The Millennia Media HV-3D — arguably one of the most popular premium microphone preamps in the world — with additional remote-control capabilities is now available as the HV-3R.
Let’s avoid the suspense: The HV-3R sounds fantastic, but it’s the HV-3R’s powerful feature set that deserves our attention.
As you may already know, the HV-3D is a transformerless, eight-channel mic preamp that is quite road-worthy (thus often found on broadcast trucks and with location recordists) and offers a distinct focus on realism and clarity rather than color or character. The HV-3R continues this tradition with all the prominent features of the 3D: mic amps with high headroom, a balanced audio path, a FET-based output that easily drives long cable runs and a 16-gauge aluminum faceplate/military chassis that not only inspires long-term user confidence but is also heavy. All inputs and outputs are on XLR connectors.
As with the HV-3D, highly desirable options are available on the HV-3R, including +130V and +190V mic inputs (built for use with some microphones by DPA and B&K), DC inputs for optimization of ribbon and other dynamic mics, HROE output expansion for three isolated outs per channel and the AD-R96 analog to digital converter (also evaluated here).
Finally, there’s the “R” of HV-3R: remote control capabilities, either via Ethernet (where 99 units can be controlled via TCP/IP addressing) or AElogic software (Windows only) or through Avid Pro Tools via MIDI. I’m a Mac user with a MOTU Digital Performer DAW, so please see Lynn Fuston’s sidebar for the details on the HV-3R’s remote abilities via Windows and Pro Tools.
I used the HV-3R in “local mode” for months in my studio and really got used to having it around. What I became accustomed to, in particular, was truly hearing my mics; the neutrality, clarity and effortless ease of highend transient reproduction make the HV-3R very easy on the ears, revealing the slightest variables of mic selection and placement. With the HV-3R, I worked faster, as more often than not my mic choices and positioning gave me what I envisioned, without constriction or affectation (I’m thinking of drum kit in particular).
With the HV-3R, overdubs went quicker, too. For example, I set up six mics, two cabinets and three amps for three days of guitar overdubs that had to move rapidly due to budget. I routed the assortment of dynamic, ribbon, condenser and tube condenser mics all to the HV-3R where its front-panel controls made my life easy (gain in 1 dB increments for precise level matching, channel mutes for simple auditioning, polarity reversal and an easy-to-read display). Normally, I’d do a lot of preamp swapping to get a variety of guitar colors on a record, but instead I was using my amps, mics and placements to get my “colors,” trusting the HV-3R to simply get it all up to level. I slapped an ELOP compressor on the clean tones only — “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” as they say.
Vocals can be hit or miss with the HV-3R, as its sound can be very revealing of minor flaws in either tone, technique or mic selection. If your mic and positioning are right you’ll be happy, as the HV-3R gives you exactly what went in, without any harshness or restriction. I found myself choosing really natural and open-sounding mics, and then choosing colorful compressors (like a Chandler Germanium with germanium, silicon or zener gain reduction) for tasteful variations between leads and backups. This philosophy applies to acoustic instruments of all kinds with the HV-3R. It reveals details, good and bad; you’ll need to apply any variation with colorful mics or nonlinear processors, as the HV-3R isn’t going to do the dirty work for you.
The AD-R96 converter does the job as advertised with conversion up to 96 kHz and excellent sound quality that is best described simply as neutral. If forced to comment, I would say the bottom seemed particularly big, or at least very deep and very full. The AD-R96 accepts external clock (AES or word) with BNCs for I/O. Digital audio out is on a sturdy DB25 with the Tascam pin standard. The unit is rugged in construction, and inspiring in craftsmanship. One small complaint: Jumpers for sample rate and clocking options are on the PCB and require careful removal for changing.
As with all stepped gain controls units, rapid gain changes while using the HV-3R will introduce “zipper noise,” so be careful about making level changes mid-performance. Yes, the unit is expensive, but it is not overpriced. Some may consider the HV-3R bland, but it’s not: It only reveals bland sources.
If you desire accuracy over coloration, there is absolutely nothing to dislike about the HV-3R. It is built like a polished ebony tank, attractive, loaded with features, is capable of ridiculously powerful remote controllability and it offers fantastic optional features. All of these would be for naught if it didn’t sound great, and that it does. In my opinion, it is the complete and definitive multichannel mic amp package. In the studio, on the road or as the front end of a location recording rig, the HV-3R is ideal.
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Catalyst Recording in Charlotte, NC.