4 Best Inline Microphone Preamps for Ribbon Mics

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see our full disclosure here.

Got yourself a ribbon mic? Then you need one of the best inline microphone preamps!

If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you already know that ribbon microphones need a little more love than other microphone types. However, the truth is ALL dynamic microphones could benefit from an inline microphone preamp.

That’s why we’ll be looking at 4 of the best inline microphone preamps today.

Each one of these preamps is MUCH more portable than the preamps used back in the golden age of ribbon microphones.

They’re also WAY more affordable…

That being said, let’s explore our options and hopefully, you’ll find the inline microphone preamp you’re looking for. Let’s get started!

What is an inline microphone preamp and do I need one?

If you’ve got a passive ribbon microphone (especially a vintage one), I can almost guarantee that you need an inline microphone preamp.

If you’ve got a modern active ribbon microphone (works with Phantom Power), then you can probably skip out on the inline microphone preamp.

However, few people ever consider getting one for typical dynamic (moving-coil) microphones which are also passive.

The only type of microphone that wouldn’t benefit is a condenser microphone.

So, what does an inline microphone preamp actually do?

In short, an inline microphone preamp BOOSTS your signal (usually around +20dB), but the difference with this type of gain is that it’s “CLEAN”.

In other words, an inline microphone preamp improves your signal-to-noise ratio.

It’s pretty amazing when you HEAR it in action!

That being said, you now understand why those vintage ribbon microphones need that extra bit of love… They’re SUPER noisy!

And like I said, some dynamic microphones are also pretty noisy.

For example, the Shure SM7B could definitely use an inline microphone preamp!

Here are some other benefits of using inline microphone preamps…

  • Increased frequency response
  • Increased dynamic range
  • Increased output impedance
  • Improved signal-to-noise ratio

Now, let’s move on to the actual products we’ll be looking at today…

Triton Audio FetHead Active In-Line Microphone Preamp

Triton Audio has definitely built a solid reputation over the years!

The FetHead is their original inline microphone preamp, but has also inspired an entire family of portable gain/power-related devices.

TRITON AUDIO FetHead in-Line Microphone Preamp

I highly encourage you to check out the LINEUP!!

But for now, let’s talk about the original FetHead

  • +27dB of “clean” gain
  • Balanced XLR input/output
  • Powered by 48V Phantom Power
  • Protects ribbon microphones

You’ll get plenty of gain with the FetHead, but just keep in mind that you won’t be able to control how much (it’s fixed at +27dB).

That shouldn’t be an issue for most ribbon and dynamic microphone though!

If you need a FetHead for a noisy condenser microphone though, check out the FetHead Phantom…

Both of these devices are powered by Phantom Power, so make sure to have that.

However, the regular FetHead actually protects your ribbon microphone from Phantom Power despite requiring it to operate.

You can also think of it as a surge protector for those delicate ribbon mics!

If that’s all you needed though, Triton Audio also makes the Phantom Blocker.

sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite Active In-Line Microphone Preamp

Just like the FetHead, the sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite uses FET transistors.

It’s also one of the most affordable inline microphone preamps on the market!

sE Electronics - Dynamite Active in-Line Preamp

However, one of the features that sets the DM1 Dynamite apart from the others is its ability to provide consistent gain regardless of the connected amplifier’s load.

That’s because it has a dedicated buffer!

Here’s what else it has to offer…

  • +28dB of “clean” gain
  • Balanced XLR input/output
  • Powered by 48V Phantom Power
  • Transformerless design

Besides looking awesome, the DM1 Dynamite does have some pretty great features.

I get the feeling they were trying to compete with the FetHead by providing +1dB more of gain the competition. Pretty clever!

However, it actually does perform better when it comes to reducing the noise floor.

That’s why I’d personally go with the DM1 over the FetHead.

That being said, Triton Audio does have more products to fill the gaps that sE Electronics cannot. The DM1 definitely won’t work with noisy condenser microphones.

If you just need an affordable, high-quality inline microphone preamp for your ribbon mics though (and possible dynamic mics), then look no further!

Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-Z Mic Activator

I could’ve talked about the Cloudlifter CL-1, but I don’t think it’s their best product!

I’d still personally go with the sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite over the CL-1.

However, Cloud Microphones has one of the most interesting active inline microphone preamps on the market… the Cloudlifter CL-Z.

Cloud Microphones Cloudlifter CL-Z Mic Activator with Vari-Z and Vari-HPF

The Vari-Z knob allows you to adjust the impedance to perfectly match the microphone you’re working with (to get the most out of it, of course).

They even provide charts for both ribbon AND dynamic microphones to get you started!

Here’s what else this powerful inline microphone preamp can do…

  • Variable Impedance
  • Variable Gain
  • High-Pass Filter
  • JFET Transistors
  • +25dB of “clean” gain

So there you go, it’s a fully-loaded inline microphone preamp!

To be honest, I’d definitely go for this one if you have the budget. It’s just not as portable as the others, but it’s not any bigger than a guitar pedal.

Another worth noting about the inline microphone preamps that Cloud Microphones produces is that they make some with multiple inputs.

For example, you also have the CL-2 (2-channels) and the CL-4 (4-channels).

The CL-2 can really come in handy when you record using a matching pair of stereo microphones. The CL-4… Maybe if you’re a real ribbon microphone enthusiast!

Soyuz Microphones Launcher Analog In-Line Microphone Preamp

Speaking of unique inline microphone preamps…

The Soyuz Microphones Launcher is the only one that ISN’T transparent.

Soyuz Microphones Launcher - Analog In-Line Microphone Preamp and Activator for Dynamic and Ribbon Mics

In other words, The Launcher is the only analog inline microphone preamp on this list that is specifically designed to “colour” your sound (in a VERY good way).

Here’s what it’s got under the hood…

  • +26dB of “clean” gain
  • Custom hand-wound transformer

That being said, The Launcher isn’t the best option for noise reduction.

Actually, I wouldn’t even recommend it if you’re using a ribbon microphone. It’s meant to be used with dynamic (moving-coil) microphones to make them sound more “vintage”.

I think that’s a pretty interesting tool to have around!

Summary: 4 Best Inline Microphone Preamps

So, there you have it… The only inline microphone preamps you could ever need!

Do you have a favourite? Let us know in the comment!

If you ask me though, I’d say the Cloud Microphones CL-Z is the most impressive inline microphone preamp on this list. The Soyuz Microphones Launcher is also a really interesting box for dynamic-only microphones.

If you’re just looking for the best value though, get the sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite!

You can even consult this table if you’re still hesitating…

Triton Audio FetHeadsE Electronics DM1 DynamiteCloud Microphones CL-ZSoyuz Microphones Launcher
Clean Boost+27dB+28dB+25dB+26dB
Transistor TypeFETFETJFETFET
FeaturesN/AN/A– Vari-Z Control
– Gain Control
– High-Pass Filter
N/A

I hope you now understand how important an inline microphone preamp can be for your overall sound quality.

Have any questions? Drop me a line and I’ll get back to you ASAP!!

Sources

https://www.tritonaudio.com/fethead

https://www.seelectronics.com/dm1-dynamite-active-inline-preamp

https://www.cloudmicrophones.com/cloudlifter-cl-z

https://soyuzmicrophones.com/launcher

Leave a Comment