Recently I was in a bit of a predicament with a client doing a voice over project. The client’s voice was very quiet and soft and did not sound natural with my AKG C414 condenser microphone.
After playing around with preamp settings and microphone placement I came to the conclusion that the AKG just doesn’t suit the characteristics of their voice.
I tried another option, my Shure SM7B. It gave us the sound we were after. Sadly the SM7B has not got the most powerful output signal so I found myself having to crank the gain knob all the way up just to get a half decent level into Pro Tools. This caused noticeable hiss in the recording which was distracting to the ear as the script was hypnotherapy and we needed a clean sounding vocal. I wanted the clean hot signal from the AKG C414 and my client wanted the tone and sound of the SM7B… both microphones had their problems, I had to find a solution.
With some investigation, on the internet, I found a little inline box that plugs between any dynamic/ribbon microphone and preamp. The box is called the Cloudlifter CL-1 and boosts the output signal from such microphones.
Ease Of Use
The Cloudlifter CL-1 is a single channel box with XLR connectors on either side with four rubber feet under it and a handy little strap so that you can attach it to a boom stand. It’s that simple, setup in seconds. All you need to do is make sure you are sending phantom power from your preamp to it… this is how the magic happens.
First Test - Signal
I did a really easy test to hear the difference between the ‘Cloudlifter’ and ‘direct in’ with two identical Shure SM58 microphones and identical brand cables. I set input 1 as the ‘direct in’ with an SM58 and input 2 as the ‘Cloudlifter’, also with an SM58. Both gain knobs were set exactly the same, 1 o’clock. I lined both microphones up facing in a triangle towards my mouth and recorded myself saying “1 2 3 4” in different dynamics.
To quote the manufacturer…The Cloudlifter adds 25dB extra output from the microphone.
Second Test - Sound Quality
I wanted to hear if there was a difference in sound quality between the ‘Cloudlifter’ and ‘direct in’ signals. I normalized both the clips with AudioSuite and soloed between them. I almost fell off the back of my chair when hearing the results.
You can clearly see the hiss in the waveform between my ‘direct in’ speech that the microphone alone introduced. The ‘Cloudlifter’ had barely any hiss, no more than I would get from a condenser microphone.
Third Test - Build Quality
This was an accidental test, I knocked the Cloudlifter off the table onto the hard wood floor when testing it and it survived without a mark. I am not surprised as it is built very well, much like a high end electric guitar stomp box.
Fourth Test - Integrity Of The Results
To make sure the results I got were no fluke… or unfair due to a cable or microphone being faulty I swapped the microphones and cables around with exactly the same results being produced.
As I am sure you can tell I love this thing. I love simple little devices like this that help get audio sounding great before I record. Using a dynamic microphone was always my second choice for voice recording because of the low output signal / hiss characteristics I would get. The Cloudlifter addresses these problem and is a really affordable solution. This box is also available in dual channel.