The Violet Design Garnet is a boutique multi-pattern valve microphone with a transformer balanced output stage and separate mains PSU, so all the ingredients of a classic. It’s a similar shape to its all solid state little brother, the Amethyst, but with a main body about 50% longer.
The separate PSU has a generous 6 metre cable terminated with 7-pin gold plated XLRs for power and audio to/from the microphone, slow start-up power cycle (very good for valve life) and a row of toggle switches to select the polar pattern. This would allow the pattern to be changed from the control room, cable length allowing. The final transformer balanced output exits from the PSU case via a standard gold plated 3-pin XLR and the mains connector is standard IEC.
The user manual advises leaving the microphone to settle for a few minutes when changing between the available patterns. This is normal for this type of microphone.
Internally, the mic houses the Violet Design dual VD48 capsule which feeds a class-A value pre-amp which in turn feeds a custom output transformer providing the final balanced audio output. All internal parts including the capsule, vacuum tube and electronics are mounted in their own shock absorbers and the external case is both robust and well finished.
An external JSM elastic shock mount is included with the microphone and this was easy to mount the microphone into, and effective. Matched stereo pairs of the Garnet are available to special order.
Turning to the published specification, self noise at 8dB-A is very low for a valve microphone, The user manual includes separate frequency response curves for each of the three main polar patterns, omni, cardiod and figure of eight. These were broadly similar showing fairly flat responses with only very small presence boost.
You would be disappointed if a high end boutique valve microphone delivered anything less than a warm smooth sound, and in this regard the Garnet delivers a-plenty. It’s easy to forget the significant difference in sound character which valve mics give and I did have to ‘realign my ears’ for a few minutes to get my brain away from the ‘modern’ microphone sound which I’m more accustomed to hearing from most budget microphones (which the Garnet is not!)
Detail within the warmth is nicely stated with a good but not over extended top end. I can’t imagine this microphone ever being described as thin or clinical, it’s simply too warm and smooth. Most sources did not required EQing. I might add a little top end air on some vocal sources, but this would be fine tuning rather than corrective.
This is not a cheap microphone but high quality valve mics don’t come with budget prices, especially with this type of build quality and a fully switchable pattern set. If you are in the marketplace for such a microphone then you should spend some serious time evaluating the Garnet. Take your time and let it sink in.
Best features : Warmth and smoothness
Weakest points : you have to pay a lot for quality, but that’s life!
Rating : 7/10
Transducer type electrostatic
Operating principle pressure gradient
Diaphragm’s active diameter 26 mm
Frequency range 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Polar pattern 9 selectable patternsOutput impedance 100 ohms
Rated load impedance 1000 ohms
Suggested load impedance >250 ohms
Sensitivity at 1000 Hz into 1000 ohms load 25 mV/Pa
S/N Ratio CCIR 468-3 weighted 75 dB
S/N Ratio 86 dB-A
Equivalent noise level 8 dB-A
Maximum SPL 130 dB
Weight 800 g
Power consumption <20W