Avant BV-1 Review

Recording Magazine: February, 2010 | by

A mic meant to impress from the moment you open the case

It has only been a few years since Avant Electronics (Avantone) slipped quietly onto the recording scene, but spend some time on the prominent gear forums and you will see that many of their mics like their CV-12 have moved from general curiosity to high regard.

With this in mind I draw your attention to their newly minted B-series flagship, the BV-1.

Retro style

The whole package from mic to case exudes a vintage vibe, sort of a Zoot Suite Era artifact from Capone’s vault. It starts with a vintage, plush-lined, (imitation-) alligator-skin case. The case holds a beefy power supply, a large stylish suspension mount, a custom nickel-plated mesh pop filter, a 15' Gotham Audio microphone cable, and a large padded wooden box.

Inside the wooden box is the lollypop-styled BV-1, resplendent in its cream-colored and chrome glory. In fact, the B in BV stands for Butter Creme series.

Knobs and switches

The BV-1 features a 10 dB pad and a highpass filter switch (80 Hz 6 dB/octave). The matching power supply features a large knob for selecting one of nine available polar patterns (hypercardioid, supercardioid, cardioid, omni, figure-8, and points in between).

This mic is robust and heavy — nearly 3 pounds of metal. I strongly recommend a sturdy mic stand for this one.

Guts and specs

The BV-1 can best be described as an American-infused Chinese microphone. While most of its parts come from the Far East, they are assembled, set up and QC’ed in California. Additionally, the BV-1 uses U.S.-made Switchcraft connectors, a Cinemag Transformer, and a hand-selected 6072A tube.

With an edge-terminated, 34mm / 3 micron dual capsule, the BV-1 has a 25 Hz–20 kHz frequency response, can handle a 134/144 dB SPL level, has an <18 dB A-weighted equivalent noise level and a 78 dB signal to noise ratio.

Put to work

After the requisite tube warm up I put the BV-1 to work on male vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, djembe, drum overhead (in mono, since I only had one of these mics), voiceover, and room mic duties.

The first impressions off the top of my head: Solid, forward, and big with a hint of velvet. It is actually easier to tell you what the BV-1 is not sonically, vs. what it is. It is not dark, or fat, or heavily colored, nor is it overly bright or airy.

While Avantone uses the word “vintage” to describe the BV-1, what I found refreshing is that unlike so many of the current crop of Chinese imports the BV-1 does not try to be a clone of anything. The BV-1’s vintage tone, like its styling, is palpable, but you cannot put your finger on where or when it came from — it is its own beast!

Compared to my Peluso Microphone Lab 22 47 LEPeluso Microphone Lab 22 47 LE (a Chinese U47 clone), it was tighter sounding. The low mids were a bit more forward and the high end was not as wispy. It was also nowhere near as clean or stark as my Brauner Phantom Classic (reviewed December 2008).

This BV-1 held its own well with both comparison microphones, and with the Phantom Classic and 2247LE each being about $700 more, this is a nice tip of the fedora to the BV-1.

No source off limits

The BV-1 sounded good and usable on just about every source I captured, and it is especially suited to delivering even and upfront vocals.

A few other favorites would be acoustic guitar, hand percussion and drum overhead. I wish I had a pair for this task, but even in a “Glyn Johns” 3-mic drum setup, the sound was impressive.

One of the few areas where the BV-1 wasn’t as much to my personal taste as other mics in my closet was as a room mic. For this application I often prefer microphones that are a bit more airy and looser, so as to highlight the natural high end of a good space; although the highpass filter did help a bit, the BV-1 was too full for my purposes on this task. If you prefer a more solid, robust room tone, the BV-1 may well deliver the goods for you!

Final thoughts

We throw around the word “workhorse” quite often, but the BV-1 truly is one. Now, like many workhorse mics, you may find some others in your collection that you like better on certain sources, but everyone needs at least one great all-rounder, and this is one to consider.

While $1000 is not an impulse buy in today’s economy, this is a $1000 mic that should be on your short list for a closer listen, even over many $1500–$2000 mics.

The mention of Chinese microphones almost always spurs discussion and debate in regard to sonic character and quality level — it is companies like Avant Electronics, and microphones like the BV-1, that are starting to change this perception for the better.

Price (as of February, 2010): $999

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