Fun Fact Friday - Phantom Power, 48v, and where did it come from?
Phantom Power - What is it, and Where did it come from?
If you take a look at any of iConnectivity's Audio interfaces; whether that's the Connect Audio 2/4, the iConnect Audio 2+, or the iConnect Audio 4+, you'll note the control labelled '48v'.
This stands for Forty-Eight Volts and is the industry standard for what's become known as Phantom Power. Some microphones, especially condenser type microphones, require power to be supplied to them, to power the onboard electronics.
There are also devices such as Active DI boxes, and our own Spin XLR which use Phantom Power to feed their onboard circuitry.
Who came up with the idea of Phantom Power though, and WHY did they choose 48 volts rather than 50, or 40 or anything else? To understand that, we have to travel back to the 1960s.
At the time, most microphones were either dynamic microphones, like the famous Shure Unidyne, which don't need power or were giant tube behemoths like the Famous Neumann U47 or AKG C12. Tube microphones need a large power supply of their own to supply the high voltages these microphones need.
Microphones were getting smaller in the 1960s though, and the new 'Solid State' electronics allowed for lighter, more reliable, less power-hungry electronics to be used. What was needed, was a standard for these newly emerging microphones, like the Neumann U87 and AKG C414.
In 1966, an engineer from Neumann visited NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, to discuss their new, Solid State microphones with them. NRK said, "That's brilliant, but they have to be Phantom Powered".
Norway has very little daylight, and to make up for this, their studios were equipped with auxiliary lighting, which was fed by a 48v power supply.
It was an ideal power source for the new Phantom Power design, and hence Neumann, and every other microphone manufacturer since has used 48v as a standard.
So, over fifty years on, we can thank the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation for convincing Neumann to adopt 48v Power, via Phantom, as a standard. One we still use to this day.