Along with transmitters, receivers are one of two main components in a wireless audio system. This device carries out the vital role of picking up the radio signals from the transmitter and converting them into audio signals.
Will phantom power damage wireless receivers?
In most cases, the output on a wireless receiver is adequately protected, preventing it from potentially being damaged by the additional voltage of phantom power. Wireless receivers of a lesser quality may not have protected outputs, which could lead to damage.
One of the protective methods used by reputable wireless receiver manufacturers is to design the output circuitry to block a certain voltage level from entering the output connector.
This voltage level is usually higher than the standard +48v provided by phantom power.
However, if the wireless receiver or the mixer becomes faulty, there is a risk that phantom power could do some damage. I’ll cover all of this and more in the remainder of this guide.
Phantom Power & Wireless Receivers
Phantom power is an essential tool used for various purposes in live audio settings, and of course in the recording studio.
If you’ve ever used a condenser microphone before, you’ll know that without the voltage boost provided by phantom power, the mic is unable to function properly.
Several preamps, D.I boxes, and amp simulators also require phantom power. Wireless receivers, however, do not.
With that being said, phantom power will likely need to be used in the same setup as a wireless receiver when rehearsing or performing live.
There are plenty of horror stories regarding phantom power, where musicians have damaged their equipment by subjecting it to the added voltage accidentally, for example connecting a ribbon microphone to phantom power.
It makes sense then, that one would assume that wireless receivers could also potentially be harmed by phantom power.
High-quality wireless receivers are built to prevent phantom power from causing damage.
As I touched upon in an earlier paragraph, the inputs/outputs on the receiver are commonly safeguarded so that they can withstand the increased voltage that is caused by phantom power being turned on.
Indeed, it would be ideal if we could avoid subjecting the wireless receiver to phantom power in the first place, but this is not always possible.
If the source device, such as a mixer or audio interface, is powering a condenser microphone, then phantom power is turned on as a necessity.
If your wireless receiver was made by a reputable manufacturer, like Shure or Sennheiser for example, then it’s highly likely that they will have protected the inputs and outputs from phantom power.
If you’re unsure whether your wireless receiver does offer protection, then you should refer to the user manual of the particular device or contact the manufacturer to clarify.
The chances of damage occurring are slim, but if the receiver does not have protective measures in place, it could be a significant problem.
How Phantom Power Can Damage Equipment
The benefits of phantom power are undeniable.
There’s a reason it’s been used by musicians, live sound, and recording engineers for countless decades – it is brilliant at providing additional voltage to devices that require it.
Nevertheless, phantom power has its drawbacks.
Its main downside is its potential to cause damage to equipment that is not designed to be used with it. Most commonly, devices that have unbalanced outputs are at risk.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid applying phantom power to any device that is not designed to facilitate it. This is not always easy, though, especially where wireless receivers are concerned.
Single-ended output devices are most at risk from phantom power-caused damage. These devices include:
- Wireless receivers
- Tape decks
- Sound cards
If any of the above devices are connected to a balanced preamp or audio interface input, it’s essential to make sure phantom power is turned off on that specific input. It’s easy to forget to check this, so using stickers on the device to remind you may be a necessary measure to take.
Subjecting these devices to phantom power will not necessarily cause damage. This depends on the protective mechanisms installed by the device’s manufacturer and the specifics of the preamp or interface.
However, if the wireless receiver or other unbalanced device is designed in a certain way, the output could be permanently damaged when phantom power is applied to it.
Consequently, it’s advisable to err on the side of caution and turn off phantom power when it is not needed.
Another way that you can provide extra protection to a wireless receiver, or any other unbalanced device for that matter, is by using an isolation transformer.
This device should be used at the unbalanced device’s output, to ensure that any phantom power that is present will be isolated.
If you suspect that your wireless receiver doesn’t have adequate output protections to deal with phantom power, another thing you could do to protect it is to use a build-out resistor of around 1k ohm. The will reduce the effects of the additional voltage.
As a side note, you should avoid using phantom power with some balanced output devices too. Ribbon microphones are particularly susceptible to irreparable damage when they are subjected to phantom power.
Most mixers and recording devices have separate phantom power controls for each input.
Before using them with your wireless receiver, you should get into the habit of checking that the phantom power is turned off on the inputs where it is not required to minimize the risk of damage.
Below you can see a summary of common audio and music devices, and their relationship to phantom power.
|Requires Phantom Power?
Can you use a condenser mic without phantom power?
It’s not possible to use a condenser microphone without phantom power. However, you can use USB condenser microphones without needing a device to supply the phantom power.
Do you need a transmitter for a wireless receiver to work?
Wireless receivers rely on a transmitter. This device transmits a signal to the wireless receiver, which then converts it into an audio signal. Without either of these components, the wireless system would fail.
How is data wirelessly transmitted?
Data is transmitted wirelessly through the manipulation of radio waves. The waves are naturally generated by electrical pulses, and can then be modified by a wireless receiver for playback.
Check out my article on phantom power and TRS Cables. You can read it here.