TritonAudio Fathead Review - In-line Microphone Preamplifier

12-24-2014 11:00 AM

You may recall some months ago Dan did an excelent review of the Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator.
I’ve had the CL-1 on my shopping list for some time and then last week Neil pointed the team to an alternative the TritonAudio Fathead high-end in-line microphone preamp.
So we contacted TritonAudio and they sent us both the TritonAudio Fathead and the TritonAudio Fathead Phantom, the only difference between the two units is that the latter allows for phantom power to reach the microphone.
The TritonAudio Fathead

FetHead is a low-noise, high quality, in-line microphone preamplifier. It provides improved sound for Ribbon and Dynamic microphones. The electronics are housed in a robust metal chassis with a balanced 3-pole female XLR input and a balanced 3-pole male XLR output, rugged enough for use at home, in the studio or on tour.
FetHead is available in three versions

  • Fethead: A regular version for Ribbon and Dynamic microphones
  • Fethead Phantom: A FetHead for Condenser microphones
  • Fethead Filter:A FetHead with high-pass filter for Ribbon and Dynamic mic’s

The TritonAudio Fathead In Use

Setting up is a cinch, you simply put the The TritonAudio Fathead inline with your microphone and then turn on your phantom power to give the unit some juice. There are going to be obvious comparisons between the The TritonAudio Fathead and the Cloudlifter CL-1 and the first is that in terms of use the The TritonAudio Fathead sits better inline as it simply adds an extension to the cable, whereas the Cloudlifter CL-1 is a small box and so more obtrusive in use. The TritonAudio Fathead can be plugged in at any stage either at the end of the microphone or the cable depending on what suits your application.
The TritonAudio Fathead Tested

As I use a Shure SM7 for all my voice over work I decided this would be an ideal candidate for the test, it’s a dynamic mic that requires a significant amount of gain and therefore the noise floor can also be lifted when using it in recording.
I decided to run the test using an acoustic guitar as TritonAudio claim that some microphones using the Fethead “sounds more responsive over a broader frequency range.” An acoustic guitar has the need for such a response and so I considered this an ideal victim for the test.
TritonAudio Fathead Review - The Results

Rather than trying to describe the results in detail I’ve created audio examples of the recordings both with and without the TritonAudio Fathead. Two examples are the entire recording and two are simply the end with the fade so you can listen for noise in both examples. The main thing to say is that with the Fethead the need to increase gain is greatly reduced, for example to achive the same volume for speech using my Apogee Ensemble the gain required without the Fathead was 60db, whereas with the Fathead was 27db, of course it is a preamp so this is somewhat stating the bleeding obvious, however the noise was greatly reduced and as claimed the sound did feel more open and responsive, so the Fethead does assist in getting the required gain from low output microphones without increasing noise.

TritonAudio Fathead Review - Summary

Dan will be running and A/B test on both the Cl-1 and the TritonAudio Fathead in the coming days, but my own feelings are that the TritonAudio Fathead does what it says on the tin, futhermore it is half the cost of the Cloudlifter CL-1, so unless the A/B test that Dan runs reveal a significant difference between the two units, then the TritonAudio Fathead is a no brainer. If you need such a thing then check it out.
TritonAudio Fathead Features

  • Low noise Class A JFet amplifier
  • 20db amplification
  • double single ended amplifier topology
  • Balanced output
  • Lots of headroom
  • 18-48 v phantom power