General Audio Questions


What is Plugin Power

By Paul Terpstra

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What is plugin power?

Did you know that many microphones require a power source, just like your cell phone charger?  In addition, there are two different requirements depending on which microphone you are using, Phantom power and Plugin Power.  How confusing is that?

Plugin power, also known as “PIP”, or bias power is a method of providing power to a device, such as a microphone, through the same cables that are used to transmit the audio signal. Plugin power is similar to Phantom power, in that it allows you to power a device without the need for a separate power supply or battery.  However, plugin power operates at a lower voltage than phantom power (usually 5 volts or less) and is typically used to power smaller devices, such as lavalier microphones or in-ear monitors. Plugin power is usually supplied to a microphone by a camera, or audio recorder.  As previously mentioned, the power is transmitted to the device through the same 3.5mm TRS cables that are used to transmit the audio signal.

To use plugin power, the device must be equipped with a plugin power input, which is typically a 3.5mm TRS connector. When plugin power is applied, the device can draw the necessary power from the cables, allowing it to operate without the need for a separate power supply.

Benefits of using plugin power:

The benefits of using microphones that require plugin power is the large number of devices that provide it.  Most small, less expensive devices will not provide phantom power to a microphone.  These would include DSLR cameras, digital recorders, etc.

Cons of using plugin power:

The downside of using microphones that require plugin power is that the microphone can be damaged if phantom power is supplied to it.  Additionally, TRS connectors are not “balanced” so they are more susceptible to electrical noise, or interference.

It should be noted that some devices, such as smartphones, do not supply ANY power at all.  In this case your microphone will not provide a signal if the mic requires plugin power, unless it is designed to be used with a smartphone.


The lack of required power is one of the most common reasons a microphone is not providing a signal, as the external power has to be turned on manually on most devices.  Be sure to verify that your microphone is receiving the required power.

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