Phantom Power 101: Understanding 48V XLR Cable Systems


Phantom power, a staple of the audio industry, is an essential element in the operation of many professional-grade microphones. Commonly supplied at a voltage of 48V, it can also be found at other voltages depending on the device’s needs. This article will delve into the intricacies of 48V phantom power systems, exploring the mechanisms of resistive circuits, electrical protection provisions, and more.

Understanding Resistive Circuits

The core of phantom power lies in its resistive circuit, which is present on both ends of the XLR cable. On the sending side, phantom power is usually generated by two 6.81 kΩ resistors, connected to each leg of the balanced audio line (pin 2 and pin 3 on the XLR connector) and the 48V power source. This forms a resistive network that evenly divides the voltage across the two signal lines.

On the receiving end, usually a microphone, the phantom power is used to power the microphone’s preamplifier circuit. The power is picked up via a pair of resistors (typically 6.8 kΩ) which are also connected to the balanced lines (pins 2 and 3).

Current Delivery in Phantom Power

The amount of current a phantom power supply can deliver depends on the resistive load presented by the microphone. However, most condenser microphones only require a few milliamps of current, meaning the 48V system is capable of powering multiple devices simultaneously.

Electrical Provisions in Phantom Power

Audio equipment that provides phantom power should be designed to handle scenarios where connected devices do not require or may be damaged by the voltage. For safety, such equipment often includes blocking capacitors, which prevent DC from entering equipment not designed for phantom power. These devices should also have current limiting capabilities to prevent damage in the event of a short circuit on the microphone line.

Handling Phantom Power in Non-Phantom Powered Devices

Not all devices connected to XLR cables require phantom power. For example, dynamic microphones do not require an external power source. In these instances, it’s essential that such devices incorporate circuitry to cope with the possibility of accidental exposure to phantom power. This is often achieved through a DC blocking capacitor on each input, which blocks the DC phantom power voltage while allowing the AC audio signal to pass.


Phantom power, particularly the 48V system, is a sophisticated and well-designed technology that has revolutionized the audio industry. By understanding the resistive circuits, current delivery, and safety measures associated with phantom power, audio professionals and enthusiasts can maximize their sound quality while ensuring their equipment is protected. The beauty of phantom power lies in its simultaneous simplicity and complexity – it’s both an effortless solution for powering microphones and a complex system of resistive circuits and electrical protections.

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