Understanding the Microphone Cable

What is impedance?
Impedance is the AC (alternating current) version of the DC (direct current) term resistance, which is the opposition to electron current flow in a circuit and is expressed in ohms. Impedance (often abbreviated as “Z”) includes capactive reactance and inductive reactance in addition to simple DC resistance. Reactance depends
upon the frequency of the signal flowing in the circuit. Capactive reactance increases as frequency decreases:
inductive reactance increases as frequency increases. Because of this frequency dependence, impedance is not directly measurable with a multimeter as DC resistance

What are the differences between high- and low-impedance microphones?
To answer this requires a little historical background. High-impedance microphones are capable of producing higher output voltages than low-impedance types. Until recently, “consumer” audio gear (small P.A. systems, home and semi-pro recording equipment, etc.) was always designed for high-Z mics because their relatively
high output level required less amplification or gain. The lower output of low-Z mics required the equipment manufacturer to use input transformers in front of the mic preamplifiers to step up the strength of the signal, which substantially increased the cost of the circuitry. Hence, low-Z mics were rare outside of professional recording and broadcast studios. In these “big-budget” facilities, low impedance lines offered several big advantages. A high-Z mic’s high source impedance (approximately 10,000 ohms) combines with the capactive shunt reactance of the mic cable to form a low-pass filter which progressively cuts high frequencies. The severity of the loss is determined primarily by the length and construction of the cable. (See “Understanding the Instrument Cable.”) The low source impedance (less than 200 ohms) of low-Z microphones proportionally reduces the high-frequency loss. Equally important, the high load impedances demanded by high-Z lines are much more susceptible to various forms of interference than low-Z lines, especially high-frequency noise and radio. Both of these high-Z liabilities made cable runs longer than 15-20 feet a problem.