My expectations were high going into reviewing the Avedis Audio MA5 – several engineers I trust had been talking them up for years. This preamp blew my expectations out of the water. Within minutes of using the MA5, it was clear that Avedis Audio pulled out all the stops with the design and build of this preamp. Years of experience restoring both British and American modules informed the concept of the MA5, a unit that beautifully bridges the gap between the characteristic sound of early ‘70s British consoles and modern, high-end microphone preamps.

The MA5 is a 500 Series mic preamp equipped with a single-ended Class A amplifier, a UK-made Carnhill St. Ives factory input transformer, and a custom-designed Jensen output transformer packed into a fairly straightforward layout. At the top of the MA5’s faceplate is a Marconi-style Gain control knob, stepped in 5 dB increments. Near the bottom is an Output level pot, muting the MA5 when turned fully counterclockwise. Between the input and output controls are two standard LED buttons: 48V phantom power and phase polarity. A third LED button, simply labeled “28k” is unique to the MA5 and definitely part of its magic. When engaged, a 6 dB boost is given to an EQ shelf at 28 kHz. This boost is applied to frequencies outside the human hearing range, but the impact is special – it focuses the high end in a musical and silky way without adding any harshness.

When directly compared to Neve (1073s) and API (312s), the Avedis preamps definitely hold their own. They’re fast like APIs, but have the rich and full sonic character of slower preamps like the Neves. The MA5s bring out the character of the original signal more than imparting their own preamp vibe onto the source. Whether using the MA5s on overheads, kick, snare, bass, guitar, piano, or vocals, the impact was similar: Whatever was running through the MA5s stood out in the mix more. This can be generally useful, but like many preamps, the MA5 shines in specific applications. For example: If asked to record a string quartet where the goal would be to hear each voicing clearly, I would reach for the Avedis preamps right away. If asked to record a large choir, where a blend of the voices is more important, I would reach for a slower preamp, such as a Neve. The same concept was true for drums – the Avedis excelled on kick, snare, and toms, while I preferred something slower and less punchy for the overheads.

As I’ve said, the Avedis MA5 greatly exceeded my already high expectations, and two channels in my studio will simply NOT be enough. They are harmonically rich, punchy, offer focused mids/highs, have that magic “28k” button, and feature an extended low end that can reach down to 10 Hz (approximately -1 dB at 6 Hz with 40 dB of gain). If you’re looking for a modern twist on the early ‘70s British sound, look no further.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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