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Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX

Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX

5 5 out of 5, based on 2 Reviews

A very versatile and great sounding multi pattern condenser. Lewitt have done it again.


26th September 2018

Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX 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 441 FLEX



The LCT 441 FLEX is Lewitt’s latest large diaphragm condenser microphone, squarely aimed at the mid level section of what it by now a very crowded and competitive market. Like all other Lewitt numbers it is not meant to imitate the voicing or the styling of a coveted vintage mic but it is a thoroughly modern design that aims to provide the best possible sound quality and performance for the money. The Flex in the name refers to the unusually vast amount of polar patterns available at the push of two buttons.

We have, going clockwise from the bottom: Cardioid, Wide Cardioid, Omni, Reverse Wide Cardioid, Reverse Cardioid, Supercardioid, Figure of 8 and Reverse Supercardioid – quite a few more than normally available on most multi pattern mics, and with a few unusual choices that might leave some confused. The reversed polar patterns are surprising but can be genuinely useful in a number of ways: you can switch the mic from, say, overhead to room duty at the touch of a button, or when close micing a cab you can have the display and buttons pointing towards you, which makes it much simple to check it’s status at a glance.
I also found it useful to use the reverse cardiod pattern when recording backing vocals: it gives you a more hollow, roomy sound that seats easily behind the main vocal - and the singer doesn’t have to go through the humiliation of doing a take through the back of the mic.
To the luddites, I can hear you, who are already saying that every other microphone has this capability if you just flip it round my answer would be that you obviously have never attempted doing that in a cramped instrumental booth, trying not to go all intimate with the drummer - and in the process displacing the position of other microphones that were working just fine…

In terms of build quality the LCT 441 FLEX is rock solid, with a monolithic zinc alloy body and upper mesh from which the one inch capsule can be seen peering. The body is shorter and stouter the all my other Lewitts – this is a good thing for me because it makes for easier placement in confined areas.

The LCT 441 Flex is based on the design of Lewitt’s record breakingly quiet LCT 540 S (which I reviewed a few months ago). Though it doesn’t feature that microphone’s ultra low self noise, which would be impossible at this cost and probably not possible at all given the multiple patterns, the specs are very good: 144 dBSPL means that the fact that there isn’t a pad will not practically matter, and a signal to noise ratio of 87 dB is more than good enough for most real world application. The self noise figure of 7 dB (A) is very respectable. The diaphragm is a one inch 3 micron gold sputtered Mylar thing.

The LCT 441 FLEX comes in a cardboard box, rather than the super solid military grade case that accompanies the more expensive models, but you get that excellent semi-circular shock mount (why don’t they all design them like this?) and a very portable magnetic popper stopper.

There are also some familiar Lewitt extra functions: the logo turns red when the microphone clips (which with that 144 dB SPL tolerance means that everyone should run for cover because something very bad is happening) and there is a Key-lock function activated when holding any of the buttons for two seconds: the logo becomes non illuminated and the buttons become inactive until you deactivate the Key-lock by pressing again for 2 seconds.
If you mainly record yourself and you don’t have any self destructive, evil multiple personalities, you probably won’t need to use the Key-lock. It could, on the other hand, come in very handy in larger sessions involving compulsive random button pushers - I’ve been there.
Speaking about the buttons, they feel positive and not at all spongy, with a nice firm click. It’s good that they have included two rather than just a single one, because with so many choices of patterns having to constantly go “the full circle” could easily become tedious, particularly if you mistakenly overshoot.





The LCT 441 FLEX next to one of its bigger brothers, the LCT 640 TS



This microphone sounds very good, regardless of the relatively low cost.
I’ve tested it on a session with Maggie Casey and Johnny Be, London folk musicians extraordinaire who play, amongst other ensembles, in the very popular group The No Frills Band. Maggie and Johnny will record an album as a duo in my little audio boudoir during the winter and they graciously accepted to record a demo of their track Fire Thief (originally a Karine Polwart song) by overdubbing with a single mic rather than playing together as they normally would.

The first thing that comes across is that the LCT 441 FLEX makes for an excellent vocal microphone. Maggie’s voice is a quintessentially English folk, very rich and melodic mezzo soprano and the mic handled it beautifully.
The LCT 441 FLEX has the familiar Lewitt voice, big and clear without sounding artificially toppy.
The instruments we recorded were Johnny’s Appalachian dulcimer plus a very nice Hokema Kalimba (never heard such a good sounding thumb piano, even though in this case we ended up using for some very understated embellishments), a shruti box and a tin whistle, both played by Maggie.


Another thing that was immediately clear is how well defined the polar patterns are. The Omni pattern in particular is a joy to use, which is not always the case with large diaphragm condensers. LDCs achieve omni directionality by using two electrically connected diaphragms, which in lesser designs can lead to uneven sensitivity in different areas of the pattern.
I have found the same excellent definition in my other Lewitt multi pattern LDCs, the LCT 940 and the LCT 640 TS, so whatever their designers do to achieve this they are doing it right.
I used the omni pattern on every instrument because it sounded so natural in my very well dumped instrumental booth. What I was hearing from the monitors in the control room was very much what I was hearing in the booth - just perfect.
On Maggie’s lead vocal I went for the cardioid pattern for some proximity effect, and for Johnny’s backing vocal I decided to try the reverse cardioid, to see where it would take us. It worked well for backing vocals and Johnny was very amused to hear such a roomy sound whilst still singing to the front of the microphone.


Quick last minute rehearsal…





Here is the demo mix (we’ll definitely re-record this track with a multi mic setup to avoid making it sound too different to the rest of the album). This was also one of my first mixes done in Harrison Mixbus 32C. I ended up using way fewer plugins than I do when mixing in Logic: any eq came from 32C’s channel strip, which is wonderful, and I also eschewed from using other than the built in compressors, which are also really good.
Effects were a UAD RE-201 on the dulcimer and tin whistle solo, a touch of UAD EP-34 tape echo on the main vocals, a UAD Dimension D used as a send for the shruti box. On the two buss I made an exception and went for a UAD Neve 33609 compressor, which works well for this kind of music, plus a little smiley curve on 32C’s master eq.

Here’s the lead vocals untreated:




A rich and present take that responds really well to any eq and takes compression beautifully. The LCT 441 FLEX makes for a superb vocal microphone, and would also excel at podcasting.




Johnny's Appalachian Dulcimer is the sort of instrument where the Lewitt sound works it’s magic best - it could easily sound shrill and I’d normally turn to a ribbon mic for something like this, but no traces of anything unpleasantly edgy here - just the natural, organic sound of the instrument. Recorded in omni.





The Tin Whistle solo is also a lovely summer peach. I did almost nothing to it in the mix – a bit of low cut just from habit, two dbs of 10k with the Harrison eq and the Space Echo. Recorded in Omni.






Recording the tin whistle


The Shruti Box was also recorded in omni, with the mic behind Maggie’s sitting position, a metre or so over her shoulder. I did nothing to it except from a bit of low cut - Mixbus 32C’s high and low filters are very sweet and quite addictive – and a send to the UAD Dimension D to “stereoize” it a bit. This is an instrument I’d normally record with two mics but even the mono take sounded rich and full.






The backing vocals were done using the Rear Cardioid pattern to capture more room. I had recorded backing vocals with the microphone facing the "wrong" way in the past but the vocalists often felt uneasy with it. The fact that with the LCT 441 FLEX you can do it with everything looking "right" is definitely a big bonus






With a street price around 380 Euros the LCT 441 FLEX will go toe to toe with some strong mid market microphones, for example the marginally more expensive AKG C314 Is a clear contender. I can’t imagine the Lewitt lacking in sound quality and performance next to the AKG.
In terms of built quality they are on the same level and though the AKG features a pad and a high pass filter, the Lewitt has some extra features, a very slightly better self noise figure and more polar patterns, some of which will appeal to the more creative sound engineers, designers and recordists.
If you are looking for a flexible instrumental microphone I would recommend the LCT 441 FLEX wholeheartedly. If you intend to use it primarily for recording your voice, the usual caveat of having to try it first applies – no one can tell whether it will deliver the sound you have in mind but yourself.
However I have a hunch that you may be pleasantly surprised

Attached Thumbnails
Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar25061edt.jpg   Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar15105-edt.jpg   Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar15033edt.jpg   Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar25057edt.jpg   Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar15043edt.jpg  

Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar25093edt.jpg   Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-_ar25075edt.jpg  
Last edited by microwave; 1st October 2018 at 04:17 PM..

  • 4
19th October 2018

Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX by andreaeffe

  • 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 441 FLEX

AUTHENTICALLY FLEXIBLE, FLEXIBLY AUTHENTIC, AND AUTHENTICALLY SURPRISING!

The word »authentic« seems to be a frequent feature of Austria's Lewitt Audio info material, online presence and marketing. And, in all honesty, I now totally understand why, so I'm having no problem whatsoever in resorting to it pretty often for this review of mine of their microphone.

The LCT 441 FLEX is one of their mid-range microphones in terms of price, selling for just under 400 EUR in Europe or 400 USD in the USA. But (and here is the first of the “authentic surprises”), there is actually nothing cheap or even middle-of-the-road about this microphone’s build, looks, plentiful interesting features and more importantly about its sonic qualities, as I will try to explain in detail.



VISIBLE QUALITY

In a world of cloning & replica galore, and in a long sad wave of supercheap microphones made with supercheap parts & construction methods in the Far East and then either sold dirt cheap or rebranded with fancy names and even high-flying name badges from the past (along with often dubious claims of being hand tested or carefully & lovingly assembled in some western boutique lab by sonic gurus), Lewitt have bravely chosen to go for a completely different angle.
The 441 FLEX is made in China, the box clearly states so, but it bears no resemblance or family lineage with any other Chinese mic that I know of or have read about – it is made for Lewitt and/or by Lewitt, much as a generous number of parts of your Italian sports car or key parts of your American computer will be made in the Far East: it’s a way of keeping the costs down, and not a way of tricking you into buying junk. Because this is a robust build, made of brilliantly well finished parts on a die cast zinc body, with attention to detail and zero rough edges or apparent cutting of corners.
To underscore this, the design itself of the microphone, the packaging and the generous array of accessories it comes with bear little or no resemblance to any microphone you might find around, in any price range. In fact, if there is some vague resemblance, it’s a wink at the classic AKG C-414 "electric razor / toy coffin" shape, which one might perhaps interpret as a nod to “Austrian design”.
The cardboard box in which the 441 FLEX arrives also contains a sturdy, secure square-ish shockmount with screw on fastening at the bottom and mic stand thread adapters, an excellent minimal metal mesh pop filter that magnetically clicks into place on the shockmount without the need for additional stands or clamps, a foam cap windscreen, a leatherette plush velvet lined pouch, and even a Lewitt rubber wristband – Instagram awaits!
And, speaking of image, the Lewitt is not a grey anonymous mic that will hide in your studio session chaos, it’s a strikingly bold design with illuminated parts and the company’s trademark almost fluorescent green details, so it’s a piece of gear that sort of pleasantly screams “Hey, look here, there’s a Lewitt in the room!”, which is fine if the sonics to match the looks are there… and in this case they definitely are.

QUALITY SOUND

The sound of the 441 FLEX goes abundantly above and beyond its price range. And, again, there are no signs whatsoever of the now all too commonly identifiable bad sonic characteristics of cheap, mass produced Chinese microphone capsules. Whoever designed and specified this microphone did a fine job, as did whoever oversaw its manufacturing and quality control.
The published specs of the 441 FLEX with its 1” diameter, 3 micron gold covered Mylar capsule speak of rather high sensitivity with a super low 7dB noise floor, and a dynamic range of a whopping 137dB, meaning this microphone can take 144dB of maximum SPL without padding. The Lewitt logo doubles as a “clip indicator” – clipping a preamp can be a thing and is mostly rather easily noticed and if need be tamed in the control room, but clipping at the mic stage often goes undetected and is far, far more detrimental, so in my opinion this feature alone is a total winner and an authentic godsend, plus a schooling for many.
The polar patterns, of which there are 5 (cardioid, wide cardioid, omni, supercardioid, figure-of-8) but augmented to 8 (given that the unusual options of reverse cardioid, reverse wide cardioid and reverse supercardioid are also provided), can be switched and continuously circled via two really positive feel, hefty and lockable click switches, the moves of which are clearly indicated by well illuminated indicators. As a fun bonus, one can also randomize the polar pattern selection and let the mic choose… a gamble for the uninspired?
The frequency response graph is not ruler flat but it is, once again, “authentically surprising”: no attempt was made to mimic any classic mic of the past, and no heavy-handed boosts or cuts were electronically induced to either compensate for deficiencies or to tease & please the ear of the unwary and lure in the beginner customer with glitter and boom. The sound produced by this microphone, in practice, very elegantly bears out exactly what the frequency graph depicts, with a bump at the top, but well above 10kHz and out of the sibilance range, a slight dip in the pesky and sibilant 5-7kHz range, and the overall feeling of a mild tilt-type eq favouring the high end and slightly attenuating the low end, pivoting around the 500Hz-1kHz area. There also is a little dip around 1.5kHz, of which I’ll say more later. These sonic characteristics are more or less common to all the available polar patterns. To my ears the most flat and neutral proved to be the supercardioid and right up with it the cardioid, with wide cardioid (a personal favourite of mine, whenever recording in a good sounding, well treated room) being just a shade brighter, omni even more so and with a barely noticeable extra amount of the lowest frequencies picked up, and figure-of-8 coming across as the most “tormented” of all the 441 FLEX’s patterns, not in the sense of bad sounding, but just being the most audibly different from all the others.
But far more than the good frequency response, what impressed me most is an almost unexplainable but very audible feeling of clarity, of super clean sound, with absolutely no trace of transient distortion or upper midrange congestion or lower midrange mud. In this respect, the Lewitt surprised me, being more than a notch above the microphones I compared it with, providing an authentic feeling of air, and a much desirable authentic transparency in its (you guessed it) authentic sonic signature.

IN USE

I had the pleasure of receiving a pair of 441 FLEXs from Lewitt, and I both tested them for the sake of this review, as well as used them on several actual recordings in a real-life studio situation, comparing these microphones to a Neumann U87i, to a vintage U87, to a Shure KSM32, and to my pair of 1990s AKG C414 B-TL II with the C12 type brighter voiced capsule.
I used them on drum overheads, drum room, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, guitar room, outdoor ambience recording, and my own voice for both vocals and voice-over.
Starting with the latter, working in radio on an everyday basis, I am very familiar with the sound of my voice through various microphones, especially the first three of the above stated mics, all of which I regularly use for work. The Lewitt 441 FLEX surprised me by being really dead quiet, even at high preamp gain levels, noticeably quieter that all the mics I was comparing it to, and by feeling more airy and clear than all of them. This “clarity” thing is a major factor here, and the characteristic I now most immediately associate to the Lewitt: clarity in the airy top end, clarity without sibilance, clarity in the upper midrange without ever any graininess or congestion, clarity in the low mids without any 250-400 Hz buildup or mud, and clarity in the fast, snappy low end. Yes, it sounds a bit “bass-light” compared to say the Neumann, but it also sounds even cleaner than that studio standard mic, if this is at all possible.
This mic likes to be worked pretty up close, if you’re looking for proximity effect, as the low end stays fairly consistent and neutral up until at very close range. In this plosive challenging situation, the clip indicator LED and the excellent unobtrusive but effective clip on metal mesh pop filter can be brilliant helpers.
The 441 FLEX responded perfectly well to the eq moves I usually use for my own voice: a little boost in the 120Hz chest area, a little boost in the 1.4kHz articulation area, and an “air” boost as high up as possible. To get to the sound that I’m accustomed to, on those lows It needed 2dB or so more than I would usually do on the Neumann or the Shure, again in keeping with its frequency response graph, and it also needed a dB more in that midrange area. And this is probably my only frequency related (very minor) gripe, as I found that little dip in the frequency response around 1.5kHz audible, feeling a bit like a tiny notch down of that filter which some old Focusrite channel strips would call “Absence” – and hey, I seem to prefer presence to absence. But, on the plus side, the Lewitt needed none of the 400Hz mud cut that I always find myself doing on the Neumanns, and needed several dB less of air up on top, as it was already authentically airy on its own. And, the midrange and transients sounded to me at all time clearer & cleaner than the Shure KSM32 or the U87i, which is a big, huge compliment for any microphone.
This was even more apparent on drum overheads, with a very flattering cymbal sound without any excessive harshness, an extraordinary 3D image and depth, a really fast, snappy response, and a detailed superclean sound. In this application, the character of the Lewitt 441 FLEX to me sounded more similar to the much loved Shure KSM32 than to the Neumanns, with a similar midrange presence, but, again, audibly more clarity, while compared to the the AKGs there was less "zing" and a more realistic, present sound. I practically needed no eq on the overheads, except for a high-pass filter, and it sounded perfect.
As a drum room pair, the Lewitts seemed to favour an older Ludwig drumkit with darker Zildijan K and Meinl Byzance cymbals, as on a brighter Tama and Yamaha kit with Paiste and UFIP cymbals I had to be more careful with positioning in order to not end up with an “overexcited” sound, in terms of high frequencies and brilliance. But, in doing so, I found out that the slightly tilt-eq sculpted sound of these mics seemed to enable me to place them in more unusual room positions, even looking for spots I’d usually avoid like the less well controlled bass buildup room corners and odd nooks, providing for interesting alternatives that never felt overly muddy. All these were even more easy to experiment with thanks to that “reverse polar pattern” switch feature: it’s refreshing & relaxing to be able to have your microphone pointing downwards from a ceiling or towards you from a corner wall, so you can change its settings, but at the same time have it picking up sound upwards towards that ceiling or into that corner. Another authentic Lewitt innovation on this mic!
On strummed steel string acoustic guitar then 441 FLEX was again perfect. Less incline to boomy soundhole low-mid artifacts than any of the mics I compared it to, more airy than all of them, and never metallic. If you ever think of your sounds as more or less “here” when you listen to them in the control room, from your studio monitors, i.e. more or less present and popping out of your speakers, well, the Lewitt provided clear, present detail and clean transients, painting a vivid and lively soundstage.
On nylon string classical guitar, the results were similar. I did find that I could notice both the lighter low end (which I could bring forward with a slight eq boost, as it was all there, just a tad subdued) and the aforementioned 1.5kHz little “absence” dip – it’s a rather crucial frequency range for classical guitar, where there is a delicate balance to be found between how much the strings “speak” to you and how much of that plasticky sound of the fingernails on nylon you notice, so on this application I went with another microphone. But I did use the Lewitts as a room pair, and their clarity and lack of mud complemented that classical guitar perfectly.
Finally, I used my pair of 441 FLEXs to record some late, late night ambience on a rooftop terrace in the Canary Islands. One may argue that the night is the night and silence is silence (or just hiss & noise, if you electronically boost its level) but the fact is that every place has its own sonic signature, and every location some sort of different night sound, an interplay of nature, animals, air currents, and of course human interference. Intending to use this as connecting soundscape audio between some tracks on a classical guitar album I was producing and recording there, I set up the Lewitts on a stereo bar and mic stand, and ran extralong cables down to the studio. The detail was fantastic, and what surprised me was the actual extension of the microphone’s low end, picking up ultra-low subs from a distant ship’s engine and from the air-conditioning of a distant industrial plant switching on that I didn’t really notice with the naked ear, but that were clearly audible and undistorted on the studio monitors and visible on the spectrum analyser graph. So, slightly subdued low end yes, but only in terms of level, and certainly not hacked off or lacking – quite the opposite, which to me is a testament to the quality of the mic’s capsule and of its electronics amplifying those feeble signals in the lowest Hz range.



ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?

Well, there’s not much to say here, as you may have already gathered from my experience with this microphone so far.
The only unusual omission in the super-well-thought-out provision of switches and indicators is not a pad switch, as the 441 FLEX takes plenty of SPL, but a high-pass filter. In practice, this can be all taken care of at the preamp stage, but A) just as clipping & overload at the microphone stage is different, I believe that getting rid of unwanted sub-bass or low end at the microphone, before it ever hits the preamp, can make a difference, too; B) given the relatively affordable and super-attractive price that this microphone sells for, it might be that some home studio or first time users won’t have a full complement of low cut filters on their audio interface preamps, so they’ll either carry that extra low end into the DAW and have to get rid of it & control it with plugins, or they might even never notice it at all, especially if working with equally affordable small monitor speakers.
As a guitar guy and midrange articulation maniac, I would be that minuscule bit happier if the frequency response of the 441FLEX stayed flat in the central midrange, or even had a tiny boost rather than that tiny dip around 1.5kHz. But we’re talking splitting hairs, and frankly also personal of preference, here – there is nothing “wrong” and certainly nothing that a twist of an eq pot can’t compensate for. For example, I didn’t mind the Lewitt being a bit bass-light tilted, as the low end is all there and super clean if you want to boost it, plus the absence of low-mid mud is much more of a plus in my book.
Lastly, I didn’t try the foam windscreen, but it did strike me as perhaps a bit too thin to offer real wind-stopping protection as one might need for location recording.

ALL IN ALL…

…this was not another brick in the wall.

Because the Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX stands out from the crowd as a boldly different, well designed, well made, and professional sounding contemporary microphone, one that doesn’t attempt to be a clone of anything, and one that overcomes any prejudice of stigma attached to “Made in China” with sheer build quality and sonic virtues, like the lack of any spiky, sibilant top end, a remarkably low noise floor, and extraordinary clarity, airiness and transient detail.
The included accessories are generous, well designed and perfectly functional, and some of the features, like the reverse polar patterns and the clipping indicator are authentic innovations.
So, if you want to judge it as a mid-level, affordable microphone, this is a 6 star highly recommended purchase.
Or, if you want to judge it as a top class, high-end microphone that is simply made more affordable by outsourced manufacturing, this is a little modern classic, and certainly a 5 star.
An authentic 5 star, I meant!

Attached Thumbnails
Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-sp_20180916_134437.jpg   Lewitt LCT 441 FLEX-dsc07637.jpg  
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