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I found the following great explanation at: http://www.transom.org/tools/faqs/faq.mics.html#pluginpower
What’s plug-in-power, and is it creating noise on my mic?
Plug-in-power is a small voltage delivered from the recorder to certain electret microphones, it’s similar to phantom power, but the two are not interchangeable. You can’t power a standard condenser mic with plug-in-power, nor can you run a plug-in-power mic from the standard phantom power often delivered by pro recorders or mixers.
So the deal is that if you buy a small consumer level mic, some of which are pretty good, like the Sony stereo mics, or the discontinued little Radio Shack lavaliers, you can plug them straight into your minidisc and they’ll get the required power from the deck. Otherwise you’d need to use an adapter with a battery.
If you want to use a dynamic mic, such as the EV RE50, or the Beyer M-58, don’t worry about the plug-in power, you can ignore it, although the Shure a96f will give you better volume, convert the connector types and shunt the plug-in-power .
If you use a pro condenser mic that needs phantom power, you’ll need to get one that can use an internal battery, or get an external phantom power supply, the plug-in-power will NOT power a pro condenser mic.
There have been occasional reports about "plug-in power" (a small voltage carried on the mic cable, provided by many consumer minidiscs and DAT machines that can supply a needed charge to some electret microphones) creating clicks or noise when using a dynamic microphone. I’ve never found the plug-in power to create any problem, dynamic mics generally don’t react to it. If you get hiss from your mic, it’s most likely just from the relatively weak preamps that were designed to work with high-impedance electret mics that do make use of the plug-in power. Crackles are more likely due to a bad cable or dirty or worn jacks.
So, as we’ve discussed a few times on this site, the Shure a96f will raise the impedance a bit, which will give some more gain, it also shunts-off plug-in power if you’re concerned about it, and it’s a nice simple XLR-to-mini cable with the transformer built-into the XLR jack, so it’s not a kludgey pile of connectors.