How long is a piece of string?
It’s a simple-sounding question, much like asking, “How can I plug a microphone into a speaker?” They seem easy enough to answer until you start trying to explain them in a linear fashion.
Well, the answer is… from the middle to the end, times by two. That’s the string conundrum sorted, but plugging a mic into a speaker is a bit more complicated than measuring string.
So, let’s find out How to Plug a Microphone into a Speaker?
There are so many devices involved and a bunch of gain stages to consider before the mic signal even gets to your loudspeaker. If you are looking to plug the mic directly into a speaker, you must find the input connecter on your speaker and then ensure that you have decent cable adaptors that send the output signals from the mic to the speaker input part.
And even then, we haven’t even started talking about the amplification that is needed to boost the signal to hearable volume levels. Confused? Most people would be! So, let’s find out more…
- Can I Directly Plug a Mic into a Speaker?
- Active/Powered vs. Passive Loudspeaker
- Active Mics vs. Passive Mics
- How Can I Boost Mic Level Signals to Speaker Level?
- Getting Mic Level Signal to Speaker Level
- Connection Combinations
- Got more Audio Questions that need Answers?
- How to Plug a Microphone into a Speaker? – Final Thoughts
Can I Directly Plug a Mic into a Speaker?
Yes, it’s possible to plug a microphone directly into a speaker if your loudspeaker has mic inputs. If not, you’re right, royally buggered, and that’s a technical term! In this instance, it’s extremely easy to plug the mic right into the speaker without much hassle or technical know-how as long as the speaker has an internal amp that can boost your mic level up to that of the speaker.
Most mic inputs are XLR, and the same is true on the vast majority of loudspeakers. So if you are using a professional microphone that has XLR outputs, you should only need a quality XLR cable to connect it to a loudspeaker.
A good example of this would be when using this Pyle Active PA Speaker. Loudspeakers like this have mic inputs and mic input gain controls alongside XLR input ports. With this type of speaker, all you need to do is connect it via an XLR cable, and away you go.
Some loudspeaker models have a choice of both XLR and 1/4″ TRS connections options that can accept both mic level signals and line level signals. And although the mic levels signals are usually sent via XLR, they can also be sent by a TRS 1/4″ connection. Alternatively, if the speaker also has an Aux In input, you could also use RCA cables.
What if that doesn’t work?
The above-mentioned options make it easy to plug a microphone into a speaker, but if that’s not possible, you might have to consider some different options. If you have tried a few, but your mic still isn’t working, it could be because of one of the following reasons:
Passive speakers don’t contain an in-built amplifier, so they won’t be able to apply any mic level signal gain, and therefore the mic level signal will be too weak, making it impossible to drive the speaker.
When you use active microphones, they need an external power source to make them work, such as phantom power or DC bias. Although some loudspeakers do have phantom power capabilities that can power active mics, most loudspeakers generally don’t have these types of options. Luckily there are far more passive microphones, especially at more affordable prices, than active mics, so this probably won’t be an issue.
Active/Powered vs. Passive Loudspeaker
It’s important to understand the differences between passive and active/powered loudspeakers, so you know what you are dealing with. Powered loudspeakers have built-in amplifiers that run using mains electricity. If they have mic inputs with a decent amount of gain, that should be enough to give the mic level signal a boost to the speaker level signal.
So if you are using powered loudspeakers, you will not need an external power amp, although they can, and often are, used in tandem with mixing desks that have multi-output channels and also use power amps to power passive speakers.
Passive loudspeakers, on the other hand, don’t have built-in amplifiers. So will need an external power amp to drive the speaker level signals that boost the line and mic levels. The simple breakdown is that active loudspeakers require external mains power, contain internal amps, and can be connected directly to a microphone, while passive loudspeakers are the exact opposite.
Active Mics vs. Passive Mics
When we use the terms ‘active’ and ‘passive,’ they can also be used to describe microphones. No external power is needed for a passive microphone. For sure, it is possible to use an output transformer to boost the passive mic output voltage, but that’s another discussion entirely.
However, you will require an external power source when using active microphones. This could be phantom power, DC bias voltage, or some other kind of external power supply. The active parts of this type of microphone may include FETs or vacuum tubes, as well as a bunch of printed circuit boards. The FETs and the vacuum tubes are essentially impedance convertors that act as amplifiers that will need power.
Tube mics usually need way more power, and that’s why you find dedicated power supply units with tube mics. You’ll need at least 48 volts of DC phantom power or some kind of DC bias voltage to run mics with FET or JFET. If you are using a condenser mic, these are also categorized as active microphones, as are some types of digital/USB microphones.
How Can I Boost Mic Level Signals to Speaker Level?
Understanding when and how to plug a microphone into a speaker is largely down to the ability to boost mic level signals to speaker level. I’ve already discussed how simple it is to plug a mic directly into an active loudspeaker to boost the mic level signal with the speaker’s gain, and also the instances when it didn’t work.
However, there are some alternative solutions to consider that can help you to plug in your mic to a speaker to boost the mic signal levels up to speaker levels. But firstly, we need to take a quick look at line levels, mic levels, and speaker levels as follows:
- Mic levels should be between 1 to 100 millivolts AC (-60 to -20 dB).
- Normal line levels should be 1 volt (1 dB).
- Speaker levels can be somewhere between 1 volt (0 dB) in smaller headphones and speakers, to around 100 volts (40 dB) when using larger loudspeakers.
Getting Mic Level Signal to Speaker Level
To get your mic level signals to be the same as speaker level signals, you need to amplify the signal by applying some gain. It is possible to amp the mic level signals to line levels to get it to the speaker level. But in some ways, it’s the same as connecting the mic directly to the speaker and then amplifying it straight to the speaker level from the mic level.
You will need an external power source to amp the signal, and here are some of the most common amps you can use to connect the mic to the speaker:
Using Powered Mixers
A viable way to amp the signal is by using a powered mixing console. This can give you enough gain to boost your mic level signals to line level. And, from there, to speaker level.
Using Power Amps
You can take your signals from either passive or active mics (with phantom power), or a mixer, and then use a power amp to boost the signal to speaker level. This is known as “connected speaker level.”
Using Powered Loudspeakers
As I’ve already discussed, powered loudspeakers have internal amps that can boost your line and mic level signals up to speaker level, which will them be output through the built-in speaker.
Anyone can plug a mic into a speaker, but if the mic signal cannot drive the speaker, it’s all a waste of your time. Here are some other viable combinations that can be used to drive the speaker via your mic signal.
Mic > Powered Loudspeaker
This option is when you directly plug your microphone into a powered loudspeaker that has mic inputs and gain controls, as already discussed in detail.
Mic > Mixer > Power Amp > Passive Speakers
The mixer boosts the mic level signal to line level. The signal is then amplified by the power amp, which sends it to passive speakers.
Mic > Mixer > Active Loudspeakers
You can again use the mixer to boost the mic’s signal to line level. These are then sent to and amplified by the powered active speakers.
Mic > Passive Mixer > Amplifier > Passive Loudspeakers
A passive mixer, i.e., one that is not plugged into a mains supply, can’t amplify a microphone signal to line level. However, if you are using an amplifier that consists of a pre-amp and power amp as opposed to only the power amplification stage (a power amp), you can then send the signal to passive speakers.
Mic > Passive Mixer > Active Loudspeaker
As just mentioned, mic signals can not be amplified by a passive mixer. However, the lower-level outputs from a passive mixer can be boosted to some degree by an active loudspeaker, although this method is not recommended due to low audio quality and low output volume.
Got more Audio Questions that need Answers?
No problem at all; you might be wondering How to Connect a CD Player to Speakers, How to Connect Speaker Wire, the Difference Between an Active and Passive Subwoofer, Which Speaker Cable Wire Is Positive, And Which Is Negative, as well as Bi-Wiring and Bi-Amping Explained.
Or, you might also be interested in our comprehensive reviews of the Best XLR Microphones, the Best Dynamic Microphones, the Best Audio Mixers, the Best Solar Powered Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Party Speakers, and the Best Tailgate Speakers you can buy. Or, how about our comprehensive guide to the Best Sound Systems For Churches currently on the market?
How to Plug a Microphone into a Speaker? – Final Thoughts
Basically, anyone can easily plug a microphone into any speaker, but will it produce any sound? Probably not. However, if your speaker has mic inputs and an internal amp, it will.
In all other situations, you’ll have to figure out the best way to get the job done. This will all depend on if you have active or passive loudspeakers or microphones. In a number of cases, you can simply connect the mic and speaker via XLR and 1/4″ TRS connection options that you find on some loudspeaker models.
The reason you can’t simply connect them both and get it working right away is that you are possibly using passive loudspeakers or active mics that either need external power and/or an external amp. However, by following my advice, you should be able to troubleshoot these issues in no time at all.
All the best with your connections!