If you’re reading Tape Op reviews and love recording with ribbon and dynamic mics as much as I do, then you’re probably already familiar with Cloudlifters. Also known as “mic activators,” they’re essentially mic preamps that go between the microphone and the “main” preamp. Instead of outputting line level, they output boosted mic level, and are typically powered by 48V phantom power via the “main” preamp. Cloud Microphones essentially invented this product category when they released the CL-1 in 2009 [Tape Op #85]. They’re a powerful tool, allowing nearly any preamp to open more detail (and less noise) from passive dynamic and ribbon mics. As Cloud has expanded their own range with the CL-2 (stereo), CL-Z (variable impedance) [#115], and the CL-Zi (adds an active DI) [#123], other brands have entered the market with their own unique takes. These other boxes usually are introduced to me as "it’s like a Cloudlifter, but…" and then whatever their unique spin is. So, here’s my description of the latest from Cloud: “It’s a Cloudlifter, but this time it’s built around a transformer.” Cloud took their collected experience with microphone activators, worked with Cinemag to design an ideal nickel-core transformer, and put all that into a new metal box. Physically, it’s a little bit larger than the CL-1, and sonically it’s noticeably larger as well. If you enjoy how transformers sound – and I do – then you’ll probably dig how this box sounds; it's adding a little extra mojo. Lately, I’m obsessed with using the AKG D112 to mic my piano. That mic has a warm, pokey presence that pushes the piano through without ever sounding too bright. This week, I was doubling the bass guitar by playing low notes on our piano and tried placing the CL-X between the D112 and my CAPI VP28 preamp [Tape Op #95]. The CL-X is essential for this mic to sound useful in this context, exposing detail with a punch and weight that felt absolutely perfect on top of the bass guitar. I use Cloudlifters on most of my sessions, and always pack them into my backpack when I have to travel to other studios. Like the rest of their products, CL-X feels as if it’s built to last, housed in an indestructible metal box. The CL-X is now my favorite Cloudlifter, and I look forward to using it for years to come.

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

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