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Cloudlifter smothers high end? 500 Series Preamps
Old 21st August 2017
  #1
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Cloudlifter smothers high end?

I bought a one channel cloudlifter a while back. I have no clips to present at the moment, but this thing seems to really suck the life from the high end. I ran an AEA r84 through it for vocals and it sounded muddy and muffled. Remove the cloudlifter, crank the pre, and boom - high end life back in action. What's the deal?
Old 21st August 2017
  #2
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

I don't have that mic, but that's not the deal here. I use it with an RCA 77 and sometimes dynamics and the top end seems to be pretty much the same with and without. What preamp are you using?
Old 22nd August 2017
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Pres

I've tried it with Neve portico and Hairball Lola.
Old 22nd August 2017
  #4
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I once had the same problem with a ribbon mic and a boutique preamp. Both pieces worked fine with other mic/preamp combos, but put them together and I'd get just what you describe. It's been a decade, so I'm a little fuzzy on it, but I seem to recall it being an issue of impedance.
Old 22nd August 2017
  #5
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That hasn't been the case here either with the Cloudlifter and a variety of Cascade ribbon mics. If anything the Cloudlifter gives a little more top end presence.

-Mike
Old 24th August 2017
  #6
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Thread Starter
Here are two clips - one with the Cloudlifter, one without.

Signal chain is - AEA R84 - Cloudlifter - RND 511 Portico Preamp - Lynx Aurora

The "without" example removes the cloud lifter and increases the gain setting on the preamp to get close volume wise. Even though the levels are not precisely matched, you won't have any doubt that you hear a difference.


Dropbox - WITH.wav
Dropbox - WITHOUT.wav
Old 24th August 2017
  #7
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You may want to try the Cloudlifter that has variable impedance.

In any case ribbons can be picky when it comes to impedance "matching".
Old 24th August 2017
  #8
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Not my experience either... But, just as an FYI... When I got my first one a few years ago I called cloud to ask for best practices when using a preamp with variable impedence... The super nice cloud dude advised running the preamp at the highest impedence setting that the preamp can do...

Maybe that's what is happening with you?
Old 24th August 2017
  #9
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The RND 511 Portico has a very high input impedance of 10k Ohms which is perfect for ribbon mics. With a lower impedance you would expect a somewhat degraded performance, but only once you get down to 1k Ohms or so. The Cloudlifter has 3k Ohms input impedance. The difference is too dramatic to be explained only by the different input impedances, in my opinion.

Is the Cloudlifter new?
Old 24th August 2017
  #10
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We regularly use a Cloudlifter with our R84 and apart from the extra gain it seems a little more open in the high end with the Cloudlifter than without it.
Old 24th August 2017
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I bough the cloudlifter new about six months ago from a retail store. It didn't see much action until more recently, so I really just became aware of what it's doing to the sound. I'm going to call Cloud today and see if they have had anyone else reporting this.
Old 24th August 2017
  #12
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I spoke with Roger from Cloud earlier today. We ran through all the possibilities together over the phone. He said he would send out a new cloudlifter plus a t shirt right away. Incredible customer service. He genuinely wanted to resolve the issue as fast as possible. The level of personal service and attention was as high as I've ever experienced.

On another note, I opened the cloudlifter up and the build quality is pretty beautiful. I'm really looking forward to using the new one.
Old 24th August 2017
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick H View Post
I spoke with Roger from Cloud earlier today. We ran through all the possibilities together over the phone. He said he would send out a new cloudlifter plus a t shirt right away. Incredible customer service. He genuinely wanted to resolve the issue as fast as possible. The level of personal service and attention was as high as I've ever experienced.

On another note, I opened the cloudlifter up and the build quality is pretty beautiful. I'm really looking forward to using the new one.
ah .. funny, i emailed them with a question over 10 days ago and got no reply .. i will try calling them .. might be better ..

yeah, i opened my CL-2 to see what was in there .. it is suppose to be two separate units but does share a Ground Wire .. and i am using them with separate Pre's .. had an odd buzz, hence me contacting them ..

thx for the info, phone call tomorrow .. cheers john
Old 24th August 2017
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick H View Post
I bought a one channel cloudlifter a while back. I have no clips to present at the moment, but this thing seems to really suck the life from the high end. I ran an AEA r84 through it for vocals and it sounded muddy and muffled. Remove the cloudlifter, crank the pre, and boom - high end life back in action. What's the deal?
I dunno but I personally think cloudlifters/fetheads are silly purchases.

If you record a ribbon with your pre....even at your pre's nominal level (which may then cause your daw to record the mic at a rather low level on the track)... and then normalize the captured track to get the meter/level up around the level of other tracks in your song, you have a perfectly pristine (if your pre is any good) signal, now at a higher level. No need for a cloudlifter. Normalize doesn't impair the track in any way. Cloudlifters are silly purchases. In addition to causing more junk to be sitting there where you're trying to work.

And even if you crank a good pre input all the way to 10.... which is actually a great place in terms of many pre specs, you still get a wonderful and higher signal into the daw track. Which you can then normalize a bit to tweak higher if wanted.

By the way, if you haven't already done so, do a test pass of your r84 through your pre with the pre set at half up or whatever its nominal input level is. Then normalize the recorded track.... is it all cool? Should be. If by some random chance, you feel the life is sucked out of the high end after that approach, it may be that you simply like whatever your pre does to the equation when it's cranked full.

Either way, I think cloudlifters are about as useful as my old gizmotron.
Old 24th August 2017
  #15
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Post back here when the issue is resolved, answered or whatever... I have Cloudlifter that I use with three ribbons and also with two low output dynamics. In all cases the signal has either seemed unchanged in frequency response, or has been a little brighter. In all cases the Cloudlifter has a higher impedance than the preamps I have used with it.
Old 24th August 2017
  #16
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Originally Posted by thenoodle View Post
I dunno but I personally think cloudlifters/fetheads are silly purchases.

If you record a ribbon with your pre....even at your pre's nominal level (which may then cause your daw to record the mic at a rather low level on the track)... and then normalize the captured track to get the meter/level up around the level of other tracks in your song, you have a perfectly pristine (if your pre is any good) signal, now at a higher level. No need for a cloudlifter. Normalize doesn't impair the track in any way. Cloudlifters are silly purchases. In addition to causing more junk to be sitting there where you're trying to work.

And even if you crank a good pre input all the way to 10.... which is actually a great place in terms of many pre specs, you still get a wonderful and higher signal into the daw track.

I think cloudlifters are about as useful as my old gizmotron.
Seriously, normalizing to make up 15 db of gain is not common adult engineer behavior, and I've never used a preamp, good, bad or mediocre, that wasn't noisy at absolute full gain. I tend to doubt that this advice comes from any extensive experience with Cloudlifters, Fetheads or very low gain microphones.
Old 25th August 2017
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
Seriously, normalizing to make up 15 db of gain is not common adult engineer behavior, and I've never used a preamp, good, bad or mediocre, that wasn't noisy at absolute full gain. I tend to doubt that this advice comes from any extensive experience with Cloudlifters, Fetheads or very low gain microphones.
yes, normalizing after the fact is done...a LOT!! it's done on my stuff at Capital and Sunset Sound all the time... I believe we're all adults when I'm there. And of course as I mentioned, I do it as well at the point of tracking if I'm using a low-level mic when traveling and/or don't have a lot of time to screw around with higher powered pres. It's not like you can't hear what's going on at the point of tracking.

Normalizing where necessary is quick, useful.. and not a dirty word. Absolutely zero change is made to the signal other than what amounts to a nice after-the-fact gainstage. A fairly large useful thread on that somewhere around here from 4-5 years ago on one of the other cloudlifter discussions.

There are also a number of pres/interfaces that are stellar at full open. Some, such as Focusrite tend to be noisy up there when I've tested. Others are clean,pristine,open, and low noise at full. As they should be nowadays.

I have extensive experience with every kind of mic, beginning with ribbons in 1959. Does that qualify me to speak for everyone else or preach an approach? Nope.... but I know what works for me.

I also ordered one of the first cloudlifters, tried it for two weeks, and sent it back. I used it on a number of ribbons (royers and some down and dirty mxls) and a number of dynamics from 57s to sm7b (I borrowed the sm7b to try it with the cloudlifter to see what would happen... I don't own an sm7b because frankly, I just don't like them). I was going to do some what-if tests on condensers, but at the time after the other mics, I thought "what's the point?" Normalizing is free and works just as well. So I sent the cloudlifter back. Where would I use a cloud? Maybe onstage with ribbons... but if I were doing that type of work, I wouldn't use ribbons onstage anyway. Cloudlifter in the studio or when I travel? Nope.

A cloudlifter is simply not necessary. I won't call them snake oil, but I equate them to... snake oil.

The only thing I've ever felt fetheads had going for them was losing the extra cable... but it's still the same story....not necessary...imo.
Old 25th August 2017
  #18
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Noise level has been such a non issue [in this humble home studio of 30 some years], and I've never been motivated to check or compare noise floor vs signal vs gain level of any of the pres I have.
So, a quick continuation off topic here--
Is this gain related relative preamp noise floor 'typically' worst at or near max gain? Or is it 'it depends on the preamp'?
Thanks

edit.. Oops, I think I got answered above while I was writing. Thank you Thenoodle!
Old 25th August 2017
  #19
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With the Cloudlifter Z, you get the cool dial for dialing in the impedance-- continuously variable input impedance from 150 ohms to 15k ohms. Add as much top end as you want.
Old 25th August 2017
  #20
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CloudLifter

Cloud has yet to publish comparative EIN figures,
based on real world mic source impedance (150 ohms).
Old 25th August 2017
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle View Post
A cloudlifter is simply not necessary. I won't call them snake oil, but I equate them to... snake oil.
Jeez -- calling, I mean equating an in-line mic booster to snake oil? It's 25 dB of clean gain and works as advertised. If you can get along without it, great. But that doesn't mean the folks who make it are the second coming of PT Barnum.

I primarily got mine because I sometimes use a ribbon mic in a live broadcast, where normalizing isn't possible. I've also discovered that with a dynamic mic, my Manley tube pre (only 40 dB of gain) sounds a lot better and is less noisy when driven harder by the Cloudlifter. Not snake oil to me at all.
Old 25th August 2017
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thenoodle View Post
yes, normalizing after the fact is done...a LOT!! it's done on my stuff at Capital and Sunset Sound all the time... I believe we're all adults when I'm there. And of course as I mentioned, I do it as well at the point of tracking if I'm using a low-level mic when traveling and/or don't have a lot of time to screw around with higher powered pres. It's not like you can't hear what's going on at the point of tracking.

Normalizing where necessary is quick, useful.. and not a dirty word. Absolutely zero change is made to the signal other than what amounts to a nice after-the-fact gainstage. A fairly large useful thread on that somewhere around here from 4-5 years ago on one of the other cloudlifter discussions.

There are also a number of pres/interfaces that are stellar at full open. Some, such as Focusrite tend to be noisy up there when I've tested. Others are clean,pristine,open, and low noise at full. As they should be nowadays.

I have extensive experience with every kind of mic, beginning with ribbons in 1959. Does that qualify me to speak for everyone else or preach an approach? Nope.... but I know what works for me.

I also ordered one of the first cloudlifters, tried it for two weeks, and sent it back. I used it on a number of ribbons (royers and some down and dirty mxls) and a number of dynamics from 57s to sm7b (I borrowed the sm7b to try it with the cloudlifter to see what would happen... I don't own an sm7b because frankly, I just don't like them). I was going to do some what-if tests on condensers, but at the time after the other mics, I thought "what's the point?" Normalizing is free and works just as well. So I sent the cloudlifter back. Where would I use a cloud? Maybe onstage with ribbons... but if I were doing that type of work, I wouldn't use ribbons onstage anyway. Cloudlifter in the studio or when I travel? Nope.

A cloudlifter is simply not necessary. I won't call them snake oil, but I equate them to... snake oil.

The only thing I've ever felt fetheads had going for them was losing the extra cable... but it's still the same story....not necessary...imo.


Idk. I haven't done any scientific testing but opening your pre wide open changes the ratio of direct to off axis sound ESPECIALLY in ribbon mics! Sometimes you want that stuff on the back lobe...and sometimes you don't. For example when tracking a band that's used to playing together live on the floor.

Opening the mic pre to get the gain you want while also retaining "just the right amount of air on the back lobe" can make placement a bit tricky when your ribbon needs lots of clean gain. Enter the Cloud lifter.

IME, normalizing does not achieve the same result as carefully balancing mic pre gain and mic distance with figure-8 ribbons, taking into consideration proximity effect. I do agree however that sometimes they are unnecessary but try a CL or similar on a 58 for example. Sounds great in between rack toms when trying to pickup both like they did in the 70's. Very unique sound IMO.
Old 25th August 2017
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
Noise level has been such a non issue [in this humble home studio of 30 some years], and I've never been motivated to check or compare noise floor vs signal vs gain level of any of the pres I have.
So, a quick continuation off topic here--
Is this gain related relative preamp noise floor 'typically' worst at or near max gain? Or is it 'it depends on the preamp'?
Thanks

edit.. Oops, I think I got answered above while I was writing. Thank you Thenoodle!

It definitely depends. Mic pres can sound very different at higher gains. Tube pres for example. I have one that sounds a little shrill when fully open but just perfect at low gain. I also have a dbx SS pre that sounds gorgeous at low to mid gain but pretty "dirty" when pushed past ~60%.


[EDIT] just saw @Brent Hahn (s) post. Exactly.
Old 25th August 2017
  #24
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The Cloudlifter allows more preamp choices based on tone, not primarily gain as is often the case with a low output ribbon.

Another aspect is using ribbons with long cable runs to the preamp.
A Cloudlifter close to the mic helps in this situation as it provides a stronger, low impedance signal.
Old 25th August 2017
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
I've never used a preamp, good, bad or mediocre, that wasn't noisy at absolute full gain.
Gordon
Old 25th August 2017
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Originally Posted by legato View Post
Gordon
Bruce
Old 25th August 2017
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
Bruce
Holy Crap Batman, where is Commissioner Gordon !! i will have to Dime Out some pre's later and see what i get !!!

i understand Normalize, but i never use it .. might have to give it a go and see what i get ..

and i like mr. Beaks, use them live, so not chance to Normalize ..

cheers john
Old 25th August 2017
  #28
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I use the Cloudlifters and like them. As others have said, if anything I hear a bit of an "edge" added to the sound, but not to an objectionable degree.
Another advantage is the ability to get reasonable monitor levels when recording with ribbons, using reasonable gain structures, not having to boost anything to silly levels to get the Artist's monitor/cans loud and clean enough. IMHO. YMMV.
Old 25th August 2017
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edva View Post
... if anything I hear a bit of an "edge" added to the sound, but not to an objectionable degree.
My guess is that the Cloudlifter isn't altering the frequency response. The difference we're hearing is due to a tiny bit of harmonics caused by the higher level hitting the pre. Distortion, in other words.

With the same pre and a higher-gain condenser mic we hear those harmonics all the time and just assume it's what the mic sounds like. But if you pad the mic way down and crank the preamp gain way up, it'll sound a tiny bit cleaner and duller. And noisier, of course.
Old 25th August 2017
  #30
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On dynamics and ribbons, higher impedance at the preamp input does tilt the high end response up, regardless of level. It's easy to prove with a pink noise source to a miked speaker. Adjust the preamp for level. Compare frequency plots. It is fairly dramatic on certain microphones. I thought that was generally accepted as fact. Apparently not by some.
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