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Lavry AD11

Lavry Engineering AD-11

4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

The Van Gogh of the converter world. A love machine.


17th June 2013

Lavry Engineering AD-11 by ghandi

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Lavry AD11

Looking for the Ultimate in a transparent, stereo signal chain for my Acoustic Guitar. Did reviews for several months with Mics/Converters/Pres. I had up to $5,000 to spend and wanted the best possible front end.
I'm from an Acoustic Guitar culture and truly like the raw natural tones without shaping anything. I wanted Mic placement, room and instrument to determine the sound NOT color from Mic, Pre, or A/D Converter.

I decided on a Stereo pair of Miktek C5's pencil mics and the Lavry AD11 Stereo Pre/AD converter as the front end. I picked up a used Lavry DA10 for monitoring. This was connected with an AES cable with the Lavry Blacks, monitoring with Beyerdynamic DT880 H. Phones out of the DA10.

I did my homework, and although I would like to keep this a secret, I will share my findings.

The answer is simply amazing! I have a Stereo signal chain of pure Truth. The C5's magnify musically the best parts of my instrument and the Lavry AD11's Pres/Converters deliver ALL of the emphasis. I'm grinning from ear to ear and have been for a month. Hard to believe the AD11 is such a Super unknown, it's better than great. Stereo Pre's/Converters for under $1700, of this quality, is just fantastic, brilliant!

The AD11 takes about 5 minutes with the manual and video to figure out. Makes sense, only if you go in blindly will there be difficulty. There is 65db of gain, the clocking is very stable, using as a master clock with no problems. Navigating is very cool once you get use to it, all done with toggles. Tape Saturation is a nice effect to add a little color to the signal, good for voice and electric instruments. It does have USB to act as an A/D interface, havn't tried this yet. Very quiet pre's, stand next to converters and hold their own. Thought I would need better pre's, not so. It's built like something that will last for 50 years, really like the look, purchased the rack mount kit, although the Da10 is older, it still looks good beside the AD11. If you consider the cost of just Pre's with the added cost of these pristine converters your way over $1700. Good value and build, too the point with no gimmicks. I also like the fact I can use the two Lavry blacks together as a stereo preamp. The output of the Da10 into another line pre/converter gives some very interesting results. The AD11 pre's really hold their own.

I see lots of folks looking for this type of trasparent signal chain for acoustic instruments, yet don't know where to start. The AD11 is a 1 2 Punch Pre/Converter that is true and musical. The images take well to Reverb, and rarely eq needed. C5 Microphones are very transparent also, the combination of the two just magnifies the effect. Mic placement is soo dramatic, every inch of the guitar spells out a different tone, as the mics, pre's and converters replicate the source truthfully. Really clear and transparent signal chain, never thought my Acoustic Guitar could sound this good.


I really never heard of the Lavry Ad11 up until a few months ago. Made in the Washington state, Lavry answers their phones and emails. A smaller company with attention to detail. Really pleased to own this and if lost would be replaced. A real gem.

7th September 2013

Lavry Engineering AD-11 by Aural Endeavors

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Lavry AD11

Pros:

  • Unusually high quality preamp built-in.
  • Portable.
  • Very solidly built.
  • Clear, accurate metering for digital output.
  • Left/right input balancing is very accurate.
  • Peak level/saturation circuit is very good and highly useful.
  • High number of output options.
  • Third-party USB drivers work well with XP/Windows 7/Windows 8
  • High price to performance/feature ratio.
  • Can be operated from a large number of infrared remote controls.


Cons:
  • Line and preamp level controls are cumbersome/hard to use.
  • No phase switch.
  • Manufacturer does not recommend using with ribbons mics/problems with some ribbon mics.
  • Metering may not indicate clipping/distortion in the case of input overload.
  • Somewhat of a learning curve for the unconventional method of changing settings.
  • A/D conversion is no better than most modern conversion.


Nitpicks:
  • Seems to run relatively hot compared to similar studio equipment.


Price:

$1680 street.


Note: This review will focus on user experiences with the Lavry AD11 over approximately a two year period. For specific operation of this unit, please download the manual here: http://lavryengineering.com/pdfs/lavry-ad11-manual.pdf



Overview:

The Lavry AD11 is a high quality, portable 2-channel analog to digital (A/D) converter suitable for first class on-location recording, and is equally at home in a professional recording studio environment. Also known as the Lavry Black AD11, this half-rack 1U unit boasts more features and quality attributes than typical standalone A/D converters in this price range.


A Welcome Surprise:

By far the most welcome feature of the AD11 is its internal mic preamp, which is easily comparable to other neutral/clean preamps in the "high end" category costing as much or even more than the AD11 itself. Like its companion, the DA11, the internal amplication are the standouts in these units, which overshadow their main function of conversion.

When we compared the AD11's internal preamp against the well-regarded AEA TRP preamp, the AD11 beat it in terms of neutrality by a slim margin, and it proves to be just as silent, even though it does not have as much gain capability (65 dB). We have found that it also beats out the APA Juggernaut Twin in neutrality using that preamp's most neutral settings (nickel input and output transformers). In fairness, however, the Juggernaut Twin wasn't designed to be the most neutral preamp on the planet, and that's not what it's generally used for in our studio.

Against the highly praised Forssell SMP-2A, the Lavry can't quite compete with this preamp's low-level details and sheer "beauty," but still holds its own when speaking in terms of neutrality and providing very clean amplification. Note that the source in our tests was high output (drums), so the gain for both preamps were below 40 dB.

Consequently, the AD11 can have issues with some ribbon microphones. Lavry does not recommend using them with this unit, and we noticed over a 10 dB difference in overal output from a matched pair of AEA R84s. Using the same matched pair in all other preamps in our studio does not exhibit this problem. That said, we have had no issues with another pair of R84s, and the AD11 is our go-to preamp for those particular mics when recording drums.


Portability:

Even though the AD11 consumes a half rack space 1U high, the unit will fit comfortably in most backpacks that are suited to carry a laptop. In our Swiss Army backpack built for a laptop with a 15" screen, the AD11 is right at home in there in its own space along with laptop in its own padded space, with plenty of room left over for other accessories. This equates to a portable, very high quality two-channel recording solution that doesn't require lugging around a rack.


Build Quality:

When lifting the unit, its visual solidity is confirmed due to its weight and lack of any flexing whatsoever in its chassis. The casing thickness is relatively thick compared to some other competing hardware in our studio.

In addition to the AD11's housing, the buttons and connectors feel equally solid when utilized; there is no movement when connecting/disconnecting cables, for example. In slight contrast, the front panel chrome switches don't have quite the solid feel, perhaps due to their "clicking" behavior when pushed up or down, as well as their relatively small size. That said, we have had no issues in the reliability of these switches.


Metering:

When observing input levels, the front panel metering is very easy to read due to the brightness, spacing, and color of the LEDs, as well as the level markings. However, the LEDs double as indicators when changing settings of the unit, which can be a little confusing at first. There will likely be a small learning curve here on familiarizing yourself on this method of control. It should also be noted that the metering is not a reliable indicator of *relative* clipping. Lavry states that clipping will likely occur when levels reach the "0" mark, so the user must ensure that levels never exceed the "-1" mark.


Level Adjustments:

One of the gripes we've found with the AD11 is while adjusting the input levels utilizing the toggle switches. There is an annoying delay before the level actually changes as shown by the dB LED level indicator. When reaching 12 dB, there is another delay while attempting to increase the levels further, subsequently changing the unit into "preamp mode". While attempting to go into this mode, the LED will flash and will not increase for a few seconds, which has proven to be a little frustrating in actual use. Then, this process has to be duplicated for the opposite channel (assuming it needs adjustment as well).

A number of feature requests in reference to the above include removing the delay altogether, providing "ganging" between the right and left channels as an option, and adding a toggle to switch between the preamp and line level inputs.

Even though the level adjustments can be annoying at times, the digitally controlled high level of left to right accuracy is appreciated. It's nice to be confident in knowing exact reference adjustments are easily repeatable.


"Soft Saturation":

The AD11 features Lavry's own "Soft Saturation" circuit, which does an admirable job of transparently compressing/limiting the signal. When active, the average level of the signal is raised 3 dB due to rounding off peaks above -3 dB. Care must be taken when utilizing this feature, however, as clipping can occur if the signal is too hot. When used with caution, we have no issue of leaving this feature on if the application calls for it. The behavior of this compression can be compared to the way tape can compress audio signals; generally there isn't any pumping due to lack of "attack" and "release" times. That said, tape is generally more forgiving the harder you hit it, and subsequent distortion will not be as objectionable in our experience.


Output Options:

The AD11's provides a number of output options including AES/EBU and SPDIF from both its XLR and RCA outputs, as well as a USB output, which has proven to be very reliable when utilizing the ASIO4ALL driver in Windows XP, 7, and 8. We have utilized all of these output options and have had no issue with any of them.


A/D Conversion Quality:

The Lavry AD11 provides transparent A/D conversion in line with other converters in its price range. However, I have found through extensive double-blind testing that many modern converters on the market designed for transparency are *aurally* indistinguishable from one another, and that most claims made otherwise are due to placebo and other biases. We posted a thorough scientific test of this unit against a much cheaper unit, and myself and over thirty respondents were not able to tell the difference between the two. I have performed a scientific test of another cheaper A/D converter in my studio with the same outcome: no discernable difference. Both the cheaper units have been described as having clean, transparent conversion.


Conclusion:

In addition to clean, transparent conversion, the Lavry AD11 packs a relatively large number of highly useful features in a solidly built, portable enclosure. The very high quality preamp is worth the price of admission alone, and the inclusion of it in the entire package makes obtaining one a no-brainer. Highly recommended.

 
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