Can You Plug A Microphone Into A Speaker? 2-Minute Read
Over the years many of my friends who have been new to sound systems have asked me if they can directly connect their microphone to a speaker without first connecting it to an amplifier. You may have noticed that generally there are multiple devices and gain stages before a mic signal is sent to a loudspeaker.
So, can you plug a microphone into a speaker?
You can plug a microphone directly into a speaker, provided that it’s a powered speaker with an in-built power amp. To plug a microphone into a speaker, we must identify the speaker’s mic input and then use the appropriate cable adapters to send the mic output signal to the speaker input.
In this article, we will discuss how you can properly connect a microphone to a speaker and then I will tell you why I don’t recommend doing that. So, stick around till the end!
Table of Contents
Connecting A Microphone Directly To A Speaker
Generally speaking, the mic signals have to pass through multiple devices and various gain stages before the loudspeaker can project the initial signals from the microphone.
This is because the signal that comes out of a microphone is very low and it’s not “strong enough” to drive a speaker. It’s why we need preamps and power amps.
But, some powered loudspeakers come with “mic inputs” and a built-in amplifier which makes it convenient to plug a microphone directly into the speaker.
In this case, the low ‘mic level’ signals produced by the microphone are boosted to the ‘speaker level’ by the speaker’s internal amplifier.
Here are two of my favorite powered speakers.
Alto Professional TS310 – 10″ – 2000W
Electro-Voice 15″ – 1000W
So now since you have understood the basic concept of connecting a mic directly into a powered speaker, let’s talk about how you’re going to do that.
To connect a microphone to a loudspeaker you’ll obviously need a cable, but which one?
Here’s how you can find that out.
Powered speakers can have 3 different types of mic connectors. Just look at the back of your loudspeaker and identify which one of the following is it.
Here they are:
- Your speaker may have an XLR Socket.
- A Jack Input, or,
- A combination of XLR/Jack
Let me explain each one of them with an image to help you understand better.
Loudspeaker with an XLR Socket
Most of the loudspeakers nowadays come with the widely used female XLR connector. If your mic has a 3-pin male XLR connector, then you can use any typical XLR cable to connect your mic to the speaker.
All you have to do is plug the 3-pin end of your cable to the XLR ‘mic input’ of the speaker and connect the other end of your XLR cable which with three insert holes into your mic.
Loudspeaker with Jack Input
If it’s not the XLR socket, then your loudspeaker may have a jack input, and it’s matching 1/4″ TRS plug.
This 1/4″ TRS plug is the same one that we use in headphones.
In this case, check your microphone, if it has an XLR plug, then you’ll need a female XLR to male TRS jack adapter cable.
TRS stands for TIP, RING & SLEEVE. A typical 1/4″ TRS jack has 2 black rings on the metal part of the jack plug.
Loudspeaker with an XLR/Jack Combo Input
Many speakers nowadays also come with an XLR/Jack combo input, your loudspeaker may be a model with this combo.
These two combination inputs (XLR and 1/4″ TRS) accept both line-level signal and mic level signal.
Typically, microphones will connect via the XLR input, but mic level signals can also be sent through the 1/4″ TRS connection.
In the image above you can also see gain knobs to the right. As expected in a combo jack, the lower half of the gain applies reasonable gain to line-level signals. In contrast, the upper half applies the gain necessary to boost the relatively low mic level signals.
Why Plugging a Mic Directly into a Loudspeaker May Not Work
In this article, till now I have explained how you can connect your mic directly to a loudspeaker and make it work.
Now I am going to shed some light on a couple of situations where your setup might not work as expected.
1. If your speaker is a ‘Passive Loudspeaker’.
Passive loudspeakers do not have amplifiers and therefore cannot apply any gain to the low mic level signal.
Although on one hand, the passive loudspeakers do not need external power to function, on the other hand, they do need external power amplifiers to feed them speaker level signals (boosted from mic or line level).
To connect your microphone directly to a speaker you’ll need your loudspeaker to be a ‘Powered Loudspeaker’ as they have built-in amplifiers and require power to function properly.
The powered speakers that feature mic inputs are designed with enough gain to boost a mic level signal to a speaker level signal.
This means that powered loudspeakers do not require external amplifiers. However, they can still be used (and often are used) with multi-channel mixing boards and amplifiers.
2. If your mic is an ‘Active Microphone’.
Active microphones need some sort of power supply (typically DC bias or phantom power) to work. While some models are battery-powered, most get their juice via phantom power supplied by the device the microphone is connected to.
All condenser microphones and USB/digital mics are active microphones that require phantom power to work.
Unfortunately, most powered loudspeakers with a microphone input generally aren’t able to provide phantom power, which leaves you with the only solution of using a ‘Passive Microphone’ to connect to a powered loudspeaker.
Passive microphones do not require any external power. They do not have any internal amplifiers.
Passive microphones include moving-coil dynamic mics and the majority of ribbon dynamic mics.
So make sure that you connect a dynamic microphone such as this best-selling legendary Shure 58 microphone to a powered speaker for it to work properly.
Best Way to Connect a Mic to a Loudspeaker
Now let’s look at better and more common methods of connecting a microphone to a loudspeaker and getting the mic level signal to speaker level.
Till now we have understood that to bring a mic level signal up to a speaker level signal, we must apply gain and amplify the signal.
We may amplify the signal from mic level to line level to speaker level. Alternatively, as is the case with connecting a microphone directly to the loudspeaker, we may amplify straight from mic level to speaker level.
To amplify a signal, an amplifier requires external power. The most common amplifiers in the chain of connecting a microphone to a loudspeaker are:
A powered mixer such as the Rockville RPM85 8 Channel Mixer amplifies the signal at its input and output and it provides enough gain to boost a mic level input to a line level signal as well as a line level signal to a speaker level signal at its output.
A power amplifier such as the Crown XLS1502 2-channel Power Amplifier can take line signals from a passive or active mixer (or microphone) and boost it to speaker level for the connected speaker level.
A powered loudspeaker such as the Alto Professional 10” 2-Way Powered Speaker has an internal amplifier and will boost mic and line-level signals to a speaker level that will drive the built-in speaker.
Different Combinations to Connect a Mic to a Speaker
Now let’s look at the various combinations we can use to not only connect a microphone to a loudspeaker but to do so in a way where the mic signal is able to drive the speaker:
Microphone into powered amplifier into the powered or passive loudspeaker.
Microphone into powered mixer into amplifier into the powered or passive loudspeaker.
Microphone into a PC with a sound card into a powered amplifier into the powered or passive loudspeaker.
Microphone into the powered speaker.
USB Mic into a PC with a sound card into a powered amplifier into the powered or passive loudspeaker.
Microphone into passive mixer into power amplifier into the passive or active loudspeaker.
Having a direct microphone-to-powered speaker setup would save you the hassle of buying a separate amp and extra cables. Moreover, it simplifies the setup and does away with a dedicated external amplifier. Such a mic-to-speaker technology has not yet fully blossomed, so the microphone-amplifier-speaker setup is still the most viable setup to have in most instances.
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