If you are serious about audio production, you probably know the name Avedis Audio, likely because of their MA5 mic preamp. (It’s what many top engineers and producers consider the 1073 done right.) While the MA5’s reputation is well-deserved, there is more to know about the company and its founder Avedis Kifedjian.
Back in the day, Avedis developed the 1122 op-amp as a sonically superior replacement for the API 2520 op-amp. Brent Averill was apparently impressed as it was the foundation for the BAE 312 preamp. Avedis has also done a lot of circuit-designing for other companies and custom work. In fact, Avedis painstakingly rebuilt and modded his vintage Neve 8036 console which is now on lease to Sound City.
When Avedis considered the original API 312/512 preamp design and the issues with it, he decided to rethink it from the ground up and the MD7 was born. While this 500-series preamp bears a general similarity (save the front-panel jacks) to the API 512c module, they differ a lot in terms of what’s under the hood.
The MD7 features properly calibrated gain control, Jensen transformers in and out, trim control post input transformer, front-panel jacks for Hi-Z send (for re-amping) and return, an 80Hz HPF and (of course) 1122 op-amp. In addition to more common features of a mic/line switch and polarity reverse, the MD7 also features filtered phantom power which means you will not hear the usual click or pop in the monitors when you engage or disengage it. The quality of components and manufacturing of the MD7 rivals or surpasses that of other boutique brands. Like all Avedis Audio products, the MD7 is built by hand in their California workshop.
For testing, the MD7 was installed in my BAE frame. My assistant and I used various converters for tracking and monitoring, from PreSonus to Dangerous Music. Focal Shape 50 monitors and Beyerdynamic DT-990 headphones were used for evaluation. Out of all the more character-oriented preamps I have, the Daking was the closest I could find to compare to the MD7. I can also rely on my solid memory of the API 312/512 sound because I have personally owned an API 3124 and pair of 512c preamps.
The first round of testing involved running my custom Salas bass into the DI input (return) on the MD7. I immediately felt excited. The sound was so shockingly vivid and effortlessly dynamic but somehow still musical. The sound just seemed to jump out of the monitors like nothing I’ve heard before. Even though the HPF starts around 80Hz and the fundamental of the low “E” on a 4-string bass is something like 41Hz, I still thought my bass sounded cool with the HPF engaged. That was interesting.
Just for reference, I did the same testing with two other preamps that have DI inputs: the Daking Mic Pre One and Mercury AM16d. Talk about different worlds. Sure, the Mercury FDI sounds great but in a very smooth, rounded, soft, vintage way. The Daking has some tone but has a faster transient response. It also has a Jensen transformer at least on the input. In going back and forth, the Daking DI sounded good but the MD7 DI sounded much more exciting.
When it came to tracking guitar and vocals, the MD7 ruled once again. I figured it would be so detailed that it would make a mic like the Aston Origin sound too bright but it sounded balanced. For a more vintage tone, we used the Braingasm Lab Multideluxe (FET condenser) and it was a beautiful sound. In every test, it was so nice to have a stepped gain control that made sense. (I cannot say the same for the API preamps.)
I also did some voice-over tests with my Cloud 44A active ribbon. I love that microphone but sometimes it can be a little too soft and thick sounding. That was not the case when I ran it through the MD7. The 44A sounded a bit more open, tonally balanced and lively with the MD7 than it did when run through other preamps. More to the point: The 44A needed less massaging to sound finished when used with an MD7.
I kept trying to figure out which elements of the MD7 were contributing what to its transparency, smoothness, effortless dynamics and musicality. Was it the 1122 op-amp or just all of the stellar components inside? I also thought about the lack of input pad, which means that the full input signal can saturate the input transformer before passing through the trim control. I suppose it’s all of the above working together in a circuit that electrically makes sense.
So, if you want that fast response and presence of the API mic preamps without the weird frequency response and hard midrange, with even more detail that’s never harsh, you should check out the Avedis Audio MD7. It is more sonically and functionally versatile than the API 312/512 preamps and has a lower price tag.
Many thanks to Avedis Kifedjian, Dan and everyone at Avedis Audio for making this review happen. I’m not sending the MD7 back!