In the advent of home/hotel/air bnb/remote recordings, the choice of microphone is fairly important to capture those magical moments. The Lauten Audio LA-320 might just perform all the duties and lighten the load.
We love microphones here at Happy. We use them all the time for our Live from Happy sessions, our Engineering the Sound videos and our Somewhere Sounds Sample Packs. We received the updated version of the Lauten Audio LA-320 to put through it’s paces in the studio.
You can’t help but be a little sceptical when a microphone says “This records everything”, but sometimes we do need a few simple choices in the studio to get the music down quickly, so finding a quality — an affordable — solution can be vital to getting the job done.
The LA-320 says it records Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Cello and Drum Overheads and being a twin-tone tube microphone I would say it would work very well on those sources. In fact, firing up the microphone in the studio and doing the old “Check-One-Two” I was pretty impressed by the warmth I heard.
For the price, I was impressed by the packaging and accessories. It comes with a shock mount, 5 foot 5 pin XLR cable, a velvet slip-on case, a slim power supply and an ECC83 tube inside all packed into a solid box with foam cut-outs — Not something to throw out, something to keep your mic pristine.
The twin-tone tube function of the LA-320 is that you can choose to keep the microphone frequencies wide open for a ‘Modern’ sound, or you can impart a ‘Vintage’ sound by engaging the high and low filters. It’s an onboard sound shaping system that cuts the low frequency at 120Hz and the high frequency at 12kHz.
Starting with an acoustic guitar on with no filters engaged (Modern), the LA-320 captured a clear and precise sound while pointed at the 12th fret. I’m no stranger to recording acoustic guitars with condenser or tube condenser microphones, and this one impressed. Time to try out the ‘Vintage’ mode.
With the flick of both switches, and keeping the position exactly the same, the acoustic guitar did transform. It made it thin out and soften on the top. While I might not go to this setting for an acoustic guitar, my mind raced with how many other instruments this setting would work really well on.
For example, when recording Horns engineers generally reach for a ribbon microphone, because the can be a lot of air and mouth noise so a microphone that naturally softens the top end helps to capture the source in a better representation. Next time I have to record a saxophone, trumpet or trombone I’ll reach for the LA-320 with both filters engaged.
Grabbing one of our talented singers in the office, I asked her to sing a few bars — under strict instructions no one else would hear it! I think she sounded stunning on the already engaged ‘Vintage’ setting, so I flicked the low cut switch back to open up the low end which gave me a lot more proximity warmth while keep the high end contained.
I then opened up the high cut filter and BOOM I got that silky smooth vocal. Hearing the LA-320 give a vocal that high end sheen that we all yearn for in modern pop production did convince me that this mic would sound great on Cello (as they mentioned) but also I would say it would work on all stringed instruments. I can also imagine that it would work well as a mono piano microphone (no one does that anymore since The Beatles and Harry Vanda).
Given I only have one, I can only try the LA-320 as a mono drum overhead which I got stuck into. Without even thinking I engaged both of the filters for that ‘Vintage’ sound. It gave me exactly what I was looking for — the thickness of the full drum kit without the unruly low end and abrasive high end. In fact, it’s a shame I didn’t have this for the Crocodylus Live from Happy where I had an AKG 414 as a mono overhead.
It’s at this point that I realised that the LA-320 is one of those excellent recording workhorse microphones. A studio stable, a home recording all-rounder — the one microphone choice for a trip to a remote location to escape the world and write your own Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago.
It’s not an easy task to make a microphone so dynamic (pun intended…) and versatile. It’s also a huge risk to make a microphone not ‘one-great-thing’ or a clone of a classic, so it’s great to see a company like Lauten Audio make a great mic, suitable for multiple audio sources, and affordable enough for those of us with limited budgets.
This update of the LA-320 makes it look more elegant and expensive while keeping the internal specs the same as the successful original. The custom-crafted Lauten Audio capsule is a hand-tuned 32mm transducer and the polished and engraved nickel head-baskets look brilliant and the redesigned open-face shock mount system has been designed to improve isolation.
The updated Lauten Audio LA-320 was released in November 2022 and comes in at $699 USD.
The whole Series Black — LA-120, LA- 220 and LA-320 — have received a makeover. You can check them all out on their website, Lautenaudio.com