The Ribbon Mic button on the Millennia Media HV-37 adds +10 dB of gain to the input, which your dynamic mics will benefit from, as well. The Millennia Media HV-37 is the result of a unique, yet successful, journey in product reconfiguration. Its roots can be traced to the HV-3C ($1,853 street), a high-quality stereo mic preamp that is highly prized for its clarity and headroom. When Millennia Media entered the world of 500 Series modules with the release of the HV-35 ($718 street), it borrowed many of the HV-3C’s design elements while adding features that a Lunchbox user would expect, such as a high-impedance input for electric guitars and basses.
The HV-37 is like having a pair of HV-35 modules mounted horizontally in a single rack space. In fact, the specs of the two models are identical, except for one important difference: The HV-37 has a dedicated, switching power supply, giving the manufacturer control over this important (but often overlooked) aspect of a preamp’s sound. Anyone paying attention to the world of 500 Series racks knows that the performance of your system will be determined, in part, by the power supply you have in your Lunchbox rack. So for the price of a pair of HV-35 modules, the HV-37 provides two preamps with an internal power source that is guaranteed to meet Millennia Media’s spec (and without the additional cost of a third-party Lunchbox, saving you several hundred dollars).
The HV-37 is by no means an exact replica of the HV-3C. Because of the various issues involved in fitting all the electronics into the small, lower-powered modular format of the HV-35, Millennia Media had to make some changes. For example, the HV-35 has 6 dB less headroom than the HV-3C, and a pad was included on the output stage to mitigate distortion when recording digitally. Nor does the HV-35 or HV-37 have the stepped gain controls or a 130V option for high-end mics. I don’t miss either of these features.
What I do appreciate about the HV-37 is a simple, uncluttered interface with dedicated, backlit buttons for the features I need—some of which are clearly marked so you can see the specs. For example, the highpass filter (lowcut switch) indicates that it rolls off at 80 Hz with -3 dB per octave, while the pad shows that it lowers the input by 15 dB. The unit has independent +48VDC phantom power for each channel, a button to reverse the polarity of each input, and buttons to engage the front-panel instrument inputs.
The highlight of the HV-37 (and the HV-35) is the Ribbon Mic button on each channel, which adds +10dB of gain, making available a total of +70dB gain for each mic. This allows you to adequately power not only ribbon mics but also low-output dynamic mics, such as the Shure SM57. If you’re used to maxing out the input gain on your lowcost preamp/interface when using your favorite dynamic mics, you will be surprised at how great they’ll sound through the HV-37 at moderate gain settings.
In fact, I was surprised at how clearly I could hear the differences among all of my mics when using the HV-37. The headroom and sensitivity of the preamps allowed me, for example, to get a better sense of each mic’s self-noise so I could pick the quietest ones for the sampling session I’m conducting. None of my other preamps, which cost $300-$700 a channel (comparable to the price-per-preamp on the HV-37), provide that level of detail.
Best of all, the overall audio quality of the HV-37 is uncolored and gorgeous, pulling out the dimensionality of the instrument being recorded, as well as the room that it’s in. Priced for the personal studio, this is the preamp you’ll go to when you want to record exactly what you’re hearing, and you have the quality microphones to match.
Gino Robair is Electronic Musician’s technical editor.
STRENGTHS High-Z input. Ribbon Mic setting. Pad, highpass filter, and polarity buttons. Separate phantom power for each channel.
LIMITATIONS A little pricey.