Since the late 80’s Manley Labs has been manufacturing some of the best tube equipment for studio and HiFi. Around 1992 they wanted to put some of their best designs into solid-state gear. In order to keep the Manley Labs brand associated with mastering quality vacuum tube gear they acquired a 1940s company called Langevin (LAN-jeh-vin). J. Langevin and James Lansing created the Langevin Manufacturing Corporation after working at Western Electric. Their designs are still highly sought after today.
Manley’s own original designs and some remnants of J. Langevin and James Lansing’s have been incorporated into Manley’s line of solid-state audio equipment. Manufactured in Chino, California includes the Dual Mono Mic Preamp with EQ, All-Discrete Pultec EQP-1A, Stereo ELOP Limiter and the DVC; which is a combination of the dual pre with the ELOP.
The Langevin Dual Vocal Combo is a dual channel strip that occupies 2U rack space. It has a thick brushed-aluminum face with a French raspberry color. The unit’s features are a minimalist’s toolbox starting with two transformer-coupled Class A Preamps with 50db of gain for the microphone input about 40 for the instrument input controlled with a knob labeled “Input Attenuate”. A unique feature is how the phantom is engaged with a locking switch that needs to be pulled out; a very simple and much appreciated forethought toward microphone safety. The EQ section gives you +/-10db of Low and High shelving with selectable frequency centers at 40Hz or 80Hz and .8kHz and 12kHz bypass-able with EQ IN/EQ OUT switch. The limiter section can work in dual mono or stereo link; selectable with a singular switch between the VUs. Just three controls: Reduction, Gain and Bypass. The VU meters can be switched independently to Meter Output or Gain Reduction. Each side’s layout is mirrored except the EQ; which confused me a few time at first.
The connections on the back of the unit are XLR for Mic in Balanced Line out, TRS 1/4” for limiter in, preamp out and unbalanced line out, AC and a set of grounding terminals for chassis earth ground. The preamp out gives you a tap right after the EQ.
First I recorded a Taylor acoustic mic’d with an X/Y stereo pair of AKG 451s. The preamp didn’t offer enough gain and I had to use the limiters gain to give me an extra boost. The pre was soft in the highs but strong in the mids. Limiter was too much to use for a finger picked acoustic but when I switched over to recording electric guitar direct it made for a fun and funky squash.
Day 2, I used the DVC to record drum room and grand piano. The drum kit was a 4-piece maple Yamaha studio and for room I used a pair of U87. The preamp provided plenty of gain the EQ rolled off the high very smoothly around 8kHz. Drum rooms ran through the limiter exactly imitated what I would usually do with a pair of LA-4s. Compared to the LA-4s the sound still had a bit of edge but with a much wider bandwidth and less distortion. The stereo linking on the limiter worked perfectly for the room pair. Later in the day I put it on our Yamaha C5 using the same U87s. The sound was surprising upfront and focused. I didn’t use the limiter since it wasn’t necessary.
Bass guitar direct was possibly the best instrument match for this unit. The preamp was clean and the EQ retained the tone of the instrument while the limiter held on to the dynamics even when switching between free-stroke, picking and slap playing styles. I wasn’t thinking much about the unit when tracking bass, which for me is a good sign.
Lastly with a Vocalist, I recorded a very throaty roots reggae singer. He has a very bursting vocal style. The microphone was an ADK A 51 TC with the mic pre gain at about noon and around 2db boost @ 12kHz. Limiter was showing me around 3-5db of gain reduction on the VU. I typically use a Urei LA-3A. The limiter on the DVC worked really well to capture his blasts of dynamics. The overall sound was solid and I was very happy with the smooth EQ and the lightning fast limiter.
Transformer-coupled preamp, vintage passive style EQ. Limiter is the same as the more expensive Manley ELOP just without the tube output stage. Great on Bass and Vocals
No HPF. Pres may not offer enough gain for quieter mic sources.
The verdict; from what you get with the limiter alone the Langiven DVC is an incredible value. To me the ELOP alone was the key feature of this unit. The preamps have a vintage feel to them; warm overall with a solid midrange. The DVC is a solid unit for tracking vocals and direct instruments.