How to Set Up a Phantom Power Mic

By Simon Foden
Fit the microphone in the collar before connecting a cable.

“Phantom power” is an electrical term that refers to a means of drawing power without direct connection to a power source. In the context of microphones, phantom power refers specifically to any microphone that draws its power from a powered device such as mixer via an XLR cable. It is a convenient means of powering a microphone, as it mitigates the need for batteries and power supply cables. To get the best sound out of your microphone, correct set up is essential. Positioning, connection and isolation can be the difference between a bad recording and a good one.

Set Up

Set up a microphone stand. Position it on a flat surface, away from any noise-emitting devices or appliances, such as fans or cooling vents. Adjust the telescopic stem so that the collar is at a suitable height for the specific application. For example, at mouth-height if recording a singer. Position the microphone at a suitable distance away from the sound source. For example, approximately four inches away from where the singer will stand or 15-inches away from an acoustic guitar.

Place the microphone in the collar of the microphone stand. Wrap an XLR cable loosely around the stem of the microphone stand so that it doesn’t hang loose and get in the way. Aim the collar toward the sound source and away from any reflective surfaces, such as windows. For example, if recording an acoustic guitar, position the collar so that the microphone points toward the joint between the neck and body of the guitar. Pointing the microphone directly at the sound hole will result in a “booming” sound.

Prevent the XLR cable from tangling by gently wrapping it around the stand.

Connect the female end of an XLR cable to the connector at the bottom of the phantom power microphone.

Live Use

Phantom power microphones don't have an

Connect the male end of the XLR cable to the “XLR Input” of the mixer. Turn on the mixer. This sends a direct current to the circuit inside the microphone, making it capable of converting sound waves into electrical current, which it sends back down the XLR to the powered device.

Get the best volume level by

Audition the microphone. Have the singer sing into it.

Adjust the gain fader to temper the output volume.

Adjust the volume fader on the mixer channel so it is at its loudest possible setting before feedback occurs. Feedback is an unpleasant “whistling” sound that occurs when the microphone is set too high. It is particularly prevalent at high frequencies.

Home-studio Use

Use a

Connect the male end of the XLR cable to the “Microphone In” jack on the audio interface. The audio interface converts the audio signal from the microphone into an electronic signal, which it sends to your chosen music production software program.

Sing into the microphone and observe the LED display on the front of the audio interface. If the red warning light flashes, turn down the “Gain” dial.

Headphones are preferable to speakers, which can

Connect a pair of headphones to “Headphones” jack on the rear of the interface. Adjust the “Monitor Volume” dial so you can hear clearly everything the microphone picks up.

About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.