The (non)Sense of a Cloudlifter

The Cloudlifter CL-1  is seen as the holy grail for good vocal recordings when you use a dynamic microphone.
When you buy a Shure sm7b, this is a must, or the microphone won’t work.
Or so they say. But is this true? I have my doubts.

Let’s put it to the test with this much used configuration.
The entire test can also be seen in the video below on the White Noise Studio youtube channel.

Play Video

Testing the Cloudlifter CL-1

I will test the Cloudlifter with the SM7B because this is the most used scenario right now.

For that, I soldered a splitter cable. 

You plug the female side in the Shure SM7b
The two other male leads go into the Cloudlifter CL-1 which connects to the interface and the other one goes directly to the interface. 

This is an objective way to listen what the impact of the cloudlifter is on the sound and nois  of the shure sm7b, a few soundcards and some microphones.  

You cloud argue that having 2 different preamps into the mic wil change the sound, and I agree on that. But it will still be the same sound on both inputs, so it’s a valid method to test.

splitter cable cloudlifter shure sm7b

I tested first with some white noise played back via a speaker. 

The interface used was an RME Babyface Pro FS, with internal gain set to match the cloudlifter boost, which is around 25dB.
The result souned the same and a phase invert test sounded like the white noise, only a lot softer.
This means there’s still a bit of volume difference, and the sound is the same.

A second test with the Shure SM7b and the cloudlifter setup was to record my own voice. 

Again, I couldn’t hear any difference.
I also did a a noisefloor test, which was done by recording silence and a very soft sound.
The files where normalised to peak, to keep comparisons fair.

The noise floor of the cloudlifter was marginally higher, but the direct signal had more interference happening.
Keep in mind that this was absurdly gain boosted and with normal use you can’t hear a difference.

Testing with a Scarlett 2i2

I also tested with the connect the cheapest and oldest soundcard I have around.
That is a Focusrite scarlett 2i2 first generation from 2011.

Now I have to play back a clip through the speaker.
This is because the focusrite only can enable phantom power on both channels at the same time and I don’t want to create any issues by frying my mic.

Now I found that with the scarlett and this clip, the cloudlifter adds a bit of high end, or maybe I should say the scarlett takes away some of the high end when used directly.

With a noise test the cloudlifter even seems a tad noisier then the direct boost with the scarlett, interesting.

I also tested with a Sennheiser md421 and a sm58 to see if it makes any difference.

Both microphones were recorded through the babyface for this test.
There was basically no difference. 

So my conclusion is, with the setups I used, that the cloudlifter isn’t really worth it for creator type of voice recordings.
Maybe it will be useful for you if you have an interface with preamps which cannot do much boost.

All audio examples can be found in the video.