The chances are good that if you’ve been around microphones for any amount of time, you’ve noticed a mysterious “phantom power” button on most of them – and maybe have wondered what it’s all about.
The odds are also pretty good that if you recently purchased a top-tier SM 57 microphone, your little bit worried about what phantom power might do to your microphone, especially since it sounds so sinister.
Well, we can tell you (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that phantom power isn’t going to wreck or ruin your SM 57.
Below we dig a little bit deeper into (almost) everything you need to know about phantom power and why your microphone is going to be A-OK.
Let’s jump right in!
What is Phantom Power?
Even though phantom power sounds a little spooky, the truth of the matter is it’s a lot more benign than you might think.
Phantom power for microphones (or for instruments in general, really) has a lot less to do with something the various or a “supercharge” when you need a little more juice and more to do with providing extra electricity to microphones that need it.
Your condenser style microphones are (usually) going to be ones that need a little extra juice to work the way they were designed, and that’s when phantom power is going to kick into gear.
An SM57 (or SM58) are not condenser microphones but are instead dynamic microphones – and they don’t need any extra power whatsoever.
Phantom power works by basically leveraging the multiple wires inside your balanced XLR cables to provide a bit of extra voltage to a microphone when necessary, without impacting the voltage going to microphones that do not need this extra juice.
The beautiful thing with phantom power is that you can plug your microphones into mixers that have this capability even if they dont need phantom power – plugging a condenser microphone and your SM 57 into the same mixer, for example – without having to worry about the extra phantom power overloading your new mic.
Now, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues you’ll need to be on the lookout for when it comes to Phantom power and your SM 57 (or other dynamic microphones). It’s just that the risk factors are significantly lower.
Will Phantom Power Damage My SM57 Mic?
In 99.99% of all cases, phantom power is going to have absolutely zero impact whatsoever on a microphone like an SM57.
SM57 microphones do not leverage extra power the way that condenser microphones will, and do not need to pull from a voltage range the way that condenser microphones will.
However, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly when you are working with “ribbon microphones”.
These are the kinds of microphones that you are most often going to find in a studio setting. They aren’t the kind of thing that many musicians bring with them on the road for live shows or touring events.
On top of that, even ribbon microphones have a bit of protection against phantom power – so long as the cable or microphone is wired correctly.
However, when things get wired incorrectly, it’s possible to overload the voltage and blow that microphone out completely, destroying it along the way.
This is why you have to be so smart and so careful about how you set up your studio.
The last thing anybody wants to do is run their instruments through a high-voltage mixer pushing out plenty of amperage, only to realize too late that they are running ribbon microphones to a mixer with way too much power – destroying their microphone set up completely in the process.
No, if you want to avoid the phantom power issues as much as possible, you’re going to want to go with a dynamic mic like the SM 57.
What Kinds of Microphones are Vulnerable to Phantom Power?
A couple of other types of microphones are particularly vulnerable to Phantom power.
Most mixers are going to put out 48 V total, though some of them put out 12 V, 24 V, or 48 V – especially those that are popular with acoustic guitar players.
The overwhelming majority of acoustic guitar amplifiers about 24 V, and some put out even less than that – just 15 V – that can throw a wrench into things when you are also connecting microphones to the mixer, too.
This is because most microphones are made to take advantage of 48 V to match up with the “standard” voltage coming out of your everyday mixer. The microphones may not work that well at lower voltages, especially if phantom power runs “under the current.”
All it takes is a little bit of mismatching in this department, and all of a sudden, your microphone is cutting out or not working entirely.
Tube microphones and other studio style microphones are incredibly picky when it comes to phantom power, especially since they (usually) require their own dedicated power source that’s totally separate from phantom energy.
A good way to tell if your microphone is misbehaving because of adverse effects from phantom energy is what you hear when you bring your microphone volume up in your speakers.
If you start to hear loud pops, buzzing, and other artifacts that are obvious signs of extra energy running through the microphone, you know you have a phantom power issue on your hands.
Luckily though, these problems are rarely going to happen when you are running an SM 57 microphone in your studio or during your live shows.
One of the most popular microphones on the planet, which the folks at Shure have hit an absolute home run with is the SM57. SM57 is perhaps the most popular dynamic microphone money can buy and one that is entirely and totally immune to all the downsides of phantom power.
All in all, so long as you go with a quality dynamic microphone, phantom power issues won’t be a headache you have to contend with.