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22 MARCH 2021

written by Mike

FetHead Gain Booster

for SM7B

Beginner podcasters are best off with a simple USB microphone. One that you connect to your computer and are ready to go.

That’s not just my opinion; many people who were starting their streaming channels or podcasts grabbed a Blue Mic (Yeti or Snowball) or a similar USB microphone.

There was one problem, though – these are condenser microphones.

Let’s back up a little bit.

There are two main types of microphones – condensers and dynamics and the difference is how these microphones capture sound.

Dynamic uses a voice coil and magnet, and it is a plug and play microphone; they don’t need external power to run.

Condenser microphones use capacitors, a thin membrane and a diaphragm that vibrate.

Condensers need external power such as batteries or phantom power to work supplied by an audio interface, 48V.

What we have to understand about condenser microphones is that usually, these are sensitive mics. They will pick up every little detail around you.

They are awesome for studio recording, but for home – well, a lot of people vented their frustrations about how everything from neighbours, cars or whatever was picked up by the microphone.

Hence why I always recommended dynamic microphones, even as USB. These are less sensitive, usually have cardioid polar pattern and overall are best for voice recording at home.

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Stop!

What does it have to do with the FetHead gain booster?

We’ll get to it in a second.

With time, podcasters, YouTubers and online personalities started to upgrade their gear and moved from USB mics to standard XLR microphones, the ones that need an audio interface to work.

Of course, the winner and the most popular mic was Shure SM7B – the legendary vocal microphone used by broadcasters and studios around the world.

I’m sure if you watch any YT vids, you are familiar with the microphone, from Joe Rogan to anyone.

And there is a reason for it – the microphone sounds great, it is relatively cheap, you don’t need a pop shield because the capsule is a safe distance from the top. It’s versatile, and it can take a lot of volume without distorting the sound.

However! 

There is an issue with it, and that’s its gain level. 

It is a quiet microphone, and it needs a lot of gain on input. When I record on it, I need to have my iD4 interface on 9, almost full 10, to have a decent volume. And I still had to boost it in post-production.

I had this microphone for years, and it served me well. I didn’t record much in the past, so I was okay with boosting the volume afterwards. However, as I started my Youtube channel and used the microphone more, the gain started to get annoying.

When we record from the camera, we use Rode boom, a condenser, then switch to SM7B, and the volume would be much lower. After recording a few vids like that, I knew I needed a gain booster.

What’s a gain booster? 

It’s a device that boosts your microphone gain with a clean signal, making it much louder at the source.

When it comes to boosters, the one that I always recommended for people was, of course, CL1 Cloudlifter. Which is a classic.

I went online. I put the Cloudlifter into the basket. However, I have to warn you, CL1 is quite pricy, over £100, leaning towards £150 in some stores.

I’m always on the lookout for a bargain and a discount, so I thought to myself ‘I’m sure there are alternatives,’ but the thing is, I’ve never checked and always defaulted to Cloudlifter.

I emptied the basket and started looking online – low and behold, and there are many cheaper alternatives.

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I looked at Sub Zero, SE DM1 Dynamite, Klark Teknik CT 1 and FetHead.

These ranged in price, but one thing was sure, they were much cheaper than the original Cloudlifter!

All of them had good reviews and what I also noticed was that some of them were directly connecting to the microphone, which means that I wouldn’t need extra XLR cable like with Cloudlifter, which is an external box.

After doing a bit of research, I ordered FetHead from TritonAudio, which was £65 from Studiospares online shop.

Let’s look at specs:

TritonAudio products are made in Holland, and FetHead is advertised as a low noise gain booster or mic preamp with extra 27dB amplification.

One thing to remember is that these gain boosters need phantom power, just like condenser microphones. Even though your SM7B doesn’t need extra power, you need your phantom power when you connect it to FetHead.

FetHead arrived in a small cardboard tube, hidden in a pouch inside. It was much smaller than expected, which was fantastic as I was worried it wouldn’t fit at the end of my SM7B, sitting on the arm.

It did fit without any issues.

If you want to listen to my recording without Fethead and with it, you can view my video review on Youtube.

In short, Fethead does what it supposed to do. It boosts SM7B gain without affecting the sound, allowing for the mic gain on my iD4 interface to stay on the good lever.

And I don’t need to boost anything in post-production anymore!

Would I recommend it?

If you have SM7B or another dynamic (or ribbon) microphone and you find yourself lacking gains – then of course. Especially if you are podcasting or recording YT videos.

It boosts the signal transparently and cleanly, and you don’t have to drive your input gain to the top.

There are even cheaper alternatives. I didn’t want to go with the cheapest option, which had a few negative reviews, but FetHead definitely worth the money, and it is more than twice cheaper as the original Cloudlifter. Plus, you don’t need extra XLR cable!

Thumbs up from me, and you will hear the FetHead working hard on the future videos!

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