Every now and then, I acquire a product that's so unbelievably awesome, that I have a difficult time penning a review of it. The FC-387 Atlantis - Lauten Audio's newest multi-pattern, large-diaphragm, FET condenser mic - is just such a product. Think of every superlative in the dictionary that you might use to describe a mic, and most of them will apply to the Atlantis. I wish I could just direct you to go out and demo this mic for yourself, and leave it at that, but then I would lose the opportunity to tell you about three features that make this mic utterly unique amongst its LDC peers.

First, it's voiced for modern recording methods. Unlike the majority of LDCs out there, especially the vintage-wanna-be ones, the FC-387 is not overly bright. It doesn't make your digital recordings sound like... well... digital recordings made with mics that follow voicings originally characterized for tape machines and cushy transformers. Instead, it sounds wonderfully natural, without any iciness.

Second, it has a voicing switch with three settings - Forward, Neutral, and Gentle - to tailor the frequency response of the mic. Forward gives presence to the upper mids and highs, adding a couple dB of "push" in the 4-12 kHz range. Gentle reins back that same region by a dB or two.

Third, a gain/pad switch not only provides 10 dB of attenuation on the output, as you might expect, but it also lets you add 10 dB of gain. More on why this is so damn cool, later.

On all three voicings, I feel that the Atlantis captures noticeably less "mud" (200-500 Hz) than other large- diaphragm condensers in my collection, without sounding at all thin. In correlation, the mic exhibits a very controlled proximity effect on the cardioid setting, with a very smooth ramp-up of the lows and lower mids. Consequently, the Atlantis is a very easy mic to sing through. Since adding the mic to my collection months ago, every singer who has recorded in my studio fell in love with the mic immediately and found it extremely easy to "work" the mic to control volume, dynamics, and intimacy; and sibilance was never an issue, even set to Forward voicing. In fact, each time I A/B'ed the Atlantis against other vocal mics through my Radial MS4 Gold Digger mic selector [reviewed above], the Atlantis was unanimously chosen.

The lack of mud also makes the Atlantis an ideal room mic, no matter which polar-pattern you select. I tend to hear a room's size (or lack thereof) and character (or resonance) mostly in the lower midrange, and the FC-387 does its part to prevent buildup of those frequencies, even when stacked across multiple tracks. Likewise, a single Atlantis can be used to record multiple overdubs without muddying up the mix.

On the other hand, if you do want to accentuate the lows and lower-mids of a singer's voice or an instrument's sound, you can switch the Atlantis to figure-8 mode and take advantage of this pattern's stronger proximity effect by placing the mic within an inch or two of the source; and by rotating the mic on its major axis, you can further "EQ" the sound. This technique works especially well for guitar amps.

Speaking of EQ, what's the advantage of using a voicing switch on the mic instead of employing an equalizer (hardware or software) later in the chain? Well, this is where the Atlantis gets even more awesome. Remember the gain/pad switch that can add 10 dB of gain to the output of the mic? Let me try to explain.

Using the voicing selector in conjunction with the gain switch, you can overdrive your mic preamp in a creative manner, resulting in all sorts of beautiful (or nasty) distortions that wouldn't be possible with an EQ patched in after the fact. In other words, if you have a preamp that exhibits "muscle" or "character," flipping the gain switch and tweaking the voicing on the Atlantis is like feeding your preamp performance-enhancing or mind- altering drugs. I have a vintage Neve 1272 that was originally racked by Brent Averill (and later modded by BAE for gain-structure corrections), and with the Atlantis, I'm able to get sounds through that preamp - even with sources that aren't super loud - that are unattainable with other mics. Same goes for my vintage API and present-day BAE preamps. Wonderful harmonics, creamy midrange gloss, in-your-face grit, crunchy transients - name your favorite poison, but drink responsibly, because this can get very addicting very quickly. Used in moderation, the Atlantis overdriving an appropriate preamp can impart just the right amount of edge (or sheen) to a sound that will help it stand out (or fall back) in a busy mix - it's a uniquely commanding tool to have in your arsenal of engineering tricks. (And speaking of awesome, the AwTAC Awesome Channel Amplifier [Tape Op #93] is a perfect companion preamp for the Atlantis, due to its ability to add rich harmonics in a very controlled manner.)

Like other mics by Lauten Audio, the FC-387 utilizes premium electronics and a custom-designed, hand- tensioned capsule; and it includes a high-quality shockmount. It arrives in a handsome, fabric-lined, wood box. Build quality is excellent, and attention to detail is evident throughout; even the wingnut for setting the angle of the shockmount is better engineered than those found on the mounts of bigger-named mics. It's an extremely flexible mic, excelling on vocals as well as many other sources, due to its natural, clear tone. Additionally, the voicing and gain controls can offer your recording chain more character than any other LDC can. I highly recommend demoing it yourself. This could very well be your desert-island mic.

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the art of record making.

 
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