Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Mike Levy -11:11 Studios owner, Musician and Lauten Audio Loyalist

A couple months ago I heard from one of our many owners. This owner was a little different however. Most recordists own one or two Lauten Audio microphones as well as many others which all help paint their sound pallet. Mike Levy also owns a number of models from other microphone manufacturers; however, he has discovered Lauten in a big way and now owns all of our models.

Mike’s discovery of Lauten was done on his own and prior to receiving an email from him thanking us for such great microphones, he had only communicated with one of our dealers. I called Mike to hear a little more about him and his studio and why he had chosen Lauten. Mike offered to write a brief history of himself and what led him to Lauten. What follows is a brief story of a musician turned studio owner; I'm sure a couple of you can relate. Thanks Mike for being one of our most loyal customers!

Mike Levy, 11:11 Studios owner, Producer, Engineer, Composer, Musician and Lauten Audio Loyalist

Being a performing musician came first to me for many years. I started gigging at 15, toured with Maynard Ferguson at 19, and have spent my entire life as a professional musician in the South, New York City, and now the Southwest. My life as an audio engineer started in the 1980’s creating my own music, bouncing tracks back and forth between two cassette recorders. I made the logical progression to 4 track cassette and then on to multi track open reel decks. In the mid 1990’s, I was in an alternative rock band when the ADAT came out. Since the band had financial backing, we were able to build our own recording space before everyone and their brother had a studio. With access to the studio, I began recording some of the other acts that I was playing with. My first client was a great singer/songwriter named Ansel Matthews. For the next several years, my live playing remained my main focus. When I relocated to Tucson, AZ, my passion for recording really took root. Within a short period, I’ve been fortunate enough to become a very in-demand producer/engineer in a great little town that breeds a lot of creativity without many of the stifling pressures of the bigger cities.

As an engineer, to say that I’m self-taught is selling my experience short. As a musician, I’ve spent countless hours on the other side of the glass which has given me an invaluable education about how to produce great recordings, from a technical and creative stance. I’m a “musician’s” producer and engineer. I’ve been micing instruments since I was 11 years old and making records since not much older than that! I now operate a successful project studio with a very classy analog front-end and a nicely stocked mic cabinet (see www.1111studios.net for more info).

While building up my space, 11:11 Studios, I took a fairly typical route. I started with what I could afford. As my client base grew, so did my appetite for a more varied sonic palette to work with. In addition to this, I needed the gear that people (in the know or otherwise) expect from a professional. I know we’ve all been asked by a prospective client, “Do you have a Neumann?” My U87 is a great mic and essential in order to answer yes to that question. I had a singer in the room looking into an AEA R84 ribbon mic ask me, “So, is this a Neumann U87?” So as time has gone on, I’ve grown my mic locker to include the above mics, plus some of AT’s nicer mics, Josephson, Sennheiser, Heil, and a varied assortment of others.

My intro to Lauten microphones came through a pair of Torches. I was working on a new solo CD from classical guitarist, Brad Richter. Brad is regularly featured on NPR’s Performance Today as well as being a past winner of the National Finger-picking Championship. He wanted to do some duets with a native flutist. I was using a pair a Josephson C42’s for the guitar and wanted another flavor for the flute. After reading nothing but positive comments about Lauten mics, I decided to give the Torch pair a try. Given their street price, it made taking a chance even easier. Soon after came overhead duties for a record with International Blues Challenge finalist Arthur Migliazza and the band The Clamdiggers. This is the moment I became a Lauten convert. A simple live recording with overheads, kick, and snare gave such a powerful sound to the drums. I was floored. The toms were thunderous and clear, and the cymbals cut without the harshness of many of today’s modern microphones. I love one of these paired with a ribbon for acoustic guitar.

Next came the Oceanus. I’m currently working with American Idol finalist Crystal Stark on her debut solo CD. During the demo process, I’ll usually throw up the U87 and forget about it. On a recent session, I had the Oceanus mic waiting for her. She immediately noticed the new mic. The size of the Oceanus makes it hard to not notice! She and I were both thrilled with the results. The Oceanus is rich and detailed and requires little to no EQ to sit right in a mix. It’s my new “go-to” for clean, present vocals that still have more character than a typical LDC.

Next to arrive was the Clarion. In its short tenure here at 11:11 Studios, it’s seen plenty of action for some vocalists and acoustic guitar. It excels in front of a loud guitar cab, too!

The final nail in the audio coffin, for me, is the Horizon. As I’ve mentioned to people already, up until now, I've plugged in my new Lauten mics and thought, "Man, this sounds great. I can't wait to try it out on a client or instrument, etc." The Horizon, on the other hand, I plugged in and put the headphones on, started a little track, started singing and thought, "This is MY microphone!" It sounds gorgeous! Of course I’m excited to try it out on other people, but I know that when it’s time for me to sing anything in the studio, the Horizon is coming out.

All in all, Lauten Audio is bringing a useful, musical set of quality tools within reach of today’s project studio. Each mic has a distinct character, yet they all share a warmth and presence that is usually associated with mics costing two to three times as much. When researching Lauten microphones, the comment that comes up again and again is that no one can understand why they don’t cost more. I guess this will have to be Brian’s secret. As an added bonus, they’re built like tanks. I imagine when the majority of today’s cheap imported mics are taking up space in landfills; the Lauten’s will still be going strong!

Mike Levy

Tucson, AZ

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