The Lauten Oceanus is a unique specimen in that its
unusual capsule is not only large, but it imparts a
response that is significantly different from other large-diaphragm,
multi-pattern tube microphones I’ve used.
I dub the Oceanus an ULDC (ultra-large-diaphragm condenser)
with a superlative implication on the “ultra” part;
I really like this mic’s unique tonality, even if it can be a
bit “hit or miss” in application.
The LT-381 employs a proprietary, dual 31.25mm diaphragm, edgeterminated
(not the usual center) capsule along with a NOS military-grade
pentode tube input stage, an unusual output stage (with a
transistor phase splitter feeding a 12AU7 dual-triode tube, sans transformer);
this “unique signal path eliminates the harshness often associated
with transformer-less mics,” offers Lauten.
Oceanus’ two tubes are contained in an isolated chamber that usefully
reduces interference and noise while effectively separating heat from the
diaphragms, dissipating it via heat sinks, therefore encouraging consistency
as well as longer life.
The Oceanus is fully accessorized for professional work with a rugged
external power supply/pattern selector (cardioid, omni, figure-of-8 and
six intermediate positions), a 7-pin Gotham cable, sustainably farmed
wooden box, flight case and, most appreciated, the rarest of birds (or at
least it seems rare these days): a shock mount that is sturdy enough to
handle such a very heavy mic without slipping (sandbags for your stands
Lauten’s descriptions are accurate: The essence of this mic is its
fullness and smoothness. The top end is there, and it is extended, yet
not overbearing or edgy as LDCs can be. Couple this with a bottom end
that is substantial and very extended, and the result is more gentle and classy than anything. Surprisingly, the
result is not sluggishness or muddiness
(as one might expect from such a large
diaphragm); I conjecture that the clarity
of a transformer-less output, and those
special circuit topologies contribute to
the capsule’s voicing in a complementary
and ultimately balanced manner.
I found that most male voices are
handled wonderfully by the LT-381, with
a lack of unwelcome sibilance, accuracy
without stridency through the high-mids
and a nice sense of “completeness”
through the low-mids and lows; it is “complete-sounding” in that all low notes are
well represented without peaks or dips in
the response, giving the vocalist more perceived
power and consistency. For louder
parts and/or yells/screams, the Oceanus
transitions from singing better than any
vocal mic I’ve used, giving enough heft to
aggressive parts and allowing me avoid EQ
automation or split tracks. The intermediate
pattern positions between omni and cardioid
are quite useful, and figure-of-8 nicely
handled two-voice BGVs without surprises.
Female voices are handled very nicely
with the the LT-381, as all that classy
smoothness is typically perfect for thinner-sounding sopranos, and the accuracy
through the low-mids will flatter altos.
Conversely, I tried the Oceanus with a
deep-voiced, chesty guy and it wasn’t a good
match. In that application, the Oceanus was
simply too large, too bassy and not defined
enough (as was the vocalist, to be fair).
Acoustic instruments are often given useful
substance by the LT-381. Tambourine in
semi-omni worked very well, with plenty of
thwack and no painful top end. Acoustic
guitars are a matter of application and taste.
With solo guitar as sound source, you will
surely like the bigness, body and lack of
top-end hype; if it’s part of an ensemble mix,
the Oceanus will likely pick up more “chunk”
than you need (though you can always whip
out an aggressive HPF and sweeten the top
with EQ). A super-quiet finger-picker found
me with 60 dB of gain on the mic and a bit
of noise floor apparent (some of it from my
mic pre, to be sure), but that’s expected with
I tried the Oceanus in a number of ambient
drum kit positions such as distant
room, nearby room and “butt mic” (generally
a condenser just behind the drummer’s
throne position) and received nicely balanced
tones that were good on the top end,
while calling out for a HPF based on position
and taste. I can only imagine how nice a pair
of these would sound on overheads (assuming
you had the massive stands required to
hold a pair of these up in the air).
I tried the Oceanus on djembe and found
its response to be somewhat ribbon-like.
Both the Oceanus and a ribbon for comparison’s
sake picked up that somewhat
hyped “Rubenesque” bottom that is usually
just what I’m looking for. Also like a ribbon,
I needed a little more top end to capture
those all-important slaps and finger-rolls
— and had to add an AKG C 451 to the take.
The djembe app highlighted to me the
differences between this “ULDC” and a
LDC more than any other: it’s as if the
Oceanus splits the differences between
a ribbon mic and a typical LDC ... the
LT-381 has more top than most ribbons,
less top than a condenser and a smoothness
of character right between the two.
Furthermore, the LT-381 has less bottom
than most ribbons, more bottom than a
typical condenser and a smoothness/fullness
that is right in between the two.
I don’t mean to paint the Oceanus as a
big, dark, heavy pony. This mic is extremely
versatile with careful placement and filtering.
The Oceanus may be unique in its voicing and
its design, but it’s useful and capable across
a wide range of inputs and apps. At $1,599
street, the Oceanus will be a great go-to mic
for a wide range of engineers and budgets, too.
Price: $1,699 list
Contact: Lauten Audio | lautenaudio.com
Rob Tavaglione has owned and operated Catalyst Recording since 1995.