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Lewitt LCT 940

Lewitt LCT 940

4.9 4.9 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

A supremely good sounding and versatile condenser microphone that combines FET and tube impedance converters in one mic housing.


22nd September 2015

Lewitt LCT 940 by microwave

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Lewitt LCT 940

I first came across Lewitt microphones a couple of years ago when a friend who wanted to buy a U87 was demoing an LCT 640 and needed a second set of ears to help him judge it.
We were both impressed (I posted about it on GS at the time), the 640 held its own in every way against a legendary microphone, at a fraction of the price. My friend decided to buy it.
Lewitt Audio are a relatively new brand with a well pedigreed design team based in Vienna, and their own manufacturing plant in China.
Recently they sent me some mics to put through their paces on a project I'm currently working on - if you check my posts you'll see how impressed I am with the LCT 550 - it has quickly become my to go microphone for stereo instrumental recordings.

The true star of the pack, however, is the 940.
The LCT 940 comes in a big and heavy case containing the microphone, power supply unit, an eight meter 11 pins XLR cable and a sturdy, metal, cleverly designed shock mount, which is shaped as a semi circle so the microphone can be easily positioned almost flush to the source should you wish.
There is also a printed manual, which should be read as there are a couple of hidden features behind the filter and attenuation buttons (which have three different options for each) that you might never find out about otherwise.
These are a key lock, clipping history and automatic attenuation functions - I have not used them so far - but it’s good to know they’re there.

I should also add that, as a composer for the media, and not an audio engineer these are some personal observations rather than a technical review.

I only knew this microphone from Hugh Robjohns’ Sound on Sound article. Hugh, a hugely experienced engineer and audio devotee praised the sound of the mic, but, as a purist, had his qualms about some of the styling decisions that the Lewitt design team took on their flagship mic.

Lewitt have, I think quite bravely, resisted the temptation to give their microphones a "vintage" appearance. There is a craze for everything vintage at the moment, and by giving their microphones an industrial, contemporary look there may be (just my impression) an implied statement that their products have a very specific design philosophy, ie not to make yet more copies of seminal designs from the past but to design microphones that use cutting edge technology to perform as highly as possible.

The most notable feature on the front of the rather imposing microphone is a perspex window displaying the 12AX7 valve (which can not be replaced by the user). The valve is back lit, probably by a series of LEDs so that the front of the mic glows strikingly when powered. This was something that Hugh took umbrage towards in his review, seeing it as a purely cosmetic and unnecessary feature.
IMHO, there is little to argue about the looks of the mic - it's rather beautiful - and, more importantly, all the voice over artists and instrumentalists presented with it since it has been in my studiolette were immediately charmed by it’s eye-catching, commanding look.
All wanted to know about the microphone and were drawn to it. That's a great way to break the ice at the beginning of a session, so maybe the glowing valve does have a practical purpose after all.

Of course what really matters is the sound, and this is where things get quite special.
The right rotary control on the power supply unit is marked “Directivity” and selects nine different polar patterns: Figure of 8, Super Cardioid, Cardioid, Wide Cardioid and Omni, plus four intermediate positions.
I was impressed at the clear cut difference that each position makes, which is not always the case with continuously variable patterns mics. The Omni position is particular solid - multi pattern condensers achieve omnidirectIonality by two electrically connected diaphragms, which does not always give an effective omni response - in this case it does, and works extremely well.

But the interesting part starts with the left continuously variable encoder marked “Amplification”: this allows you to go from a clean FET sound to a full on valve sound with endless variations in between.

For the cynics out there, this technology is very far from being a gimmick: it works superbly well and effectively turns the 940 into two (or three) high-end microphones wrapped into one.

On the fully FET setting it has the signature Lewitt voicing I have found in the LCT 550s and in my brief experience with the 640 - with some of it's own personality, of course.
In fact, as I understand, the one inch capsule is the same as the one found in the 640, even though there will obviously be differences in voicing due to the much larger size of the 940’s basket and body.

The LCT 940 in FET mode manages to be both extremely detailed and airy but flattering to the source, and, above all, sounds very musical.
Possibly one of the reasons is because the detail it picks up is not due to an overly hyped presence bump, which normally means having to deal with issues of harshness and sibilance.
There is not a hint of any of those scourges of the mic world in the LCT 940 - the pristine detail is there without any collateral effects, which is quite a design feat.
Transients are rendered beautifully but never sound hard.

If I had to draw a comparison I would say that it's somehow similar to some Brauner microphones, but with a less forensic and more musical character.

The self noise is not on the almost inexistent level of the LCT 550 but still very good at 8dB-A in FET and only four dBs more in valve mode (both measured in cardioid).

As you turn the amplification control towards the valve position the sound starts to become rounder and the transients more “bouncy”. Very importantly, it retains the beautiful detail of the FET position but with a warmer and more and forgiving character that rounds out transients without ever becoming muddy or woolly and suits different singing voices quite beautifully.
Lewitt have resisted making the valve voicing exaggeratedly “tubey” - the sound is always velvety smooth and never grunges up, as it can be the case with some cheaper valve microphones.
It is, though, very sensitive to dynamics, so louder sources tend to get a more thorough tube treatment, which is as it should be.

A quick shoot out with my current valve mic, a well established mid-priced model, yielded a merciless victory for the Lewitt: the other mic sounded sibilant, two dimensional and less refined in comparison, and it’s polar patterns where much less accurate.

I also used the 940 for some trumpet overdubs, played both with and without the mute. The results were, and I am compelled to use a hyperbole, celestial. With a touch of the brilliant UAD AKG BX20 spring reverb plugin we had a 60’s style recording, smooth as honey but still very tridimensional and full of nuances.
The trumpet player asked me if he could come back to do overdubs for a couple of his tracks – enough said.

On a guitar cab the FET mode smoothly picked up a jazz semiacoustic without getting in the way of the guitar’s tone, and the valve mode rounded out perfectly an overly edgy Telecaster sound.

The price tag of the LCT 940 at the time when it was reviewed by Sound on Sound was steep (£1600) but in line with it’s status of a flagship high end microphone, also considering the facilities and versatility on offer.
It can be found for rather less if you shop around. I would never advocate to spend that much money on a microphone you haven’t heard, but if you are in the market for a high-end mic for vocals and solo instruments or you want to add a supremely good sounding and hugely versatile tool to a studio’s arsenal you owe yourself to try the LCT 940 – it might be all the vocal microphones you’ll ever need.

Attached Thumbnails
Lewitt LCT 940-img_2696.jpg   Lewitt LCT 940-img_2697.jpg   Lewitt LCT 940-img_2714.jpg   Lewitt LCT 940-img_2718.jpg  
Last edited by microwave; 24th September 2015 at 09:34 AM..

  • 7
8th February 2016

Lewitt LCT 940 by The Byre

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Lewitt LCT 940

Just when you thought that nobody could come up with anything new and genuinely useful in the LDC microphone market, Viennese microphone design house Lewitt have done just that. The LCT 940 is unique. Not only is it a valve mic and a FET mic all rolled into one, but the power supply also acts as remote control to alter characteristics and to mix the valve and FET stages.

Impressions

The first impression of the LCT 940 is of extreme quality. The mic is heavy and is supplied with a really nice cradle that easily supports its 660 grams weight. Together they weigh-in at 1.1kg, so a decent mic stand is needed. The power supply/control box is beautifully engineered and only reveals what the knobs and buttons do, once it has been switched on. Little LEDs light up the hidden functions such as attenuation, high-pass filters, polarity patterns and the mix-knob for valve and FET stages. The whole thing comes in an attractive black case, with handbook, an eight meter long 11-pin XLR connector and kettle-lead.

There is a little Perspex window that shows the valve inside the mic glowing and when switched on. As this glows a sort of greenish-yellow, it reveals that the glow is actually an LED behind the valve - a pleasant, if perhaps ‘cheesy’ effect that impressed singers. My first ‘gotcha’ was to assume that the logo side was the front, so when I placed the mic in front of the first vocalist, she sounded distant, so I knew that I had placed the mic the wrong way round and that the LCT 940 is more directional than most valve mics when set to cardioid.

The control on the left of the box mixes the signals from the FET and valve stages and a red dot indicates the setting. Polar patterns are set with the right-hand control. Five basic patterns for omni, broad-cardioid, cardioid, super-cardioid, and figure-of-eight, with stages in between are available.

In the space of a week, we used the LCT 940 on a variety of sources, from drum overhead, room mic, various guitars and singers. After that I tested the mic, comparing it to the usual suspects.

At the rock face

In pure valve mode, it came over every bit as open and clear as the best valve mics out there, making it ideal as a room mic, or for ‘breathy’ and close-up vocals. In pure solid state mode, it is clear and precise and very good for such sensitive beasts with complex overtones as piano and acoustic guitar.

We tried a little bit of male voice-over and the proximity effect was warm and smooth. It ‘popped’ significantly less than other mics and with a shield, it didn’t pop at all, despite that the bass-cut filters were not being used. The cradle kept out nearly all mechanical noise that might get in via the stand.

There are three bass-cut slopes (12dB per octave @ 40Hz and 6dB @ 150 and 300Hz) and a pad-switch for -6, -12 and -18dB. There is also an automatic pad function in cases of very loud noises. However, used as a valve mic, it can go to 140dBA, so I could imagine that someone could own this mic all their lives without ever triggering that function - in my time with this mic, a screaming rock vocal certainly wasn’t enough! This mic has a very wide dynamic range.

Tasting, one, two

The handbook claims a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, but in common with most high-end mics, it goes well beyond both figures in both valve and FET mode. At the upper end, at 25kHz it was down 10dB and by 30kHz the signal was almost completely gone. There is an increase of between 3dB and 5dB between 10kHz and 15kHz, depending on which pattern is chosen. This is a function of the capsule and is not effected by choosing valve or FET.

Self-noise is low, 8-9dB as FET and 12-13dB as a valve mic. Sensitivity is the same as for almost every other LDC, so we did not need any extra gain.

The polar patterns really lived up to the measurements given in the handbook and differences in directionality between the frequencies only begin to show above 3kHz.

Conclusions

I just loved this mic. The high quality of the construction was matched by the high quality of the sound. Everything we used it on, sounded good, especially vocals and this is where I believe the LCT 940 will find most of its fans. It is good on everything, but it excels as a vocal mic.

The idea of having a remote control over polar pattern, attenuation and valve and/or solid state is brilliant. It means you can be sitting in the control room and be able to change the microphone according to what you are hearing without having to run out into the live room to push those little switches back and forth (by which time, I tend to forget what things sounded like in the first place!) Just flipping back and forth between patterns and mixing valve and FET and being able to listen to those changes as they take place, is ideal for recording critical vocals, or indeed anything else where you just need to be able to listen to the results as changes are made. Somebody should have come up with this idea ages ago! (If you do intend having the remote in the control room, check that the supplied eight meter cable is enough - you may need an extension!)

Overall, this mic is keenly priced, placing it at a sweet-point where it is nose-to-nose with some solid state LDC classics on the one hand and considerably cheaper than the better valve mics. It is however, every bit as good as the best in both classes - a sort of two-for-the-price-of-one!

  • 5
 
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