Talking to Derek Bargaehr on the phone you’d be forgiven for building a picture in you mind of a much older man. He talks with such authority and confidence on the subject of microphone design you’d believe him to be at least twice his age. Perhaps this is because of his design partner and mentor, Ken Avant, I mused to myself – or perhaps through being a musician himself
he understands implicitly that any microphone needs to be much more than just the sum of it’s parts. Oftentimes, as with music production we find ourselves looking to the younger generation to identify the right way forward and nothing could represent the future as vividly and with such unaffected style as Vanguard Audio Labs’ V13 and V1+Lolli.
Vanguard Audio Labs boldly claim that the performance and sound of the V13 will “rival or exceed that of both iconic vintage and modern microphones…” By iconic we’re speaking of mics that may cost up to ten times more than the V13 with a 70 plus year proven track record. We hear these types of claims all the time but there was something about the feedback we’d been hearing from all across spectrum that made us decide to check out both the V13 and it’s smaller stable mate, the V1+Lolli – a solid state mic with a multitude of attachments.
“Oftentimes, as with music production we find ourselves looking to the younger generation to identify the right way forward”
Vanguard Audio Labs have worked pretty hard on the presentation and packaging of their microphones. The V13 and V1 appeared in thick, glossy black boxes that were expertly packed with their accessories. The V13 has a sweet hard case with reinforced corners and a pair of combination locks. Inside you’ll find a branded (literally….) pine box which is packed with black velvet that cossets the V13. You’ll also find the shockmount, the rather enormous PSU, the power chord and the 7 pin cable. The V1 has a larger pine box which cleverly encompasses all it’s accessories. the Lolli attachment lays next to the mic body, the diecast shockmount and four, SDC capsules.
The VLSM Shockmount that ships with the V13 is a thing of beauty. The mount is heavily engineered using aircraft grade rubber for isolation. It’ll work with many other brand LDC mics so you should be able to retire your old spider mounts and use the elastic to tie up your man-bun. Even the mounting swivel which is made from an ABS thermoplastic polymer is designed to prevent the dreaded ‘singer’s droop’. When you first mount the microphone use a firm hand as the thick felt that protects the bottom of the mic needs bedding down. Be sure the mic is straight before you try and tighten up the M22 locking ring underneath.
“The VLSM Shockmount that ships with the V13 is a thing of beauty.“
At the heart of the beautifully understated V13 lies a sizeable, 34mm, gold-sputtered hand tuned diaphragm that catches the eye in certain lighting when it glints through the tastefully chromed, open-weave headbasket which, as well as looking great, minimizes internal reflections. Vanguard say that many of the most important electronic components inside the mic body have been cryogenically treated to prolong their useful working life and also allow Vanguard Audio Labs to offer an exceptional, real-world, 5 year warranty. Another interesting feature is the humbucking transformer at the V13’s output stage which is able to cope with longer than average cable runs.
The deep burgundy hue of the V13 drew many admiring comments and the die-cast, British racing car inspired, flying ‘V’ logo looks extremely classy adorning the sophisticated ‘Pinot Noir’ mic body. We also loved the etched serial numbers and model names at the base of the body and another nice detail was the double V air vent at the rear of the mic which allows cool air to reach the unmarked, stock Euro-dual-triode vacuum tube.
The gigantic PSU is resplendent in it’s matching glossed-out paintwork and, like most can operate worldwide on 110-240V mains outlets through a recessed switch on the rear. It also houses the surprisingly useful pattern selector. I say surprising because there are nine available options including the standard cardioid pattern in the center, which, to be honest, is all you will really want with most vocalists. If someone has a particularly husky voice you might want to experiment by click toward the Omni side as it seems to lessen the mid range warmth a little allowing room for a more harmonically loaded singer. Turning the other way (toward the figure of eight) seemed to increase mid range focus.
“…there are nine available options including the standard cardioid pattern in the center, which, to be honest, is all you will really want with most vocalists.”
Matching Power Supply (above)
One of the most interesting things about the V13 is how open and unforced the sound is. Looking at the open weave head basket it’s clear that great care must be taken with SPL levels and spit reaching the 3 micron thick diaphragm. The upside is a beautiful, open, smooth response that flatters the signal without camouflaging it. The lower range seemed particularly responsive and tight whilst the lower mids exhibited a definite warmth.
“One of the most interesting things about the V13
is how open and unforced the sound is.”
The V13 has a certain way of dealing with dynamics. We found that we needed to run far less volume automation on the tracks we committed to disk. Partly this could be down to the proprietary capsule design preventing a lot of unstable dynamic information in the three to five kilohertz range but we are almost certain that it’s primarily the VCA properties of the tube itself that make the microphone feel as though it’s running straight to tape. Ultimately this is a great thing and it saved us a significant amount of time as we could move straight to the compression stage after committing to our vocal comps.
The V1 Lolli attachment borrows
the V13's diaphragm (above)
“…it’s a different flavor of smooth.”
The V1 with Lolli attachment was a very interesting proposition as it share a lot of the same sonics as it’s bigger brother. The top end is not quite as open and smooth as the V13 but that’s not to say it has any unpleasant qualities – it’s just a different flavor of smooth. We decided to use it on GQ’s vocal which involved a melodic kind of rap approach. The solid state circuitry of the FET mic seemed extremely well suited to her harmonically loaded delivery and gave us an extremely accurate representation of her performance with a little added frequency swag thanks to the Lolli’s tight overall response and it’s uncluttered mid range.
Elegant pattern switching on V1 Lolli (above)
We kept the V34C Lolli capsule switched to the cardioid setting for obvious reasons though, if we’d have been using a stereo pair for room mics, or an ambient, acoustic situation we’d have had it switched to the alternate, ‘Omni’ pattern.
We loved the interchangeable capsules of the V1+Lolli kit. The great thing about this super elegant JFET mic, aside from the simplicity and purity of it’s internal design, is the fact that, in conjunction with it’s beautifully designed shock mount you can place it exactly how you want. Rather than complicating that process with a fiddly switch Vanguard figured it would be much easier to provide the alternate polar patterns as attachments.
Each SDC attachment has a different polar pattern (above)
The V series are not short on style (above)
One thing everyone agreed upon when in session with the V13 was how ‘Expensive’ the microphone sounds. This might seem ridiculous to many but when you are quantified creatively by the Industry you quickly start to understand what sounds expensive and what doesn’t. Mainly I think the V13 wins in this area because of a decision by the lads to not release a ‘replica’ mic. The V13 doesn’t sound like any other mic we’ve ever heard.
“The V13 doesn’t sound like any other mic we’ve ever heard.”
With an Equivalent Noise Level of 13dB (A-weighted) or 82dB signal to noise ratio often expressed as ‘Self Noise’, the V13 is pretty quiet for a tube microphone. This became immediately obvious when listening back to the recordings and for the most part made it less critical for overall vocal processing. This part of the process should never be overlooked. It was largely unimportant to spend a long time setting up a gate to give a good overall compromise instead, it was a quick operation to separate the signal from the passive ambience of the room itself. Very helpful in the overall recording process were the excellent high pass filter (125Hz at a gentle 6dB of rolloff) and the 10dB pad which was extremely helpful when we recorded some of the louder sections of Maya’s vocals.
Sweet Switch Detailing (above)
“With an Equivalent Noise Level of 13dB (A-weighted)… the V13 is pretty quiet for a tube microphone.”
The V13 isn’t just a great mic. Instead of aping vintage stalwarts like the ubiquitous U47/67 or cloning the revered 414 (all of which would definitely be playing it safe in today’s climate), Derek and Ken have gone way out on a limb. They’ve conceived and constructed a new style of LDC that has it’s own set of characteristics and rewards the user in an unapologetic, uncompromising fashion. Unsurprisingly these are the exact strengths that are desired by the majority of modern producers. When you hear the sonorous, extended highs this mic so effortlessly produces – highs that are devoid of ugly resonances, when you feel the V13’s tight and well balanced, muscular low mids and hear how the rich mid range bolsters the overall smooth, low key hype of the V13’s beautifully balanced sonic spectrum you’ll be be shocked at how effortlessly a great, modern sounding vocal can be recorded. This mic is so good
“…with the V13… they’ve conceived and constructed a new style of LDC that has it’s own set of characteristics and rewards the user in an unapologetic, uncompromising fashion.”
because it’s truly fresh and modern. Here’s the best part though. $749.00. Indeed. At this price point the stunning V13 quite literally aces the nouveau boutique mic game. The V1+Lolli kit doesn’t do so bad either. Instead of meeting the standard challengers head on, the V1+Lolli adds the enormously useful functionality of a genuine, high quality LDC attachment which turns the already great V1 pencil from being a useful and attractive curio into being a seriously useful contender for any instrumentalist/producers or singer songwriters who also happen to be self recordists. Again, with such a well thought out $499.00 tag, this mic opens up a whole world of flexibility, especially with the incredibly useful and well designed VSSM shockmount, which similar to the VLSM offering of the V13 accomodates all manner of other pencil mics. A great many home studio pro’s may start turning to this high value kit to cover the greatest amount of ground in the most economical way.
“…you’ll be be shocked at how effortlessly a great,
modern sounding vocal can be recorded.”
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
both are available to buy from the following retailers:
- Expensive Sound
- Value For Money
- Will accommodate third party tubes
- Easily compromised diaphragm
- No Pop Filter Included
- Stunning Looks
- Value For Money
- V13 Diaphragm
- Will not fit in a traditional shockmount
- Pencil body does not accommodate Kaotica Eyeball
- Easy to lose/damage capsules