Skip to main content

About us

About Us

Vanguard Audio Labs was created with one goal – to give you great affordable tools so you can make great music.

In the past, members of our design team have created studio microphones and monitors that are used by world-renowned artists, engineers, and producers (including Taylor Swift, Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant, Randy Bachman, Buddy Miller, Nathan Chapman, Ray Kennedy, Lady Antebellum and many others…)

We’re lucky to be doing what we love – designing and building great, affordable recording tools. Although Vanguard Audio Labs is a new creative venture, our core team has over a century of combined experience in the music industry. Every one of us is an engineer, musician, producer, and lover of all things audio. Early in our careers, each of us has been frustrated by the desire to own better recording tools… but the really great microphones were overwhelmingly expensive. We started Vanguard Audio Labs to help you make music, and to bring your music to life by building superb products that won’t break your bank account.



Derek Bargaehr

Chief Everything Officer
Derek began burning himself with a soldering iron and messing up his guitar pedals at the age of 15, eventually working as Director of Operations for a successful microphone company for several years. A freelancing engineer, producer, gear tech, and bassist, Derek received a BA in Commercial Music – Audio Engineering & Music Business from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, CA.

Ken Avant

Co-Founder, Chief Designer
With 50 years experience in the music industry, including decades as a musician, engineer/producer and gear consultant/designer, Ken brings a unique level of understanding of the needs of creative musicians and gear enthusiasts. As the founder and creator of the Avantone line of studio products, he achieved worldwide success and retired from the company in 2010. Derek and Glen convinced Ken to come out of retirement to join them in launching Vanguard Audio labs as a vehicle to pursue his product visions. Always passionate about achieving a blend of amazing tone, elegant designs and exceptional performance at truly affordable prices, he shapes the new Vanguard line to hold these attributes as the core of all our gear.

Judd Levison

Global Sales Manager
Celebrating 45 years of wide-ranging experience as an audio professional - from sound engineering to the sales and marketing, development, sourcing, and manufacturing of professional audio hardware - Judd Levison is truly a renaissance (sound)man.

With a deep passion for music and a desire to be part of the creation of it, Judd's path has taken him to the heart of the music business. An experienced recording and live sound engineer, he worked at Record Plant LA, Devonshire Studios, and other high profile Los Angeles area recording studios, and internationally in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He also worked with major pro audio manufacturers and retailers, including several years with Guitar Center serving as Senior Buyer for their pro audio division. A long-time enthusiast of the former Trident Recording Studios, London, and it’s venerable console manufacturing arm, Judd served as National Sales Manager for the contemporary Trident Audio Developments.

Judd’s perspective is shaped from a variety of experiences - as a high end user, a sales rep, a retail merchandiser and as a product development maven. We're pleased to have Judd on our team, and appreciate his contributions to Vanguard Audio Labs.


Brandon Shaw

Operations Manager
Brandon has worked for over 15 years as a freelance musician, recording and performing all over the world with artists like Crystal Lewis, Quadron, Nas, Ethan Bortnick, and The National Symphony Orchestra. He has served many different roles within the music industry, and is thrilled to be working with the rest of the team at Vanguard.

Curtis Humphrey

Microphone Technician
Curtis has a passion for problem solving and delicious coffee. They’ve been a freelance repair technician and audio engineer for over 10 years. From an early age, Curtis felt a strong desire to take apart and fix things. With a bachelor’s degree in audio recording, they have excelled in many musical and technical jobs in the music industry. Their experience and craft informs each build and repair that come through the office.


I’m a very hard sell on new tube microphones – especially on those that fall under the 4k price range. They might sound deceivingly decent during tracking, but once you process the signal for a mix and compression and EQ are applied, the lack of warmth, naturalness, and musicality becomes super apparent and you’re left with impossible problems to fix. With Vanguard’s flagship V13 tube microphone, I was pleasantly surprised! After weeks of working with and putting it up against microphones 20x it’s price, I was impressed by not only it’s quality but it’s incredible versatility as well. I honestly could not find a source that it did not work effectively on. I don’t know what kind of voodoo goes on in the creation of these mics, but I can assure you – the V13 is a major contender at any price point. Even if you have $6-8k budgeted for your next mic purchase, give this mic a listen – you might just end up buying 10 of them.

Dale Becker
Mastering Engineer, Producer(Cam, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Earth, Wind & Fire, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Neil Diamond...)

“The V13 filled a void in my mic locker, a 251-style microphone I could use on vocals and acoustic guitars. It has the body I’m looking for when mic’ng the acoustic guitar with a large diaphragm mic and the sheen that makes vocals sound bright and modern, but still smooth and never harsh. A clear winner, Vanguard has created some magic here!”

Richard Furch
Audio Engineer (Prince, Usher, Outkast, Frank Ocean, Jay-Z...)

“Been using the V13 on anything and everything I can put it in front of: Pianos, Guitars, both electric and acoustic, Drums, basses, strings, you name it. All I can say about the V13 is creamy highs, smooth mids and tight lows. Can’t go wrong with this mic!!”

Cesar Mejia
Audio Engineer (Herbie Hancock, Briano Eno,, Bill Withers...}

After using the Vanguard V13 on John Turri’s lead vocal, I was blown away by how good this mic is. And I don’t say this lightly…I am absolutely in love with this mic! It’s transparent, sweet, it can handle high SPL, extremely low self noise. At this price, I cannot find a single contender to the V13. A great product made by passionate and dedicated people!

Lucas Pimentel
Engineer & Producer (American Sniper, June21, Gabriela Rocha, Chris Duran...)

In show music, the trumpets are generally the lead instruments, so they need to have a certain sparkle. these players are blowing their brains out and the mics need to handle all that SPL without folding…and not hurt me. I used the V4s on saxes as well, in fact all the brass and woodwinds were on V4s. I think they sound terrific. They’re open and have great presence…after the first take, I knew these were the deal.

Gary Lux
Engineer(Manhattan Transfer, Sting, Usher, Janet Jackson...)

I love my V1+LOLLI pair! I needed a pair of utility large-diaphragm condensers and when I tried these out I found that they’re not your typical ‘utility mics’ that sound good on most sound sources, but they sounded great on everything I mic’d, which included male and female vocals, piano, drums, percussion, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, violin, even as room mics. Lots of detail with nice smooth mid range and top, not harsh and good lows and lower mids without getting muddy or boomy. Added bonus is they’re also a really great pair of SDC’s, two mics in one!

Kyle Manner
Engineer & Producer(Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Bob Seager, ABC's "Nashville...)

“The V13 has become a go-to in situations where other (much more expensive) mics in the locker have struggled. From vocals and voiceovers to strings it’s captured everything I’ve put it on with amazing presence and depth. And it hardly needs more than some slight EQ to make the source fall back into the mix.”

Dan Scott
Engineer & Sound Designer (Walt Disney Entertainment, ABC, ESPN, Fox, Cartoon Network, ABC...)

I have had the V13 microphone on my hands for several months. This is a revolutionary breakthrough in microphone technology and manufacturing. I do believe it will surpass any new mic on the market and also test well up against so many vintage mics from the 50s & 60s. The V13 has many desirable characteristics that remind me of some of the great classics…I own many of these great Neumanns, Gefells, Telefunkens, AKGs, RFTs and other very rare tube mics that go back to the mid 1930s. This has given me the opportunity to A-B the Vanguard V13 to some of my very favorite microphones in many applications…I can say confidently that this is an amazing microphone in any way you would choose to measure it – tonal excellence, build quality and a very conservative price point. I do believe it is a standout undeniable winner for top engineers, producers and artists who need to experience this magnitude of excellence.

Ray Kennedy
5-Time Grammy-Winning Producer & Engineer (Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, John Mellencamp, Lucinda Williams, Joan Baez, DR-549, Billy Joe Shaver, Nancy Griffith...)

In all of my years as a performer, producer and engineer, I have to say that the V13 is one of the most exquisite microphones I have ever used. Beautifully transparent yet both bright AND warm, especially in the upper midrange. On vocals, acoustic guitars, piano and drums, it does not disappoint. It captures every detail. This is not a gimmicky, ‘vintage’ sounding tube mic. It’s a mic for professionals. If you’re a fan of Neumann, Shoeps, Geffell and other microphones of that caliber, then put one (or two!) of these in your mic closet. And insanely, for a fraction of the price…

Spencer Gibb
Recording Artist, Engineer

The V13 sounded great on female and male vocals, and I especially love the way it captures acoustic guitars. It has a nicely rounded sound with a smooth sheen to the top that gives it a wonderful and unique character. I used it a ton on acoustic and nylon string tracks for The Detour (TBS) and He’s My Brother She’s My Sister tracks. I also love the variety of polar pattern settings which really allows the roominess to open and close to your liking.

Rob Kolar
Composer (The Detour), Recording Artist

“This tube condenser microphone sonically represents everything a great mic should. All of the low and mid fundamentals are there with a beautiful and smooth open top end. The fit and finish is totally on point and shows great attention to detail.”

Shawn Tubbs
Session and Touring Guitarist (Carrie Underwood, Crystal Lewis, Thousand Foot Krutch...)

“Feeling extremely grateful to now own these incredible instruments – a pair of V13 Tube Condenser mics and the V44S Stereo FET Condenser microphone…They sound absolutely impeccable, so much clarity and detail!”

David Palmer
Touring & Session Drummer (Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Steely Dan, Carole King...)

“The V13 is a welcome addition to our studio. My ‘go to’ valve mics are my 251 and 47. The V13 is hitting a sweet spot in tracking and mixing on female and male vocals, acoustic guitars and piano. The top end is stunning. I bought a pair for piano, drum overheads and vocals. They’re working on everything. The production value that this mic gives me on pop and hip hop vocals makes vocal mixes sound finished. The V13’s polar patterns give me flexibility sonically and there are really no ‘wrong answers’ with this mic. Highly recommended.”

Paul Smith
Studio Owner - 8 Days A Week Studio

“The V13 has become by go-to when I want something to sound life-sized and crystal clear. I reach for it when my ribbons are too low-mid heavy and when my small condensers are a bit too abrasive on the top end transients. The natural top end of the V13 tames transients in a musical way and gives me an accurate image of the midrange and bottom end! Not to mention clients always ask me about it when I pull it out of the mic locker!”

Jon O'Brien
Studio Owner - The Music Box

I’ve got my fair share of classic German mics and I’ve tried a quite a few of the ‘clones’. All I can say is this mic blows away other tube LDC’s that cost thousands more. Talk about bang for your buck! I used it on three very different singers just in the past week and it sounded fantastic on each one. Loads of vibe. Sweet highs, crispy focused mids, lots of detail. Also excelled on acoustic guitar and drum overhead. This one’s a keeper!!

Dave Way
Engineer (Michael Jackson, P!nk, Fiona Apple, Stevie Wonder...)

I chose the V13 as I was looking for microphone that wasn’t just another clone. It’s brought character, clarity, and quality to my recordings for a price that’s hard to beat.

Ned Douglas
Engineer (Mick Jagger, Katy Perry, Ringo Starr, Celine Dion, No Doubt...)

“Absolutely the best mic for the money. You could spend over 10 times this much on a mic that doesn’t sound this good.”

Gabe Veltri
Engineer (Toto, Mariah Carey, The Pointer Sisters, Aaron Neville, David Grusin, Natalie Cole, Boz Scaggs...)

“I have been using the V13 every day since we got it months ago. We have mics that cost 20 times as much, and this is the one mic that has remained on the stand.”

Steve Lindsey
Producer, Songwriter (Bruno Mars, Celine Dion, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Elton John, Rihanna...)

I’ve been using [the V44S] on every song…it’s got a crispiness to it without any of the harsh stuff. I’ve been using it different ways…really high above the kit and super close…It sounds great anywhere.

Aaron Sterling
Drummer, Producer, Engineer (John Mayer, Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey, Sara Bareilles...)