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Review

Cloudlifter CL-Zi Activator

Issue #63

So, why do I need a DI Box when I already have an amplifier? Well, there may be times when you can’t take or won’t need your full amplifier. I, for example, do plenty of gigs with In-Ear monitors only. My amplifier rig stays at home, but I would still possibly need to convert my ‘unbalanced’ bass signal to D.I to send to ‘Front Of House PA’.
Dan Veall

PROS:

Built to a high specification

All metal casing

Phantom power

CONS:

Relatively easy to have the controls knocked by accident.

SPECS:

For detailed specification and more information, please visit:

cloudmicrophones.com

Guitar Interactive star rating: 3.5 stars

Cloudlifter CL-Zi Activator

MSRP (UK) £349 (US) $449


Cloudlifter CL-Zi Activator

Cloudlifter Mic Activators are used by thousands of professionals all over the world to improve the quality of their microphone's sound. The Cloudlifter Zi incorporates this patented technology and variable impedance control into an active DI for guitar players, bass players, keyboard players and more. Here is Dan Veall with more information.

Maybe one of the most overlooked yet useful pieces of equipment in out bass playing gig bag has got to be the humble “DI Box”. This little device you might not use all the time but when you need it, you’ll thank yourself for leaving it carefully packed away with all your other road gear.

If you are new to bass, well then you may have stopped in the first paragraph asking what a Di Box is! Allow me to elaborate!

Firstly, you probably already have a “DI unit” and not realise it. You know when you play a gig and the stage engineer comes over looking for your D.I. output on your amp? D.I. stands for ‘Direct Injection’. Without going into the geeky side of how the system works, it’s is a method for sending very small audio signals (instrument, microphone or line level) over very long cable distances. The transmission side of things (in your amp) sends your bass signal and a 180 degree out of phase version of your signal down a three core shielded audio cable. This is called a Balanced Line. The receiver end of Direct Injection combines the two signals using a differential amplifier. The (simplified) net effect is that any noise picked up along the cable length from lights, motors and other electrical noise generators will actually be rejected. This method is more effective than a standard ‘unbalanced’ shield instrument cable. Handy eh!

You’ll see the three pin XLR socket on a number of devices.  For us bassists, Preamplifier pedals often have them as do even some basses with a DI output built in!

So, why do I need a DI Box when I already have an amplifier? Well, there may be times when you can’t take or won’t need your full amplifier. I, for example, do plenty of gigs with In-Ear monitors only. My amplifier rig stays at home, but I would still possibly need to convert my ‘unbalanced’ bass signal to D.I to send to ‘Front Of House PA’.

Another example would be in the rather unfortunate event that something happens to your amp. A fuse blows inside or something more serious. Being able to whip out a D.I. Box and send your bass straight to the PA can be a handy disaster recovery.

Ok, so having prefaced the review with a bit of background detail, let's get on to why this particular unit is getting the full-front and close-ups: The average D.I. Box does just one thing, hopefully well. It converts a signal to the ‘balanced line’ described above. Some are passive (e.g. no batteries) some are active (uses a powered circuit to provide extra amplification or functionality).

However, sometimes there is a mismatch between the type of signal going in and that which is required to go out to the connected destination.

The Cloudlifter CL-Zi addresses some of those issues and adds in useful functionality for musicians and engineers alike.

Let's get on with the details.

First up, we have an active D.I. box that uses high-quality FET electronics to handle your bass tone. You don’t need an external power supply or batteries as this model’s Phantom Power suitability means one less thing to worry about. Phantom Power is provided by the destination device - often you’ll see a button on your mixer or recording device that provides this function. Power is sent down the connected XLR cable.

Next up on the right-hand side, if you are unable to provide a decent signal strength through the CL-Zi, well, the ultra clean preamplifier inside allows up to 25dB gain boost via a three-way slider switch. This can be particularly useful for overcoming noise problems at the destination by providing a much stronger input signal to it.

A ground lift switch is commonplace on DI Boxes and this unit has one too which could be just the ticket if you are suffering from additional hum and noise.

Moving on to the middle top of the all-metal construction casing. A big dial!

The dial is multifunctional in conjunction with the slider switch to the left of it.

 

First up, with the slider in the up position, the dial controls the impedance of the input section that our bass (or microphone) is connected to. For passive instruments such as my vintage precision bass, this function allows us to adjust the amount of ‘load’ on the pickup. I am endeavouring to keep this simple, suffice to say that this has a bearing on the way that the pickup and related electronics react to your playing but also the resultant tone or sound. Plugging a low impedance pickup into a very high impedance device will not load the pickup so much and thus a clear and dynamic sound will result. Lowering this high impedance down and down further will affect the sound as I mentioned above. It is definitely something you’ll want to try in front of you and actually quite difficult to demonstrate “over the internet”.

Secondly, with a flick of the switch, a useful option is engaged. A High Pass Filter. This feature allows the player to progressively roll away the bottom end frequencies as the knob is advanced. I would say this was particularly useful for helping to remove plosives in singing or spoken passages whilst using a microphone connected, or for bass, taking out some of the ‘sub frequencies’ from the sound if they are overpowering the mix. The HPF starts rolling off at 150hz (all the way anti-clockwise) and at the top of the dial, the curve meets 15Khz!

The idea is great, though, in reality, I think this is where I question the flexibility for bassists. 150hz roll off still seems to be a little high especially if you are dropping a five string bass into the mix that has a low B string fundamental of just over 30hertz. (Yes I do appreciate that for the most part, the second and third harmonics will be more important.) On seeking out details, I find the HPF is a very gentle 6db/Oct slope and thus I partially retract my statement as that means around -12dB at around 37hz, right? So actually as a way of taming sub frequencies, this could be good, even though that isn’t specifically the role of the function.

In the absence of tech details it’s something I would want to look in to, but using the DI through our demonstration amp, settings lower on the dial were certainly way more preferable to the higher offerings however, you might want to use this as an effect and thus stripping away all the low end could be interesting!

My other reservation is that for a DI box that could find it’s way on stage; well I’m a bit worried about the knob. Could it get kicked? Bashed? Maybe an inset, flush control, even under a guard would worry me less. What do you think?

The CL-Zi I feel is more specifically useful for the likes of Microphones when recording instruments but you may find that the additional specifications of the CL-Zi will find it’s use in your bass arsenal.

For more information, please visit:

Cloud Microphones

 

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