MiR 058 – Triton Audio Fethead – Inline Mic Preamp

Please excuse the fact that I’ve posted 2 audio files, and not the promised 4. My analogue to digital converter had problems; there was a lot more hiss than I like, so I posted the two that I used to Shure SM7B, the Mackie Mixer, feeding directly into my Zoom H2 recorder.

When I say that I’m about 1 inch from the foam (2.5 cm), you need to remember that on a Shure SM7B, one inch from the end of the foam is actually about 4 inches (10 cm) from the element.

Raw Audio .wav file without using the Fethead inline preamp

Raw audio .wav file of the Shure SM7B using the Fethead

Welcome to episode # 58 of the Mark in Russia podcast. Although my usual thrust for this podcast is either English language learning, or politics, I’m coming up empty this week in terms of language instruction and too full in terms of politics. If I write about politics at this moment it’ll sound like just some crazy rant. So, like my last podcast, I’ll talk a bit more about my hobby (podcasting), and some new toy I recently bought to support my hobby.
My new toy is the Triton Audio Fethead inline microphone preamp. This little unit plugs directly into your XLR mic cable and its power is supplied from the 48 volt phantom power put out by your mixer. The phantom power only goes as far as the Fethead and does not reach your mic.
In my last episode I mentioned that I order my gear online in the States and have it delivered to my US address, and when I travel to the US, which lately is once a year, I bring all of my new toys back with me.
Two other toys that I ordered online were the Shure SM7B Microphone and the Mackie 402 VLZ3 mixer.
The Shure SM7B microphone is one of the best known broadcast microphones and can be found in radio stations all over the world. I wanted it because it is an excellent dynamic microphone, with one caveat; it requires a lot of gain to sound good. Shure recommends +60 db of gain. Well, my new Mackie mixer has +60 db of gain. Remember though, I’m about 8,000 miles from the address where my stuff is being delivered, so I can only go by specs and ratings from others in terms of my gear, until I actually hold it in my hands.
I did hour after hour of internet searches trying to find out whether the Mackie mixer I bought would power the SM7B correctly and I really wasn’t able to find anything conclusive. You see, if I went to the States, picked up my stuff and only later found that the mixer couldn’t do the job fully, then I’m kind of out of luck. So, during my searches for this info I did see a lot of information about an inline mic preamp called the Cloudlifter. This preamp claimed to boost the gain by 20 db of clean gain. The only things that I didn’t like were that the price was $150 and the unit was not really small. It was during my research into the Cloudlifter that I read about the Triton Audio Fethead. The Fethead had all of the same claims, backed up by some reviews that I read, with the added advantages of a $99 price and also a smaller size. These two factors tipped the scale in Triton’s favor. I’ve got to say that the thought of spending another $99 for something that I wasn’t really even sure that I needed was a bit disconcerting, but the thought that I might need it and not have it was even more disconcerting.
A logical person might think, “Well, why didn’t you try your Shure mic with your Mackie mixer when you first arrived and then order the Fethead only if you needed it?” This is good logic of course, but if I did need it and I couldn’t get it in time before I left the States (this is not an Amazon item), then I’m screwed. Shipping to Russia, using a dependable service, would cost as much as the Fethead., so I rolled the dice and ordered the Fethead.
I ordered my Fethead from Zenaudio.com and the shipping (First class US mail) was free. Warren from Zen Audio was great and very helpful with all questions.
You can order directly from Triton Audio, which is located in the Netherlands, and actually, in terms of shipment to Russia, they would have shipped it to me in Russia for $106 including insured shipping, but I didn’t know this at the time. Besides, I paid less, got great service from Zen Pro Audio and I’m happy with my purchasing experience.

Well, I guess that this is enough history and now I’ll talk about the Fethead.

I’m producing both an audio and video version of this podcast, so if you are listening to the audio version and I say things like “you’ll notice…….” It’s not because I’m crazy, it was for the benefit of the video version.
I’ll post audio samples using my SM7B mic and Mackie mixer, both with and without the Fethead.
The Fethead is not very big, about 3” long and .600” in diameter (7.5 cm X 1.5 cm). It’s metal and seems to be quite well built. The nice thing is that it can plug in directly into the Shure and then the XLR cable plugs into the other end.
Here is a photo of the Fethead and here is another one giving it some scale. In this next photo you can see how I connect it to my Shure SM7B.

First I’m going to run the signal from the tape out RCA jacks on my Mackie, through an analogue to digital interface, into my computer, where I’ll be using Hindenburg Journalist. This sample will be without the Fethead. I find that I need to turn my gain knob up to about 3:00 in order to get a good signal. So, that is the one of the audio clips which you can listen to. All of the audio clips will be raw and will be in an uncompressed format, specifically .wav

My second sample will be with the Fethead and in this sample I’ll be using the same setup, but this time my gain will be set at about 12:00 on the Mackie.

My third sample will be using the Mackie with the same gain settings as before, only this time feeding from the RCA tape out jacks on the Mackie to an 1/8” stereo headphone jack plugged directly into my Zoom H2 recorder. This time is without the Fethead and the gain is set at 3:00 on the mixer.

The 4th sample is again direct into the Zoom H2, as the last sample, but this time with the Fethead and the volume set to 12:00 on the Mackie.

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