Cloudlifters are an industry-standard in microphone signal boosting piece of hardware. Whether you are recording in a studio, or prefer to take your show on the road, having one or two of these compact mic activators in your setup ensures that you will have high-quality audio recordings no matter the circumstance.
As discussed in our previous article Is a Cloudlifter a Preamp – Our Thoughts, mic activators are the recording industry’s low-noise, ultra-transparent solution to gain boosters specifically designed for use with microphones.
A Cloudlifter needs phantom power to operate correctly. The device works by using the 48v that phantom power provides to power the active circuitry housed inside the unit. This, in turn, delivers the boost in gain to the microphone it is been used with.
Unfortunately for those podcasters looking to pack light, this means you will need a device with the capacity to supply this power. However, even with the inclusion of a separate phantom power box, the total weight of these two products will be a lot lighter than lugging around a preamp.
In today’s article, we will be breaking down the function of phantom power and the role it plays in powering the Cloudlifter, giving you a clearer insight into exactly how your gear works.
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What Exactly is Phantom Power?
But what exactly is phantom power? Here’s a bit of backstory.
Phantom power is the solution to amplifying a signal without the need for any additional power sources. By converting direct current so that it can travel through the signal lines of a balanced cable (or XLR as it is more commonly known), the power can boost the audio signal of a microphone through one neat cable. This means that the power source is essentially invisible – or a ‘phantom’.
Nowadays phantom power is built into almost every mixer and audio interface on the market. That’s not to say that they are the only means of getting phantom power – far from it. A quick search for a phantom power box reveals a plethora of inexpensive products that convert DC into phantom power.
One of the most common uses of phantom power is to boost condensers. These microphones contain a built-in amplifier that can utilize phantom power in order to increase the output gain straight from the source.
How a Cloudlifter Works and Makes Use of Phantom Power
But what about those microphones that don’t have the built-in amplification circuitry? Well, this is where the Cloudlifter comes in to play. The Cloudlifter is an inline mic activator, in a similar way to the amplifier found in condenser microphones, the phantom power is used to power active circuitry housed within the Cloudlifter, boosting the signal gain on even passive microphones.
While the Cloudlifter draws on phantom power, it ensures that none passes through to the microphone itself. This is an incredibly important feature if you are using a ribbon microphone.
Ribbon microphones use a thin piece of metal (the ribbon) acting as a diaphragm and transducer. This element is extremely fragile and by adding phantom power into the mix, you run the risk of electrocuting the ribbon. This can result in ribbon stretching or blowing out in a worst-case scenario.
By mediating between the microphone and phantom power, the Cloudlifter ensures that no expensive breakages occur.
A Bit About the Cloudlifter
The Cloudlifter is manufactured in many different sizes. Whether you are looking for a small and simple 1 in 1 out mic activator (CL-1), or a bigger, rack-mountable activator with 4 ins and 4 outs, Cloudlifter has you covered.
Not only does Cloudlifter offer the ultra-transparent no-frills range, more recently they have branched out into activators that help shape the tone of your microphone. The Z range utilizes variable impedance control, high pass filtering, and variable gain control to give you the ability to sculpt a tone that suits you best.
The Z range, despite its higher price point, might be just what you need to get the best audio when recording on the road. While this may not be necessary for users of microphones that have these controls built-in, the addition of a CL-Z in your setup will provide a safety net for your audio quality even in the most adverse noise conditions.
Although many believe them to be the industry standard when it comes to mic activators, there are alternatives to the Cloudlifter that are worth considering.
In the pursuit of getting the most out of your gear, a deeper understanding of how the equipment works will go a long way. This has been a quick analysis of what lies under the cover of the Cloudlifter and having read this article, you should be well on your way to knowing how to properly utilize a mic activator.
While this article covers phantom power and its function in mic activators, this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to know more about just how phantom power works in a condenser microphone, and if they work without it, then “Can You Use a Condenser Mic Without Phantom Power?” is the article for you.