24 Mar 2016

Some incredibly useful audio gadgets

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Roland Denning shares some often overlooked accessories that are mainstays in his sound kit.

There are some things in my sound kit that I take for granted, but make life so much easier. Here are three XLR adapter barrels and, if they look a bit battered in the photo, that's because they spend their life on the road.


48v Phantom Power-to-12v T-Power Convertor

Most professional condenser mics need a 48v 'phantom' power supply and almost all professional video cameras, audio recorders and mixers supply it through their XLR inputs. (The exception is personal/lavalier mics, which need a lower voltage, usually supplied through an internal power supply or via a minijack mic input that offers 'plug-in power').

However, older mics used T-power, a 12 volt system. This is not only a lower voltage, but is supplied across pins 1 and 2 of the XLR rather than pin 1 and earth for phantom power. Be warned: a dynamic or ribbon mic can be damaged connecting to T-powered input.

Why should we care about a semi-obsolete system? Simply because there are many excellent T-powered mics still around (they sound just as good as phantom-powered) and you may well find a bargain-priced Sennheiser 416 on the second-hand market.

This in-line convertor comes from PSC and costs around £35 + VAT. It works great.


Ribbon and dynamic mics can sound great, but sometimes their output is too low, particularly for budget-priced recorders. This great little gadget takes the 48v power from a mic input (ribbon and dynamic mics don't need powering) and uses it to power a pre-amp built-in to the barrel of the unit. It boosts by around 19 to 25db, but obviously it doesn't work with condenser mics that need a 48v supply, as it's using that power itself.

Similar products are the Triton FetHead or the Cloudlifter. The Marti version, hand-made in the UK, is the cheapest and works great. £35.

Line-to-Mic Pad

Sometimes rather than boosting a mic, you need to do the opposite – attenuate it – typically when you are plugging a line output into a camera or a recorder that only has a mic input. If you don't do this, the input will overload horribly. There are numerous XLR versions out there ranging from -20 to -50db attenuation, some offering three settings in one (a setting around -40db is the most useful). They come in minijack versions, too. Under £20.

On the subject of mic powering, if you need to plug a 48v condenser XLR mic into a minjack input that lacks phantom power, the IK Rig PRE is a great little pre-amp that has a switchable 48v power supply.


It is actually designed for iPhones and iPads, but you can easily adapt it for a regular stereo minijack input either by rewiring it or using a cheap adapter cable as I have done. It also is useful for just boosting the signal if, say, you are using a camera with noisy pre-amps. Under £35.

There are also adapters around that work the other way – powering a 'plug-in power' minijack mic off a 48v XLR input.

Any other suggestions for invaluable audio gadgets? Let us know in the comments!

Have you tried RedShark Sound yet? If you love audio, you’ll love our new website. Click here for The Home Page For Audio.

Roland Denning

Roland Denning is an independent filmmaker and writer based in London. He was a lighting cameraman/ documentary cameraman for two decades, shooting everything from feature drama to rock promos. He still shoots when he can't afford to employ anyone else. His satirical novel, The Beach Beneath The Pavement was published in 2011.

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