The Avantone CV-12 harkens back to an age of classic tube microphones. Its neutral sound and nine polar patterns contribute to its versatility, and its sturdy build quality belies its affordability.
Despite its red metal-flake finish, the Avantone CV-12 ($499) bears a strong physical resemblance to the original 1953 AKG C 12 and Telefunken Ela M 251 microphones. Low-cut and -10dB pad switches are located along the bottom of the thick mesh grille. Unscrewing the nickel cap encircling the 9-pin XLR connector lets you remove the heavy-duty cylindrical brass body and gain access to the Russian-made 6072A tube.
The mic is stored in a well-crafted latching wooden box, with contoured foam and an elegant cloth lining. This vintage European classiness extends to the supplied metal shockmount, which secures and isolates the mic within two fabric-lined rings. The CV-12 offers a choice of omnidirectional, cardioid, figure-8 and six intermediate polar patterns, remotely switchable on the power supply.
SOME FAVORABLE RESPONSES
While most multipattern mics give their flattest response in omnidirectional mode, the CV-12 offers basically flat response in its cardioid setting between 40 and 10k Hz, according to the supplied frequency trace. The absence of a presence boost around 6 kHz on this chart is consistent with my impression of this mic's neutral character in the studio.
In the omni pattern, it has a flatter low-end response, a peak at 600 Hz, a dip at 5 kHz and a noticeable peak above 10 kHz that's also present in cardioid. The mic's figure-8 mode yields a gently rising treble response. It's typical for a microphone's timbre to vary in different pattern settings, and in testing I found that the CV-12 does present usable tonal variations throughout its intermediate patterns.
I tried out the CV-12 on a few sessions, first with an up-and-coming boy band called Know Clue. Singing duties are shared by two of the band's guitarists; one had a skilled pop-punk attitude and the other had a more pure and pleasant vocal timbre. The CV-12 worked like a charm on the latter, allowing his unforced vocals to float above the guitar-heavy mix with minimal EQ. In the vocal booth, the punkier singer tended to sound a bit harsh and lacking in air, but the Avantone mic — combined with a tube compressor — smoothed out his tone in the control room. It's a testament to this mic's tonal veracity that I was able to add some high end in the mix without bringing out any sibilance or grit.
For a project I'm producing, I hired classically trained singer Morgan Guberman to realize a vocal arrangement. I used the CV-12 in subcardioid mode through a Grace 101 preamp for up to 10 overdubs at once. Cumulative layering can exaggerate deficiencies or bumps in a microphone's response, but I was very pleased at how the Avantone didn't pile on undesirable components of the vocal sound or room tone. This real-world application was a convincing demonstration of the CV-12's unhyped tone on vocals.
On a session for the reggae/dub project Guerrilla Hi-Fi, the mic was coupled with a Millennia HV3D mic pre on baritone sax. I noted its character as smooth, though slightly thin in the horn's lower range and compressed at louder dynamics. Engineer John Finkbeiner and I liked it better on tenor sax, where it yielded a classic warm sound with just enough presence for our taste. The mic also delivered pleasant tone on a cowbell overdub.
A SOLID HIT
A major selling point is that the CV-12 has sufficient presence and tone to use for crucial tracking with vocals and saxes, but never gets as bright or sibilant as many premium vocal mics. Clearly this mic is all about transparent, usable tone without high-end hype. It doesn't directly emulate the highly prized (and very bright) C 12 of yesteryear, but it certainly looks the part. Likewise, the wood case and shockmount recall the glory days of European tube mics. My only criticism of this entire package is that, like many manufacturers, Avant Electronics uses generic Chinese-made cables and XLR connectors on the power supply. Other than that, the Avantone set exudes pure class.
Another strong suit is the CV-12's affordable price. I went to Avant Electronic's Website after putting the mic through its paces, and my jaw literally dropped when I saw that it costs not $1,500 or more as I'd assumed, but $499. That price includes the power supply, latching wooden box, aluminum carry case and shockmount. A 5-year warranty adds even more value.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 5