In recent weeks and months, I have had the opportunity to test some amazing microphones. Everything from high-end ribbon mics and valve (tube) condensers to more cost-effective small diaphragm condensers and hand-held dynamics. The truth of the matter is, there are a great many fantastic sounding mics out there and many of them can be bought for a very reasonable price. But what happens when you decide to invest some serious cash in a microphone? You want something that is going to, 9 times out of 10 hit the mark for whatever you put it in front of to record. I recently had the opportunity to try the Lauten Audio Eden LT-386. Might this be the only 'conventional' microphone you ever have to buy? Let's find out.
Let me just clarify what I mean by the term 'conventional' microphone. Recently the microphone world has been split into 2 camps. The new school ' modelled' microphones like the Townsend Labs Sphere, the Slate Digital ML-1 and ML2 and the latest contender the Antelope Audio Edge and Verge which allow the user to change the style of mic they are recording or mixing with. There is also the old school traditional microphone. You choose your style of microphone, you pays your money and you sit back and enjoy the results and if one mic is not working on a particular sound source then you change the mic. This is the more traditional approach and there is nothing wrong with it.
The Lauten Audio Eden LT-386 Multi-Voicing Large Diaphragm Valve Condenser Microphone
The design team at Eden have come up with an interesting concept to almost bridge the gap between the old and new school of microphone design and construction. They call it Multi-Voicing Technology. Lauten Audio's Proprietary Multi-Voicing Technology is a process that is only achievable in the microphone itself and uses three separate signal paths for unique frequency shaping circuits. The multi-voicing functions in the Eden are specifically designed and tuned for this microphone and are not the same as those used in Lauten's other Signature Series microphones. The Multi-Voice Technology settings are controlled by a sliding switch on the rear of the mic and there are 3 to choose from. The Gentle (G) position provides maximum control of bright or peaky sources or to achieve a very warm, vintage vibe. Add in one of the high-pass filters and you’ll think you have a completely different microphone. Neutral (N) offers a nice even response with good control over sibilance. This setting starts moving more toward a modern microphone but still has a vintage vibe to the tone. Forward (F) opens up the microphone for that familiar “air” of classic microphones from the past with Lauten's own modern touch. For my money, this is the setting I like the most. The F setting still has those rich mids and bass tones but there is a sweetness to the top end I really like and for modern bright instruments this is a fantastic setting
The switch on the right of the mic selects the polar pick-up pattern between cardioid, omnidirectional or figure 8.
The switch on the left is the high-pass filter. It has to be said this is not just a filter set to 2 different frequencies. Lauten has done a lot of work to make this very usable.
The first setting they call the 'Kick-shaper' and the second the 'Vocal-shaper. These filters are tuned to shape the low-end for two of the most common troublesome areas of the spectrum. In its default position, there is no high-pass. Stage one, or the middle position, is the 'Kick-shaper. As the name somewhat gives away this was specifically designed for kick-drums. With a very steep cut of the low-end, it removes excess boominess that might actually take away from a big sounding kick. Moving the switch to the second position puts the filter into 'Vocal-shaper' setting, which is designed to clean up your vocal tracks for an amazingly smooth and classic sound. These are of course just names but I think you get where they are coming from.
A blend of these 3 controls can transform the Eden into some very different sounding microphones. A one trick poney mic this is not.
The Eden LT-386 (which to me sounds more like a PC from the 80's than a microphone) is built like a tank and that is somewhat understating it. It looks and feels solid. The body is finished with a super tough ceramic coating and the head and suspension mounts are nickel plated. All the processing is done in Lauten's home town of San Jose, California.
Top spec, premium level components are used throughout the construction of the Eden LT-386 and it uses a Lauten Audio proprietary 31.25mm dual-diaphragm pressure gradient condenser capsule tuned specifically for the Eden and not used in any other Lauten mic. Eden also uses a custom wound US-made output transformer for excellent control of transients. The vacuum tube is a modern EF806s aged using a proprietary process developed by Lauten Audio.
The only components that you might call 'stock' are the Switchcraft socket and jack that connect the mic to the cable. Everything else is custom made including the Power Supply Unit and the cable.
The entire kit ships in a very solid flightcase. This particular mic I had has clearly 'done the rounds' on the press tour as the marks and scratches indicate but the mic and PSU look fresh as the day they left the factory.
How Does The Lauten Audio Eden LT-386 Sound
As with any product test I like to give you a real-world studio review of the product. I was recording a track and decided to use nothing but the Eden for the recording process, so what you can hear in the audio files below are the raw un-processed audio tracks. The final mix does not even have any reverb on it to keep it as clean as possible. So what you hear, is what I recorded.
For most of the session, I had the Eden set in Forward (F) mode. This I feel worked very well for the acoustic rhythm guitars which are panned hard left and right. The guitar on the right is Nashville tune to thicken up the sound and make the track sound like it was recorded with a 12 string. The nylon string acoustic lead line also cuts through nicely in F mode with no high pass filters engaged.
For the vocal, I set the Multi-Voicing switch to N as to not hype up the top end. I also chose not to use the Vocal Shaper setting on the filter. This could have been a mistake as to my ears the vocals are a little too rich and full. This could, of course, be fixed with a touch of EQ but If I had hit it in the mic then no need for later fixing. The tone of the vocal sounds great solo but it was hard to get it to cut through the mix. I just had to push it a little more.
For the Tamborine, I used Gentle (G) position to just control the top end of the jingles. It might be considered overkill to use a mic of this quality on a £25 Tamborine but in this case, it worked perfectly.
So by now, I hope you are thinking, as I do, "wow what an amazing mic". It sure is a stunning thing to work with and perform into. I also have had the opportunity to use the Eden on female vocals (sadly nothing I could clear for you to listen to) and a host of other acoustic instruments. I never did try it as an outside kick drum mic, but I have no fear that it would not work for this job.
There is, however, no easy way to say it, the Eden sells for £2225 + UK taxes. But, if you now don't need to buy 3 different large diaphragm condensers then maybe it could be within your reach. However, take it from me, the Lauten Audio Eden is up there with the other mics in this price range. If you do have some serious microphone shaped money burning a hole in your pocket and you are looking at mics like the Manley Reference Gold, or the Brauner VM1 for your studio the Lauten Audio Eden should also make your short list. If you get the chance to check this baby out you will be very glad you did.
Sadly the Eden is out of reach to many of us but if you are in the market for something more competitively prices check out the Lauten Audio Series Black mics which I reviewed a little while ago. Stunning mics for a chunk less cash.