Avalon 737 Alternatives: Recording Ultra Clean
Before we get into some of the best Avalon 737 Alternatives, we’ll look at why the 737 remains such a popular preamp choice in professional studios worldwide.
The combination of the Sony C-800G tube condenser microphone and the Avalon VT-737SP tube channel strip has been a mainstay for over 20 years when tracking the biggest artists in Pop, Hip-Hop, and R&B.
The main reason for its longevity in the industry is that we have moved into the post-production era of music where vocals are often the only element that isn’t generated by software plug-ins.
Regardless of the vocalist’s ability, many engineers and producers make use of Auto-Tune, Melodyne, and pitch-shifting effects such as Little Alterboy to create the aesthetics we hear in many current pop songs.
Avalon 737 Alternatives
With this in mind, it makes absolute sense that the most transparent recording stages would be used by the top artists to provide a clean and colourless signal for processing, without any vintage vibe.
The 737 gives you stacks of clean tube gain, with an extensive and precise EQ section for targeting problem areas and enhancing the source. However, the 737 compressor section is often bypassed as many prefer the Tube-Tech CL 1B for tracking vocals and bass guitar.
Now that we know how and why the 737 is used in the recording process, let’s look at some ways to get an ultra-clean sound in your home studio without spending upwards of $3500.
When it comes to tube preamps and channel strips, the tubes can swapped out for others that can give you different sonic characteristics. So always remember this when choosing tube gear.
ART Pro Channel II
If you’re working with a tight budget, the ART Pro Channel II is a great choice, delivering a considerable amount of value for its meager price tag.
It combines a class A tube preamp stage with an optical compressor and an EQ section with sweepable midrange bands. Moreover, both the EQ and compressor can be bypassed and there are two insert loops for adding other processors into the chain.
In the metering section, there’s a character meter which is useful for beginners. What’s more, the preamp has multiple impedance modes and a switch to change the tube voltage, so you can optimize for a wide range of mics.
- More from ART Pro Audio
Crane Song Syren
When you need a high-end tube preamp in a compact format, the Crane Song Syren 500-series module is about as good as it gets. What’s more, it’s not just a one-trick pony.
On the bottom right of the front panel, there’s a switch to change between Open and Color character modes. When you combine this with the ability to overload your input gain and trim back your output level, you have a range of ways to capture mic and DI sources.
Although it may amount to less of an initial outlay than a VT-737SP, the entire Crane Song channel strip will actually cost more when you take into account the EQ and compressor modules.
- More about Crane Song
Tegeler Vari Tube Recording Channel
The Tegelear VTRC is a versatile channel strip that combines a range of features inspired by classic recording gear. For starters, you get a choice of vari-tube and optical compression, or both.
In addition, there’s a Pultec-style passive EQ section for shaping your input signal and sweetening the mids and highs. Moreover, the VTRC is flexible, so you can flip the signal path and place the EQ before the compressor and vice-versa.
To make things more interesting, the link feature allows a pair of VTRC units to be used in stereo configurations. This is perfect when recording with stereo overheads, or doing bus processing while mixing.
- More from Tegeler Audio
SPL Channel One Mk3
A more recent development, the SPL Channel One Mk3 provides an extensive range of features for tone shaping and dynamics control with flexible signal flow options.
For starters, you can set the amount of tube saturation you want, and the de-esser and transient designer sections allow you to shape the peaks of your signal precisely going in.
What’s more, the EQ section has an air band to breathe some glistening high-frequency energy into the signal. Meanwhile, there are two channels, so you can quickly compare microphones to find the best one for your singer.
- More from SPL
The Manley CORE is a versatile recording channel strip with a tube input stage offering stacks of clean discrete gain, an ELOP compressor, an EQ section, and an FET limiter with variable release time.
After the tube stage, there’s a direct out and an insert point for incorporating other gear into your recording chain. Also, the preamp has high and low gain modes for different mics and sound sources.
Remember that the more you work the gain reduction within the compressor and limiter sections, the more character you will imbue onto the signal. So, keep this in mind if you’re looking to capture a clean sound.
- More about Manley
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