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Author Topic: Avalon 747SP  (Read 13422 times)

Glenn Bucci

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Avalon 747SP
« on: June 18, 2009, 07:57:18 pm »

Avalon VT-747SP Stereo Compressor & EQ

The 2-U space Avalon VT-747SP offers a stereo tube discrete Class A opto-compressor with a six band equalizer. It does not offer separate controls for the left and right channel, which may not offer as much flexibility as some other units. The good news is you don’t have to worry about matching the two channels, and paying for costly Grayhill detented knobs to do so. Though it does not offer the option for processing two discrete signals, you are able to use it when tracking a single source. Avalon Designs advised that the purpose of the unit is for stereo signals when recording such as keyboards, stereo buss compression and mastering applications. As with any unit with tubes and an internal power supply, it is recommended to provide enough ventilation for the unit.

Overview: In looking at the front faceplate from the top left, there is an input knob that has a 0 gain in the middle, with -20 db - +8 db control. Underneath them there is a +10 db gain button, TSP button which activates the tubes into the signal chain, and an EQ pre or post setting to the compressor. Avalon was smart enough to have colored lights which confirm when all the buttons are activated even from a distance. There is an attack and release knob below them. Even though there are 3 levels of controls, the display is not crowded and everything is easy to access. Next is the Side Chain Threshold of up to – or + 15 db for the LP and HP. The LF offers 60, 70, 80, 100, 160, 200, 250, 300, 400, 600, 1K, while the HP offers 600, 700, 800, 1k, 2k, 2k5, 3k, 4k, 6k, 10 k. Having overlapping freq.’s offers additional flexibility. There is a side Chain active button and SC listen button. The ratio goes from 1 -20, and a make up gain which goes up to 10 db.

The 6 band EQ (to the right of the VU Meter) offers a shelf EQ at 15Hz, with a boost-cut of -24 dB to 24 dB. A 125 Hz bell EQ of -8dB to +8dB, a 500Kz bell of -4dB to +4dB, 2kHz bell -4dB - +4dB, 5kHz shelf of -10 db to + 10dB, and a 32kHz shelf of -20dB - +20dB. All EQ sliders have a detent at 0dB. Though the top of the sliders indicate what type of EQ it is (shelf or bell), the sliders do not indicate what freq.’s they represent. I was rather disappointed that Avalon decided not to include this information. At the far right on the unit there are two 60 dB range LED meters which provide fast L-R output information, an output control of -20dB - +6dB, as well as a hard-wire bypass EQ switch.

Opto-Compressor: The compressor uses a minimum signal path that uses sealed silver relays for the routing, and bypass functions. The attenuator is a passive controller that has a Class A variable gain make-up amplifier. It offers soft to hard knee limiting, and provides a large VU meter to advise on how much gain reduction is being applied to the signal which sits in the center of the unit. There is also a side-chain path that offers both low and high end filtering. This allows particular frequency’s to pass through the compressor without being compressed. This can be helpful when trying to control a mix that has dominate low frequencies such as a strong kick drum or bass guitar. By selecting the right frequency, you could prevent the compressor from grabbing the low end too much to allow the top end to be compress more smoothly. Many compressors offer a HP filter, but most do not offer both a low and high pass filter. This makes the Avalon 747SP more flexibility. There is a blue light that advises the speed and activation of the compressor. There is even a listen mode for the side-chain for monitoring.

Six Band Equalizer: The 747SP offers a discrete Class A six band EQ in a passive design. Unlike a parametric EQ, this graphic EQ does not offer a Q factor so it is more limited for broad strokes. However Avalon Design was smart in offering a low shelf band, three bell mid freq.’s, and two higher shelf bands. For a 2 bus mix, or at the mastering stage, I found the selected frequencies, and their character offer what is needed to control low end, and give a pleasant clean sweetening character to the music. Specifically, the mid freq.’s can help reduce clutter in a mix very effectively. While being a clean EQ it does not sound sterile, and has a touch of smoothness to it. You also have the option to put the EQ before or after the compressor offering additional flexibility.

TSP –Twin Signal Path: With a push of a button, you have a choice of running the signal through a Class A discrete solid state components, or through three high voltage dual triode tubes that are in the discrete amplifiers in the output transformer. Though there is only a subtle difference when engage, there is a noticeable pleasant rounding of the signal when activated.

In use: I ran several different styles of music through the 747SP, as well as tracking instruments with it. The compressor was very effective in helping mixes gel while adding a wider spacial character with the optic compressor. It is able to be very transparent or offer a pleasant clean smoothness to mixes. The EQ is not a surgical type that can fix things, but it can add sparkle, reduce clutter in the mid’s, and control the low end in a mix quite well. I recorded an acoustic guitar in stereo through Rode NT5’s going through my Neve Portico pre’s. The signal was then routed through the Avalon 747SP. In activating the TSP with a ratio of about 3.5, a fairly fast attack and medium release, I reduced the signal up to -3dB. With this setup, the compressor was very clean while controlling the transients. In addition, it added a little bit of fairy dust by gently adding smoothness to the guitar. Regarding EQ, I always believe in using proper mic placement which is the most effective EQ in my book. However when I boosted the 32Khz slider, it added a bit of air to the already enhance sound that the compressor and TSP offered. The result obtained was one of the best sounds I ever tracked with an acoustic guitar.

By using the TSP button, one can add subtle smoothness to the signal. Depending on the source material will dictate if the 2 bus mix sounds better with or without the TPS button. If you (sadly) receive tracks where the engineer squashed the dynamics too much to make the recordings loud, the TSP button can help reduce some harshness one might hear in a mix. It might also sound a little better with the TSP button activated with heavy rock music. When you have mixes that were done well, and you just want to give some transparent control to the mix, I preferred a cleaner signal chain without the TSP activated.

The compressor has the ability to be very transparent in controlling transients just as well as many other optic compressors out there. In addition, by working with the +10 button, make up gain, side chain, and output control, you can obtain a little bit of character to the signal as well. Even so, it is still cleaner than the character of compressors like the Manley Mu or Thermionic Culture Phoenix. It also does not offer the punch of an API 2500 compressor. This is the reason why studios need more than one type of compressor to meet the many needs of their studio. In working with many high end optic compressors, I can say with confidence that the 747SP’s compressor is on par with the best of them. All of them of course have their own personally and strengths which will dictate which one will meet the needs of your studio. However there are two distinct aspects that make the 747SP even more attractive. Besides having a good compressor, it includes a great sounding EQ, and is priced $1,000 - $2,000 less than some of the higher end compressors. With it’s clean control, 3 dimensional sound, and lower cost to many of its rivals, it left me no choice but to add this unit to my rack.

Pros: The compressor can provide a very transparent sound when you want to just control the transients without altering the sound of a mix. In addition, it can add some character and smoothness if so desired. The 6 band EQ is very natural sounding which allows broad strokes to enhance your tracks. The price of the unit is cheaper than many of it’s competition.

Cons: The EQ sliders don’t have labeling for the frequency they represents. Time to get my label maker out. Some may not like the lack of separate controls for the left and right channels.

VT-747SP SPECIFICATIONS
Circuit topology   Three (3) dual triode vacuum tubes (Sovtek 6922), high-voltage discrete Class A mode.
Input gain range   Balanced, Class A, 20k ohms, -20dB to +16dB with high gain switch
Maximum input level   +36dB balanced XLR pin 2 hot
Maximum output level   +30dB balanced 600 ohms, DC coupled, discrete Class A
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JGauthier

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2009, 01:31:26 am »

Great review Glenn! Ive used the 737 a bunch but never a 747. Being a HUGE Crystal Method fan, Ive always wanted to play with one and see. Vegas changed my life...

It always sounded like they used the SC2 for bass and punch and the 747 for mids and sheen but I could be completely wrong. But they are 100% the reason I bought an original SC2 and man did it represent!

Either way, your review just makes me want to try one even more!

Did you prefer the compressor or the EQ if you had to pick, or did both work to your favor enough not to have a preference?
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Glenn Bucci

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2009, 09:25:43 pm »

JGauthier wrote on Fri, 19 June 2009 01:31

Great review Glenn! Ive used the 737 a bunch but never a 747. Being a HUGE Crystal Method fan, Ive always wanted to play with one and see. Vegas changed my life...

It always sounded like they used the SC2 for bass and punch and the 747 for mids and sheen but I could be completely wrong. But they are 100% the reason I bought an original SC2 and man did it represent!

Either way, your review just makes me want to try one even more!

Did you prefer the compressor or the EQ if you had to pick, or did both work to your favor enough not to have a preference?


They are both very good, and I really could not pick one over the other. I did purchase it more for the compressor since I was shopping for a great 2 bus/mastering compressor. I already have the Langevin Mini Massive EQ. But the Avalon EQ is different enough to compliment the Mini Massive.
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Hallams

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2009, 12:34:35 am »

 I have hesitated in saying this as i don't want to offend, and the review is good, but in reading this particular review, i can't help think it was written from the perspective of an audio magazine type review where the overall flavor is a positive impression rather than the more objective, "tools of the trade" in-depth account of its strengths an weakness which is why this forum exists.
I love my Avalon 747 and use it often, but am finding it a difficult thing to get an honest un biased opinion / review of the unit from users who have more on the job experience than myself. Some of the well respected, seem to dismiss the 747 in a manner that seems prejudiced and others seem to remain silent, as this thread has done for a while now.......so i'm resurecting it.
 What i'm looking for i suppose is an in depth review by someone who uses the 747 and knows it backwards and  who has a variety of compressor options at hand and a wealth of recording, mixing experience in the industry over a variety of musical styles.
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Chris Hallam.
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dbmusic

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2009, 06:25:10 pm »

Hallams wrote on Tue, 25 August 2009 23:34

 
I love my Avalon 747 and use it often...


I own a 747 and thought Glenn's review was on the money. However, I think it's good to take reviews with the proverbial grain of salt. If you love the 747, then who cares what others think? I mean if you look hard enough you'll find people who love it and people who think it sucks. Where does that leave you? Back to your own impression.

Best regards,

DB
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Hallams

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2009, 07:17:54 pm »

dbmusic wrote on Thu, 27 August 2009 08:25

Hallams wrote on Tue, 25 August 2009 23:34

 
I love my Avalon 747 and use it often...


I own a 747 and thought Glenn's review was on the money. However, I think it's good to take reviews with the proverbial grain of salt. If you love the 747, then who cares what others think? I mean if you look hard enough you'll find people who love it and people who think it sucks. Where does that leave you? Back to your own impression.

Best regards,

DB


Ok, i agree, my own impression is what i primarily go by, but with a limited choice in stereo compressors its a bonus when someone who uses the 747 and has more options to choose from, can have info on where and why they find the 747 has its place.  
 I know the where and why i use it. I think because of the variety of choices it offers, it is not immediately obvious where the sweet spot of some of the set up combinations are and what it can do for the mix in different applications. On the one hand this can be seen as a negative as some boxes give the wow factor almost as soon as you plug them in and mess with the gain in and out.This often means that peice of kit is a one trick pony although the trick is well worth owning the box for. On the other hand it indicates as in the 727's case that there are a variety of very worthy applications for it on a mix and getting to know them and when to use them takes time playing and experimenting and thinking in a different way than you would with your one trick pony. Many of the things i like the 747 for are quite subtle, but in audio there is a lot of power in subtleties. I would expect, as i haven't used these, but i would not be thinking of it as doing for the mix what an API 2500 does, or for tracking , what a 176 type of box does.
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Chris Hallam.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2009, 12:18:03 am »

Opinions on Avalon are strongly divided.  It's like Steely Dan: You either love it or you hate it.  I got offered free time at a nice studio, and turned it down because the console was a Digi Icon, and the bulk of the outboard gear was Avalon.

I used the original 747, and it bored me to death.  Some people like that.  I failed to get a sound out of it that excited me, between either the pre, compressor or the EQ.  It does not sound bad, by any means.  But if you are used to using Neve 1073s, or Telefunken TAB V72s, or 1176s or LA2As, etc., you will not find the same "mojo" in this box.  
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

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Hallams

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2009, 12:34:54 am »

J.J. Blair wrote on Thu, 27 August 2009 14:18

Opinions on Avalon are strongly divided.  It's like Steely Dan: You either love it or you hate it.  I got offered free time at a nice studio, and turned it down because the console was a Digi Icon, and the bulk of the outboard gear was Avalon.

I used the original 747, and it bored me to death.  Some people like that.  I failed to get a sound out of it that excited me, between either the pre, compressor or the EQ.  It does not sound bad, by any means.  But if you are used to using Neve 1073s, or Telefunken TAB V72s, or 1176s or LA2As, etc., you will not find the same "mojo" in this box.  


Good one! Avalon...the "Steely Dan" of audio gear.
JJ are you confusing the Avalon 747 with the 737? I have my "mojo" preamps and would not be looking at an Avalon in the pre amp dept.
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Chris Hallam.
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JGauthier

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2009, 01:41:38 am »

Hallams wrote on Wed, 26 August 2009 21:34



Good one! Avalon...the "Steely Dan" of audio gear.
JJ are you confusing the Avalon 747 with the 737? I have my "mojo" preamps and would not be looking at an Avalon in the pre amp dept.



Yeah its the fast reading complex of the 737/747. I always make the same mistake JJ did- and Im sure its not because he doesn't know the difference!

I also would LOVE to hear more about the 747. Ive never used one or even SEEN one anywhere I track regularly.

Though I agree with JJ's take on the sterility of the 737, I have to admit a strange thing (and I sold my 737)- The best vocal I ever cut according to my mentor was on an Avalon 737... But it was an R&B giant butter brother voice- which application is also part of what made it famous.

I only point that out to in part 1. agree with the over all sterility of the avalon units I have tried and 2. to point out the strange world of audio where the pre I HATED AND SOLD, gave me the most props from my Mentor... And he never says much of anything.

I know a few people I really respect using 737s and 747s... And my favorite record of all time has 737s and 747s all OVER IT..

I always consider renting one but theres SO MUCH BETTER STUFF TO RENT... I never do.
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jetbase

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2009, 02:08:17 am »

JGauthier wrote on Thu, 27 August 2009 15:41

I know a few people I really respect using 737s and 747s... And my favorite record of all time has 737s and 747s all OVER IT..



Which record is that?

How does 747 compression compare to 737 compression? And the eq for that matter. I've only ever used a 747 once, so I'm no judge of that. I've used the 737 a bunch of times though. I often like the 737 compressor on bass guitar & very occasionally on a vocal. I've tried the eq a few times & end up switching it out every time, & I've used the mic pre once or twice & regretted using it. I remember using Avalon solid state pres years ago & thinking they were great.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2009, 04:43:10 pm »

I recall it having a graphic (at least I thought I did).  That's why I thought it was the 747.  I just went and looked at the studio's gear list, and it was indeed the 737 SP.

Oops!

BTW, have any of you tried replacing the Sovtek tubes with something good?
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

wwittman

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #11 on: August 28, 2009, 01:08:08 am »

I have to more or less agree that the 747 is bland to some degree.

it's not awful, it's juts not great either.


It's certainly not anything I would find myself going out of my way for.

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Glenn Bucci

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2009, 08:46:21 am »

Hallams wrote on Wed, 26 August 2009 00:34

i can't help think it was written from the perspective of an audio magazine type review where the overall flavor is a positive impression rather than the more objective, "tools of the trade" in-depth account of its strengths an weakness which is why this forum exists.
I love my Avalon 747 and use it often, but am finding it a difficult thing to get an honest un biased opinion / review of the unit from users who have more on the job experience than myself. Some of the well respected, seem to dismiss the 747 in a manner that seems prejudiced and others seem to remain silent, as this thread has done for a while now.......so i'm resurecting it.
 What i'm looking for i suppose is an in depth review by someone who uses the 747 and knows it backwards and  who has a variety of compressor options at hand and a wealth of recording, mixing experience in the industry over a variety of musical styles.


I agree my review is overall positive, but the reason is with high end gear that has Class A, high end components, and the results one gets with high end gear it's hard not to. On gearslutz there are so many "which is better, this or that"  threads. The answer on the high end gear is...it all depends on what character you are looking for. A Voxbox is not better or worse than a Pend Quartet. They both have their place and character. It all depends on what your looking for in a channel strip. I try to explain the pros and cons and let you decide if what it offers is the best for you. But a lot of times high end gear, due to it's design and sound make it hard not to give you more of a positive spin. It's a lot easier to say negative things about something like a Focusrite Platinum piece over a Focusrite Red 3 Compressor.

I wrote a review on a mid level hardware EQ but after the editors saw my impressions of it (I found some plug in EQ's offered a better result), it was not published.

My review is based on using the 747 for what it was intended for which is mostly on a 2 bus mix. I don't have any affiliation with Avalon. I have used many other compressors on a two bus mix like a DW Fearn VT-7, Pendulum ES8, OCL 2, SSL, Cranesong and others. I believe I was able to explain what the unit did well, and what it did not. Yes I could of said, well the EQ is not parametic so it's control is not a grand as a 4 band paramteric EQ. So if you have this unit, buy a nice Neve or Summit EQ to add some nice flavor to a mix. I don't think you should make critical statements on gear for what it does not do, if that was not the intent. The EQ is  transparent, but many times this is what you want at the mastering stage. No one box does everything, and engineers know that which is why they have several EQ's and compressors in their studio. At the matering stage, you usually only make some subtle changes with an EQ or compressor. But after adding several subtle things to a mix, the end result should offer great results.
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Glenn Bucci

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2009, 09:04:04 am »

wwittman wrote on Fri, 28 August 2009 01:08

I have to more or less agree that the 747 is bland to some degree.

it's not awful, it's juts not great either.


It's certainly not anything I would find myself going out of my way for.




Have you ever tried a Cranesong STC-8 compressor? That is the most "bland" compressor I have ever used. I would prefer to use the word transparent though over bland. It can reduce your mix by 3 db and you won't even hear it working. Many will say that is boring, others will say Yes, that is exactly what I wanted the compressor to do. Leave the character of the mix intact, and just reduce the signal to get a little more even sound.
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DarinK

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Re: Avalon 747SP
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2009, 04:44:24 pm »

I have a question about the high eq on this unit, described on Avalon's website as 32kHz shelving.  Avoiding all discussion of the limits of human hearing, as it's a shelf and will of course affect lower frequencies, does this band of EQ on this unit do something that is hard to replicate with other units?  
I ask because a friend of mine bought one of these when his mastering studio was just starting up, and his only reason for buying it was that EQ band.  Sorry for the hearsay, but he said he had it confirmed from Avalon that the circuit was the same as in their highest-end mastering EQ, and he saw it as a way to achieve that "air" for a (relatively) low cost.  This was right around when the unit was first introduced, so it's possible that other options (like Cranesong) are now available that can do something similar.
I've only used the 737, for tracking, which seemed quite nice but a bit "pro" & "glassy" for my "meaty mid-range" tastes.  It did impress the clients, though, and I can imagine that sort of sheen being a nice touch in mastering.
-Darin K.
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