For the last few years, the real question on every recording enthusiast’s mind has been: does a microphone have to have phantom power in order for it to be considered a true mic? After all, if you had a solid electrical diaphragm attached to your microphone, wouldn’t it be just as effective as one with no diaphragm at all? The answer is a resounding “no.” Although most microphones do require phantom power in order to work, the majority of microphones out there today have solid-state drive units. These units don’t require phantom power because they operate off of a 12 volt battery.
Why is this important? Well, unlike their electrical counterparts, solid-state drives (SSDs) eliminate the need for pesky batteries and eliminate static that can rear its ugly head on lower powered microphones. Let’s face it. No one wants their recordings to sound tinny or distorted. Having a powerful unit is a sure way to combat these sounds of lower quality. phantom power for microphones will most certainly improve your sound.
If you are asking this question, chances are you either won’t be using a laptop or you work in an environment where you need your sound to come from a hard drive. In both of these cases, real-world power will suffice. If you are only recording one single track or a small group of songs, you probably only need a USB cable to hook up. Your sound device will likely have its own power source so the question of whether or not you need phantom power has little to do with it.
Another common question about phantom mics relates to those who use them in conjunction with live sound equipment. Does a phantom powered microphone affect the quality of the sound you get from your mixer, live band setup, or sound system? It really depends. Those with true DI power may experience a slight difference in quality depending on which DI amp you use. DI power amplifiers are designed specifically to boost the signal that passes through them.
Many DI packages actually contain the amp, as they are such a useful feature but if you aren’t using a true DI system, you may be able to use your mics without it. This won’t improve the quality of your sound however, and any difference in quality is negligible when you compare it to the input signal of your mix. So yes, phantom power for mics can make a significant difference in the sound from your mixing console.
Finally, the last question is “Do all mics have phantom power?” The answer to this question actually depends more on what you want out of your recording. If you simply need a clean and crisp recording with as few lows and highs as possible, then a true DI system may be the best way to go. If you want to capture a true drum recording with a tight rhythm or a great acoustic guitar sound, then using true DI power is a great idea. If you’re trying to make a recording with a digital output that sounds great, then using a true amp will likely be more useful.