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The Cloudlifter is one of the most popular inline mic preamps, but many other options may be better suited to your needs.
The Cloudlifter is one of the best-known mic boosters, it’s by no means the only option available. An array of competent alternatives perform better than the Cloudlifter in certain situations.
Low-output dynamic microphones can be very useful for recording vocals, podcasts, and other spoken-word content and instruments. Their only downside is that they are significantly quieter than most other mics.
That’s where an inline mic preamp like the popular Cloudlifter comes in. These devices are designed to boost the gain of the microphone signal so that you can record at louder volumes.
Our detailed guide will highlight which Cloudlifter preamp alternatives are worth considering and explain how you can benefit from using these devices.
What are the Best Cloudlifter Alternatives?
Cloudlifter Alternatives Reviews
The DM1 is a solid and reliable mic preamp shaped like a dynamite stick. Manufactured by sE Electronics, this device is affordable and easy to use, making it an excellent choice for musicians, producers, and podcasters.
sE Electronics is a highly respected recording equipment manufacturer, including many great microphones. This knowledge has been used to create the DM1, as the brand understands how important transparency is.
The sE Electronics DM1 is built using high-end components and parts. For example, the Class-A circuitry has been paired with high-grade FETs, which deliver an impressively clean and noise-free performance.
A gold-plated connector has been installed on this mic preamp, which boosts its durability to ensure a solid connection to an XLR cable.
- Class A circuit
- 28dB gain boost
- Transformerless design
- Reduces interference and buzzing noises
- Great for low-gain microphones
- Slim and compact design
- Only has one mic input
Delivering +26dB of gain, The Launcher is the perfect companion for your low-output microphones. This is an excellent alternative to the Cloudlifter if you love the sound of analog recordings.
Whether you plan to record guitars, vocals, or drums with your low-gain mic, this preamp will enhance the natural qualities of the recordings, highlighting the midrange frequencies.
You can tell how much attention to detail Soyuz The Launcher Inline Active Preamp has paid to the design of this mic booster as soon as you take it out of the box. A smooth finish matches the distinguished appearance, and the device feels impressively robust.
When designing this preamp, Soyuz tapped into their expertise from years of building excellent microphones. The manufacturer included a hand-wound, custom-designed transformer which adds to the colorful sonic qualities of the device.
- Custom transformer
- Adds 26dB of gain
- Frequency range 10Hz-20kHz
- Delivers a warm, vintage sound
- Ideal for low-output ribbon and dynamic mics
- Roadworthy design
- Only suitable for one mic
Depending on the design of your mics, you may find that the Cloudlifter adds too much gain to the signal. One of the downsides to most mic preamps is that they only provide one gain setting, which limits their versatility.
The Royer dBooster In-Line Signal Booster has two gain settings that you can toggle between to find the ideal volume when recording with your low-gain microphones.
The +12dB setting is ideal for dynamic microphones that need a little boost, and the +20dB option caters to low-gain mics like the popular Shure SM7B. To change the setting, simply press down the switch found next to the mic input.
Royer has managed to keep the dBooster compact so that it won’t take up any unnecessary space in your studio. It also provides gain without adding noticeable coloration, keeping your recordings as transparent as possible.
- 12dB or 20dB switchable gain
- 20Hz-20kHz frequency response
- Class A input circuitry
- Reduces the chance of distortion
- Preserves the natural sound of your mic
- Provides more headroom
- 20dB gain may be insufficient for some low-gain mics
The Klark Teknik MIC BOOSTER CM-2 2 delivers a transparent gain boost of +25dB, preserving the integrity of a microphone signal. With two XLR inputs, you can use this device to create consistent dynamics between a pair of low-gain microphones.
Affordable and versatile, this inline mic preamp reduces the chance of electronic hum and buzzing sounds being amplified due to the increased gain. It keeps things sounding clean.
Another convenient thing about the CM-2 is that it doesn’t require an external power supply. Simply plug it into your audio interface; phantom power is enough to get it working.
Klark Teknik designs and manufactures its preamps in the United Kingdom, and despite being considerably more affordable than other options, the CM-2 is built with impressive quality.
- Supplies 25dB of clean gain
- Two channel preamp
- Powered by +48v phantom power
- Boosts two microphones simultaneously
- Suitable for both ribbon and dynamic mics
- Compact and conveniently sized
- Only has one gain setting
Although some people may prefer to simply plug their microphone into a preamp and then hit record, others may choose to have more control over the way the device impacts their recordings.
If you fall into the latter category, the Radial McBoost 1-channel is an ideal choice. This smartly-designed inline preamp includes a 3-way load switch, a 3-way level switch, and rotary control to alter the amount of gain added to the signal.
The maximum gain that can be added to a low-level mic is 25dB, which is more than enough for dynamic and ribbon microphones. You can dial in the amount of gain by either turning the rotary knob on the right side of the device or by switching the load setting.
Having these controls at your disposal makes things simpler once you become accustomed to how they can affect your microphone’s performance.
- Up to +25dB gain boost
- Class A circuitry
- 3-way load and level switches
- Suitable for all dynamic and ribbon mics
- Adjustable gain settings
- Built like a tank
- Requires you to set the parameters
Cloudlifter Alternatives Buyer's Guide
Once you start to expand your recording setup and include different types of microphones, you’ll probably start to learn more about gain and how it impacts the volume of your recordings.
Low-gain microphones have tonal and dynamic qualities that make them very useful for recording certain vocal styles or instruments, but if you don’t have an inline preamp to boost the gain, their capabilities are limited.
For several years, the Cloudlifter preamps have dominated the market, but as you can see from the devices listed in this article, there are many alternatives that are equally, if not more, impressive.
Here are some of the key things to look out for when choosing a Cloudlifter alternative.
Things to Consider When Buying Cloudlifter Alternatives:
Number of inputs
If you only have one low-gain microphone that needs boosting, choosing a Cloudlifter alternative with a single input will suffice. Dual-input preamps are great for stereo mic setups or using multiple low-gain mics.
Amount of gain
The Cloudlifter supplies +25dB of transparent gain, which is good for most low-power mics. Some manufacturers may offer slightly more or less, so it’s important to determine what you need.
Toggle switches and rotary controls are sometimes included in the more advanced Cloudlifter alternatives. These onboard controls make it possible to tweak various aspects of the preamp, including the level, impedance load, and gain amount.
How to Choose a Cloudlifter Alternative
The Cloudlifter alternative that best suits your needs will depend on the specific types of microphones you intend to use the device with.
Every microphone has an output level commonly measured in dBV/Pa. When you connect the microphone to an inline preamp, the gain is added to the signal, boosting its volume.
Rather than simply choosing a mic booster based on its design or reputation, it’s important to also check the specifications to see whether it is compatible with your existing equipment.
Clean Boost vs. Coloration
The terms “clean” and “transparent” are often used to describe the performance of an inline mic preamp. A clean or transparent boost simply means that the gain is added to the signal without noticeably altering the tonal qualities of the microphone recordings.
Other Cloudlifter alternatives may add some coloration to the sound rather than attempting to keep it as unaffected as possible.
Neither of these approaches is superior to the other – it simply comes down to the sound that you hope to achieve.
For example, some preamps are designed to add a vintage, warm sound to your recordings, replicating analog equipment. For musicians recording rock music, this may be a desirable quality.
On the other hand, if you’re using your low-gain microphone to record a podcast, you’ll want maximum transparency to avoid detracting the listener’s attention from the words being spoken.
How Much Gain Do You Need?
The optimal microphone recording level is between -20dB and -5dB. It’s not advised to exceed -5dB when recording, as this leaves little or no headroom and will restrict what is possible during the mixing process.
Using the popular low-gain microphone, the Shure SM7B, as an example, this mic has an output sensitivity rating of -59dB. Therefore, we would need to increase the gain by at least 40dB to reach the optimal volume.
The Cloudlifter, and most of the alternatives we’ve listed, provide somewhere in the region of +25dB gain. Coupled with the gain the mic preamp can add to your audio interface, you can easily supply the +40dB required to reach a good volume.
Cloudlifter Alternative FAQs
Is a Cloudlifter a Preamp?
A Cloudlifter is technically an inline mic preamp, but it is also commonly described as a mic booster. Its purpose is to supply gain to a low-level microphone, providing it with a “boost,” which is where the term comes from.
The key difference between a Cloudlifter and a conventional preamp is that it draws power from the preamp rather than supplying it independently to the microphone.
Can You Use a Cloudlifter Alternative with Condenser Mics?
Cloudlifters and similar devices are not designed to be used with condenser microphones. This is because condenser mics already receive +48v phantom power and therefore do not require any more gain to be added to the signal.
Preamps can be used with condenser microphones, but they are designed to change the tone and color rather than add considerable gain.
Do USB Mics Need a Preamp?
USB microphones are plugged directly into a computer or laptop and therefore don’t require a preamp or a mic booster. The gain is set to an optimal level for the USB connection, and no external devices are required to achieve the right volume.