Music Gear Review: Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL -Zi Instrume nt/Mic Activator

Cloud® Microphones’ Cloudlifter® CL-Zi Instrument/Mic Activator® is designed to be inserted into the mic line between your microphone and mic pre-amp. The CL-Zi adds a CineMag 12:1 step-down transformer so besides providing up to 25db of gain, the Zi also doubles as a variable impedance active direct box for guitar, bass or keyboards.

The CL-Zi has a single Zi control knob that continuously varies its input impedance from 150-ohms to 15k-ohms to load or unload the impedance of a connected microphone or the instrument direct input.

When the .-inch DI is used for guitar or bass, varying the load impedance on the instrument’s passive pickups changes both the tone, feel and playing dynamics of the instrument. The CL-Zi’s new 6dB/octave high pass filter works in conjunction with the Zi knob for a tone shaping capability I found very useful when recording any source.

My first test was using CL-Zi as an active direct box for my Fender Strat guitar. The More or Max gain positions came in handy when changing the load impedance with the Zi knob. I found the range between the 7k-ohm and 350-ohm knob positions to offer the best range of different variations of clean, direct guitar sounds. With the HPF switched in, rotating the Zi knob works the same except the low frequencies are reduced as well.

The Cloudlifter CL-Zi works well with low impedance mics and the HPF feature worked great to reduce proximity effect on old mics without roll-off switches. I could adjust the high frequency amount, gain, and low frequency content in different ways. I am adjusting the source’s “size” and dynamic-ness or the relative ease with which the mic reproduces the transients from drums and percussion instruments.

The Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-Zi Instrument/Mic Activator is a “must have” here in my studio and I think everyone should have at least one or two (for stereo). It sells for $379 MAP.


Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine. barryrudolph.com