Cloudlifter Alternatives – Our Gain Booster Roundup

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Following its release back in 2010, the Cloudlifter has become one of the leading mic activators for boosting low sensitivity dynamic or ribbon microphones.

By using the phantom power voltage of an audio interface or mixer, the Cloudlifter provides +25db of clean gain which boosts the level of classic podcasting microphones such as the Shure SM7B. This means that you can avoid having to crank up the preamps of your interface which risks introducing excessive noise.

As popular as they are though, alternatives do exist, some of which are more friendly on the wallet and others which have additional features. In this roundup, we’ll explore the different options available and detail the pros and cons of each.

Cloudlifter alternatives include the Triton Audio FetHead, the Cathedral Pipes Durham, the Radial McBoost and the sE Electronics Dynamite DM-1. All are inline mic activators which provide a similar amount of gain for low sensitivity dynamic and ribbon microphones.

Before we look further into these alternatives though, let’s take a look at the Cloudlifter in a bit more detail. There are multiple models in the range but we’ll be looking at the original single channel CL-1 as all the alternatives we’ll cover are also single channel.

The CL-1 is a ‘plug and play’ device. The only power it requires is that of the 48v phantom power switch on your mixer, audio interface, or external phantom power unit. This means that you don’t need to worry about batteries or finding a spare wall socket. For more information on how the unit utilizes phantom power, see our article Does a Cloudlifter Need Phantom Power?

Built with a solid steel chassis, the CL-1 is robust and made to stand up to regular use in the studio. What’s nice about them is that they’re manufactured in the US using quality components and Cloud offer a lifetime warranty which says a lot about how long they expect them to last.

The unit is designed to provide a completely transparent boost meaning that it won’t change the sound of your mic in any way. Here is the full spec:

  • Gain boost: +25db
  • Channels: 1 (other models are available in the range with more than one channel)
  • Inputs/outputs: 1 XLR in, 1 XLR out
  • Weight: 0.85lb
  • Dimensions (H/D/W): 2″/4.5″/2″

Cloud’s video below provides a good overview of the unit.

Now that we’ve explored the CL-1, let’s look at some of the other inline gain boosting products available on the market. At the end, you’ll find a full comparison table and we’ll give our view on which is the best Cloudlifter alternative.

Triton Audio FetHead

Triton Audio is a European company which is based in the Netherlands and that’s where its FetHead unit it built.

The FetHead range contains models with different features for different applications. Models include the standard version, the FetHead Phantom which still passes phantom power to the microphone therefore making it suitable with condensers and the FetHead filter which features a high pass filter. For our comparison with Cloud’s CL-1, we’ll be looking at the standard FetHead.


  • Gain boost: +27db
  • Channels: 1
  • Inputs/outputs: 1 XLR in, 1 XLR out
  • Weight: 0.55lb
  • Dimensions (H/D/W): 4.7″/1.1″/1.1″

The FetHead is a popular Cloudlifter alternative because it provides a similar amount of additional gain a lower price point and it does so without needing an additional XLR cable. With the Cloudlifter, you need to plug your mic into it and then run another XLR cable from the output port into your mixer or audio interface. It’s still inline but perhaps less convenient than something like the FetHead which plugs directly into your microphone.

Like the Cloudlifter, the FetHead provides a clean and transparent gain boost. The only niggle with it is that there tends to be a bit of play between the mic and the cable but this doesn’t impact performance in any way.

Click here to the latest price on Amazon.

Cathedral Pipes Durham MKii

The Durham MKii by Cathedral Pipes looks more like a Cloudlifter in construction than a FetHead does in that it doesn’t plug directly into your mic.

Made in the US, it includes Neutrik connectors and has a powder coated steel chassis, both of which are reassuring features from a quality perspective. The gain boost although still clean and transparent is slighly lower than the other models in this roundup at +20db but that’s still likely to be enough in most cases.

  • Gain boost: +20db
  • Channels: 1
  • Inputs/outputs: 1 XLR in, 1 XLR out
  • Weight: 0.6lb
  • Dimensions (H/D/W): 4.6″/1.8″/1.8″

Robust, quality components, made in the US and considerably cheaper than the CL-1, the Durham is a great alternative to a Cloudlifter.

For more information, see the Cathedral Pipes website.

Radial McBoost

Radial Engineering’s McBoost unit is the first in this roundup to have some additional features in comparison to the other models. There are switches to change both the load and level settings and also a gain knob to turn the gain up and down when the level switch is set to variable.

These features do some at a cost though and makes the McBoost a more expensive alternative to the Cloudlifter but if those features are important to you, it could still represent good value.

Made in Canada, the McBoost is constructed with a 14-gauge steel I-beam inner frame and uses high quality, batch-sorted components so from a robustness point of view, there’s little to worry about. The gain boost is provides is typical of the mic activators we’re looking at coming in at +25db. As mentioned above though, there are different level options to choose from via the switch which adds a little more flexibility.

The load switching option adds to this flexibility and allows you to change the input impedance to see how your mic reacts to each one. Choose the one which works the best with your microphone.

  • Gain boost: +25db
  • Channels: 1
  • Inputs/outputs: 1 XLR in, 1 XLR out
  • Weight: 1.25lbs
  • Dimensions (H/D/W): 4.25″/1.75″/2.75″

The Radial McBoost is a solid alternative to the Cloudlifter CL-1 if you want the additional features it comes with. Learn more about the unit and check the latest price here (Amazon).

sE Electronics Dynamite DM-1

The Dynamite DM-1 from sE Electronics is closer to the FetHead in styling than any of the other options and is another direct-to-mic option unlike the Cloudlifter, the Durham and the McBoost.

Offering a massive +28db gain boost, it’s also the winner in terms of the raw gain it provides. You’d just need to make sure it wasn’t too ‘hot’ of a signal for the mic and mixer/audio interface combo you’re looking to pair it with. The last thing you want is to have to move too far away from the mic to avoid clipping as your audio quality will suffer as a result. In most cases though, this shouldn’t be an issue but it’s worth keeping in mind when researching your options.

The DM-1 is made with grade high quality components and FETs which results in very low noise. The gain is clean and neutral which is exactly what you want from a mic activator.

The construction is all metal and the XLR connectors are gold plated for the most reliable signal connection. Here are the specs:

  • Gain boost: +28db
  • Channels: 1
  • Inputs/outputs: 1 XLR in, 1 XLR out
  • Weight: 0.176lbs
  • Dimensions (H/D/W): 3.76″/0.75″/0.75″

If you need a hot signal and like the direct-to-mic configuration, this is a great alternative to a Cloudlifter.

Click here to check the latest price on Amazon.

Spec Comparison Table

Gain BoostNumber of ChannelsInputs/OutputsWeightDimensions (H/D/W)
Cloudlifter CL-1+25db11 XLR in, 1 XLR out0.85lb2″/4.5″/2″
Triton Audio FetHead+27db11 XLR in, 1 XLR out0.55lb4.7″/1.1″/1.1″
Cathedral Pipes Durham MKii+20db11 XLR in, 1 XLR out0.6lb4.6″/1.8″/1.8″
Radial McBoost+25db11 XLR in, 1 XLR out1.25lbs4.25″/1.75″/2.75″
sE Electronics Dynamite DM-1+28db11 XLR in, 1 XLR out0.176lbs3.76″/0.75″/0.75″


Although the Cloudlifter CL-1 is a great product, there are other options to consider. Whether you’re looking for a solution at a lower price point, require more gain than a Cloudlifter provides or you need some additional features, hopefully this roundup has given you some ideas and helped you to decide which one is best for your needs.

So, which one would we pick? It depends on the use case but here are our recommendations:

  • Low cost Cloudlifter alternative in a similar configuration/style
    • Cathedral Pipes Durham MKii
  • Direct-to-mic configuration option

You’ll have probably noticed that both of these options are the two at the lowest price points. That’s because all of the alternatives we’ve covered do largely the same thing – provide clean, transparent gain. The only reason to go for something more expensive than the Durham MKii or the FetHead is if you need either more gain or want additional features.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Cloudlifter necessary?

A Cloudlifter (or alternative mic activator) is necessary if you’re using a low sensitivity dynamic or ribbon microphone and the preamps of your mixer/audio interface don’t provide the gain needed to bring your microphone up to the required level.

You could use an outboard preamp instead of a mic activator but unless you can find a used bargain, it’s likely that a mic activator will be more cost effective (and are more portable).

We explore this topic more in our dedicated article Is a Cloudlifter Necessary? Mic Activators Explained.

Is a Cloudlifter a preamp?

The correct name for a Cloudlifter is a mic activator. However, these are sometimes referred to as inline preamps because it’s essentially doing the same sort of a work as a preamp by providing gain to a microphone to bring it up to a suitable level for recording.

Mic activators though need to be used with the existing preamps of a mixer or audio interface and they simply boost the gain of the mic which avoids having to crank up the mixer/audio preamps to a level which could introduce a lot of noise.

For a more in-depth look at this question, see our dedicated article Is a Cloudlifter a Preamp?