Capturing The Spirit Of The Music
Operating a small recording studio, Rodger Cloud experimented endlessly in pursuit of what he describes as “the sound that captures the spirit of the music.” In 2006, his quest took an unexpected turn when Stephen Sank opened up a ribbon mic restoration service next door. Sank wasn’t just another technician. His father, Jon R. Sank (1934-1998) headed acoustical engineering at RCA where he designed some of the most coveted ribbon mics, including the BK-11 and the BK-10a, and the elder Sank passed along to his son both unique technical knowledge and passion for audio technology.
For Rodger, experiencing a range of classic RCA ribbon microphones in Sank’s workshop was a revelation. “That classic RCA sound captured my imagination. It was exactly what I had always longed for as a vocalist and musician. It was so natural and rich that it seemed wrong not to share it,” he explains. At first, he upgraded his studio, outfitting it with a selection of ribbon mics. Then, he and Sank collaborated on developing a new ribbon mic that captured the rich natural sounds of the vintage models, but was more durable and better suited to contemporary musical applications. The result was the JRS-34 (named in honor of Jon Sank), which launched Cloud Microphones in 2009.
In early 2009, Rodger decided to put the JRS-34 into production in a plant in Tucson. Rave reviews at the 2009 AES show later in the year validated his decision. From the very beginning, the company has been committed to U.S. production. Rodger explains, “By working almost exclusively with local manufacturing partners, we are able to ensure the highest quality standards. The result is a microphone that enables struggling musicians to capture that elusive sound, even when operating under tight budget limitations.”
In addition to its ribbon microphones, Cloud has also developed the innovative CloudLifter. Originally designed as the active circuit portion of the JRS-34, it adds clean gain for any dynamic or passive mic. However, it has also created a new product category that Rodger calls “Mic Activators.” He explains, “It’s an inline preamplifier that operates entirely on phantom power and delivers up to +25dB of ultra-clean professional gain for passive mics. This improves the sensitivity of any dynamic, ribbon, tube or battery-powered microphone and has the result of reducing the noise floor of any preamp.”
Rodger serves as CEO of the tight-knit Cloud Microphone organization, although he says, “I’m really more like a guide who serves the company in a variety of capacities. The most valuable thing I bring to the table is a deep understanding of the customer as well as an understanding of what types of products could best serve their needs.” He is joined by Scott Haughey, general manager, who brings a business administration background to his post. What the company lacks in scale it more than makes up for in commitment to quality.
Cloud Microphones was launched at the absolute nadir of the recent recession, yet sales have grown every month since. Rodger attributes the strong performance in part to a renewed interest in ribbon mics, but also to the company’s innovative product line. The JRS-34 has developed an enthusiastic following for its outstanding performance in both live and studio applications, while the CloudLifter has made an important part of the company’s mic technology available in a more affordable package. Cloud products are now sold in Europe, Australia, Japan, South Africa, and India. A major focus for 2013 is to expand distribution in faster-growing Asian markets.
The first ribbon mic was developed by Harry F. Olson in the 1930s. His groundbreaking designs were refined by the elder Sank at RCA. Rodger sees his role in continuing to improve on those classic designs by taking advantage of contemporary technology and materials. The ultimate goal, though, is to provide musicians with the tools they need to practice their craft. “It is really the passion for great sound that has fueled this company, and will do so in the years to come,” he says.
Subscribe to The Music Trades today!