What the heck is “phantom” power?
All condenser microphones need power. Most mics need power and if they don’t have power via a battery, they can get it from another source – like an external recorder that might provide power down the cable – which is called “phantom power”

Phantom powering consists of a phantom circuit where direct current is applied equally through the two signal lines of a balanced audio connector. When phantom powering was introduced, one of its advantages was that the same type of balanced, shielded microphone cable that studios were already using for dynamic microphones could be used for condenser microphones

With phantom power, the supply voltage is effectively invisible to balanced microphones that do not use it, which includes most dynamic microphones. A balanced signal consists only of the differences in voltage between two signal lines; phantom powering places the same DC voltage on both signal lines of a balanced connection.

Self powered mics simply have a battery like the DSLR – most RØDE shoe mounted mics have a battery and some higher end can be powered with a battery or via phantom power coming thru the xlr cable.

Advantage of mics that only use phantom power is that they can be smaller/lighter, so easier to boom or mount to your camera (no battery compartment).

The disadvantage is that it will drain the battery from your mixer faster

Does the mic sound better with phantom vs battery?  For all practical purposes, no. There can be a small difference in the maximum sound pressure level the mic can handle, but you’ll never come close to that in practice anyhow. There can be a small difference in the mic impedance, but a low noise preamp that you may use with your mic makes the mic impedance spec very forgiving.  So … no …

Mics spec’d typically at 48V, or 11-48V.

Running 12V from your mixer will conserve mixer battery life. So, it’s nice when you can find a mic that will work down to 11V

ONLY apply phantom power to condenser mics which require it. For example, never apply phantom power to an unbalanced mic or wireless receiver. You will basically be shorting 48V to ground, and risk damaging your equipment

Follow me!


chief astronomer at planet5D LLC
Mitch "planetMitch" Aunger is the creator and mastermind behind planet5D.com — which covers every aspect of HDSLR cameras (and a whole lot of other cameras as well). A lover of photography since his early days, he graduated to selling stock photos to make a little bit of spare cash. It wasn’t much, but it allowed him to upgrade to better cameras as well as computers, and it wasn’t taking money away from feeding his family.
He loves the stories that the still image can tell. In the summer of 2008, he read a story written by Arnold Kim called “I Quit My Job” — Arn is the owner of macrumors.com. He started macrumors in 2000 as a hobby, and by 2008 he was making more money with the site than he was on his day job, so he quit. The surprise to the story is that he was a doctor making more than six figures! Right then and there, planetMitch dreamed about doing the same thing.
September 2008 rolled around, and Canon announced this new version of the incredible 5D — the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It was the first Canon DSLR to shoot full HD video and the earth moved! (It really was a huge deal in the photography world.) planetMitch knew if there was ever a chance to ride a wave of something he was really passionate about, this was it — and the blog at planet5D.com was born. It is now one of the most popular HDSLR blogs on the planet, and he is making a full-time living from blogging. He couldn’t be happier!
Follow me!