The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Are fetheads / cloudlifters kindof .. pointless?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Gear Nut
 
klong's Avatar
 

Are fetheads / cloudlifters kindof .. pointless?

I was messing with my Cascade FatHead ribbon just now testing it with and without the fethead. I've also owned the cloudlifter, the sm7b , and some other very low-output mics.


In every scenario where I have tried to use either the fethead or the cloudlifter, sure it boosted the gain, but I didn't find it ever helped with signal-to-noise ratio.

With the sm7b, the least noise I could ever get to use it with a vocal was straight into the Apollo interface. I've tried these mics with pacifica, bla 173, bla auteur, ua 710, and apollo preamps. Jacking up the gain on the preamp basically resulted in the same noise floor as using the cloudlifter/fethead and backing off the gain.

I can only assume that if you had a really bad preamp like on a low-budget interface that maybe one of these devices would help in that scenario and be less noisy. But with even a half decent preamp I've failed to find a good use case.

Agree? Disagree?


FWIW I've found the sm7b and some other mics nearly worthless for any source that isn't very loud like an amp or a snare drum or at the very least somebody who is belting, due to noise floor, and this is over the span of years of trying with different cables, rooms, preamps, etc. I almost always fall back to my +48 condensers like the 414 for vocals or some small diaphragm ones for acoustic guitar.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
bgood's Avatar
You’re doing something wrong... the cloudlifters shine on good preamps, not crappy ones like the ones built into most prosumer usb interfaces with their own inherent noise.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
The OP is asking for opinions, but has such an obvious bias against these pre-pre devices that I don’t see an open mind to disagreement.
I do disagree on the specific point the OP brings up. I do find the Cloudlifter’s added gain allows me to turn the preamp (whatever preamp) down to a level where I have more aggregate gain and less noise. That’s true for four different ribbons, an SM7b, and an Audix OM7. I don’t find I need it for 57s or 58s.
I don’t always think that the Cloudlifter’s relatively high impedance gives the most flattering sound on all the ribbons or on the SM7b, but it does deliver gain with less overall noise.

Last edited by Bushman; 4 weeks ago at 06:52 AM.. Reason: Spelling
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 

with high quality preamps, i got (almost) no need for cloudlifters etc.

i do however occasionally use them live so i don't have to crank up gains on various desks too much when using ribbon mics but also (and more importantly) that the mic pres can stay the same as if i'd be using a mic with a hotter output:

this way i can vary mics but don't need to adjust gains (much) in multiple programmed scenes/snapshots.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgood View Post
You’re doing something wrong... the cloudlifters shine on good preamps, not crappy ones like the ones built into most prosumer usb interfaces with their own inherent noise.
That seems unintuitive to me. Aren't crappy preamps on usb powered devices, which have a smaller range of gain before they start adding noise, precisely the preamps from which you want that extra cloudlifter gain?

A good (assuming good means lots of clean gain) preamp that can give you 70 dB of gain is where of the cloudlifter DOESN'T shine to me. If they were good for that purpose, why wouldn't preamp designers already be making preamps with more stages that accomplish the same thing?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Lives for gear
 
bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kakistocat View Post
That seems unintuitive to me. Aren't crappy preamps on usb powered devices, which have a smaller range of gain before they start adding noise, precisely the preamps from which you want that extra cloudlifter gain?

A good (assuming good means lots of clean gain) preamp that can give you 70 dB of gain is where of the cloudlifter DOESN'T shine to me. If they were good for that purpose, why wouldn't preamp designers already be making preamps with more stages that accomplish the same thing?
No... because crappy preamps with inherent noise have that noise at all stages... it just tends to get louder and louder as you amplify it.

I saw that you were posting the same sort of thing going back a couple years ago... have you tested a cloudlifter or FET with an outboard preamp into the line input of your interface? If so, what preamps have you played with?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
The OP is asking for opinions, but has such an obvious bias against these pre-pre devices that I don’t see an open mind to disagreement.
I do disagree on the specific point the OP brings up. I do find the Cloudlifter’s added gain allows me to turn the preamp (whatever preamp) down to a level where I have more aggregate gain and less noise. That’s true for four different ribbons, an SM7b, and an Audix OM7. I don’t find I need it for 57s or 58s.
I don’t always think that the Cloudlifter’s relatively high impedance gives the most flattering sound on all the ribbons or on the SM7b, but it does deliver gain with less overall noise.
“Need” is subjective lol

I find that a 58 into a cloudlifter into a neve, api or UA preamp sounds like a whole other animal... like a proper studio mic... for certain things anyway
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgood View Post
No... because crappy preamps with inherent noise have that noise at all stages... it just tends to get louder and louder as you amplify it.

I saw that you were posting the same sort of thing going back a couple years ago... have you tested a cloudlifter or FET with an outboard preamp into the line input of your interface? If so, what preamps have you played with?
So I'm starting to think I've been operating on a misunderstanding for quite a while (although I had forgotten posting on this topic before). I assumed that a variable gain amplifier's noise figure would go up with higher gain, but this might not be the case? I'm confused, and will continue to look into this.

For the second part, no have not tested this, and wouldn't trust my ears' judgement if I had. I remain skeptical w.r.t outboard preamps being a good investment in a low end theory context (although I will revisit my opinion based on this new understanding). I am content with the performance of the built in preamps in the device I currently use (ui24r).
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
b0se's Avatar
Check out the Soyuz Launcher. Cloudlifter on audio roids - sounds fantastic with my SM7B (vocals).

Audio comparison (with/without) further down this page:

https://soyuzmicrophones.com/launcher
Old 3 weeks ago
  #10
Gear Head
 

We designed The Launcher specifically with the SM7B in mind. It was actually the primary mic we used for all testing and prototyping. We paired it with a cheaper Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and UA Arrow.

The goal is to give you a considerable boost on the way in so when you're using preamps like the ones built into these interfaces, you don't have to crank the gain nearly as much, if at all.

But the main difference and benefit in our box is the color and character included. If you are after completely transparent and 100% noise-free sound, it won't be in line with your needs, but if you want to add some mojo and dynamically responsive vibe to your SM7B and give plenty of headroom in the process, check it out!
Old 3 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 
b0se's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc_SoyuzMics View Post
We designed The Launcher specifically with the SM7B in mind. It was actually the primary mic we used for all testing and prototyping. We paired it with a cheaper Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and UA Arrow.

The goal is to give you a considerable boost on the way in so when you're using preamps like the ones built into these interfaces, you don't have to crank the gain nearly as much, if at all.

But the main difference and benefit in our box is the color and character included. If you are after completely transparent and 100% noise-free sound, it won't be in line with your needs, but if you want to add some mojo and dynamically responsive vibe to your SM7B and give plenty of headroom in the process, check it out!
Hey Marc. I'm still waiting for a UK demo of your 13fet and 17 :¬)

Congrats on the Launcher, cracking piece of kit.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by klong View Post

In every scenario where I have tried to use either the fethead or the cloudlifter, sure it boosted the gain, but I didn't find it ever helped with signal-to-noise ratio.
Why would you expect the signal to noise ratio to necessarily be better? The inline amp will amplify everything up-stream of the pre - including the noise of the mic and background noise. The only potential noise reduction is if your pre is particularly noisy - then if the inline amp means you may achieve the same overall gain (with less pre gain) assuming that the inline amp is actually quieter than your pre. In my experience with modern pres, even cheap ones aren't that noisy - just noisy in comparison to a good pre. They're not like cheap pre's of old which were terrible. Looking at your list of half-decent pres I'd expect them to be reasonably quiet - I can't see inline amps being any quieter - not by a noticeable margin, so yes I'd expect the results to be similar.

Last edited by Scragend; 3 weeks ago at 10:46 PM.. Reason: added stuff
Old 3 weeks ago
  #13
Here for the gear
 

So still trying to think through this but I think it is worth remembering Friis' formula, which indicates that the noise figure of the 1st stage of amplification, all things being equal, has the biggest effect on the overall noise figure of the system. This seems to support the idea that (for SNR purposes) you don't want to use one if the noise figure your preamp is lower than that of the inline amp (outside of edge cases where the cable run from the mic to the pre is so long relative to the mic signal strenght that you need to amplify it before it hits that run).
Old 3 weeks ago
  #14
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgood View Post
not crappy ones like the ones built into most prosumer usb interfaces


Uh, no. When was the last time you used a USB interface? With rare exception at most (and I question even that) they are actually quite good now. Honest.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 
MickeyMassacre's Avatar
While I do not totally agree with the op I do want to recognize that changing a mic preamps impedance to better match that of the mic output is a more useful feature that I wish more preamps had.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #16
Lives for gear
 
zvukofor's Avatar
No booster can give higher signal to noise ratio, unless you’re using it near the mic, and have like 250 meters of so-so cable to preamps.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #17
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by zvukofor View Post
No booster can give higher signal to noise ratio.
Got to love the confidence behind an absolute statement, even when it is wrong.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #18
I love the Cloudlifter.
Theres no knobs and love the simplicity design for the user. It has the boost for the dynamics that's just right for my interface preamp.
....as good as I get with outboard preamps. I'd put it on the "clean" list for sure.

The engineering per Roger Cloud, was mentioned in GS post years ago where he chimed in about its several gain stages design and all that tech talk too, it wasn't just slapped together in a hour. It seems really well painted and solid jacks with tight connections to XLR.

Actually I started looking at it the opposite way in that my other outboards were pointless..lol ...shoppers preference to get to the same goal of needing gain?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
Gear Addict
 

All I know is I popped the transformer out of an old SM58 I wasn't using much, run it through a Cathedral Pipes Durham to bring it back up to a usable level, and it's now my go to mic for electric guitar.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
Lives for gear
 

I've tried two different types of in line preamps on my ribbon mics which are passive and therefore produce no self noise. One was a Fethead and another was a new version I bought recently, unfortunately I cant remember the manufacturers name right off hand.

Both of them generate a some ambient noise which gets re-amplified by whatever mic preamp you may use. Any SS device used to amplify is going to cause some noise. This is why its important to use extremely high quality parts which keep that noise and distortion as low as possible.

How well do they work? It makes things louder, but I cant say its necessarily better. If I only needed a louder signal for something like Podcasting either booster would be OK. They aren't much use to me in recording however. If I could track and not have to enhance the track when mixing the self noise would be low enough to be masked by the music. Unfortunately, any kind of additional Compression or EQ added when mixing raises that self noise to annoying levels and it makes these kinds of boosters quite useless to me.

The preamp is my Tascam interface is capable of boosting the signal in the 60dB range so its better then the bargain basement type which only have preamp gain in the 50dB ranges which is too low for most ribbon mics. That Tascam will get noisy when pushed above 90/95% but I can crank it up to where it just starts and get a strong enough signal to record with so long as I keep a short distance from the mic. I'm able to add additional gain to the track when mixing and have way less noise compared to using an in line booster.

The ideal solution is to simply buy a killer preamp that has at least 70dB of clean gain for these kinds of mics. Back in the day they typically used tubes preamps and passive filters to remove noise. Today they try and do it with SS devices that have much smaller gain ratios so you have to stack more stages together in series and that's where all the additional noise comes from. 3 clean stages are much better then 4 noisy ones. Same issues hold true with any in line preamp.

What you really need is something as clean and transparent as a condenser mics preamp. The impedance isn't going to match but they don't seem to add much self noise running on phantom power. The frequency response is as wide as it gets too. That's kind of hard to pull off running an FET running class A in a small XLR Connector, even if you do use low noise parts like metallic resistors class A doesn't cancel noise.

You either need a stronger preamp using a well balanced push pull design or you need to use a Differential preamp design that cancels noise much like a Humbucker guitar pickup does. This way, even if there is noise it gets removed through phase cancellation leaving only the variable AC audio signal.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #21
Lives for gear
If you turn a preamp capable of 70 db of gain all the way up, it will be too noisy to use. No exceptions to that in my experience. If you turn that preamp down to 55 db of gain, that preamp will usually be acceptably quiet. If you put a Cloudlifter in front of it, you will get at least 15db of gain, or a total 70db of preamp gain... and the noise will stay low enough that the audio is useable.

The 15 db of Cloudlifter gain is not 15db of noise. It is fifteen db of gain with essentially no noise. And since it is in front of the preamp, it does not amplify the noise in the preamp. It can’t. And it allows you to lower the preamp gain into a range that is less noisy.
What is the other argument?
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump