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Avalon 737
4.4 4.4 out of 5, based on 5 Reviews

There is a reason why most studios have a Avalon 737; the french vanilla sound is good for many applications. They don't scream charater like some of the newer units out there, but it is still a useful channel strip.


28th December 2011

Avalon Design VT-737SP by Glenn Bucci

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Avalon 737

Avalon 737 SP

The Avalon 737 is one of the first channel strip boxes that were designed, that was released in the late 1990’s. When it came out, it received rave reviews from numerous engineers, and artist, and it still used today on a lot of session work heard on the radio. However there have been several new pre’s and channel strips that have come out since then with bigger and punchier sounds. Many also have impedance and iron controls for added flexibility. I figured it was time to take a look at the 737 SP, and see how it matches up against the new guys on the block.

When the 737 came out around 1998, it had ugly purple plastic knobs which many did not care for. Thankfully Avalon updated the unit by putting higher grade aluminum knobs, and also increased the mic input transformer level with the SP (Special Performance) model. It is one of the best looking channels strips out there.

The 737 SP combines a tube pre, optic compressor, and a 4 band EQ in a 2U space. In looking at the front panel starting from the left, there is a preamp gain, instrument input, input control knobs that gives an option of line, instrument, or mic. There are push buttons for high gain, phase, phantom power, and filter. The high pass filter has a knob that starts from 30 Hz and goes to 140 Hz. Avalon also has recall sheets that can be helpful in remembering your settings. DAW’s like Nuendo/Cubase have a note section for each channel, where you can write information about the track including your settings on compressors and EQ.

In regards to the mic pre, it utilizes two cascaded dual vacuum tube triodes configured with minimum negative feedback. The pre has a clean but smooth sound that is very pleasant. In comparison with my Neve Portico, the 737 pre is more even sounding and not as big. While this is all subjective, I still like the sound of the 737 pre, but on its own, it lacks some of the punch or sparkle that many other pre’s have. Thankfully the 737 does not stop there.

After the pre is a very nice optic compressor. I found up to -3db it performed wonderfully on vocal tracks and it did not alter the sound of the performer. The compressor was able to control the peaks and help give a very even performance. My Langevin DVC limiter acted pretty much the same way. As you start to use more compression, the smooth character starts to get stronger in a very pleasant way. I found myself liking the attack on the fast side, and ratio on about 4 on vocals. I found it excels on vocals and acoustic instruments. It won't offer you the punch of a 1176, but this is why studios have more than one compressor as each has their own purpose. Generally it’s best not to use too much compression at the tracking stage. This is to allow you alter it more during the mixing stage so you can hear it within a full mix.

After the compressor is the 4 band EQ, that is more on the transparent side. I like using a clean EQ when you have a tube pre. The reason is the pre already has a smooth sound, and this EQ allows you to alter the frequencies without changing the real character of the pre. The EQ allowed much flexibility in giving more sparkle, depth, bass, or a nice cut in the middle on vocals, while at the same time keeping the pre’s character. I have to admit if the unit did not have the EQ, I would be more drawn a lot more to the cleaner and punchier Avalon 2022, or M5. However this EQ (which is better than any clean EQ plug in I heard), allows you to sculpt the sound of your source and get that right sound you’re looking for.

For a bass DI, the Avalon 737 does a great job. The pre adds a touch of smoothness, the comp controls the transients (punchy attack if needed I prefer to do at the mixing stage with a 1176 or SSL plug in), and the EQ allows you to sculpt the sound to your liking without changing it's overall tone.

So how does the 737 SP hold up against the current competition? I would say very well indeed. It is more of a french vanilla sound, but with it having more of a neutral sound, it can sound good on many applications. When I want vocals to be more in the front of the mix, my Portico pre may be a better solution, but for things more even in the mix, or a little forward, the 737 does a good job.

14th January 2012

Avalon Design VT-737SP by SureSound

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Avalon 737

I love tube pres and this is a solid tube channel strip/pre, new its over 2k but you can find them used for around $1200 or so, I have recorded some amazing tracks through this, you can really get many different sounds out of this box, I've used it on everything from drums to vocals and been really happy with the sounds I got, I've had my 737 for about 7 years and its been great, it has seen a ton of use and performed flawlessly, I recently changed the tubes with a matched set and couldn't be happier. Looks and sounds like a million dollars to me!

  • 2
27th January 2012

Avalon Design VT-737SP by barforama

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Avalon 737

Initial impressions;
Beautifully designed front. Looks like some high end home stereo stuff. 1/4" aluminum faceplate, milled aluminum knobs and a big oval VU meter. Quite pimpy ;-)

In use;
The Avalon VT 737 is a fully equiped channel strip, recording comprising a microphone preamplifier, a instrument DI input a opto compressor and a four band semi parametric equalizer. The two mid bands of the quaulizer can be assigned to the side chain of the compressor circuit removing pumping from bas from the dectecting circuit to prevent pumping or make the compressor work harder on specific frequencies, like for instance a de-esser.
The unit can of course also work for single track processing in a mix or two stereo strapped VT 737's for a whole mix.

Sound;
The preamplifier is smooth sounding. Not too much character and plenty of gain for any purpose.
The compressor is definetly on the slow side. It will do the job of soft leveling a bass or a vocal track, but just don't expect it to be any sort of aggressive. It is not very well suited for transient shaping.
The equalizer is, like the preamp, very smooth. Especially the highs are silky smooth and very well suited for adding air on vocals! All in all this unit is not a tone shaping tool, but more of a tone enhancing box.

Conclusion;
A great sounding unit, but it tend to be a bit unexiting. The compressor really bugs me. It is waaaay to slow for my taste.

24th February 2012

Avalon Design VT-737SP by edva

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Avalon 737

The Avalon 737SP was technically pretty well covered by the first review, so I will offer a few more subjective observations in this review.
Appearance-wise, the 737 is a true classic, like a Mercedes gull-wing from the 50's, its looks may not appeal to everyone, but the quality of its design cannot be denied.
It is a feature-rich unit, with true channel-strip functionality. I always like having a compressor for tracking, and the one on the 737 is perfectly usable in most instances. My preference is not to over-compress, especially at the tracking stage, and the comp is clean and transparent at low to moderate levels, if less than firm with regard to absolute level control. It is more of a shaper than an enforcer. But for soft to medium vocals, or acoustic instruments, it works very well as the first stage of compression.
The EQ is a sparkling little unit, and a pleasant bonus, as it is of such good quality. Although I typically don't use much EQ during tracking, one cannot help but use a little of this EQ because it is so sweet sounding. The 737 tends to bring out the "artist" in the engineer, as the controls are not "recallable", and therefore each recording is like a performance on such a fine instrument.
The overall tone of the 737 is clean and clear, with just a hint of "mojo" lurking in the background. One gets the impression the sound is only coasting along, and has nearly unlimited reserves of headroom and dynamics. I personally like the 737 on acoustic guitar, especially with a non-sparkly mic like a Beyer ribbon; but I would be happy to use it on almost any source, with almost any mic. Sometimes on the used market these can be found at what amounts to a bargain price. They are very well built and durable, except for the light bulb in the meter, which often burns out. That miniscule quibble aside, an excellent unit, well worth its price.

4th March 2013

Avalon Design VT-737SP by iandyha

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 3 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Avalon 737

What an amazing piece of gear. Really can bring some life into a vocal track. i really enjoy using the high gain on pushing the tubes on this to give some more coloration.

The preamp is amazing and has a beautiful color to it that highlights mids really well. esp in the g's. It helps bring some smoothness to a female vocal whos voice can sound harsh in the mids. that alone would give it a 5; however because its a channel strip i decided taking 1 off for the compressor and eq was necessary. I personally enjoy using the compressor for bass tracking at a low ratio and about 1db gr. The EQ can add a lot of warmth in the lows but the high can get extremely harsh. I've personally tried to use it as outboard once or twice and just couldnt get a good tone out of it. I'm sure with a lil more attention and tlc the eq and compressor could sound great.

Overall the unit is pricey! but the preamp alone makes this purchase worth it. I rarely use the channel strip as a whole but it does have its applications which makes it handy.