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P48 is also known as phantom power. It is the standard means of feeding power to the microphone electronics. P48 has been standardised as IEC 61938, which defines 48V, 24V and 12V phantom powering.
Phantom power is supplied equally through the two signal lines of the XLR connector. The supply voltage (pins 2 and 3) are referenced to the ground (pin 1) of the connector, this means that the microphone can obtain the DC power from either of the pins 2 or 3. Two capacitors are employed to stop this voltage from getting to the audio output stage of the microphone.
Microphones that do not require phantom power such as dynamic microphones, can be used on a cable with phantom power without the risk of damaging the microphone. However, it is still good practice to turn off the phantom power when not required.
Whilst most microphones will be able to work on the 48V, 24V and 12V standard, lower voltage can result in lower output and sensitivity. Always double check the specification of the microphone to confirm the compatibility with the different phantom power standards.