The Lauten Oceanus is a unique specimen in that its unusual capsule is not only large, but imparts a response that is significantly different from other large-diaphragm, multi-pattern tube microphones I’ve used. 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 polarity splitter feeding a 12AU7 dual-triode tube, sans transformer).
The Oceanus has a rugged external power supply/pattern selector (cardioid, omni, figure-of-8 and six intermediate positions) connected to the mic by a 7-pin Gotham cable. The supplied shock mount is sturdy enough to handle the very heavy mic without slipping.
The essence of this mic is its fullness and smoothness. The top end is there, and it is extended, yet not overbearing or edgy. Couple this with a bottom end that is substantial and very extended, and the result is more gentle and classy than anything.
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 lowmids and lows. For louder parts and/or yells/screams, the Oceanus transitions from singing better than any vocal mic I’ve used. 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 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 for the vocalist.
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. With solo acoustic guitar as sound source, you will surely like the bigness, body and lack of topend hype; if it’s part of an ensemble mix, the Oceanus will likely pick up more “chunk” than you need. 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.
Highlighted by use on djembe, it’s as if the Oceanus LT-381 splits the differences between a ribbon mic and a typical LDC…more top and less bottom than most ribbons, less top and more bottom than a typical condenser and a smoothness/fullness of character right between the two.
This mic is extremely versatile with careful placement and filtering. At $1,599 street, the Oceanus will be a great go-to mic for a wide range of engineers and budgets.