CL-1 Cloudlifter and Rattlesnake Cable Company XLR Cables

CL-1 Cloud Lifter

As we settle into the age of COVID-19, it goes without saying that the lives of musicians have shifted. Many of us continue to create and generate output during these uncertain times. Through live streaming, home recording, and podcasting, we adapt to the situation in front of us. This meant pivoting my focus towards recording at home and overcoming some technical barriers along the way. I typically outsource recording and mixing services from local studios. But adapting to our "new normal" and staying socially distant, I found this a learning opportunity. I've always strived to get "pro-sounding" recordings in my bedroom, and this was my chance to take things to the next level in my recordings. But this didn't come without some troubleshooting along the way.

What I'm working with:

To begin, let me tell you about my go-to recording setup and gear list. On most sources, such as guitar, piano, and percussion, I use a small diaphragm condenser microphone by sE Electronics called the sE8. This mic runs into my Heritage Audio mic pre (HA-73) and finally hits my Focusrite interface (Scarlett 18i20). I use Rattlesnake Cable Co. XLR cables throughout my entire chain. I also use Rattlesnake instrument cables if I'm going D.I. with a synth, bass, or guitar. The low capacitance of these cables makes for clean, clear recordings.

This signal path is the meat and potatoes of most of my home recordings. But now, I needed a microphone setup that would be ideal for recording vocals without completely draining my bank account. At first, I was contemplating purchasing a large-diaphragm condenser mic. After browsing my options and taking inventory of the gear I already had, I thought I would revisit an old friend: The Shure SM58. The 58 is a rugged workhorse on the stage and is occasionally used in my studio as a scratch vocal mic or even a talkback mic. But I hadn't given much thought to the SM58 as a practical means of getting a "professional" vocal sound. As someone inundated with music gear, I often look at a price tag of a piece of equipment and equate it to the value of the tool itself. In reality, the $2,000 condenser microphone isn't always the best choice for a particular voice. Occasionally the $100 mic packed away in your closet is the ideal microphone for your vocal. But enough speculation, it was time to put this theory to the test!

The Problem:

Upon getting levels and dialing in a sound, I could already tell things weren't working in my favor. My mic pre (the HA-73) is a particularly colorful preamp modeled after the old 1073 Neve pres. Because of this, I was experiencing a lot of noise at the level that I needed for my voice. This was an issue even after experimenting with various gain staging and when engaging/bypassing the loZ impedance switch on the unit. I couldn't seem to get any usable sounds. The SM58 is a dynamic microphone and has a relatively quiet output. As a result, I dialed up the gain, which pushed the input transformer on the pre and brought horrendous hiss into my signal as the noise floor was raised. I often seek out saturated tones with the HA-73, and with phantom-powered condenser mics, this is no problem. But this quiet microphone was not cutting it for me!

The solution:

Feeling frustrated and defeated, I decided to do some more research and began troubleshooting. I came across a product called the CL-1 Cloudlifter by Cloud Microphones. I've seen this little guy around the internet for a while now on various podcasts and in-home and professional studios. The royal blue enclosure of the CL-1 is hard to miss, yet I never truly understood its purpose until further investigation. The company claims the CL-1 "converts phantom power into as much as +25db of clean, clear gain into your passive microphones." I often see the Cloudlifter paired with a notoriously quiet dynamic mic called the SM7B. I thought I would bite the bullet and give the product a shot with my old SM58 to see if it might solve my gain staging issue.

CL-1 Cloudlifter with Rattlesnake Cable Company XLR Cables

Results:

Once the CL-1 arrived, I opened the box, and I was delighted by the robust and straightforward design. I like to color-code my mic cables and instrument cables to keep things tidy in my studio. I thought this to be a perfect opportunity to use two more Rattlesnake XLR cables to match the Cloudlifter. Rattlesnake Cable Co. now offers XLRs as short as 3 feet (as a standard offering) with an option for color weave, so of course, I went with blue. Additionally, you can create a custom XLR build request to get specific lengths for your needs.

One cable 4 feet in length (from the mic to the CL-1) and another 10' XLR (running from the CL-1 to my mic pre.) One feature of the Cloudlifter that I hadn't heard anyone talk about is the rubber feet and strap slot underneath the enclosure. This makes it so you can strap the unit directly to your mic stand or boom with the velcro strap provided. As suggested in the literature included in the box, I plugged the 58 into the CL-1 and powered on my HA-73 with the phantom power engaged, and the gain turned all the way down. While monitoring through my headphones, I simply sang into the mic, dialed up the gain, and was amazed! I'm a fan of products that do one thing and do it well, and the Cloudlifter does just that. Clean and clear signal without driving the noise floor through the roof. I can allow the Cloudlifter to do the heavy lifting with this new setup. It can drive the gain to my mic pre without overloading the transformers of the pre itself. This lets me get those saturated tones I often desire without completely obliterating the signal.

Final thoughts:

The CL-1 delivers exactly what Cloud Microphones claims it does. This product pulls the most out of your mics by converting 48V of phantom power into clean gain, particularly those with lower outputs. For around $150, the cloudlifter can convert your $100 mic into something worth having on a record. I now have my sights on the infamous studio and broadcast mic (the Shure SM7B). The SM7B is the big sibling to the SM58, and I'm eager to hear the results when this very quiet, transformerless mic is paired with the CL-1. Another pairing that I'm excited to try is the very affordable Fathead ribbon mic by Cascade Microphones. The phantom power from your interface or mic pre won't pass through the Cloudlifter. You can rest easy that it won't damage your delicate ribbon microphones while maximizing the potential of your microphone.

About the author

Max Dutcher is an electronic musician from Missoula, Montana who primarily creates experimental ambient and dance music. Max also is a valued team member at Rattlesnake Cable Company.

Follow Max:
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Matthew Webster
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Rattlesnake cables ended my search for the best suit at cables. I use a right angle, up and around the strap lock. Plus I sit in a recliner. So every other brand would start shorting out. All of them. I still have the first rattlesnake cable I purchased. And it still works flawlessly.
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These seem like the last cables I will every buy. I bought one to check out then immediately bought 3 more. I'm a gigging player, about 4-5 times a week, as well as running a studio. I need cables that I can count on and these are them. I'm not worried about accidentally sitting a chair leg on one... Read
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I have been dealing with Hank and the rattlesnake team for 6 yrs, the products are top notch tools every instrument player serious about their tone should have! I have ordered two 15 foot instrument cables in custom blue as well as a matching speaker cable. The quality is outstanding my 6 yr old... Read
Steve Sledge
Matthew Webster
6/15/2021
Rattlesnake cables ended my search for the best suit at cables. I use a right angle, up and around the strap lock. Plus I sit in a recliner. So every other brand would start shorting out. All of them. I still have the first rattlesnake cable I purchased. And it still works flawlessly.
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Steve Sledge
Mike Levy
5/28/2022
These seem like the last cables I will every buy. I bought one to check out then immediately bought 3 more. I'm a gigging player, about 4-5 times a week, as well as running a studio. I need cables that I can count on and these are them. I'm not worried about accidentally sitting a chair leg on one and having it give out. The ends are put together really well. These seem like great people making great cables. I've already started telling all of my friends about them!
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Steve Sledge
Steve Sledge
3/8/2022
I have been dealing with Hank and the rattlesnake team for 6 yrs, the products are top notch tools every instrument player serious about their tone should have! I have ordered two 15 foot instrument cables in custom blue as well as a matching speaker cable. The quality is outstanding my 6 yr old cable still works and looks as good as it did the day it arrived. Customer service as it should be! You have questions? Ask they will provide with the answers you seek. I also just recently purchased some of their 3’ patch cables for a new board I am building. As long as this musician is in need of cables , Rattlesnake will be my goto builder it said cables. The prices are more than reasonable for the high quality product Hank is producing. Noiseless, consistent & most important no tone sucking. They look good, they sound better and as musicians we all know when you sound better you play better. Thanks to Hank and the crew at rattlesnake cables in MT. Play it loud I do Steve
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