Twickenham, England-based D.A.V. Electronics is a small company headed by an ex-Decca Record Co. service & design engineer of 28 years. Reviewed here is D.A.V.’s uniquely named portable microphone preamp, the Broadhurst Gardens No. 1.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, project studio
Key Features: Two-channel microphone preamp, variable frequency high-pass filters, 26 dB pad, phase reversal, phantom power
Price: £350, approx. $560 USD
+ Excellent sound
+ Solid build quality
+ Good value
– Limited distribution outside UK
– Gain knobs protrude from front panel
The Score: A premium hand-built mic preamp with distinct musicality.
Contact: DAV Electronics at 44-020- 8892-9334 Web Site
The Broadhurst Gardens No. 1 mic pre is housed in a simple black-anodized, extruded aluminum box. I would describe its size as a standard brick in height and width, and a brick and a half in depth. The No. 1 feels reassuringly like a brick too, in terms of solidity, and believe it or not, that overall feeling carries over into its sound.
In part due to its size, the No. 1 makes a great location recording preamp, with the only caveat that AC power is required. Other than that, its compact size makes it the perfect choice for bundling into a road bag along with some microphones. Its small size and unobtrusive appearance also make it quite invisible on stage, which is also a nice thing as it can allow you to place the preamp much closer to the microphones and drive the long cables at line level rather than mic level.
The unit that I received from DAV Electronics was set up for 120 V operation, and featured the standard detachable IEC AC cord. A pair of Neutrik XLR outputs share the rear panel. The front panel features two Neutrik XLR inputs, two switchable high-pass filters (40Hz/80Hz/ 150Hz), a phase-reversal switch (for channel 1), an 11-position gain control for each channel, and a two-channel, two-element LED meter which indicates +18 dBu with a green LED, and +21 dBu with a red LED. Maximum output is stated as +29 dBu. My only complaint with the design is that the gain knobs protrude from the front panel, and might be prone to damage (if one were careless). I have been informed that the next iteration of the No. 1 will address this issue.
The No. 1 really shined on vocals, providing a solid presentation that was very quick dynamically, and not at all pinched sounding when driven hard. I had excellent results using the No. 1 running either direct to tape, or feeding a compressor before hitting tape.
When compared to other preamps on hand, I found the No. 1 added a certain sense of “realism”. In one situation, I used a pair of Audio-Technica 4060 tube mics to capture the room sound during a recent session recording of a full drum set. The sound was the antithesis of the typical hollow and honky soundroom, instead providing a real representation of the actual musical event; the preamp definitely played a part in achieving these results.
Bass guitar was handled quite well, and the option to reverse polarity came in handy when I used the No. 1 to simultaneously send a direct signal to tape (courtesy of a Radial JDI direct box) and to a vintage Sunn Sorado bass head and 2 x 15 cabinet The proper phase relationship was quickly achieved.
The No. 1 turned out to be a bit of a surprise in quite a few ways. First of all, based upon its lineage (it was designed by Mick Hinton, an ex-Decca Records engineer in the UK), I expected it to be very old school, both in terms of sound and construction. I was completely wrong! The No. 1 is very well constructed and very modern in its approach. Witness a large (I would guess overspec’d) toroidal transformer, and high-speed Analog Devices ICs.
I had the opportunity to ask the designer why he chose the topology that he did. I was told that DAV’s design goals were to produce a clean, uncolored preamp that would be reliable and consistent from unit to unit.
All I can say is that I think he succeeded. You would not mistake the sound of the No. 1 for a syrupy tube design, but neither would you expect it to be a totally modern solid-state design either. The No. 1 simply sounds like music. A very good buy as well.
Neotek IIIC Console; MCI/Sony JH-24 24-track, Studer A 80 RC 2 track recorders; Audio-Technica 4060, AKG D12e mics; UREI 809 and Fostex NF-1 monitors; Buzz Audio SOC 1.1 compressor.