0% Interest for 36 Months! Learn more »
(800) 222-4700
  • Español: (800) 222-4701
July 4 Financing

Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

After 15 years of great discussions, the Sweetwater Forums are now closed and preserved as a "read-only" resource. For discussions about current gear, check us out on Facebook, YouTube, inSync, and our Knowledge Base.

Preamps: dbx v Avalon


I am relatively new to the hard-disk world and am currently looking for a nice preamp to smooth out the goods heading into my MOTU 2408/Digital Performer system. It will be used for tracking vocals and all sorts of instruments.
I am wavering between the Avalon M5 and the dbx 586. The Avalon is no doubt the superior box, but is it worth the additional 500 bucks? Plus the dbx has some eq and limiting control?
Anyone out there have these units?
October 15, 2001 @04:56pm
David Klausner

Preamps (like mics and compressors and other gear) tend to be designed to be either very transparent, and impart no color of their own, or to have certain color or character. Depending on what you are doing, you may want one or the other (or both!).
The Avalon M5 is one of the cleanest, least colored pre's out there. It is incredibly detailed, and will get more out of your microphones than the vast majority of pre's out there.
The 586 is a piece designed to have a certain character to it. While it is a good unit for the money, it is not in the class of the Avalon. You are also getting 2 channels, 3 band EQ and a peak limiter for your money, but the raw pre of the Avalon is a different animal.
Which one is right for you will depend on a number of things - your budget, the gear you already own (mics, pre's, etc), the gear you plan to own (I always like to think of systems you can grow into, not grow out of), the kind of music you are doing, etc. Perhaps if you provide some more of this information, the folks on the forum can better provide their wisdom (and there is a lot of it out there).
October 15, 2001 @08:08pm

With the budget I have (had), I chose to go with the 586 and spend the money saved on a higher-quality mic. Knowing I will get some color from the 586, I felt more comfortable pairing the 586 with a Shure KSM32 than I was pairing the Avalon with a lower-quality mic.
A higher-end preamp is in my future (Perhaps an Avalon), but my initial step was a nicer mic and a medium range preamp. The dual channel aspect also played into my decision since it can do double duty if needed.
Thanks for the feedback. Thanks also to Sweetwater for providing me with the information needed to make a decision that fit my needs.
October 15, 2001 @08:18pm

Interesting. I have found just the opposite. A really great mic pre have brought out the best in all of my mics, including some cheaper ones. Who knew an SM57 could sound like that?
I have also run some of my neumanns and AKGs through some mid line mic pres and was not all that impressed with the results. Of course there are a million variables (including my own personal tastes) but this is the trend that I have noticed...
October 18, 2001 @07:03pm

I have also been considering the DBX 500 series pres but never hear any warm opinions towards them.I do hear a few huys say that Avalon 737 pres wont necessarally be the best choice to smooth out my signals going to my Adats either.Would you recommend one over the other for smoothing out my ADAT XT-20 recordings?
June 28, 2002 @08:50pm

I've been using the Avalon 737 for about 5 months and lets just say that my $350 CAD condenser mic never sounded better. Everything I've wanted in a tracking channel. I really think, though, it's a combination between mic-mic pre-compressor-eq that helps shape the entire sound. Not to mention the quality of the source of course!
July 13, 2002 @02:16am

I think the VT737SP is a great choice to get the most out of your ADAT's, or any other digital format that seems to be cold...oftentimes it's not the format itself that's cold, but the preamp and other analog circuitry in front of it. With its preamp, EQ and compression the 737 really lets you shape your sound to get the most out of your system. I also really like the Focusrite ISA220/430 and Manley Voxbox in the same product category, but they range in price from a little more to a whole lot more. Some of the Neve-type preamp/EQ combinations, such as the Vintech stuff or even the Rupert Neve-designed Amek stuff (and I suppose the Focusrite stuff I just mentioned falls into this category as well) does a great job of this as well, although the ones in the range of the Avalon don't have compression built in, which is a great way to add character.
Since everyone's asking about dbx I'll also mention the 786 preamp...it's quite a bit more than the 500-series stuff, and even the Avalon, and it doesn't have the color that the Avalon or other stuff I mentioned does, but it's a beautifull transparent preamp. I took it home for a few weeks and used it mainly as an overhead preamp with my Earthworks omni's and was very happy with the sound I got. It just seems to be one of those underrated preamps that nobody talks about...not sure why, maybe the price?
July 15, 2002 @11:08pm

Just got my Focusrite Octopre (thanks again, Michael Taylor and Sweetwater!) up and running today...and it has totally changed my way of viewing (hearing?) the way I do business...very very rich sounding, the compressors are not LA4s but they do their job nicely, queitly, and without any squishiness...Mic'd up an acoustic...great. Drum machines, keys, pretty much everything just sounds...better.
There have been a lot of 'pros' posting the Platinum class just doesn't cut it...I strongly disagree...again, its not an Amek, Great River, or GT Vipre, but it is a worthwhile investment into your sound...8 channels of Focusrite just can't be bad.
Ken M
WireLine Studio
Midland, Texas
July 18, 2002 @10:27pm

I'll second that on the Platinum stuff...I know it's not the same as their higher-end Red and ISA stuff, but the preamps are still well-designed Class-A instruments. They don't have transformers like the others, but that may work to their advantage in cases. I have a Tone Factory which I'm very happy with...in their price range they can't be beat (although I'm also a big fan of the Presonus stuff, which I think is just as good, with a different voice).
July 18, 2002 @11:08pm

I would much rather have a great pre/cheap mic combo than a great mic/cheap pre combo. As said above a good pre will give all of your mics a major boast in its performance. I own 2 AVALON 737s and love them. I`ll probably get some more but for right now, it has been a great investment for my studio.
I would stray away from the dbx stuff. Unless you`re talking their hi end compressor.
As far as smoothing out your ADATS, send back you dbx and get an AVALON.
July 24, 2002 @11:18pm

I would stray away from the dbx stuff. Unless you`re talking their hi end compressor.

Have you heard the 786? It's the preamp in the same range as their high-end compressor (the 160SL). It's an amazing preamp, you'd be surprised.
July 24, 2002 @11:34pm

The high end dbx is indeed a different breed than the cheap ones.
The 737 is not what I would call a "home run" preamp, meaning that it's not something I would use on every signal source. For almost all drums, for instance, I'd avoid it. I like the EQ on most things. The compressor is pretty finicky, though, being good on some stuff and not working so well on other things.
Being a valve design, it's a fairly "slow" (in the relative sense) preamp, which is often not desirable for fast-transient material, like drums and acoustic guitars.
I own a pair of 737's. I use them for vocals and bass guitars, occasionally for room mics and pianos. They're great for that. I also sometimes use just the EQ on the stereo buss or on submixes.
The closest thing I've heard to a "home run" preamp is the Great River MP2-NV. Awesome. It's very hard to get a bad (or even merely good) sound out of it. Probably not a first choice for classical, but for everything else...
July 25, 2002 @04:03pm

I have not heard the 786 so yes I am being a bit critical of dbx but until I hear it, I have not been impressed with their "lower" end pieces.
The 737s are great all around pres and when used lightly the compressors can do marvelous things. No the compressors are not MANLEY VARI MUs but for $2000, its a tough unit to beat.
I`m looking into the MP2-NV and would like to treat myself to one for the Holidays.
July 26, 2002 @03:38am

I have not heard the 786 so yes I am being a bit critical of dbx but until I hear it, I have not been impressed with their "lower" end pieces.

Give it a listen if you get a chance, I think you'll be impressed. It's definitely not a "lower-end" piece...in the same range as their high-end compressor you'd mentioned earlier. It's a great preamp...you can hear it on the 3D Pre CD. I'm kind of surprised that it's not a more well-known piece than it is...maybe people are reluctant to try out a $3000+ preamp from a company that makes a $99 preamp? In any case it's a phenomenal piece. I had one I was evaluating for a few weeks and I was sad to give it back...
PS Take a peek, it's an attractive one:
July 26, 2002 @02:41pm

Ted-Thanks for the link. I didn`t realize it was a Blue Series Unit.
Its difficult to take a company seriously all the time when they have such a wide range of prices in their product line. Could you imagine MANLEY coming out with a $99 compressor?
Anyway, I do have the 3D PRE CD and will check it out there. I doubt I`ll be buying it.
BTW-Have you ever heard the APHEX 107? For $300 you get two pres that are very very nice. I still van`t believe this thing is so cheap!
July 26, 2002 @05:42pm