Manley Labs Langevin Dual Vocal Combo by Glenn Bucci
In 1992, Manley Labs bought the rights to Langevin name and designs and now uses the name Langevin on all of its solid-state products. Manley-branded units are all-tube, while the Langevin-branded products have all-discrete make up gain amplifiers. Manley says the EQ or limiting and metering sections in both lines are the same.
But one attractive thing about the Langevin models (besides their great looks and construction) is the prices. They are a lot cheaper than the Manley units. The Langevin Pultec EQ, for instance, is approximately $1,275, while the Manley unit is approximately $2,150. This is due to the higher cost for the tubes and larger transformer. I wanted the Focusrite ISA 220 for over a year. I tried it out and loved the mic pre, and all the bells on it. However, I found myself needing two high-end mic pres to give me the ability to record things in stereo. The Mindprint DTC was a good option; however, I choose the Langevin DVC over it within five seconds of hearing its mic pre.
The DVC has two identical mic pres. Manley says the Mic Preamps are transformer coupled (hand wound by Manley Labs) with 50 dB of gain provided by pure discrete transistor circuits. There are also two instrument inputs in the front with an input impedance of (500Kohms), providing about 40 dB of gain. The input attenuate can be increased by turning the pod inside the unit. (I found the factory setting to be sufficient.) The mic input impedance is 2,400 ohm, which allows the entire high transit signal to be heard nicely. There are two phantom power switches as well, which Manley says give a "full" 48 volts. After reading that, I checked some lower end units and found out that they did not give the full 48 volts.
So, how do the mic pres sound? Very clean, detailed, with a touch of warmth. My Focusrite Voicemaster, which is great for its price, almost sounded like it had a filter on the signal (not giving a clear tone like the DVC) when I A/B'd them. The mic pres are very good, no scratch that; they are excellent!
Next is the EQ, which is comprised of a low frequency shelf that can be switched to either 40 Hz or 80 Hz and a high frequency shelf that can be set for 8 kHz or 12 kHz. The shelves are continuously variable from -10 dB to +10 dB of gain. The EQ can be completely switched out with the bypass switch. The EQs are transparent, but they really do a great job of giving more air to your signal or helping a bass sound fuller or thinner. Though it is not a full parametric EQ, with a great mic and a good signal I have yet to need any more for vocals or bass guitar.
Next is the Limiter. According to Manley, "The Limiters are the discrete transistor version of the Manley ELOP Limiter (same as the Langevin stand-alone version). This type of limiter is superb for vocals and a wide range of instruments from basses and guitars to synths and room mics. When it comes to tracking and fast set-ups, the lack of a multitude of controls is a real feature. You can simply set up the Threshold and Gain controls and expect that the limiter will do the right thing without a lot of tweaking. The Limiters have Threshold and (make-up) Gain controls, a Link switch for stereo and a pair of toggles that switch the VU meters to "Gain Reduction" or "Output Level." These are true stereo limiters without the usual problems of left/right matching common to other stereo opto based limiters."
I have always recorded bass guitar with a little compression. However, I decided to try the Limiter on the DVC instead. I was amazed at what the Limiter did. By having up to -3db on the bass, I had a very smooth bass sound that still had its dynamics, but they were under control. The Limiter is very transparent. I always used plug-in limiters and some lower end limiters in the past and thought they were all the same. But when you train your ears to hear what a compressor or limiter is doing, you can hear the change in sound that many limiters have on the peaks. This unit does not do that. If fact, when listening you think the bass player just has a very developed control with his or her playing. One more thing on the limiter: The gain knob can give you 15 dB more gain if you find the input on the mic pre not enough.
The two VU meters can be set for meter output or limiter reduction. I was concerned that with no input level control or more EQ that this unit would be too limited in its capabilities. I could have not been more wrong. It is very easy to use and to get a great sound. Though different-sounding than other mic pres, I found this unit's pres to be in the same class as a Great River, or ISA Focusirte Red Series. If you go to the Manley site, the Langevin has a little pink-ish color to it, but the Langevin units are actually red.
The last thing I have to say is the customer service at Manley is a 10. I actually talked to EveAnna Manley myself for a while on the phone before I bought the unit. She answered all my questions and was very professional. I had some additional questions she answered by email. Same thing could be said with Paul in tech support. This is very important to know that the company is behind their customers.
I am now the proud owner of the Langevin Dual Vocal Combo, and I think I bought the one of the best dual mic pre channel strips out there under $5,000. This unit will make your recording sound better (if you know what you are doing). The shame is Manley Labs discontinued all of their Langevin products.