Focusrite 2i2 Question on Mic Preamps

newb3fan

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1,355
I have one of the newer generations units. I'm finding I have to crank the input gain for a dynamic microphone (Shure SM7B) to get it to an an appropriate input level. I'm like at 8+ out of 10 on the knob, which is unusual for me and I'm wondering if others have a similar experience with this unit. I know it's an entry level unit and is this just a factor of that?? Thanks.
 

Dominik

Member
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553
It's a known issue with that interface and mic combination.

An inline preamp like a Cloudlifter which runs off phantom power will fix the problem.

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2,144
Yep the SM7b is a notoriously low output mic. It wants about 60dB of gain, and many bus powered interfaces can’t deliver that cleanly. So you want either an external mic pre with more gain or an in-line gain boost like the cloudlifter.


Triton Audio makes a similar device called the Fethead which I like with the SM7b specifically. It’s shaped like a barrel so it fits directly into the mic — no need for extra cables. It’s a little cheaper too.
 

newb3fan

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1,355
hmmm...go figure. So an external mic pre is a better solution than an upgraded interface which would also solve the problem? Thanks for the insights!
 
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2,144
hmmm...go figure. So an external mic pre is a better solution than an upgraded interface which would also solve the problem? Thanks for the insights!
Yep there are several solutions to the not enough gain problem.

There are some interfaces which can deliver enough gain with their built-in mic pres -- the Apogee Element series have about 75dB of input gain, as does the RME Babyface.

An external (outboard) preamp would also solve the problem, but generally speaking you'd buy one because you were looking for certain tonal characteristics that the pre imparts on the signal. Interface preamps are typically clean and clear -- whatever the mic is giving you is what you get. Certain types of external pres can add a weight, or sheen, or other adjectives to the incoming signal. They can also offer more routing options than an interface, like inserts for an analog compressor and/or EQ. Good preamps tend to be $$$, but it's worth having a couple decent mic pres for a serious recordist.

The in-line gain booster like the Cloudlifter or Fethead doesn't do a whole lot to color the signal, just adds gain. So they are a cheap and useful thing to have around. Sometimes even expensive outboard mic pres don't have enough gain and they need some help on the way in.
 

newb3fan

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1,355
Thanks for the replies everyone. I went with a cloudlifter after reading a few reviews on it. ~Mike
 

bagpipe

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1,890
I have a Scarlett 8i6 and have always had this issue when using any of my condenser mics - I always have to crank the gain to at least 8, sometimes 9. After Googling the Cloudlifter, I noticed the Triton Audio FetHead. Looks like a similar (and cheaper) alternative to the Cloudlifter. However, on the reading the blurb on the webpage, it says that it provides improved sound for "ribbon and dynamic" mics - no mention of condenser mics. So it wont help with condenser mics?
 

newb3fan

Member
Messages
1,355
I have a Scarlett 8i6 and have always had this issue when using any of my condenser mics - I always have to crank the gain to at least 8, sometimes 9. After Googling the Cloudlifter, I noticed the Triton Audio FetHead. Looks like a similar (and cheaper) alternative to the Cloudlifter. However, on the reading the blurb on the webpage, it says that it provides improved sound for "ribbon and dynamic" mics - no mention of condenser mics. So it wont help with condenser mics?

It's a good question. The other one I also have is do I need to toggle the 48v phantom power button with the Cloudlifter? The way the unit is described it "converts phantom power to a whole bunch of clean gain..."
 

newb3fan

Member
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1,355
I have a Scarlett 8i6 and have always had this issue when using any of my condenser mics - I always have to crank the gain to at least 8, sometimes 9. After Googling the Cloudlifter, I noticed the Triton Audio FetHead. Looks like a similar (and cheaper) alternative to the Cloudlifter. However, on the reading the blurb on the webpage, it says that it provides improved sound for "ribbon and dynamic" mics - no mention of condenser mics. So it wont help with condenser mics?

The Sweetwater review I just watched said that the Cloudlifter will not work with condenser mics because they need the phantom power....
 

slayerbear17

Member
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4,373
That's one thing that bit me when I first started this home recording. Input gain was always a problem when I started using Dynamic mics. Picking up a cheap used 4-6 channel mixer fixed that.
 
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2,144
I have a Scarlett 8i6 and have always had this issue when using any of my condenser mics - I always have to crank the gain to at least 8, sometimes 9. After Googling the Cloudlifter, I noticed the Triton Audio FetHead. Looks like a similar (and cheaper) alternative to the Cloudlifter. However, on the reading the blurb on the webpage, it says that it provides improved sound for "ribbon and dynamic" mics - no mention of condenser mics. So it wont help with condenser mics?
Triton makes a version that allows phantom power to pass through to the mic -- that's what you would need for a condenser, since the mic will need phantom to run. Same with the Cloudlifter.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...thead_phantom_fethead_in_line_preamp_for.html
 
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andrekp

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6,539
Some of you need to do some reading on different kinds of mics and how they work.

the “problem” here is not the Focusrite, it’s simply a matter of how much signal the mic sends out and how much gain needs to be applied to it to give a good strength signal in your computer. One option is to crank up the gain on the Focusrite, but as with ANY gain device you may find yourself increasing noise at higher levels of gain. Mic pres are designed to have an optimal range of low-noise gain. If you go above that range, you aren’t getting noise along with the gain.

on low output mics, like the one here, a better solution is to have TWO gain stages, both operating optimally, rather than one cranked up high. One option is another mic preamp, but it’ll be more expense and a great one will cost more than the Focusrite. Another option is something like a cloudlifter which just sits in line and adds a bunch of gain to the signal before the Focusrite. Using it allows you to keep the gain on the Focusrite much lower and thus less noisy.

phantom power is another issue. It is simply a DC voltage that rides along on your XLR mic cables to supply mics or preamps upstream with power, should the need it. The Cloudlifter needs power, so the Focusrite would send it 48v phantom power with the switch on the Focusrite. But since the Cloudlifer is ALSO a preamp, it may need to also send phantom power to a mic upstream of it. I assume that the Cloudlifter has a phantom power switch and that’s what it’s for (I don’t own one and don’t care to look it up - I’m going by descriptions here).

mics have different signal levels. All of them. Some dynamics are fine by themselves, some need a bit of help. Same with condenser and ribbon mics. And some also need some form of phantom power.

do some reading.
 

bagpipe

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Thanks for your (slightly snarky) reply. I have done some reading on this issue. I understand that different mics, and different mic types, have differing output levels.

The point I and the OP was trying to raise was that on the Scarlett interfaces in particular, the input gain knob has to be turned up almost to the max to get a useable signal level from any of the different mics that I use. For some of my mics, the gain knob is maxed out. I know this is the not the case with other interfaces that I have used in the past.

This leads me to believe that mic preamps in the Scarlett interfaces do not provide enough gain ie for a "standard" mic, I would expect the gain knob to be somewhere in the middle of its range.
 

andrekp

Member
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6,539
Thanks for your (slightly snarky) reply. I have done some reading on this issue. I understand that different mics, and different mic types, have differing output levels.

The point I and the OP was trying to raise was that on the Scarlett interfaces in particular, the input gain knob has to be turned up almost to the max to get a useable signal level from any of the different mics that I use. For some of my mics, the gain knob is maxed out. I know this is the not the case with other interfaces that I have used in the past.

This leads me to believe that mic preamps in the Scarlett interfaces do not provide enough gain ie for a "standard" mic, I would expect the gain knob to be somewhere in the middle of its range.

This quote suggests you don't know:

I have a Scarlett 8i6 and have always had this issue when using any of my condenser mics - I always have to crank the gain to at least 8, sometimes 9. After Googling the Cloudlifter, I noticed the Triton Audio FetHead. Looks like a similar (and cheaper) alternative to the Cloudlifter. However, on the reading the blurb on the webpage, it says that it provides improved sound for "ribbon and dynamic" mics - no mention of condenser mics. So it wont help with condenser mics?

That last couple of sentences would not have been written if you knew what I assumed you did not.

I use plenty of "standard" mics on a Focusrite and they work fine without having to increase the gain too much at all. BUT, I also DON'T use any mics that are notorious for low signal levels (by chance, not purposefully). It may, in fact, be that the total available gain on a Focusrite is less than the total available gain on another brand, but that's not a "problem" it's simply a feature - it's how things are. The proper response is to address that by providing another gain stage in some way (assuming the Focusrite is a keeper). I would ASSUME using something like a ribbon mic or a SM7B would require another gain stage. I would not be surprised when it happened and I certainly wouldn't be blaming the interface when it did.

It's about knowledge. Don't take it personally, learn.
 

taco-man

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
3,309
I thought the Focusrites have phantom power.... mine does.
Yes, the phantom power from the Focusrite is used by a Cloudlifter or Fethead device to boost the gain for low output mics.

However, as @marmalade cream mentioned, the Cloudlifter or standard Fethead won't pass through the phantom power that a condenser mic needs. Therefore the "Fethead Phantom" seems to be ideal for @bagpipe . I personally wasn't aware the phantom version of that product existed until now. Thanks Marmalade Cream!
 

bagpipe

Member
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1,890
Yes, the phantom power from the Focusrite is used by a Cloudlifter or Fethead device to boost the gain for low output mics.

However, as @marmalade cream mentioned, the Cloudlifter or standard Fethead won't pass through the phantom power that a condenser mic needs. Therefore the "Fethead Phantom" seems to be ideal for @bagpipe . I personally wasn't aware the phantom version of that product existed until now. Thanks Marmalade Cream!


Yes, that looks exactly like what I need. Thanks. I found this kinda rambling Youtube video demonstrating the Fethead Phantom with a condenser mic. Funnily enough, I sound exactly like this guy in this video (born and raised in Scotland).

 

Tootone

Member
Messages
6,543
Yes, the phantom power from the Focusrite is used by a Cloudlifter or Fethead device to boost the gain for low output mics.

However, as @marmalade cream mentioned, the Cloudlifter or standard Fethead won't pass through the phantom power that a condenser mic needs. Therefore the "Fethead Phantom" seems to be ideal for @bagpipe . I personally wasn't aware the phantom version of that product existed until now. Thanks Marmalade Cream!

So what I mean is.... use the focusrite phantom direct with the Shure SM7B.

I'm no expert, but maybe thats all OP needs to do... i.e. turn the phantom on.
 

andrekp

Member
Messages
6,539
Oh the irony.

i never claimed to know anything about the Cloudlifter, aside from it being a gain stage. It is quite clear that a number of people in this thread don’t understand very much about how mics work based on the questions asked and the answers given. All I’m saying is that a little bit of basic reading would go much further than a single answer to a single question.
 




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