Lauten LS-208 Is A Condenser Mic With The Advantages Of A Dynamic
Sound quality is an essential ingredient in the mix for anyone who wants to produce a compelling podcast. Poor sound is one of the biggest turn-offs for listeners and a guaranteed way of ensuring your podcast never gets off the ground. The same goes for recorded music. If you want to capture the character in a voice or the nuance of an instrument, then having a great microphone is half the battle.
This month I’ve been testing Lauten’s Synergy LS-208 condenser microphone, a condenser microphone with many of the benefits of a dynamic design but the finesse of a condenser. The LS-208 is produced by boutique microphone brand Lauten, a family-owned and run business that creates an inspiring range of microphones.
The San Francisco company designs and hand-builds its premium microphones in the USA. In contrast, its more affordable models are designed in the USA before being manufactured in China, ensuring the company’s products are within reach of more people.
The Synergy LS-208 is a beautifully made microphone with a feel of superb quality. Its finish is impeccable, and the whole kit is supplied in a smart flight case with an elasticated shock mount, an adjustable hard mount, and a foam windshield. The overall package feels well worth the money and looks like it will provide years of use.
This condenser microphone is an alternative to a classic front-address dynamic microphone. It has two special filters that can be used to shape the sound before it reaches the computer’s hard drive. On one side of the LS-208, there’s a low-pass filter with 8kHz and 10kHz settings. On the other side, there’s a high-pass filter for taming sibilance with a choice of 50Hz and 120Hz.
The microphone can record vocals and percussion with impact and clarity using the low-pass filter or it can be turned off and the high-pass filter switched in to give electric guitars added warmth and realism. The LS-208 is a touch microphone that can handle up to 135dB of SPL without internal padding. This makes it ideal for dynamic, loud sources like a drum kit.
Despite being a condenser, the LS-208 has many features of a dynamic microphone. It is brilliant at rejecting the acoustics of a room. This makes it perfect for use in a space that isn’t acoustically treated, such as a bedroom. The microphone’s off-axis noise rejection offers a focused polar pattern making it ideal for broadcasting and a direct replacement for a traditional front-address dynamic microphone. And because it is a capsule design, the LS-208 can capture vocals with intimacy and clarity. With drums, it records all the explosive impact of a break, while guitars are captured with depth.
The LS-208 has a signal path incorporating high-resolution, low-distortion polypropylene capacitors and resistors, plus USA-made FET and a custom wound output transformer. The output has a natural sound with good isolation and an ability to absorb transients and dynamics.
The LS-208 has a self-noise level of less than 15dB-A. It does require a bit more gain than other condenser microphones, such as the RØDE NT1, but I never detected any noise creeping into the signal, even with the gain setting on an SSL 2+ set to 8. The sound produced was pleasingly neutral, capturing the lower frequencies in the voice well while preserving the upper frequencies to provide shape to the sound. The microphone is superb at rejecting plosives with the foam windshield in place, but it rejects many unwanted sounds even without the windshield.
I tested the LS-208 on a live radio broadcast I was taking part in. The engineer on the other end of the line went out of his way to compliment me on the sound of my microphone, which is always a good sign in my experience. I experimented with the low-pass and high-pass filters, but the effect was subtle. They have more impact when recording louder sounds, like an electric guitar or a snare drum. It shines with mids and highs, plus those two built-in filters provide the kind of versatility for shaping a sound that microphones like Shure’s SM7B are famed for.
The condenser in the LS-208 has sufficient size to catch the nuance and subtlety of a wide range of sounds. The LS-208 would be equally as at home, capturing the sound from an acoustic guitar or the transients from a clarinet. This is a versatile microphone that can work with almost any sound. For that reason, it’s a kind of Swiss Army knife of microphones. It has such versatility it will capture nearly any sound, no matter how loud, with precision.
Verdict: The Lauten LS-208 is a superbly made microphone that excels in almost any situation. Its real strength is its versatility. If you could only have one microphone in your kit bag, the LS-208 would be a good choice because it can rise to almost any challenge. The built-in filters are a bonus, but the sound straight out of the box is near perfect. I would say it’s easier to coax a great sound from this microphone than the Shure SM7B, the choice for many podcasters and musicians. If you are on a budget and only have the money for one good microphone, the Lauten LS-208 is a superb choice bringing the best aspects of a front address dynamic design with the subtlety of a great condenser microphone. Recommended.
Pricing & Availability: The Lauten LS-208 is available now and costs $598.
More info: lautenaudio.com
- Type: Front-address pressure-gradient FET condenser.
- Capsule: 32mm.
- Polar patterns: Cardioid.
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz.
- Dynamic range: 135db minimum.
- Maximum SPL: >135db (0.5%THD @ 1000Hz).
- Impedance: >150Ω.
- Self-noise level: < 15dB-A.
- Sensitivity: 5mv/pa -46dBV (ODB=1V/PA 1kHz).
- Connector: 3-pin XLR.
- Power: Requires 48V phantom power.