In studios and onstage, there are many ways to control a direct injection signal from an acoustic source—from basic DI boxes to board preamps to equalization. But few fixes are more simple or satisfying than the Cloudlifter Zi, a phantom-powered preamp/DI that excites the signal of your acoustic guitar (or just about any other microphone or instrument) and boosts level and clarity while staying dead quiet. It also offers an impressive range of tone colors from a control set that’s intuitive and a delight to use by feel.
There’s inadequate space here to describe the engineering underpinnings in detail. But part of the magic is under the hood, where a hand-wound CineMag transformer kicks instrument-level signals in the pants before they hit the preamp. The combination of the two adds smooth headroom. But dialing in higher impedance is like putting a magnifying glass on an acoustic guitar—adding low-end clarity and body, and airy detail in high frequencies. You can also get creative, less natural tones by combining the high pass filter and various impedance signals. Indeed, this sturdy little box conceals a trove of unexpected signal enhancing and tone sculpting tools.
Test gear: Martin 00-15 with L.R. Baggs Element electronics, Fender Jazz Bass, Apogee Duet audio interface, Mackie PA.