According to Millennia Media, over 40,000 channels of its HV-3 microphone preamplifier have been sold. Thus, it stands to reason it would base a 500 series-compatible module on this ever-popular HV-3 design. Overcoming size limitations of 500 series-compatible slots as well as meeting its 16V rail requirements, Millennia Media managed to fit it all in, while adding some useful new features to boot.
The HV-35 is a fully differential, fully balanced transformerless design employing large geometry, symmetrically matched discrete transistors. The switches Millennia employs are fourth-generation, gold-over-silver with contact-sealed relays.
The HV-35 features include a front-panel, quarter-inch, Hi-Z instrument input, a continuously variable gain pot with knurled metal knob and six switches on the front panel. These switches include a -15 dB pad, polarity flip, 48V phantom power and ribbon mic settings, high-pass filter and instrument in. Of these six, only the phantom power switch is offered on the standard HV-3 preamp.
The HV-35 was consistently in my top two for all tests with the Radial Workhorse chassis. In comparison to transformer-based Class-A designs, it was more open on the top with less compression of transients and a more detailed sense of ambience and space. Compared to some of my favorite tube-based pres, the HV-35’s low end was punchier and thicker. The HV-35’s high end was accurate and pleasing, while in comparison the tube pre’s additive harmonics and softening of transients felt quite flattering on acoustic guitar. Overall, the timbre of the HV-35 was more balanced than all of its tested counterparts, and its placement in the stereo field was more “three-dimensional.”
On the operational side, I feel the control layout of the HV-35 is superior to the HV-3. The ribbon switch, for example, is designed to protect users from any clicks or thumps occurring in the audio path. I discovered that the ribbon setting works well for dynamic mics, too; the same frequency balancing effect and volume bump sounds great. Also when the ribbon input is selected, the front-end phantom-blocking capacitors are relay-bypassed in addition to the extra 10 dB gain available. I say “available” because the amount of additional gain added is dependent on the amount of the gain applied.
The front-panel instrument input is nice, too. When testing the HV-35 with bass guitar, the low end was bigger and tighter than any other pre I could find with an instrument input. As usual, Millennia made sure that, when depressing the “Inst Input” switch, it deactivates both phantom power and ribbon switches.
Everything I recorded through the HV-35 was delivered with full lows and highs, while remaining punchy in the mids. Sure, it’s entirely possible that some users could say, “It doesn’t have enough ‘color’ for me.” But the HV-35 isn’t designed to affect, and I prefer hearing the best possible signal path on a selected source.
Considering its superb sound quality, illuminated switches and operational ease of use, I confirm that Millennia did a great job of adapting the HV-3 into a 500 Series chassis.
Price: $799 list
Contact: Millennia Media | mil-media.com
Randy Poole is a Nashville-based producer, engineer and studio owner.