|‘Lauten Audio has employed all its definitive characteristics into its most flexible, refined and versatile mic to date.’ Pictured, the Eden LT-386.
I’ve had the opportunity to review Lauten Audio mics twice previously and have always been impressed by what seems to be the company’s definitive operation principle: “warmth, not harshness.” From the super-large diaphragm tube Oceanus to the FET Clarion, founder Brian Loudenslager always maintains refined clarity in the upper registers with fullness and extension down low. Lauten’s new flagship LT-386 ($4,000 list but around $2,500 street) appears to continue that trend without divergence and only minimal compromise.
Eden starts with Lauten’s dual-diaphragm, 31mm gold-sputtered capsule, offers tube amplification via an aged pentode EF806 and outputs via a proprietary transformer. All voicing and sensitivity switches are on the mic’s body. The semi-permanent (removable with tools, but storable in the mount) shockmount is integral and large, adding to the mic’s unusual 8.5 pound heft. Ceramic paint and nickel finishes are applied in the USA, completing a classic, inspiring package. See the complete specs here: http://bit.ly/1M8jV7I.
Eden’s high-pass filters require further discussion as they offer particular utility. The “Kick” setting offers a very steep curve with very low placement, around 40 Hz and -18 dB/oct, preventing actual rumble while allowing deep fundamentals to pass. Conversely the “Vocal” setting is placed much higher (approximately 160 Hz) with a gentler slope (which sounds like -12 dB/oct to my ears) for a tailored bottom on vocals and instruments alike.
Its voicing switches are where Eden separates itself from the rest of the “very expensive, tube-driven LDC” pack. Forward/Neutral/Gentle voicings are switchable—they are not acoustic filtering, mind you, but represent three unique circuits and the differences are indeed pivotal.
I always weave review opportunities into actual sessions, so by necessity, I started out with male vocals. In cardioid with no HPF, the immediate impression was strong: This mic has notable bottom—extended, clean, and round bottom. Unfiltered, it was a bit boomy and too resonant for my needs; I tried the kick drum HPF setting and, sure enough, it helped, but it wasn’t until we tried the Vocal setting that I heard appropriate musicality and proper balance with the top end. And that top end is just what you’d expect from Lauten Audio: clean, smooth, uncolored/not hyped and not at all harsh or “cheap.” This was all in Forward voicing mode.
In my next session, also with a male singer, we tried more voicing/filter combinations and found numerous usable options. My favorite was the Vocal filter with Neutral voicing, but sometimes Gentle was just the ticket to tame harsh consonants. Other times, we stuck with the Kick filter and carefully worked proximity effect with all three voicings. The combinations seemed too numerous at first, but power users can get a handle on the Eden’s best uses rather quickly; they may soon ask the vocalist to do the switching for them (perhaps a worthwhile reason for not mounting the appropriate switches on the power supply).
Drum tracking provided a wealth of information. First of all, heed Lauten’s warnings about this mic’s size and need for a proper stand, as counter-weighting is not optional and you’ll still find many limitations to placement. Close snare placement is likely not possible and tom toms aren’t easy either (although the tone was great), while inside kick would work only for single-headed apps. I placed the Eden outside the kick and found Thor’s hammer: all the bottom end you could ever ask for, tunable to taste between the filters and voicings for massive thump. During this test, I noticed that Eden’s shockmount was slightly sagging and wasn’t entirely physically isolating the mic; upon leaning the Eden forward into isolated suspension, I got tighter response, less ringing and less deep resonance. Drum-room placement revealed a crisp yet pleasant and mannered top end, ample tom toms and very natural kick reproduction (again, tunable to taste and I personally favored Gentle/Vocal for a smooth and filtered drum ambience that “completes” the close-miked drum sound with nothing more than a little compression needed). A pair of these on overheads would likely make my heart stop!
Here’s a brief web clip I cut with drummer Frank Hoffman and the Eden, which captured the whole kit, placed about four feet in front of the kit at about tom height, aimed a little downward and then some outside kick, too: http://bit.ly/1M8kq1B.
I tried out Eden briefly on instruments, but my learning curve was already met. Whether guitar, percussion, piano or guitar/bass amps, the complex sonic signature remained. Eden presents you with a full-bandwidth “all-the-way-down-to-yours-hins” picture; you filter and voice it to where you want it to be. So it’s all there, but you might just have to scoop out a little low-mid to taste. I didn’t get to try the Eden with horns, orchestral instruments or a choir, but this ain’t my first rodeo and I can tell you with confidence that I would almost kill for pair of Edens on the those apps.
For picky guitarists who request “what it sounds like when I’m playing,” simply place the Eden on-axis about a foot way from a guitar cab speaker (not close miked), select Gentle and Vocal settings and a solid state mic amp with little or no compression. Even the snootiest virtuoso will admit their solos can’t sound much more natural.
I looked hard and long before I could find any flaw with the Eden. Its shockmount was the only one. And, sure enough, my very early review unit was simply assembled with specific tension bands in the wrong position; units are properly assembled now, so I can say that this LDC is the finest, most versatile one I have ever used.
It appears to me that Lauten Audio has employed all its definitive characteristics into its most flexible, refined and versatile mic to date. I simply can’t imagine the Eden doing a poor job of anything. I would expect it to excel at any and all sources with proper use of its patterns, filters and voicings. This is not hyperbole; it’s that good.
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Charlotte’s Catalyst Recording and has been a long-time Studio Contributor to Pro Audio Review.