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I have a Tascam 2488neo Digital portastudio. It has 4 XLR inputs, all 4 receiving phantom power from the same button, so one can not be unpowered, either all 4 have to receive +48 V power or none. It also has 4 standard balanced 1/4" jack mic/line inputs. I have to use specific mics and I need to record with them simultaneously, they are both condenser and dynamic mics. While I would want to use an XLR to XLR cable for the dynamic mic, I can not plug the dynamic mic into one of the XLR inputs because I have to pres the +48V power button on for the condenser mics, and the manual says never to give phantom power to a dynamic mic. So that leaves me with having to plug the dynamic into one of the 1/4" jacks. So I was told by a specialist from B&H that I need an XLR to TS cable NOT an XLR to TRS cable for the dynamic mic.

  • So my 1st question is, is his statement true? If I had used XLR to XLR cable that would have been balanced. Now that I have to use the 1/4" input I have to use an unbalanced cable for the same mic? Doesn't make sense. Plus the inputs expect a balanced cable. Why did the specialist say I can't use XLR to TRS, but have to use XLR to TS?

My 2nd question is, what is the best choice to get the best sound? I can't use the XLR inputs as I explained above because I have to give +48V power to the condenser mics and that would give it to the dynamic also. I have an ART Tube MPtube mic preamp with balanced XLR and unbalanced TS connections. So if I go into the preamp with an XlR to XLR cable, then out of it with an unbalanced TS, how does that make sense for what the microphone requires (balanced or unbalanced)? Also, the Tascam 1/4 input expects a balanced cable, and I go in with an unbalanced one from the preamp? Which solution is better? Use an XLR to TS cable to go directly into Tascam, (and not an XLR to TRS if that specialist was right, even though he looked at the Tascam manual and knew that the inputs are balanced), or use the ART preamp with an XLR to XLR balanced in, and out with an unbalanced jack going into the Tascam's balanced input...

Thanks for any helpful insights

  • Wasn't aware that dynamic mics were affected by phatom power - they just shrugged it off. – Tim Sep 11 at 16:27
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    "specialist from B&H" ermm… really?? Mind you, I did think B&H were a camera store, which might explain it. Nothing else does. – Tetsujin Sep 11 at 16:29
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This is a common myth/misunderstanding…

There is absolutely no issue whatsoever plugging a modern mic of any type [probably anything newer than 1970] into a circuit with phantom power, so long as the mic & XLR > XLR cables are correctly wired.

Any mic which doesn't need phantom will essentially just 'ignore it'.

Some high quality references covering this…

Shure - Top 8 Microphone Myths Exposed
Sound on Sound - Q. Is it safe to apply phantom power to dynamic mics?

The bottom line is that all modern mics with balanced outputs terminated with XLRs, whether they be dynamics (moving-coils and ribbons) and electrostatics (condenser and electrets), are designed to accommodate phantom power, and can be plugged in quite happily with phantom power switched on, provided you are connecting XLRs, not jack plugs/sockets. Some vintage ribbon mics, and any mic wired for unbalanced (sometimes also referred to as high-impedance) operation will be damaged by phantom power unless suitably modified.

This makes your second question entirely moot.

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I have to pres the +48V power button on for the condenser mics, and the manual says never to give phantom power to a dynamic mic

As elaborated by Tesujin, there is no reason for this concern. The only problem with phantom on a dynamic mic is that a live-disconnect (or cable fault) will create a very loud pop sound – but that's pretty much the case for condenser mics as well.

So I was told by a specialist from B&H that I need an XLR to TS cable NOT an XLR to TRS cable for the dynamic mic.

Possibly that “specialist” was thinking about stereo jacks when recommending against TRS. Or they were thinking about cheap non-balanced mics, which come with TS cables. Or maybe they just had no idea what they were talking about.

Indeed the correct way to connect a mic to a balanced ¼" input is with an XLR→TRS cable. A TS cable will also work, but you won't get any hum surpression, which is quite a problem for low-output dynamic mics.

My 2nd question is, what is the best choice to get the best sound?

There will be very little difference in sound depending on what inputs you use. Possibly the XLR inputs have better preamps built in, but even if, they wouldn't so much sound different as offer less noise.

The ART mic preamp will sound notably different, mostly because of the tube. I suspect the noise floor will be similar, perhaps a little lower; from what I recall the ART preamps are ok in that regard but not great like really premium mic preamps.

Whether the tube is benefitial depends a lot on what instrument you're picking up with the microphone, and what kind of æsthetic you're going for with the recording. In a typical situation, when having one tube preamp available, I would put it one the lead vocal track. Note that the sound of a tube preamp also depends on how you set up the input- and output gain. Also note that nowadays tube preamps can quite easily be emulated in software.

If you're using only a short cable between preamp and interface, then it doesn't really matter whether this is balanced or unbalanced.

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