The CL-Z is a unique box about the size of a guitar pedal, and it will do wonders for your low output microphones. Many common issues experienced with dynamic and ribbon microphones can be cured with the CL-Z. With only a few switches and knobs, the CL-Z finds a way to do everything from hi-passing your sound, changing impedance, and adding up to 24 dB of clean gain to your signal thanks to its discrete JFET circuitry. The unit requires phantom power to do all of this, which will not pass through the device (helpful if you’re worried about accidentally sending phantom power to your vintage ribbon). The features found on the CL-Z can also be utilized on condenser microphones, so long as you can power them with an external power supply before they hit the box.
The Big Idea
The idea behind the CL-Z, and the whole Cloudlifter line for that matter, is the ability to add gain to your signal before it ever hits the preamp. To address the issue in the past, most engineers needed to purchase a preamp specifically made for low output microphones, and that can get pricey. Even then, you’ve got a preamp doing a lot of heavy lifting with your audio, and there’s usually a noise floor increase that comes with it. By adding a new gain stage to your path, the CL-Z will add a boost of 12 or 24 dB (which you select with the “Most or More” switch). This gain is extremely transparent; making sure any coloration you hear is coming from the preamp or microphone you’re using.
What Else Does It Do?
The additional features found on the CL-Z work hand-in-hand to provide a clean and useful sound. By including a variable impedance knob, and a switchable hi-pass filter, the user can match impedance with their microphones, and roll off low end as they see fit. The hi-pass filter works off of where the impedance knob is set, rolling off a bit more drastically at higher impedance levels. I was able to get some great results when dialing in higher impedance levels, even without the roll-off being engaged. For example, when the CL-Z was tested with ribbon mics, I would dial in 1,500 ohms (highest setting) and only roll it back when using the hi-pass and losing some low end that I needed.
The CL-Z is a must have for anyone with ribbon microphones in their collection. Being able to have control over the impedance alone adds a ton of value to your sound. On low output dynamics, you’re able to add enough gain that you don’t need to kill your preamp for a decent sound. If you get the chance to check out the CL-Z, or any other members of the Cloudlifter line, do it. You won’t be disappointed in the results, and may even start looking to add more if you use several low output microphones in a usual session.
For more information on the Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-Z, go check out their product page.