the microphone cable from a mixer with the phantom power feature.
Many mixers and audio interfaces have inbuilt phantom power. However, some do not have.
For those using mixers or audio interfaces that do not have enclosed phantom power, it would help if you do these two things:
- Use a microphone pre-amp that can stream the phantom power. This will also increase the quality of your sound and inputs.
- Use external power supply products. You can refer to your manufacturer for the recommended product for your microphone.
Why Do Condenser Microphones Require Phantom Power?
As seen above, condenser microphones can capture a lot of sounds efficiently. Also, they have active electronics that require an external power supply. The 48V Phantom supplies the power needed by these electronic parts.
If a condenser microphone is not supplied with phantom power, it will only work on quiet levels, and thus it won’t be efficient.
Moreover, if you don’t supply the 48v phantom power to the condenser microphone, you will likely face the following problems;
- You will have to do a lot of processing to record audio to get the desired sound quality.
- You will get irregular vocals if working with a compressor.
- You will have to increase the gain, which will result in an undesirable noise floor.
While recording, you may notice that when you press the phantom power button, the microphone sound increases. You can adjust the power supply using the gain button to your desired level.
Always remember to turn off the phantom power before plugging in or plugging out the microphone. Otherwise, it will produce a pop sound that may destroy your microphone or even your speakers.
It is good to keep in mind that even though condenser microphones can work without phantom power, it will only lead to undesired sound and problems.
Therefore, whenever you are using a condenser microphone, it is wise to use phantom power. Always remember to press the phantom button for the best sound at your desired levels.