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Avalon U5 1-channel Active Preamp / Direct Box Reviews

4.5 stars based on 21 customer reviews
Questions about the Avalon U5 1-channel Active Preamp / Direct Box?

Questions about the Avalon U5 1-channel Active Preamp / Direct Box?

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Sweetwater Advice

  • Brad Every

    I use the U5 when I want to extract every detail and nuance from a bass or acoustic/electric guitar. It can also be used to warm up keyboards and drum machines.

  • from Palos Verdes California January 23, 2017Music Background:

    The U5 Not only for Bass

    I have the 15th anniversary U5 ( Black ) this is by far the best DI out there for any instrument I use it as a front end for recording electric acoustic guitars vocals and keyboards, maybe it wasn't intended for all these inputs but you gotta be creative it excels in all of the above Avalon Design ROCK !!!

    I always like to thank my 11-year and counting rep Austin Moss for his recommendations and support
    Sweewater is the place to get your musical appetite and craving satisfied go for it and thank you

  • from Nashville, TN September 30, 2016Music Background:
    Producer, Engineer, Musician


    This is BY FAR my favorite bass DI. I have engineered and produced in multiple pro studios in Nashville and this is the ONLY bass DI I ever use when recording! You absolutely can't go wrong with this DI.

    5 Stars all the way with this one!!!

  • from Fresno, CA March 26, 2015

    Awesome in, awesome out.

    I've had one of these for over a decade, and the reviews are spot on. It kicks all kinds of ***. The speaker input needs mention, as it does work as awesome as everything else. It isn't a load box, so you need to run a cab with it, and then some kind of speaker sim or impulse response (ownhammer IR's rule here), and it is just pure magic. Great when you need to record live with a band, but need to cut out any bleed. Only downside is cost, but that's only cause I want half a dozen.

  • from Ocean City, MD December 2, 2014Music Background:
    40 years full and part time, cover bands

    Simply the Best

    I use this as a bass pre for live performance either by direct without a stage rig or by power amp and assorted speaker combinations. The tone bank EQ's, #1 and #2 are perfect for my applications, 4 or 6 string, fretted or fretless. Great character too with a hint of growl when digging in. The scooped out mids, thumpy subs and crystal highs are excellent for slap with tone #2. Tone #1 is great for modern and finger style. The overall tone is rich and clear, there is no place to hide if you're not spot on with your technique because the sound techs will turn you up in the house. Purchased this 12 to 15 years ago, use it 3 to 4 days a week, year in year out and not a single problem. I use the Mic DI Out for tuner and Line DI Out for house. I do suggest supporting the rear of the unit if rack mounted. Simply put....I'm done searching for my sound...I found it.

  • from Florida April 8, 2013

    Avalon U5

    One of the best DI on the market and worth every penny.
    I tried a few different ones before I got the U5.
    I use it on guitars and bass in mainly the studio.

  • from York, PA February 3, 2011Music Background:
    Drums, Recording Engineer, Creative Marketing

    More than a pretty box

    Sure, all Avalon Design stuff is cool looking and built like a Sherman tank, but more importantly, sounds great and is easy to use!
    I like to move quickly and keep the mojo rolling. The U5 allows me to move from track to track quickly and the results are amazing! Believe the hype!
    Everyone writes about how great it is on guitar and bass (it is), but Iíd like to emphasize the fact that every track can be U5alized! All drum tracks, keys, horns, everything!
    If youíre looking for one piece of equipment to make the biggest difference in your home studio, this is it!
    Iíve owned my U5 for 5 years and have tried it on everything you can imagine! It hasnít let me down yet! In fact, itís added to my creativity, and made my mixes better! A lot Better!

  • from Ann Arbor, MI January 18, 2010Music Background:
    Engineer, Producer, musician.

    Great Tone and Clarity

    After some field testing this unit these are my thoughts on it's performance:

    Electric Bass - This DI sounds VERY clean, but not in a harsh way. It's quite pleasing. However, what really sets the U5 apart from other DIs I've used (A Designs Red DI, Great ME-1NV) is it's tone settings. The onboard EQ is WONDERFUL. Very natural and smooth sounding. My bass (An Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray) sounded great before I even added any eq or comp to the signal.

    Electric Guitar - Once again, very clean and pristine tone. I originally looked into this unit after hearing John Mayer's last album, which used this unit on a lot of his guitar parts. I wasn't disappointed at all by the results I got with my Gibson Les Paul Standard.

    Overall - I was surprised by this unit. I expected a good tone, but I was blown away by the tone I ended up getting. For the price, I don't think that this DI can be beat for bass or electric guitar. Definitely a smart buy. Also, it can be used for live sound as well which makes it very versatile.

    Thank you Sweetwater!

  • from Minneapolis, MN December 19, 2009Music Background:
    Recording Engineer

    No comparison for the price

    I took a risk and bought the U5 without ever trying it out, only based on the reviews it was given. This is the best DI Preamp that you can get for the price. The U5 is comparable to the Great River MP-500NV for a few hundred dollars cheaper. It sounds especially stellar on acoustic guitar and bass. I will sooner or later buy another one.

  • from JO December 16, 2009Music Background:

    THE U5


  • from Salt Lake City, Utah March 21, 2008Music Background:
    Bass Player / Recording Engineer For Air Supply

    In The Studio.....

    I use the U-5 On Acoustic guitars and my bass tracks, I love that round sound i get when using this piece. I have used it on 5 Air Supply Records, the old tracks (without the U-5) just sounded wimpy, now they are huge and round. I could not imagine our studio with out it in it! I never do a bass track without it!!

  • from February 27, 2007Music Background:
    Bassist and Vocalist, Dennis DeYoung Band (20 years and counting)

    Warning to all bass players - the purchase of an Avalon U5 may create more work than you can handle.

    I am absolutely thrilled with the Avalon U5. I am working on a new Dennis DeYoung CD, and the tracks I did before the Avalon did not stack up, and¬_Dennis said 'I think we should redo them' using my new rig. The response has been great to the transparent, full, clean sound. And I thought my sound was great to begin with. Engineers have solo'd it up, and commented how clean and great it sounds. My fellow musicians have made comments about the sound. Not sure what else Avalon could have put into the U5 to make life easier..except maybe a blender. So far I have only told you about how it has chenged my electric basses, but my acoustic sound is rounder and richer than ever. I don't what more I can say, except thanks.

  • from October 31, 2006Music Background:
    Recording engineer, producer, pro musician, hobbyist

    The Avalon Is On!

    Yes, it's pricey, but good. This may be the last thing you'll ever need to make your musical instruments sound vibrant during the recording process and or live performances. It truely makes a HUGE difference. The built of this product is very tough. Just look at it. If you're looking for the best, look no further!

  • from Salt Lake City Utah October 15, 2006Music Background:
    Recording Engineer, Pro Musician;

    Great to use for studio or live

    I've had the U5 for two and a half years and felt compelled to write a review. Ever since I plugged the guitar in for the first time, I've been amazed at how well it delivers. It takes all of the nasally high's out of electric guitars and beefs up the sound. My bassist friend insisted on using his amp head when he first plugged into it, and then found the sound was more crisp when he plugged straight into the Avalon. Acoustic guitars into the Avalon before the DAW are a dream. I've used this unit successfully on many tracks and I can no longer imagine recording or performing live without it.

  • from December 26, 2016

    At last!!

    I use the Avalon mainly on acoustic guitar. For years i had a Rare Earth (blend) Fishman installed in my Martin and it just didn't work with the Avalon. I know, sounds crazy. i must say it didn't really work with nothing. Lately I've replaced the Rare Earth with a Matrix (also Fishman). Now I understand the fuzz!!

    It sounds amazing. Full bodied, sparkling, detailed. My search is over. Great great DI.

    Btw, the search made me buy a Fishman Aura last year and although this one also benefits from the Matrix, for me the Avalon wins.

  • from Dearborn, MI January 5, 2015Music Background:

    Brittleness Be Gone!

    The Avalon U5 has improved the sound of my acoustic guitar so much. So soon and very musical sounding. 5 stars all of the way for the sound and function. The only drawback I can say is the lack of a power on/off switch. For a direct box that costs this much you would think you could keep it your recording room and turn it on or off when you need it. Make sure you plug your guitar in first and then into the U5. Then reverse when you disconnect. It is large and heavy to take to the gig but it built very well.

  • from washington, dc March 6, 2012Music Background:
    gospel bassist


    Let me start by saying, my sound man is sooo happy.
    Love the way it makes my bass sound. Only wish it had a mute and off switch

  • from Seattle, WA March 18, 2010Music Background:
    Recording Engineer, Musician

    Bass in your face!

    This thing vastly improved the quality of bass I'm getting in my studio. It took a minute to figure out the most ideal settings and connection to my rig... but it is locked and loaded now.

    Why not 5 stars?? For an extra few hundred bones one could purchase a single channel preamp/DI that could serve well for a wider variety of applications. But the U5 performs it's intended purpose damn well so I'm happy saving the money.

  • from McRae / Baxley, GA October 16, 2008Music Background:
    Pro This & That - Producer / Engineer / Performer / Pro Home Studio Owner

    Very Pleased...

    This is my first Avalon product, and I'm glad I purchased the U5. Although I just received it a few days ago and haven't used it extensively, I will say that I could immediately tell a grand difference in sound quality, especially with bass guitars. The U5 seems to pull out all the good frequencies and sounds, while still remaining very clean and "controlled". The pops & fret noise seem to be less apparent on my bass (I'm not a bass player, mind you, so I have a lousy and noisy technique), but the tone and meat of the sound is fat and full. I'm really impressed at how this unit accomplishes that aspect of creating a pleasurable tone.

    I'm very pleased with the overall build and layout of the U5. It's a deeper unit that I expected, and a little larger than the photo might lead one to believe. Not a problem, though. Avalon products are built very solidly.

    Some other products' units with tone shaping knobs aren't that apparent or noticeable when utilized, but I can definitely tell a difference between the selectable tone-shaping settings with the U5 (6 each). I like how you can 'sweep' out the mid range on one setting, add more bass to the other, offering different tonal characteristics. The options with this unit are nice for tracking and for live performances - lines in / out / thru, etc.

    The only problem I have now is that I want another one or two! This is a very good product that I look forward to getting to use and familiarize myself with in my studio. I'm sure I'll be buying other Avalon gear in the future.

  • from Spokane, WA December 21, 2010Music Background:
    Musician, Home Studio

    Nice DI for Bass

    Great DI for bass guitar - quick to get a good sound, very quiet, tone shaper (fav. setting is #4) is useful and musical, you can get a little color with the boost setting. Well built. Aesthetically pleasing. Plenty of headroom. HPF is nice for bass and I always have it on. Have used it on my Fender Jazz and Precision basses and an old, obscure active bass. Seems to have a slight bit of it's own natural compression. You end up with a track that will work well with or w/o a little EQ and compression. You will instantly recognize the familiar sound of this unit.

    I have a Great River MP1NV preamp (which I love) and the U5 on tone #4 sounds very similar on my bass. I'd say it definitely does achieve a Neve/API'ish sound for bass guitar.

    I have tried it several times with my Taylor 110E - it doesn't work for me, I just don't like the sound and prefer to use a LDC mic. If it's an acoustic part that will be buried in the mix and I'm feeling lazy then it would work. If you don't have a decent room, mic and/or pre to track your acoustic, I would think this would be a viable alternative then. YMMV!

    I've used it w/ good results as a DI for guitar as well (with the tone shaper off), using the Amp Designer in Logic Pro.

    The U5 is staple of recording studios and session bass players. Believe it or not, Geddy Lee uses 2 of these in his live rig along with a Sans Amp.

    Hope this helps you.

  • from Cologne / Germany March 23, 2009Music Background:
    semi-prof. musician / acoustic engineer (university degree)

    U5 - good for guitar ?

    I bought the U5 new, here my review:
    The acoustic noise is between the noise of a fishman aura and a sans amp para driver. Cutting the sans amp highs, the sans amp DI will have less noise than the U5.
    Pulling up the amplification of the U5 a few steps increases the noise very noticeable.
    Using the U5 as a bass DI works well, but there is nothing extraordinary in the provided sound. Using it for acoustic guitar is not recommandable. It is really a pure DI function, without any compression or sound enhancement.

  • from Detroit, MI USA May 1, 2004

    U5 ROCKS!!!

    The Avalon U5 is an incredible piece of gear. From very warm to very ballsy, you can dial in exactly what type of sound you want. I credit the U5 for providing the huge sound of my NS/Stick on my first cd, "Galaxy Rodeo," and will definitely use it for my next disc as well!

    Awesome stuff!

    To hear what the U5 sounds like on my recordings, visit: www.garyjibilian.com

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