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Cloudlifter / Fethead vs. "Regular" Preamp
Old 16th March 2011
Gear Maniac

Cloudlifter / Fethead vs. "Regular" Preamp

Howdy Slutz,

I have a few ribbons and dynamics (RE20 and SM7b) that need extra gain, especially when recording quiet sources. It is my understanding that devices like the Cloudlifter and Fethead are useful for adding about 20db of clean gain before the mic signal hits my "normal" preamps.

Would I be correct in stating that the Cloudlifter and Fethead are preamps? If so, can someone please explain to me how these devices (Fethead and Cloudlifter) differ from "normal" preamps? Why would I buy one of these utilities instead of running one "normal" preamp into a second "normal" preamp?

Any insight would be helpful. I am more of a musician than an engineer, obviously.

Old 16th March 2011
Gear Maniac
Dædalus's Avatar

A microphone preamp, in it's most basic form, is merely just a Mic to Line Level converter. The Couldlifter and Fethead increase the gain but do not convert the signal.
Old 16th March 2011
Gear Maniac

Thanks for your reply. I didn't realize there was a conversion. I thought it was just a matter of gain.

Does this mean that a Cloudlifter or Fethead into a mic preamp would be "cleaner" or "better" than running a clean mic preamp at low gain (20 db boost) into another mic preamp? I am trying to understand the benefit of using a Cloudlifter or Fethead instead of two mic preamps in series...
Old 17th March 2011
Gear Maniac
Dædalus's Avatar

There was a thread recently on the topic: adding color with multiple pres

Using something inline to increase the gain before the pre (such as the Cloudlifter), is the ideal way to go to have a hotter signal that remains "clean". The question of if that is "better" is totally relative to your desired end result.

I'd recommend using the Cloudlifter if you like the sound of your mic and your pre but just need more gain. If you think the tone from your mic and the pre is too bland and you want to add more "color", you could run your mic through two pre's as long as the second one has a Line Input.

Mic to Mic Input on Pre 1 > Pre 1 Line Output to Line Input of Pre 2 > Pre 2 Line Output to Line Input of Interface

Preamps that add color to the sound do so by adding harmonic distortion. By combining two pre's you could get a very interesting tone.
Old 17th March 2011
Lives for gear

Into a transformered preamp, the Cloudlifter may have a bit more top end (and perhaps less preamp input noise).

Into a transformerless preamp, the Cloudlifter is likely to mainly reduce preamp input noise, unless you are comparing to the quietest preamps.

The reduction of preamp input noise is mainly relevant only using ribbon mikes on quiet sources.

However, another benefit may be less loading of a ribbon mike than a standard preamp with a lower input impedance.

Into a cheap console preamp with low end roll off at highest gain settings, you can expect to avoid the roll off by using less gain on the console gain due to the front end gain from the Cloudlifter.


Old 17th March 2011
Gear Maniac

Thanks guys. Very helpful.
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