The Avantone BV-1 is an excellent-sounding multipattern tube mic that proved its versatility in a variety of applications.
The Avant Electronics Avantone BV-1 ($999) is a large-diaphragm multipattern tube microphone with style for days and a sound to match. It's a hefty cylinder with a butter-cream (soft-yellow) enamel finish, about the size of a large beer can and twice as heavy, with a lollipop-type capsule housing extending from its top. Two mini-switches under the body's top rim engage a 10dB pad and an 80Hz highpass filter. Inside the mic body resides a Russian-made 6072A tube and a custom-made CineMag output transformer. Inside the capsule housing is a 1.34-inch, 3-micron, dual-diaphragm assembly.
The mic comes with a high-quality Gotham cable to attach it to the power supply, where you switch the polar patterns. The cable fits nicely at a 90-degree angle into the 7-pin connector at the mic's base. The power supply is as solid as a brick and about the size of a shoebox. A large, basket-style shockmount screws securely onto the mic's base, but the thumbscrew couldn't quite tighten down enough to hold the heavy mic in place reliably. Fortunately, the folks at Avant Electronics report that the company fixed this problem about the same time that I began my review.
The pop screen gets fitted onto the capsule housing's neck with two long nut/screw assemblies. Attaching the pop filter was a little cumbersome, but once in place, it did its job nicely and looked pretty darn cool, to boot. Speaking of looking cool, the mic and its accessories come in a tweed case with alligator trim. The case is rather large and appropriately retro.
I employed the BV-1 in everyday session work in my studio (New, Improved Recording in Oakland, Calif.) for about a month, giving me opportunities to try it on vocals, saxophones, clarinet, electric and upright bass, electric and acoustic guitars, piano, and drums. It excelled in almost every scenario. On male vocals, I heard a more forward midrange and a smoother, less-hyped top end than on either the Blue Microphones Bottle mic with a B6 capsule or the Mojave Audio MA-200. In this case, the BV-1's sound fit the song better. The only time I took the (identical-sounding) pair of test mics down was over a particularly bashy drummer, where they sounded somewhat harsh.
In general, the BV-1 is a trifle more well endowed in the 3kHz-to-5kHz range than those other mics, which made certain otherwise dark instruments, such as clarinet and upright bass, sit nicely in the track. It also really delivered on our old Chickering 6-foot grand piano, which has a woolly, dark sound that I love, but usually needs a little EQ dip in the boomy lower midrange. Recorded in mono with a BV-1 in cardioid, the piano sound didn't need that treatment, as the mic accentuated the presence of the piano while still sounding natural.
As with all multipattern mics, the BV-1's frequency response changes depending on the pattern selected. This was clearly illustrated when I set it up as a drum-room mic: As I changed patterns, it sounded like I was EQ'ing the channel. In cardioid, I got what I would consider the most neutral sound, and as I notched the selector switch toward bidirectional figure-8, the sound thinned out a bit, emphasizing the snare drum and de-emphasizing the bass drum.
The opposite was true as I approached the omni pattern: The kick became much beefier, the snare receded a bit, and the mic's overall output came up a notch and had a little more roominess. All the patterns sounded good in their own ways, and each could be useful depending on the role of the room mic in the track. I really like this kind of tonal preshaping that happens before any EQ or compression, as it sounds more natural to my ears. The BV-1 proved mighty versatile during this test.
I have zero qualms reporting that the BV-1 is a high-quality mic at a great price, and it stood up squarely against a few of my favorite standbys. It wasn't always my top choice, but when it was, it handily fulfilled its job of capturing the sound of whatever was in front of it. I have nothing but praise for this beautiful-looking and -sounding mic.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 4