Bold look, hefty solid feel, built for the long haul
Nine different pickup patterns
80 Hz roll-off, -10 dB pad
TYPE: Tube Type Condenser
POLAR PATTERNS: Nine, conveniently selected at the power supply
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB
MAXIMUM SPL: 136 dB (0.5% THD @ 1000 Hz)
SELF NOISE: 17 dB
SENSITIVITY: -35 dB
POWER REQUIREMENTS: Power supply switchable, either 115 or 230 VAC
LOOK: Almost reminiscent of the AKG C-12, only redder
I want to have the conversation we can't avoid. I know I'm supposed to be slightly coy about this, like I'm almost supposed to pretend that $500 is maybe a misprint, and I'm really talking about a $5,000 mic? Or-- that I'm just way above this, it doesn't matter to me? Believe me-- it does. I consider the fact that this
with all it offers is only $500 to be a great, almost unbelievable stroke of good fortune. This ever-changing world in which we live in is a GREAT place to be buying audio gear. It's totally unbelievable when you think about it.
You know that with tube mics, swapping in and out different tubes will lend different flavors, but do you know of ANYONE who GIVES YOU DIFFERENT TUBES? These guys do: THREE. (Caps are gonna get a workout, this review.) The Russian 6072A is stock--lending a classic, warm aura, with a Slovakian EEC81 & an EEC83 for crisper, almost grittier tones for singers or situations which benefit from pumping things up a notch. Changing the tubes is not for the clodhoppers amongst us--the design is kinda crafty. (If you had to unlock your car door this way, you would never drive drunk.) But not impossible, either. The cable to connect the mic to its power supply is something like 35 feet long, durable and flexible--not like these wimpy, fragile cords that you wouldn't in a million years dare let anyone step on. Don't step on this one, okay, but if it happened it wouldn't be the end of the world. The power supply, sitting with you near your preamp, has a dial to select polar patterns: cardioid, omni, figure-8 or six "in-betweensies" to float any particular boat. The operation of the switch changing the patterns is silent, by the way. Of course.
It's all about operating on your instincts, every move you make: every audio engineer I've ever met has had a background of technical knowledge, but when it comes down to actually working on anything, common sense takes over. The sum total of everything you've done swings into play. "Setting levels," "getting a sound," "sound-checking," no one does this to a meter. You are, strictly speaking, auditioning your feelings: does this seem right? If not, why not?
One kooky-but-revealing test of a mic is to hike the gain and whisper into it, monitoring much louder than the whisper truly is. With the CV-12, here it is revealed that the entire low end is wonderfully proportional to the whole picture, there's none of this dinosaurish footclopishness that some mics bludgeon you with in a foolish quest for ACCURACY. You won't need to use the roll-off in a self-defense way. You'll probably only need it for like an EQ-ish way, to delete lows not because you have to, but because you want to. I never needed to engage the pad, but then none of the sounds I recorded was anywhere near the deafening 136 dB limit, fortunately.
I recorded a spoken word performance, and the reader's inflections and mood were captured so vividly you felt like you knew this person well, you could almost guess what she was going to say next.
Next, I used this mic for an impromptu bluegrass jam session in an apartment over a garage one sweltering summer afternoon, swtiching it from vocalist to vocalist and around the various instruments. As a general mono room mic, it had what every other spot mic lacked: a low mid unifying density I can only call "heart"-- the sense of all the players playing together, the feet tapping on the floor, the THROBBING. My PR-40 had that info, but in a distant sort of way, far away from the high end, kind of on a different plane, even within the sound of the same mic. One track of a PR-40 always sounds kind of "stereo" to me, even though I know that's impossible. My M-179 has lots of low end too, thicker, and my i5 has it so dense it's hard to see. The CV-12 does that thing where even the various densely saturated sounds all "boil with life," there's always a clear focus and an "eveness" where everything is in perspective, interesting and smooth. Clamping down on the output into even a humble Samson compressor yielded a scintillatingly present "mix" sound, shimmery, ballsy, no prisoners taken nor punches pulled. Can it really be this easy? I hope not!
The mention of mandolin in the manual piqued my curiosity. Mandolins are devilishy difficult to record properly--the high-pitched sharp shrill tones can come across as spitting or splintery. In real life, they have a complex, bright urgency that cuts through everything, like laughter or like ringing a bell. The CV-12 leveled out any hint of harshness, capturing it all with a stinging, crisp clarity. On banjo, too, it captured a depth beyond the zinging attacks of the notes. It made the refrigerator in the corner and the crickets out beyond the back porch part of the whole vibe by hearing them exactly as they are--complex, percussive narratives in their own right.
6072A Tube : Smoothest of the lot, balanced warm character, very revealing on vocals
EEC81 Tube : Brighter response, accentuates the sizzle and the sheen
EEC83 Tube: Almost "gritty" character, veers into classic tube distortion territory
Enthralling, detailed sound for voice
Gorgeous, fully dimensional sound for acoustic instruments
Additional supplied tubes yield noticeably brighter results
A very perceptive friend of mine named Acoustic Cloud (he's Native American, maybe?) came up with an astute observation the other day. "Nothing these days 'sucks,'" he noted. "The competition all over has forced EVERYONE into a high level of quality!" So, with this in mind, who will be the new masters of this universe? I'd guess it will be the recognizable name where everything is not just really, really good--but DAZZLING. Each product in its own way a wonder of engineering and the PERFECT tool for a given thing, or a range of given things. It doesn't hurt that the Avant folks are real live people you can talk to in real time. Glen is a gregarious Southern soul, willing to talk endlessly to me, sharing his legitimate enthusiasm for this outstanding mic. Sue Avant is a cheerful, glistening presence on the phone. And it's not that I'm some big shot--although--it's that they truly love what they do. Sue said off-handedly to me, "You can tell by the prices we're charging, we're not going to take over the world," when I was thinking EXACTLY the opposite: YOU ARE.
Avant Electronics CV-12 Large Capsule Multi-Pattern Tube Microphone
at Front End Audio