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Avantone BV-1

Avantone Pro BV-1

4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

A versatile, open-sounding tube condenser.


5th August 2009

Avantone Pro BV-1 by joelpatterson

  • 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
Avantone BV-1

Product Manufacturer:
Avant Electronics
Product Name:
BV - 1 Multi-Pattern Tube Microphone
Price of Product:
$999
Product Reviewer:
Joel Patterson
Reviewer Credits:
Owner/ Chief Engineer Mountaintop Studios, Petersburgh NY
Review Date:
8-5-09
Product Synopsis
A $999 tube mic that believe you me sets a new standard in performance that others will desperately try to match.
Introduction:
If you're like me, you find most microphone reviews to be EXCRUCIATINGLY boring-- I'm talking about like in the popular, vanishing gear magazines. I swear-- they read like there's a limited number of stock phrases the writers are allowed to use, and they must end each and every review with this phrase: "If you're looking for a mic with/for/that has [blank], then you should definitely give this one a listen/test drive/buy it sight unseen." Sometimes they'll be all daring and say, "You owe it to yourself" instead of, "You should," but they probably need special permission from the executive editor. Are you like me? Come on-- admit it. You'll never get anywhere in life without being somewhat slightly egotistical and narcissistic-- you channel all your dissatisfaction into improving your output, so the world will be even LESS justified in totally ignoring you. That's kind of how it works. Not that you should take this good advice and go overboard, because we all know people who make you want to shout, "Hey! Buddy! What about a little subtractive EQ on the attitude, how 'bout?"
Features
Dramatic, chic look
Includes shockmount and primo 7-pin cable
Nine different pickup patterns
80 Hz roll-off, -10 dB pad

Specifications
TYPE: Tube Type Condenser
POLAR PATTERNS: Nine, conveniently selected at the power supply
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 25Hz to 20kHz
MAXIMUM SPL: 134 dB (0.5% THD @ 1000 Hz) (144 with pad engaged)
S/N Ratio: 78 dB
SELF NOISE: <18 dB
SENSITIVITY: -35 dBV
POWER REQUIREMENTS: Power supply switchable, either 115 or 230 VAC
TUBE TYPE: Russian 6072A

First Impressions
In a dream, I am staring at a piece of rackmount gear, trying to make sense of its blinking lights. One in particular I zero in on, but its tag is hard to read. Finally, I make it out-- it says "Blinking Indicator."
That could serve as an excellent metaphor for something, and as soon as I figure it out I'll let you know. But I'll take a stab: I've seen people go absolutely nuts with gear-buying decisions... "Let's see... what kind of hammer do I need to kill this flea?... The biggest one I can find!" Or ads: "Do you want to buy a microphone from real people, or from a faceless corporation?" Hmmm... that's a tough one. How about a corporation wearing a mask?
The truth is, men like Ken Avant and Glen Heffner (together the geniuses behind Avant Electronics and all the wonders being created there) understand that your eyes will fix on the gear before you. Equipment. Electronics. Lotta little parts, soldered together. That isn't what matters. What matters is the emotional reality these tools will pivot you up to. What matters is the essence of life itself, those teardrops moments of peak experience-- lotsa times having to do with music. Does music mean much to you? I feel a kind of duality about it all-- on the one hand, it's just entertainment, after all, trivial, not really "necessary" like food and shelter. On the other hand-- music touches people's souls in a way that a ham sandwich never will. Do you know who Stephen Foster was? Do you know who was the head chef in Abe Lincoln's White House? Okay.
Fine dining, now that's maybe a good metaphor for this mic. The case it ships in is a full tilt suitcase: tweed with faux alligator trim, lined with crushed velour, maroon color. New Orleans cathouse is the vibe. If you think I'm going to carry a microphone around in this, you're crazy. I've modded mine into a suitcase for JP-1, hollowing out the center partition and in the process discovering it's constructed of 3/8' birch plywood. You got the Taj Mahal, you got Cuban cigars, and you got the Avant BV-1 traveling case. Call these garishly excessive luxury items if you like. I call it grabbing for gusto. I want to see the look on the face of the faceless corporation, and then the withering look visited on the nameless underlings, when they sheepishly admit they've been sending out mics in generic aluminum flight cases you can pick up at any Home Depot.
In Use
I brought the BV-1 to a rehearsal session for a piano duo (legends in our time Polly van der Linde and George Lopez) as they prepared for a concert series to begin my rigorous testing. This was Argentiny, tangoey music. When they'd stop to focus in on a troublesome passage, the lingering, dissolving notes hung there in the air, shimmering. Their breezy banter was crisp and genuine, and the sound of the room was captured in a specific, utterly true-to-life way. I love acid tests-- my inner sadist?-- so I drug the mic back to the furthest corner and opened the pattern up to omni-- the sound only got smoother and blendier, never losing the force and drama and heft of the slamming chords and the detail of the thrilling accents and trills. Forgiving: that's the tagline for this mic. Most mics render off-axis input with varying degrees of ineptitude and irritability. Not this baby. While the source directly infront is devastatingly, enrapturingly accurate, it had a way of rendering EVERYTHING that hit in a full, realistic, engaging way.
The "P.T. Cruiser-esqueness" of the mic's design mesmerized them. I guess I'm kind of jaded about this stuff, and it's refreshing to be brought back to Earth by the rapturous, captivated, staring wide-eyed wonder of the un-jaded, the jadeless. George, who has an infectious grin that lights up a room under normal circumstances, was positively aglow, gushing about its fine "50's" air. He noted that I would usually mic a piano in stereo, and I said this was only a test, the mic is really meant to be a vocal mic because that's the most demanding application you could call for.
"Do you want me to sing?" he asked? He immediately launched into a tune he'd composed for a friend's wedding (it was a little maudlin, I gotta say-- all about meeting in Heaven at the end of their lives-- but hey, you don't ask for grim, nihilistic existentialism at a wedding.) I barely had time to wrangle the mic stand around astride the piano bench, but you don't stop people in full flight. Even at a right angle to his voice, it caught his soaring, tender elocution and wisp of vibrato with startling immediacy. If it's not too simplistic, this mic makes things sound "good." It makes listening to the playback a pleasure so much so that you get lost in it.
Next up, it was off to a music store where I'd arranged to sample the vast array of brass and woodwinds in stock. The tuba was beefy and lumbering-- it's amazing to hear a tuba played with elan. There's alot of warbling and almost funk-like potential to the instrument. The trombones were blazing, alive, rich and supremely colorful-- and the French horn, which I have always found to be notoriously difficult to record given the earthquaking density of its sound, all too often overwhelming, like a sub cabinet gone haywire, came through layered and pumping, especially the "hunter's reveille" or whatever you call it, which I learned was the original purpose of the horn, to signal to the fox hunters various messages and prompts. And of course after the hunt, around the fire, they've got these horns lying around, so what happened? They played music! See the things you learn? The trumpets were searing, the closest thing to pure, stinging airborne tone. The flugelhorn was woozy, jazzy. The coronet was cutting and brisk. The clarinet was "woody" and soft, shapely and toned. The saxophone was blistering, raspy, brash and steamy! Through all of this, the mic caught the room 'verb very nicely, enveloping everything warmly, in a cuddling way.
The nylon string guitar was a standout. I'm used to hearing it as muffled and wimpy, but this here was wondrous-- the Spanish flamenco passages dreamy, accentuated and full of subtlety. And what's a mic review without a kazoo? (You see THAT in a gear magazine?) Which was biting and vibrational. Whatever you do-- don't record nails on a chalkboard with this thing!
If this was a gear magazine, I would be eating up the space usually reserved for the classifieds by now. Do I care? Do you? Onward!
I persuaded my friend Barry Hyman, renowned multi-instrumentalist, band leader and composer to improvise a song using his collection of exotic ethnic instruments: udu drum, tamboura, talking drum, finger cymbals and sitar. The results of this experiment confirmed my suspicions-- if it makes a sound, the BV-1 will capture it effortlessly, marvelously, and with total authenticity.
Here is Barry's song:
4shared.com - online file sharing and storage - download Not Quite Awake.mp3

I also did a session with the alt folk duo Soul Miners, again tracking exclusively with the BV-1, here:

4shared.com - online file sharing and storage - download Alberta.mp3

These are the a'capella vocal tracks, to show you the stunning way it captures the human voice:

4shared.com - online file sharing and storage - download Alberta (vocal a'capella).mp3

Pros
Premier vocal mic, smokes any and all competition
Singers will linger, even after the take, just to listen to themselves
Best possible way to record anything musical or auditory
Cons
There is only piping on the alligator trim on the handle side of the case
Conclusion
And this discussion naturally leads us to chain saws.
I'm amazed, maybe, at the way gas-cap-for-chainsaw technology has evolved over the last say thirty years. Say at first it was just that, a cap. It could fall from your fingers into the snow. Then, there there was a plastic, non-gasoline dissolvable strap that held the cap loosely, allowing it to spin but hanging it tethered to the tank. But that plastic strap sometimes blocked the ease of pouring gas in. So then the "strap" became a supple, string-like string, so the cap hangs out of the way. Now the cap only takes a half-turn to tighten-- and the lug by which you turn it is now almost a proper handle that tucks away, flush to the body of the saw. It's EXACTLY like someone is asking a focus group-- me, in my dreams-- "what about working with this saw is ever-so-slightly annoying, I mean anything, anything at all, the slightest inarticulatable thing."
It's kind of the same way with the evolution of mics, and this astounding marvel of engineering in particular. The next thing would be a mic with a built in limiter, a soft knee compressor/limiter with a multi-track 96/24 recording capability and wireless connection to any DAW "throughout the Universe," as I've seen written in the more expansive modeling contracts. You laugh! Just you wait!
So here's my final phrase: both Ken and Glen have a very dignified way of presenting themselves publicly, as they should, they are both outstanding people with incredible resumes and are seriously dedicated to their work. But if you're looking for a real hoot, get ahold of them after hours, off the clock... I've got messages on my answering machine that are, to put it mildly, rather entertaining. You owe it to yourself.

  • 1
27th September 2013

Avantone Pro BV-1 by jrhody

  • 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
Avantone BV-1

Every time I buy a new microphone, I tend to go a bit crazy and track almost EVERYTHING with it, all in one song. Though this method may not always be the most practical or sonically sensible, it gives me a chance to test the product on multiple sources with the integrity of actually completing work. Without getting too technical (anyone can review specs on the product's site), lets observe some of the BV-1's subjective and objective qualities via a list of general applications I have recorded first hand. My general signal path is the BV-1, into a MOTU 8pre, then into Pro Tools on my Macbook Pro. Of course, the users personal experience depends on the sonic makeup of each individual instrument, acoustic environment and mic preamps which are variable.

Let us start with Vocals- the application the mic is marketed for. On male vocals (my own voice), I immediately recognized that the mic had a good deal of sibilance and top end approximation. When tested next to a friend's Avantone CV-12, I was reassured that there are much more sibilant mics out there. The BV-1's top end wasn't as "fizzly" as the CV-12 and is substantially smooth by comparison. When layered and mixed in a track, the mic's full detail becomes apparent. The mid to upper-midrange is the most prominent and detailed, allowing the vocals to cut through and sit on top of the mix in a very musical way. With the right amount of compression and de-essing, one can coax it's detail to the surface fairly easily. For female vocals, I tracked my bandmate's voice which is fairly unique. The BV-1 did an extraordinary job at making her voice intelligible and present in a busy mix with little processing necessary.

The BV-1 did a great job at capturing acoustic guitar, specifically a Seagull Natural Elements Cherrywood. In the main session, the performance called mostly for strumming, but I tested it on finger-picking style in a different session, and it wielded very nice results due to it's ability to capture fast transients while maintaining the sustain of the low end. I eventually dubbed another strumming pattern with a dynamic mic over the acoustic guitar in the main session to add some rhythmic detail, as by then, the mix was getting fairly busy and masking was becoming difficult to combat.

I also tracked a Kawai upright piano. This was the application I liked the BV-1 least on, as the recording seemed to have far too much lower mid- mid content, which made it sound a bit boxy and boomy. I made it usable by tracking two performances of the same part and panning them accordingly. Also, much EQ was used to get it to stand out. On it's own, it certainly gave an interesting, almost vintage sound to the piano, but it quickly became the least intelligible element in the mix. However, I could see it being useful as a stereo pair on piano in a more sparse production. Then again, I probably could have experimented with placement and polar patterns more to find the most usable sound.

I used the BV-1 in the figure 8 polar pattern in a mid-side setup on drums. My drum "kit" is fairly minimal, as I generally record just a hi-hat, crash cymbal and a snare with a 5+ mic setup, then add kick samples in post. It did a decent job capturing the room in conjunction with the Shure KSM32, but it ended up becoming another "least fav", specifically due to it's top end approximation. Just from hearing the KSM32 and BV-1 on drums, it was evident the 32 was much more suited for this application (why don't they make those things with multiple polar patterns!? I'm sure they would sell like crazy!).

Just to show you what a finished mix sounds like using the BV-1 on vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, some drums and various percussion instruments, here is a link to the final (I did much more work on it since this version go figure... a producer's job is never done!) product.

https://soundcloud.com/justinrhody/nor-i-lullaby

In conclusion, the BV-1 is marketed as a primary vocal mic for a good reason. The amount of detail and frequency response is tailored to be subjectively most useful on vocals and acoustic guitar. I have found it to be versatile in the way it can handle a wide range of vocal applications- both male and female. It isn't the most accurate and probably wouldn't be the best choice for spoken word, but it certainly boasts its own sweet vibe through it's unique sonic signature. The midrange detail is amazing and the highs are sibilant, yet smooth. This mic adds a great degree of dimension and depth to many applications and it's features are hard to beat for a -$1000 microphone. It is actually very large, making the placement process a bit of a challenge, but I'm writing that off as a quirk, because I'm used to owning and working with quirky gear.

Thanks for reading my first hand report and there are more reviews/ recordings to come!- Justin

30th September 2017

Avantone Pro BV-1 by Retroren

  • 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
Avantone BV-1

There was a time when Avantone microphones were everywhere - after it was revealed that Taylor Swift used a modded CV-12 for the vocals on her first two albums (funny how the signal chain isn't mentioned in the reviews for the CV-12). Everyone seemed to want one. What caught my eye, however, was the BV-1. I had just started to build up a mic locker and I'll admit that the fact that it was used on Robert Plant's 'Band of Joy' album piqued my interest.

In the UK, a new Avantone BV-1 retails for around £925. This was way beyond my budget so I bided my time and looked on Ebay. Two years later, I won an Ebay bid for a second hand Avantone BV-1 for £399.

The reviews to be found around Gearslutz and the internet are pretty spot on. It's an incredibly good microphone for the money. It's especially for good for deeper baritone vocals - back off the microphone, the proximity effect can be very intense - but also great for slightly reedier tenor voices. The BV-1 adds a bit of 'oomph' to a thinner voice with the aid of the proximity effect too. It works fantastically well with a 1073 type preamp, though it tends to get a bit spitty and sibilant higher than gain level 60. The included pop-filter is pretty useless. I don't bother with it.

The power supply unit is made of very light, thin metal (costs have to be cut somewhere, I suppose) but the internals are of high quality. Cinemag transformer, and some other high quality - or so I've read - parts inside. The costs, perhaps, should have been cut from what is one of the most ridiculously overblown flight cases I've ever seen. Wrapped in tweed, around the size of a Peavey Classic 30 amp, plushly lined in red fuzz. Completely unnecessary in my opinion, though it looks cool as a make-shift coffee table. Anyways, the mic comes with a really rather expensive Neutrik 7 pin cable too, so that's nice.

I use the BV-1 through a GAP-73 MkII with virtually no compression and EQ. My voice sits in the mix wonderfully. I'm a baritone with a much stronger deeper register than higher, though I can belt up into upper tenor ranges (B4 - D5). I was shocked at how much the BV-1 could take! It handles both my quiet, intimate singing and full out rock belts with ease - though I'd still reach for an SM7b for a harder, more aggressive vocal. I typically use the 9 step pattern selector either 1 step towards figure of 8 or 2 steps towards omni. I have used the mic on acoustic guitar as well, where it performed pretty similarly to most tube microphones

I don't remember where I read this, but someone mentioned that this mic has 'mojo', however that is defined. I laughed at that, but it's definitely true. There is something that the BV-1 does to a vocal that for the lack of a better word, has 'mojo'! There's a little something that it gives, something indescribable, but I absolutely love it.

At £900 it's a great purchase, it performs like a more expensive microphone. At £399 though...I'm ecstatic!

 
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