US firm Avant Electronics is probably best known for its Auratone-influenced Mixcube monitors. However, it also produces an extensive range of mics under the Avantone brand, and now these mics are being distributed in the UK.
Prices are very competitive as the mics are made in China, and if you're familiar with similar ranges, you may well recognise some of the design features. However, Avant is keen to point out all mics pass through its US headquarters for individual quality control and carry a full five-year warranty, indicating confidence in the products.
SCV London is currently carrying six of the mics and it's the Dual Ribbon CR-14 we have for review. For the most part, the CR-14 follows standard passive ribbon mic design. So, a low mass ribbon and magnet arrangement (or motor) are combined with a transformer-coupled output to produce a 'velocity' mic with a very natural figure-of-8 polar pattern.
As with similar mics, the frequency response naturally tails off in the highs, and the overall sensitivity is low. However, as you may have spotted, this is a 'dual ribbon' design. This means two ribbons sit side-by-side. Avant claim this produces better sensitivity, and at 3.2 mV/Pa, that's certainly better than some we've tried.
On the downside, the shorter ribbon length (35mm in this case) reduces the high-frequency response.
Visually, rather than copy the leading contemporary design, the CR-14 has a retro 'electric shaver' shape. The package includes a traditional suspension cradle, wooden box and compact case.
As we've said, the ribbon 'motor' design itself influences the sound of any ribbon mic. With the CR-14, as predicted, there is a tail off in the high frequencies. In practice, this is noticeable as instruments such as acoustic guitar and voice lose a sense of air.
The upside is that recordings we made with the CR-14 responded well to EQ. Obviously, in situations where high frequencies are less prevalent (guitar amps, say), this is less of an issue.
"As with similar mics, the frequency response naturally tails off in the highs, and the overall sensitivity is low."
Similarly, for drum kit overheads in a lively sounding room, the tail off can be helpful. Sonically, the CR-14 sits firmly in this category of 'darker' ribbon mics.
The other aspect worth noting about the CR-14 is its mechanical characteristics. First up, it comes with a traditional suspension cradle, and using this considerably helps with eliminating low-frequency rumble and stand noise.
It's also worth mentioning the mic grille design. The external grille is doubled up with a fine wire mesh just behind it. How this influences the frequency response is hard to say, but it does influence susceptibility to plosives and wind. In use, we found the CR-14 coped well with these, adding to the general sense of robustness and ease of use.
The CR-14 is excellent value for money, and although you may not be immediately drawn to the red colour, overall it is well made. However, the shorter dual ribbon design does trade some high-end detail for its compact design.
Overall, the CR-14 would be a great choice if you're after a robust but affordable ribbon mic to add extra variety to your collection.