Cloudlifter Essentials – Boosting Microphone Clarity and Gain

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Last updatedLast updated: June 23, 2024
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The Cloudlifter is a device created to enhance the performance of passive microphones that require additional gain, such as dynamic, ribbon, or tube mics. It’s particularly useful for microphones that don’t benefit from phantom power, acting as a pre-amplifier to clean and amplify the signal without coloring the sound. Musicians and audio engineers often use Cloudlifters in their setups to improve the quality of the audio captured by these mics, especially when working with professional audio equipment that demands a strong, low-noise signal.

Built with patented discrete JFET circuitry, the Cloudlifter provides a significant gain boost, generally up to +25dB, while avoiding introducing additional static or noise often found in other amplification methods. This clean boost is instrumental in situations like live stage performances or studio recordings where clarity and signal strength are paramount. The design preserves the microphone’s natural sound by maintaining a direct audio path free from transformers, capacitors, and resistors.

It translates to a practical solution for challenges such as long cable runs and the need for increased gain without feedback. Positioned between the microphone and the mixing console or preamp, the Cloudlifter operates using phantom power from the console or preamp, yet it does not pass this phantom power to the microphone, making it safe for use with vintage and ribbon mics that can be damaged by phantom power. This strategic placement ensures that the audio signal is enhanced right at the source before any potential degradation can occur due to lengthy cable transmissions.

What Is a Cloudlifter?

A Cloudlifter is a device that enhances the performance of passive microphones by increasing their output gain, which is particularly useful for microphones that require a significant boost to produce a sufficient signal level.

Principles of Operation

The Cloudlifter uses phantom power supplied by a mixing console or audio interface to amplify the signal from a passive microphone—such as a dynamic, ribbon, or tube microphone—without requiring additional power sources. The result is an increase of 20-25dB of clean, transparent gain, which improves the microphone’s performance by allowing it to deliver a stronger signal. This can dramatically reduce the need for high gain at the preamp level, which in turn minimizes the associated noise that can occur when preamp gain is set very high.

Different Models

  • CL-1: The original model, the CL-1 Cloudlifter, is a single-channel device that provides up to +25dB of gain.
  • CL-2: This dual-channel version offers the same clean gain for two microphones simultaneously.
  • CL-Z: The CL-Z includes variable input impedance and a high-pass filter. It offers the flexibility to shape the sound and provides the standard gain boost.

Cloud Microphones design each model to be easy to use, involving a simple connection between the microphone and preamp. With solid construction and the use of discrete JFET circuitry, Cloudlifters maintain the integrity of the original microphone’s sound while providing the necessary gain boost.

Benefits of Using a Cloudlifter

A Cloudlifter provides a series of advantages for microphones with lower output levels, notably enhancing both gain and audio quality.

Improved Gain

A primary benefit of the Cloudlifter is the gain boost. This device adds 20-25dB of clean, ultra-clean gain to the signal, which can be particularly essential for microphones that require a strong gain increase but lack built-in amplification, such as dynamic and ribbon microphones.

Enhanced Signal Quality

Using a Cloudlifter results in a transparent amplification of the original signal. This results in a natural sound with minimal alteration to the microphone’s inherent tonal characteristics. By enhancing the signal before it reaches the preamp, the Cloudlifter reduces the need to drive the preamp into higher gain settings, leading to lower hiss and maintaining a noise-free amplification.

Compatible Mic Types

Cloudlifters are especially beneficial for dynamic and ribbon microphones without phantom power and with lower sensitivity. They also ensure that any microphone connected receives a consistent phantom power supply to maintain a stable performance.

Usage in Recording Scenarios

In recording studios and home setups where a microphone with a lower sensitivity level might struggle, a Cloudlifter can provide the necessary gain to achieve professional-level audio. They are frequently embraced by podcasters and in other professional recording scenarios to ensure ample headroom and a quality audio signal for a polished output.

Technical Specifications

The Cloudlifter series utilizes high-quality components to deliver professional audio performance. Its technical specifications include JFET circuitry, distinct input/output impedance characteristics, and specific phantom power requirements.

Understanding JFET Circuitry

Cloudlifters are equipped with Class A discrete JFET circuitry, which ensures a transparent and detailed amplification of the microphone signal. They use a field-effect transistor design to provide a clean gain boost, which is crucial for microphones that require additional gain.

Input and Output Impedance

The input impedance (Zi) of the Cloudlifter is high, typically sitting around three kΩ. This high impedance helps prevent the microphone’s output from loading down, allowing it to operate more efficiently. On the output side, Cloudlifters maintain a low impedance, which is ideal for driving long cable runs to a mixing console or interface without signal degradation.

Input Impedance: 3 kΩ
Output Impedance: Varied optimization for long cable runs

Phantom Power Requirements

While the Cloudlifter itself does not require phantom power to operate, it needs +48V phantom power sent from the preamp, interface, or mixer it is connected to. This voltage activates the JFET circuitry, providing the necessary clean boost to the dynamic or ribbon microphone without passing phantom power directly to the microphone.

Phantom Power: +48V (used to power JFET circuitry, not passed to the microphone)

Model-Specific Features

Cloudlifters offer various models to suit different recording needs. Each model provides several channels and unique features tailored to specific microphone types and user requirements.

Cloudlifter CL-1

The Cloudlifter CL-1 is a single-channel mic activator known for its straightforward functionality. It provides up to +25 dB of clean gain for dynamic and ribbon microphones, ensuring enhanced performance with low-output mics. It’s a simple, reliable solution for users needing a single-channel boost without altering the original signal’s quality.

Cloudlifter CL-Z

Cloudlifter CL-Z takes the functionality up a notch with a single-channel design that includes variable input impedance and a high-pass filter. The variable impedance ranges from 150 ohms to 15k ohms, allowing users to customize the loading on the microphone, which can change the sound character. The high-pass filter is essential for reducing low-frequency rumble and preserving the clarity of the signal.

Cloudlifter CL-2

The Cloudlifter CL-2 provides dual mono or stereo configurations, making this two-channel mic activator versatile for both studio and live settings. Like the CL-1, it also offers up to +25 dB of additional gain for dynamic and ribbon microphones, which is essential when using preamps with lower gain. The CL-2 is ideal for users who require two channels without compromising audio quality.

Cloudlifter Zi

The Cloudlifter Zi features a unique blend of the functionalities found in other models, primarily aimed at both mic and instrument signals. It provides the same clean gain boost but with added variable impedance and High-Pass filtering options. The Z variable impedance control allows for shaping the tone of an instrument or microphone, while the high-pass filter can be engaged to reduce unwanted low-frequency noise.

Applications in Music and Podcasting

Utilizing a Cloudlifter can significantly improve audio quality by boosting the signal of dynamic and ribbon microphones used in both music production and podcasting environments. This enhancement is particularly evident when paired with low-output mics and professional audio interfaces.

Enhancing Vocal Recordings

Artists often seek crystal-clear vocal reproduction, and the Cloudlifter operates effectively in this domain. It is commonly paired with mics like the Shure SM7B, a favorite among vocalists for its rich, detailed sound. When the Shure SM7B is coupled with a Cloudlifter, it benefits from a cleaner gain increase, which is essential when recording subtle vocal nuances without unwanted noise.

Integrating with Musical Instruments

Musicians frequently use dynamic microphones to capture the sounds of their instruments, from the deep resonance of a bass guitar to the crisp tones of an electric guitar. The Cloudlifter provides an additional gain boost, preserving the original tone and dynamics of the instrument without the need for high preamp gain, which can introduce noise.

Supporting Podcast Production

For podcasters, audio clarity is paramount. A Cloudlifter can ensure that their vocals are articulate and present, whether using an XLR or USB interface. Often, podcasters prefer dynamic or ribbon mics for their durability and ability to reject ambient noise, and a Cloudlifter can optimize these microphones’ performance, giving professional-grade audio to their listeners.

Installation and Use

When integrating a Cloudlifter into one’s audio setup, it is crucial to understand the optimal configuration with an audio interface, how it benefits long cable runs, and how to address commonly encountered issues. Proper installation ensures the clean gain provided by Cloudlifters enhances the audio quality without introducing interference.

Setup with Audio Interfaces

To connect a Cloudlifter to an audio interface, one must use an XLR cable. The microphone plugs into the input of the Cloudlifter, which then connects to the interface’s preamp via another XLR cable. The Cloudlifter requires phantom power, which the audio interface should supply when activated. It is essential to ensure that the audio interface’s phantom power is turned on to enable the Cloudlifter to function correctly, as its primary role is to provide additional clean gain.

Optimizing Long Cable Runs

Cloudlifters are particularly beneficial for long cable runs. They boost the microphone’s signal before it travels through the lengthy cable, thus reducing potential signal degradation or loss. When setting up a Cloudlifter for an extended cable run:

  • Position: Place the Cloudlifter close to the microphone before the long cable for the best performance.
  • Signal Integrity: The boosted signal provided by the Cloudlifter helps preserve the quality over distance, minimizing noise and loss.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Using a Cloudlifter should be straightforward, but occasionally, users may encounter issues such as feedback or crackling noises. Here’s how to address some common problems:

  • Feedback: Ensure there are no loops in the cable and keep the microphone away from speakers to avoid feedback.
  • Crackle: A crackling noise may suggest a bad connection. Check all cable connections and replace any faulty cables.
  • Phantom Power: Make sure the audio interface or mixer supplies phantom power, as a Cloudlifter does not work without it.

By following these specific steps, one can successfully install and use a Cloudlifter, maximizing its benefits for improved microphone performance.

Quality and Manufacture

In the realm of audio equipment, particularly microphones and microphone boosters, the build quality and manufacturing process are critical for performance and reliability. Cloud Microphones are known for their robust construction and for being manufactured in the USA, assuring quality controlled production and customer service.

Construction and Durability

Cloud Microphones emphasize sturdy construction that ensures longevity and consistent audio quality. The Cloudlifter series boasts a solid construction, with a metal frame that provides a durable external structure. They are designed to withstand the rigors of both studio and live environments, offering a reliable solution for audio professionals and enthusiasts.

  • Materials: High-quality components and metal housing.
  • Design: Compact and roadworthy, intended for heavy usage.

Origin and Warranty

Products like the Cloudlifter are manufactured in the Tucson, Arizona, factory of Cloud Microphones, adhering to strict quality standards typical of American production. The company reflects confidence in its product’s reliability and customer satisfaction with a substantial warranty.

  • Location: All devices are built in Tucson, Arizona.
  • Warranty: A specific warranty term that varies according to the product, indicating coverage against defects in materials and workmanship.

Comparisons and Alternatives

When considering microphone preamps such as the Cloudlifter, one should examine the comparative advantage they hold against other products and the potential alternatives for achieving high-quality, clean gain.

Cloudlifter Vs. Other Preamps

The Cloudlifter is known for providing clean gain to microphones that require an extra boost, such as dynamic and ribbon microphones. Here’s how it compares to some alternatives in terms of preamp gain and quality:

  • Triton Audio FetHead: Recognized for its simplicity and affordability, this in-line preamp provides a significant quality of preamp gain without needing an extra XLR cable.
  • sE Electronics Dynamite DM-1: A sleek, stick-like preamp that offers a high-gain boost with a form factor that directly inserts into a microphone’s XLR input.
  • Radial McBoost: A sturdy built inline preamp with the reliability of Radial products, offering clean gain.
  • Cathedral Pipes Durham: Known for its quality craftsmanship, this preamp is less common but admired by audio professionals for its performance.

Choosing the Right Model for Your Needs

The decision to select the appropriate preamp hinges upon the following:

  • Microphone type: Does your microphone demand extra gain? Ribbon microphones and some dynamic microphones often do.
  • Desired quality: How important is the cleanliness of the gain to your recordings?
  • Budget: Premium quality comes at different price points; consider what fits your financial parameters.
  • Setup simplicity: Products like the Triton Audio FetHead are noted for straightforward use, which can be a determining factor.

By evaluating these factors, one can confidently find a preamp that matches their needs and does so with the quality and gain required to elevate their audio recordings.

Additional Accessories and Options

When considering the Cloudlifter product line, consumers should explore the various accessories and options that augment the core functionality of these devices. Mounting solutions facilitate integration into existing setups, while DI boxes extend the utility of Cloudlifter products by accommodating instruments.

Mounting and Rack Options

For users of the Cloudlifter CL-1, mounting accessories are available to integrate the device into a rack or workspace securely. One can also explore options for the CL-4, designed for four units, making it ideal for studios requiring multiple channels.

  • Rack Mount: A rack mount kit designed for the Cloudlifter allows multiple units to be fixed into standard 19-inch racks.
  • Desktop Stands: To keep Cloudlifters accessible and organized, users can opt for desktop stands that are sturdy and space-efficient.

Extended Functionality with DI Boxes

The Cloudlifter CL-Z incorporates advanced features like variable impedance and high-pass filtering. Users pairing it with an active DI box can further enhance their capture of acoustic and electronic instruments, ensuring flexible and high-quality signal paths.

  • Active DI Box Compatibility: The Cloudlifter is compatible with various active DI boxes, providing broader connectivity for different audio sources.
  • Variable Control: Units like the CL-Z offer additional control, functioning effectively with DI boxes to manage tone and impedance matching for various instruments.

Expert Reviews and Opinions

Expert reviews consistently emphasize the effectiveness of the Cloudlifter in boosting mic-level signals, particularly when used with low-output dynamic microphones.

User Experiences

Many users report significantly improving their recording quality, especially in home studio settings. They often reference the Cloudlifter CL-1 for its ability to provide a cleaner gain boost for microphones that typically require more power.

  • Sound Quality: Users often note the clarity and lack of noise after implementing the Cloudlifter into their setup.
  • Ease of Use: The plug ‘n play nature of the device is frequently highlighted, making it a user-friendly choice for both amateurs and professionals.

Professional Recommendations

Professionals in the field, including sales engineers from well-known equipment suppliers like Sweetwater, frequently recommend the Cloudlifter. They point out its compatibility with various professional recording equipment and its near-essential role in studios that often utilize ribbon and low-output dynamic mics.

  • Recording Studios: Engineers praise the device for its ability to handle mic-level signals without coloration, maintaining the integrity of the original sound.
  • Complementarity: The Radial McBoost is mentioned as another viable option, yet the Cloudlifter remains a favored choice due to its specific design tailored for certain microphone types.

Purchasing and Customer Support

When considering the acquisition of a Cloudlifter or seeking support, customers should be aware of their purchase options, the warranty provisions, and the channels available for technical support.

Buying Guide

Customers looking to purchase a Cloudlifter have various models to choose from, including the CL-1, CL-2, and CL-4, each tailored for specific microphone configurations. Purchases can typically be made through specialized audio equipment retailers or directly from the manufacturer’s website. Prospective buyers may consult a sales engineer for advice on which model best fits their needs.

  • Model Selection: Select the appropriate Cloudlifter based on the intended use: single-channel, two-channel, or four-channel.
  • Retailer vs. Direct: Consider buying from authorized retailers or directly from the manufacturer for guaranteed authenticity.

Warranty and Technical Support

Cloudlifters come with a manufacturer’s warranty outlined in product documentation. Should the device experience any issues, customers are encouraged to contact the manufacturer’s customer service team for assistance.

  • Warranty Coverage: Verify the terms of the warranty, its duration, and what it covers.
  • Support Channels: Utilize available support channels such as email, phone, or live chat for technical assistance.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we address the intricacies of Cloudlifters, offering detailed technical insights and practical advice to ensure optimal use. Whether you are a podcaster or a recording professional, this guidance will streamline your audio setup.

Commonly Asked Technical Questions

Does the original Cloudlifter CL-1 require phantom power?
Yes, the original Cloudlifter CL-1 needs phantom power to operate. It takes this power and provides a gain boost to microphones that do not require phantom power themselves, like dynamic or ribbon mics.

What kind of gain boost can I expect from a Cloudlifter?
Cloudlifter devices typically offer a gain boost of +20 to +25 dB. This is particularly useful when working with microphones that have a low output level on their own.

Are there Cloudlifter models with variable gain or tone control?
Yes, models such as the CL-Zi come with variable impedance and gain control, allowing more tonal flexibility.

Can a Cloudlifter be used in on-location recording situations?
Absolutely. Due to their compact design and straightforward use, Cloudlifters are highly portable and ideal for on-location recording.

Best Practices and Tips

For Podcasting:
Employ a Cloudlifter with your dynamic microphone to ensure a robust and clear recording level, minimizing the need for post-production adjustments.

  • Setup: Ensure your phantom power is on to activate the Cloudlifter.
  • Microphone Positioning: Close the mic to the source for the best signal-to-noise ratio.

Maintaining Clarity:
It is best to use the shortest possible high-quality XLR cables to maintain audio clarity.

  • Cable Quality: Opt for high-quality XLR cables to avoid any unnecessary noise or interference.

On-location Recording:
A Cloudlifter can be a game-changer when recording on location by enabling high-quality recordings with portable battery-powered devices.

  • Portability: The original CL-1’s robust build and no external power requirement make it a reliable companion for field recording.


The Cloudlifter serves an important role in audio capture and recording. It is an inline microphone activator that is primarily used for microphones that require additional gain, such as dynamic and ribbon microphones. Specifically, it provides 20-25dB of clean, transparent gain without using phantom power for the microphone itself; instead, it uses the phantom power to operate the Cloudlifter.

Any decision to add a Cloudlifter to one’s audio setup depends on multiple factors:

  • The type of microphone in use
  • The pre-existing quality of the preamp
  • The specific needs of the recording environment

Musicians, podcasters, and audio engineers typically find that using Cloudlifter results in a significant improvement in sound quality with low-output mics by:

  • Enhancing clarity
  • Reducing noise

Durability is another key point, as it is made with high-quality materials in the United States, assuring robustness in various recording situations. Its compact and portable design also features in its widespread adoption.

In contexts where microphone signals are inherently weak or where the preamp cannot provide sufficient gain without adding noise, integrating a Cloudlifter can be seen as an essential step to achieve professional-quality audio. However, for those with high-gain preamps or microphones that already have a healthy output level, the utility of a Cloudlifter may be less pronounced.

In essence, the Cloudlifter’s ability to elevate microphone signals cleanly makes it a valuable tool for many, but its necessity hinges on the unique requirements of each audio recording setup.

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