In the recording industry, there is a long list of iconic microphones that every experienced recording engineer has at least heard of. The RCA 44-A, is one of these. Built in the 1930s, and known for its smooth sound and beautiful appearance, the RCA 44-A is an absolute classic. Cloud Microphones looks to build on that classic with the “something old, something new” approach. The Cloud 44-A is a long ribbon design that is supposed to follow the exact specs of the RCA 44-A with modern materials. The Cloud’s body resembles the styling of the RCA’s, but it is more slender and light for a mic this size. One of the major differences from many ribbon mics is that the Cloud 44-A is an active design that utilizes their own “Cloudlifter” technology. This gives a major clean boost in output that greatly improves performance, then leaves your ribbon mic eating phantom power for breakfast. Preamps with even a modest amount of gain should drive this mic just fine. For ribbons and some dynamic mic applications, I use and love both the Cloudlifter Zi [Tape Op #123] and the Crimson Audio Mogain [#110] preamp booster. Having this technology built right into the microphone is a welcome design. The Cloud 44-A’s 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response is also expanded from the original RCA 44-A. The Cloud has two toggle-switched settings: Music for full range and Voice for a reduced low end.

I have not had the opportunity to use an original RCA 44-A, but I do use ribbon mics often. The mainstay ribbons in my mic closet are the Coles 4038 [#15], the beyerdynamic M 160 [#60], and the Cascade Fat Head [#55]. I have owned and used others, but these are the mics that have stayed in my collection. For this review, I mostly compared it against the Coles 4038 and the M 160 on various sources. The Cloud 44-A has an incredibly natural-sounding midrange. On several sources I didn’t feel like it was giving me a sound, so much as it was just there – what was in the room is what was coming out of the speaker.

During the process of my comparisons, I really learned a lot about my current ribbon mics when comparing them to the Cloud 44-A. It was pretty much the same theme on every source. When compared to the Cloud’s extreme midrange detail and tight low and top end, the Coles 4038 had a slightly scooped, extremely smooth midrange, with more high end sparkle and extended lows. Not that the Cloud doesn’t have nice high end or solid low end – it’s just different than the 4038’s… almost like an inverse response from each other on sources like acoustic guitar. I had never considered the Coles as scooped in the mids until I compared it to the Cloud 44-A. The beyerdynamic M 160, has much more of a bite in the midrange than the others and does not have the same level of neutrality that the Cloud 44-A possesses. On a vocal, things were much more similar sounding until the performer got very close. The Coles exhibited more low end boominess, whereas the Cloud was much tighter – especially with its Voice setting engaged. On trumpet the Cloud 44-A was stellar. It was like the trumpet was right there in my face without the squinting and pain a trumpet directly in your face would typically cause! I can see the Cloud 44-A as a mainstay for brass and other midrange heavy instruments. Cloud offers a microphone with vintage style that will impress clients, sound great, and comes in around $1500 – definitely worth a listen.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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