We have watched many new microphones come to market over the past couple of years which offer high-end studio performance but at considerably lower prices. Not only has the selection increased, but some of these new mics are proving to be real gems, with even the most experienced engineers opting in. However, if you’re on a limited budget there was only one valve mic for less than a grand – the British-designed and -made Sontronics Aria. Here is the first contender from the US, the Lauten Audio LA-320.
I have been one of many who adore the Sontronics Aria, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Especially when you consider that it costs less than a thousand pounds. I have used it in place of microphones 2 or 3 times its value, and I’m not alone. The Aria has dominated this specialist area of the market for some time too, as the only new valve microphone for less than 1,000 GBP. That is until now, as Lauten Audio from the USA bring us the LA-320.
As many already know, valve (or ‘tube’ seeing as this is an American product!) equipment can be highly desirable when compared with solid-state gear. Although technically speaking valves add a type of distortion, it’s the extra harmonics and saturation that they offer which we find so sonically pleasing. If like many you’ve already built up a decent mic collection consisting of different studio-grade condenser mics, the perfect addition to your mic cupboard would be a valve mic. Now they’ve become affordable and apparently we’ve got a degree of choice.
The LA-320 comes complete with case, suspension mount and its own power supply as a comprehensive package. It marks the first of Lauten Audio’s new black series product line, which I think we can assume will be a new ‘affordable’ range. It is a dedicated cardioid mic with a response that they say lends itself well to vocal recordings. Obviously I suspect it will be more versatile than for just vocals, potentially being effective on instruments such as acoustic guitar. It offers a low-cut filter as expected, but set at 120Hz I think this is too high. Unusually though, it will also sport a high-cut filter at 12kHz.
The recommended retail price is 799 USD, with an estimated street price of around 499 USD. This appears lower than the Sontronics Aria, although we must wait for the UK RRP after any taxes are considered. Either way, it had better be good if it’s to stand any chance of competing with the Aria.
More Information: www.lautenaudio.com