Tracking vocals in the recording studio is something that I personally spend a huge amount of time on. For me, choosing the right pre-amp is just as important as choosing the right microphone. This is not to say that your consoles built in pre-amps are not suitable, but there is a trade off between the price of the console and component quality – a 48-channel desk with 48 Neve 1073’s would cost a bomb. My personal favourite pre-amp currently is the Millennia HV-3C.
Based upon a transformerless design, the sonic quality of the Millennia HV-3C is such that I noticed the lower frequencies seeming to be extremely clean. During testing I have used this preamp on kick drums, snares, vocals and guitars and so far I have to say I am blown away – I cannot get over how clear the signal is; it faithfully reproduces what the microphone is capturing.
The primary benefit to this pre is that it has an extremely high headroom, allowing all manner of applications for it without ever really clipping it. One thing to note though is that unlike transformer-based pre-amps, the Millennia HV3C offers little in the way of ‘sweet’ harmonic distortion that is so often sought after. If you’re looking for that ‘warm’ and mellow sound then you’ve come to the wrong place – this is the audiophile’s choice of pre! As for the controls, the pre offers very basic, but useful options. The stepped input gain ranges from 8.5dB to 65dB, with 1.5dB increments, allowing you to confidently match a stereo pair of microphones to the nearest .08dB – something I find unbelievably convenient for drum overheads.
I would say that one of the most handy features is the ability to step up large gain values using the green and amber A and B button respectively. Pressing ‘A’ allows a +18dB boost with respect to the gain set on the dial, while pressing both in allows a +36dB step. Remember what I said about the large headroom?
My final point to make is something that has no effect on the actual sound of this pre; it’s more of a comfort than anything else. The amount of accumulative hours I have spent crawling around behind outboard racks, chasing signals and wondering why my pre hasn’t got any signal present is not something I’d like to add up. This is where the HV-3C really does impress me: it has a ‘SP’ (Signal Present) LED…yes, you read the correctly. Hallelujah!
Overall, an outstanding piece of gear that should be part of a sound engineers toolbox. I genuinely have nothing bad to say about this pre-amp; I absolutely love it to bits. This beautiful piece of kit was a TEC 2005 nominee and we hope to publish some work within our 'users music' section so you can hear what all the fuss is about. Here at The Pro Audio Web Blog we vote it a 5/5.