The extra clean gain of Cloud Microphones’ Cloudlifter activators have saved the day for many owners of dynamic and ribbon microphones. The gain turns these low output mics into instruments with sufficient gain to drive modern preamps and computer interfaces.
But that’s just the beginning. Many don’t understand that Cloud's Cloudlifters have now moved beyond just adding gain. The CL-Z model ($249) not only adds gain, but has variable input impedance adjustable from 150 to 15k ohm so users can find the sweet spot for any mic. The Z-i model ($379) shapes and contours tone, whether using a microphone or going direct with a bass, guitar or keyboard. Both models have continuously variable high-pass filtering @ -6dB per octave. This works in tandem with the variable impedance control for even greater tonal shaping.
The CL-Z has Class A, discrete JFET circuitry, while the Z-i model has both discrete JFET circuitry and Hi-Z to Lo-Z premium CineMag instrument transformer.
These two Cloudlifters can improve the tone of mics with very low output impedances. The output level is switchable from around +12 to +24 dB via the More/Max switch, and there's a low enough output impedance to drive long cable runs where necessary. There's also a variable low-cut filter that ranges from 20 to 250 Hz.
In most cases, the filter frequency will be between 60 and 100 Hz. This is where the sweet spot is found for most microphones. All this is built into a very rugged steel enclosure that's around the size of a DI box. Both the in and out audio connections are on balanced XLRs. All Cloudlifters are powered by standard 48V phantom power.
I tried a Cloudlifter CL-Z with a standard issue Shure SM58 in a voice-over set-up that normally uses an AEA active ribbon mic. As I turned the impedance knob higher, not only the richness of the dynamic increased but other subtle changes occurred as well. With adjustment, the CL-Z transformed the sound of the SM58.
Shure's SM7 is often now packaged with Cloudlifters to boost output
As the dial was turned, it sounded as if the microphone become more saturated or compressed. It allowed the user to experiment and find creative uses in the more radical settings of the box, including thinning out a sound. It enhanced the creative potential of this standard issue dynamic mic.
These advanced Cloudlifters are a must for passive ribbon and large diaphragm dynamic mic owners. They enhance low-output dynamics, like the broadcast-standard Shure SM7, and shape the sound like a full blown mic preamp. Passive ribbons come alive when run through a Cloudlifter. Having control control over the impedance of these mics offers new and surprising benefits than enhance the sound.
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