Lauten Audio LS-208 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
By Phil O'Keefe |
Looks like a broadcast mic, but looks don’t always tell the whole story…
When it comes to large diaphragm condenser microphones, the vast majority are side-address designs. In other words, you sing into the side of the head basket, and not into the “end” of it, like you would do with most dynamic and live performance mics. While there are a lot of end address condenser mics on the market, most end-address style condensers tend to be small diaphragm models, and larger mics with end address designs are most often dynamic mics. But that’s certainly not a hard and fast rule. In the case of the Lauten Audio LS-208, if you’re thinking it looks like a large diaphragm dynamic mic, or like a side address large diaphragm condenser, things are not quite as they may first appear.
What You Need To Know
- The Lauten Audio LS-208 is part of the new Synergy series, which currently consists of two models - the LS-208 and the LS-308 (stay tuned - we’ll have a review of the LS-308 shortly).
- Built into in a matte black metal housing that measures 7.5” long by 1.98” in diameter, the Lauten Audio LS-208 weighs 1.05 pounds, and 1.3 or 1.75 pounds with either the hard mount or shock mount attached , so it’s not an undue weight burden on a decent mic stand.
- While somewhat smaller in both length and diameter, and significantly lighter in overall weight, the look of the LS-208 reminds me a bit of a legendary large diaphragm dynamic mic that’s long been a broadcast staple, but internally the LS-208 is significantly different. For starters, this is a true pressure gradient condenser mic that uses a 1” center-terminated capsule. You’ll need a 48V phantom power source (from an external power supply, mixing console or audio interface) to run it.
- The LS-208 uses a JFET transistor and a transformer-balanced output circuit design. The output impedance is >150 ohms.
- Just below the head basket assembly are two switches, each of which has three positions. One is a high-pass filter with off, 50Hz and 120Hz settings. While high-pass filters are not uncommon on condenser mics, ones with two different rolloff settings are a bit less common.
- What’s even less common is the low-pass filter - something that is Lauten Audio has become rather well-known for. In this case, you get both 8kHz and 10kHz options, which let you roll off some of the top end and take the edge off of overly bright sound sources.
- The rated 20Hz - 20kHz frequency response is of course dependent on how you have those two switches set. When both are in their off or bypassed positions the LS-208 has a wide frequency response range that is generally quite flat overall, with a very small bump near 60Hz, and a couple of slightly more pronounced presence peaks in the 7kHz and 12.5kHz regions.
- Dynamic range is equally impressive - the LS-208 boasts 120dB dynamic range, and relatively low self-noise (<15dB A-weighted) too, so whether you’re recording a very loud sound source or one that is soft one minute and loud the next, the LS-208 is ready to handle the task.
- The Lauten Audio LS-208 has very impressive high SPL handling capabilities - you don’t need a pad with this mic, even when hitting it with upwards of 135dB SPL! Close-miked drums, guitar and bass amps, screaming vocalists - the LS-208 can handle all of them without flinching.
- Being an end-address design, there’s really no “front side”, but a raised red and silver Lauten logo badge is mounted on the side of the microphone, and the manufacturer’s name and the mic’s model number are engraved in white lettering above and below the badge, respectively.
- Two different stand mounts are included a hard mount, and a yoke-style shock mount. The hard mount can be adjusted over 180 degrees, and has a somewhat long lever for locking it down that’s really effective - I prefer that over the smaller knobs that are found on many stand mounts.
- The shock mount is fairly small as such things go, which is a big plus when you’re trying to place the mic in tight quarters. Even on a kick drum with a modest-sized hole in the front head, I was able to insert the mic as far as I wanted to, even while using the shock mount. The mount itself is 4.5” wide at its widest point, which is at the adjustment knobs on the yoke.
- Regardless of which one of the two stand mounts you use, they both attach to the mic in the same way - with a threaded nut on the mount that attaches to threads on the mic that surround the XLR output jack.
- The front head grille of the LS-208 is a bit different than a lot of other condenser mics. There’s a domed outer grille and a second, finer-meshed domed grille about a half inch behind that, followed by the capsule. Then behind the capsule is an open area that’s about an inch long, then the main body of the mic. Looking at the mic from the side, you can see that a large part of the area covered by the grille sits behind the capsule, and is basically empty space.
- The dual mesh grilles do a reasonably good job of keeping plosives and breath noises down, although for critical recordings, I’d still recommend using an external pop filter or a foam windscreen just to be on the safe side. Speaking of which, a nice form-fitting foam windscreen is included with the mic.
- Also included is a very nice hard foam-lined camera style carrying case with cutout areas for the mic and all of the accessories.
- The engraved labels for the high and low-pass switches are painted the same color as the mic body, making them a bit difficult to see in low-light conditions. It would be nice if they had white labels (like the brand and model name near the Lauten badge) to make them easier to see.
Since Lauten Audio is advertising the LS-208 as a mic that is well-suited for use for broadcast, voiceover work and podcasts, I tested it out on some spoken word recordings, and found it to be a more articulate sounding alternative to the old broadcast mic standard. While the mic is generally flat at six inches to a foot from the sound source, up close (3” or closer) it has a really attractive proximity boost in the low frequencies that can add weight and impact to spoken vocals - instant “announcer” voice! It also works equally well for sung vocals too. The cardioid polar pattern is very effective, and it is a bit “tighter” than what I was expecting, which helps out in multi-mic situations where you have more than one person speaking or need to keep the off-axis room sound of a less than acoustically ideal room in check.
But this isn’t just a seriously good voiceover or vocal mic - and it is that - it also excels on instruments, especially high-SPL sound sources that might leave lesser mics begging for mercy. The tight polar pattern comes into play here too - the LS-208 is a really good option for when you have multiple players working together in one room, and helps to keep bleed under control. The rugged build quality suggests it would be equally appropriate for live use, where its excellent off-axis rejection would help to keep feedback at bay.
The flexibility that the dual filters provides is undeniable. It really does allow you to tailor not only the low end (as you can commonly do with many other condenser mics that are equipped with high pass filters) but also lets you tame the high frequencies too, which can be very useful on a variety of otherwise overly-bright sound sources. It’s great to be able to tailor the mic to the sound source instead of having to reach for a different mic right away, and Lauten Audio is to be commended for including this rarely-seen feature on the LS-208. Whether you’re doing radio broadcasts, interviews for podcasts, going out on tour and expanding your live mic collection, tracking drums, guitars and horns, or laying down lead vocal tracks, you really should check out one of these surprisingly affordable, impressively versatile and cool sounding mics. -HC-
Want to discuss the Lauten Audio LS-208 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Lauten Audio LS-208 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone ($899.00 MSRP, $599.00 "street")
Lauten Audio’s product web page https://www.lautenaudio.com/ls-208
You can purchase the Lauten Audio LS-208 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.