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Lauten Audio LA-220 v2

Cardioid Capacitor Microphone By Sam Inglis
Published April 2023

Lauten Audio’s updated LA‑220 offers both the Yin and Yang of affordable capacitor mics!

Lauten Audio LA-220 v2By now we’re all very familiar with the business model whereby Western design and quality control are combined with Far Eastern manufacturing, hopefully delivering products that are affordable without compromising on standards. It’s a model that Lauten Audio have pursued with notable success, as many previous reviews in these pages will testify. And unlike many mic companies who adopt this approach, Lauten are not afraid to innovate. Their Synergy series microphones are designed to solve real‑world isolation problems, whilst their Signature‑series Eden and Atlantis models offer three distinct tonalities in a single mic.

The Lauten range is completed by the newly refreshed Black series, which contains three models. The LA‑120 is a small‑diaphragm ‘pencil’ mic with interchangeable cardioid and omni capsules. The LA‑320 is an affordable large‑diaphragm valve mic. And the subject of this review is an even more affordable, solid‑state, large‑diaphragm capacitor mic.

Welcome To LA

Though it’s not intended as a homage or a recreation, the LA‑220 v2 resembles a slightly smaller Neumann U87 in appearance, with a gently tapered body and a wedge‑shaped headbasket. Build quality seems good, with a smart matte‑black body topped off by a very shiny grille, and a pleasingly heavy‑duty shockmount is supplied. There’s also a soft fabric bag to protect the mic when not in use, but no proper case or storage box.

Inside the headbasket lurks a 32mm centre‑terminated, externally polarised capsule, of which only the front diaphragm bears a conductive gold layer, making this a cardioid‑only mic. As in many affordable capacitor mics, the design of this capsule is based on the Neumann K67, though Lauten Audio have made some interesting modifications (see box).

Unusually for a mic in this price bracket, the LA‑220 has a transformer‑balanced output, and it presents a fairly standard nominal impedance of 200Ω. It requires standard 48V phantom power, delivers a sensible sensitivity of 16mV/Pa, and will tolerate sound pressure levels of up to 130dB before 0.5% distortion at 1kHz is reached. Self‑noise is quoted as less than 15dBA, which is not state of the art, but comparable to the U87s of this world.

Split Personalities

Perhaps the most intriguing claim Lauten make for the LA‑220 is that it represents “two mics in one”, letting you “choose between modern clarity and classic warmth at the flick of a switch”. The body of the mic actually bears two switches, of which the first is a conventional high‑pass filter. The LA‑220’s dual personalities are swapped using the second, which is described as a low‑pass filter. This is an unusual feature to find on any microphone, at least in switchable form, but it does make sense in terms of the origins of the design.

Most K67‑style capsules have a naturally rising high‑frequency response, and if this is paired with active circuitry that has a flat frequency response, the resulting mic can be pretty bright. This was a common theme among early Chinese capacitor microphones. By contrast, the circuitry in the Neumann U67 and U87 isn’t flat: it’s designed to ‘de‑emphasise’ the treble boost coming from the capsule, thus creating an overall on‑axis response that is relatively neutral. So it might make sense to see the LA‑220’s low‑pass filter as an attempt to offer the best of both worlds. When switched out, it allows the intrinsic sparkle and brightness of the capsule to come through unimpeded; when engaged, it tames this high‑frequency emphasis, providing the aforementioned “classic warmth”.

The frequency response plot on Lauten’s website is broadly flat from 200Hz to 15kHz, with a 1dB rise at 10kHz and a presumably proximity‑related bump at 100Hz. The filters are represented as straight lines rolling off frequencies below 120Hz and above 12kHz respectively, but I suspect this is more of a visual aid to understanding their action than a real‑world measurement.

If my experience is anything to go by, anyone buying the LA‑220 on the strength of this graph might be in for a surprise — especially if they compare it with other mics. For example, the published frequency response of the Neumann U87 actually has a little more going on at the top end than that of the LA‑220, but in a direct comparison, the Lauten mic is substantially brighter. When I recorded vocals with the two mics side by side, matching the Neumann to the LA‑220 required a high shelving boost of at least 6dB at 10kHz or thereabouts, with a broad enough bandwidth to reach right down into the upper midrange.

Not that this brightness is necessarily a bad thing. It adds a welcome liveliness to acoustic guitar and many other instruments, and although you’d need to be careful with hand percussion or sibilant vocalists, it generally does a good job of making things sound exciting without straying into ‘ouch’ territory. A healthy treble emphasis is not unusual among mics in this price bracket, and it was interesting to compare the LA‑220 with Austrian Audio’s OC16, another notably bright microphone. The OC16’s presence lift seems more pronounced in the 5‑7 kHz region, whilst the LA‑220 has more of an edge in the midrange; subjectively, the OC16 comes across as airier and smoother, whilst the LA‑220 is a touch more ‘rock & roll’.

The Dark Side

Activating the low‑pass filter gave me another surprise, because on paper, you might expect a 12kHz low‑pass filter to be quite subtle. The published frequency response suggests it should leave most of the audio band unaffected. In practice, though, its effect is more dramatic than I was expecting, to the point where it completely changes the character of the microphone. Lauten explained that it’s a first‑order (6dB/octave) filter, and that 12kHz represents the frequency where the response is ‑6dB down. As the slope is very broad, this means the effect is audible throughout the treble and midrange.

With the filter engaged, the LA‑220 becomes overtly warm and dark.

Consequently, with the filter engaged, the LA‑220 becomes overtly warm and dark. Darker, in fact, than any vintage capacitor mic I’ve used, with the possible exception of some old Sony models. The filter doesn’t just cut out the airiness at the very top; it also takes away the midrange ‘bite’, and the overall sound is quite soft. If it’s an attempt to make the mic sound more like, say, a U87, it actually overshoots the mark a bit. As a consequence it can sound a bit woolly and unfocused on some sources — but by the same token, if you’re trying to thicken up a weedy‑sounding voice, smooth out a harsh guitar amp or tame a toppy tambourine, it could be just the ticket.

Hearing Double

When Lauten Audio describe the LA‑220 as being “two mics in one”, then, they aren’t kidding! I’m not convinced the published frequency response graph really does justice to the contrast, but as ever, these things are best judged using ears rather than eyes. Do so, and I think most people will find plenty of use for both of its personalities. Indeed, such is the contrast that some might feel the perfect Goldilocks zone would be somewhere in between — but if you find the sound it captures on a given source is too bright with the filter out and too dark with it in, it always responded well to post‑recording EQ in my tests. And the best thing of all is the price. It’s not all that many years since the idea of buying one high‑quality capacitor mic at this sort of sum would have seemed like a wild dream. Getting two for the price of one seems quite the bargain.  

Capsule Compression?

The LA‑220 capsule is derived from the classic Neumann K67 design, but incorporates some twists of Lauten Audio’s invention.The LA‑220 capsule is derived from the classic Neumann K67 design, but incorporates some twists of Lauten Audio’s invention.

Concerning the LA‑220 v2, Lauten Audio’s website makes the intriguing assertion that: “Unlike traditional capsule designs, our hand‑tuned 32mm transducer naturally imparts gentle compression and balance to any sound source.” Whilst there is a difference in transient response between large‑ and small‑diaphragm capacitor mics, and between these and moving‑coil or ribbon designs, I’ve never before heard of a capsule with an innate ability to control dynamics. Lauten Audio’s President, Trent Thompson, explains: “All of our capsules are designed to do this. However, it is much more sonically apparent in microphones like the Eden and Atlantis because the 38mm capsule was designed from the ground up in‑house by our Chief Engineer/Physicist, Dr Charles Chen.

“In the case of the LA‑220 v2, the changes we made to the capsule, diaphragm, backplate, and spacing of the K67 slightly slow and smooth the attack of incoming transients and lightly balance sounds beyond that. It’s easier to say ‘gentle compression’ because everyone has a picture of what that sounds like in their head, but in the end, we are trying to mimic some of the sonic characteristics of a classic signal chain into each microphone. Our goal is to deliver as close to a ‘finished’ sound at the source as possible to make the recording easier for the end user.”

In practice, this effect is quite hard to assess, because you can’t turn it off or isolate it from other aspects of the mic’s performance. But, as Lauten Audio kindly loaned me a pair of LA‑220s for testing, I took the opportunity to try them as drum overheads, and very much liked them in this role. Having already tested them on other sources, I was anticipating that they might be a little sharp on drums, but this wasn’t the case: they delivered a balanced, punchy sound that sat well in the mix without EQ. They certainly didn’t sound overtly compressed, but perhaps a little more ‘solid’ than I’d have expected, for want of a better word.


  • Excellent value for money.
  • Good build quality and shockmount.
  • Offers a choice of two very different sonic personalities.


  • Some might prefer a tone in between the default bright and filtered dark options.
  • No case or box supplied.


A highly affordable large‑diaphragm mic with a true Jekyll and Hyde character!


£303 including VAT.

Synthax +44 (0)1727 821870.


Lauten Audio +1 877 721 7018.