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PHANTOM POWER BASICS: Microphones/Preamps
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Certain microphones (and other devices) have onboard electronics that require electricity; "Phantom Power" is a very common method of powering these devices. It's called "phantom" power because it works "invisibly" by sending DC power back to the device using the same
microphone or instrument cable that carries the audio signal from
it. One cable, two jobs!
Phantom Power is best known (and most often used) as a power source for condenser microphones (like our K&K Sound Golden Bullet Mics and the DPA 4099 Bass Mic), though many active DI boxes and preamplifiers can also use it to supply their operating power (like the K&K Pure XLR Preamp or the Fishman Pro EQ Platinum Bass, among others). As you can see in the image to the right, the same cable carries the audio signal FROM the preamplifer, while the mixing board sends DC power TO the preamplifier, all without adding noise to the signal. This makes it possible to use the preamplifier without draining the battery or using an external power supply.
VOLTAGE IS IMPORTANT:
There are two general types of phantom power microphones: the more common type that typically uses XLR (aka microphone) connectors and requires between 12-48 volts, and the type ordinarily used with "mini" condenser mics that uses approximately 9 volts in parallel with the signal cable. The 9v type is usually terminated with ¼" phone plugs rather than an XLR. Because they use different voltage levels, they are not interchangeable.
Phantom power supplies are often built into mixing consoles, microphone preamps and similar equipment. Alternatively, a separate dedicated unit can be inserted into the microphone circuit as required. In the case of the Golden Bullet Microphone, the mic comes with its own dedicated "power box" which is operated by a 9v battery and passes the audio through to your amplifier or mixing board.
Though a large variety of units can either supply or use "phantom power," the manner in which they do so (and the voltages they use) can vary, and one must exercise care to ensure that the individual pieces of equipment they are using are compatible with each other. For instance, the K&K miniature condensers (Golden Bullet/Trinity mics and systems) use a 9v current sent through a standard ¼" instrument cable. Yet the phantom power used to power the DPA 4099 Bass Microphone, Fishman Pro-EQ Platinum Bass or the K&K Pure XLR use the common 12v-48v "standard" used by most studio equipment; it is sent through a three-conductor XLR (microphone) cable, usually powered by a recording mixer or PA board.
It's usually easy to determine which units are compatible; in our product descriptions, we include the specs for voltage when a unit has phantom power capabilities or needs. Many of our product pages also have links to manufacturer instructions and product manuals, and these will cover their phantom power specifications in more detail.
Products Related to This FAQ
The Fine Print:The information contained herein is based on what's in my brain — and/or my observations and opinions from my personal experiences (and those of Bob, before me) — as of this moment today, and is subject to change. I'm sure that a great deal more information and detail could be added — but the intent of these writings is to present easily understood, quick FAQs, to address common questions and improve the reader's general knowledge.
What's written here is by no means any kind of authoritative absolute answer, for I am not the world's greatest authority on bass (not even close), or on much of anything else, for that matter. So, by all means, get a second opinion, and know that all the information provided here is for general informational purposes only. I am not providing professional advice; be aware that, where applicable, any information acted upon is at your own risk.
I simply and sincerely hope the information and opinions here are helpful to you on your quest for knowledge about the bass and related subjects... that's the point!
I welcome email with dissenting and additional viewpoints/information/updates that help improve my personal awareness and these content pages. If you have a question that you think belongs here, please let me know.