Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH by microwave
Preamble: this review is for both the Lewitt 040 MATCH and Lewitt LCT 140 AIR small diaphragm condenser microphones - however the Gearslutz gear bot goes all HAL 9000 when confronted by double product reviews so for everyone’s safety I’m doing it like this.
The two models sound extremely similar, I would say indistinguishable, when the LCT140 AIR has the "Sound” switch in the off position. I like it much better that way though this “air” option is smooth and not at all overdone and some people may well love it. Otherwise the LCT140 AIR offers some extra features (the two voicings, a low cut filter and a pad) but doesn’t come in matched pairs, whereas the MATCH is sold both individually and in matched pairs and, not having any switches on it, is so tiny and cute that Japanese girls would scream “kawaii!” at it.
Also, it will take on the most cramped setups with aplomb and will fit just about anywhere you can reasonably expect a microphone to fit.
Both are very well built and show very similar specs: 135 dBSPL (though the AIR of course has the -12db pad), 115 dB (A) dynamic range, 20 dB (A) noise. The little MATCH is actually slightly more sensitive by a couple of notches, -34.5 dBV vs -36.7 dBV, so don’t use it to record sad stories. Both are electret microphones, which I feel that nowadays is irrelevant.
So, if you need those extra features and don’t need to record in stereo, get the AIR, otherwise get a MATCH pair.
Or better still get both because, spoiler, they are fantastic little mics.
My previous experiences with inexpensive SDCs, back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, had made me decide that there could not be such thing. In my college’s simple recording studio most of the lifting work was made by two pairs of Neumann KM 84s, and that is the SDC sound that got imprinted in my mind and that I compared every other to.
All the affordable ones which eventually appeared on the market were invariably fizzy, a sound that might have impressed those good 90s home recording folks whom had never used a condenser microphone before - because it tends to make guitars and drums crisp straight out of the box - but that quickly becomes difficult to work with as those toppy, slightly clipped frequencies are cumulative and, like football supporters, tend to worsen terribly when stuck together.
But then again, there was nothing else at the time so I did the only thing I could do, which was to use them and try to position them as strategically as possible and to eq some high end out when tracking. I even used - for a while, out of necessity - what is probably the worst microphone even created, one that offers an alternative pattern by the way of a plastic clip you are supposed to stuff in it.
Then the Oktavas arrived and they were voiced more like the Neumanns I had become used to at college. They didn’t sound as good and were a bit noisier but it was a totally usable sound, and I still would recommend them.
Eventually I bought a pair of Neumann KM 184, the new model, and I assumed that at least this particular issue had come to a resolution but no. Though they were really good microphones for some reason the voicing had been changed and biased towards the hi mids - not at all in the spotty unrefined way of the cheap microphones (not even remotely, they sounded very classy) - but for me that made them less versatile and after having tried to love them for what they were I couldn’t help feeling kind of betrayed and ended up selling them.
By then the old KM 84s were going for crazy money, and even in periods of relative affluence I hate to encourage that sort of thing. Whilst working in bigger studios I heard some wonderful small diaphragm microphones, by the likes of Schoeps and DPA but they were priced out of my self employed musician league.
So I went back to the old Oktavas (plus a pair of not too bad, if a bit bass light Audio Technica ATM450 which being side address allow some interesting positioning) and went my way in a resigned yet stoical manner.
All this is to say is that when these little mics arrived I wasn’t expecting too much.
At the moment a lot of what I’m doing is production for other artists and, after a quick test on acoustic guitar where they surprised me for sounding way more rounded, focussed (and most importantly not at all zingy) than I thought they might, I decided to throw them in on a couple of current projects - two tracks for singer songwriter’s Rita Braga forthcoming new album and as overheads for experimental vocalist and improviser Atsuko Kamura’s new single, due out in a limited vinyl edition in the next weeks.
On the first Rita Braga track I used both the LCT040 and LCT140 Air for recording violin overdubs - risky, in fact before the session I had my usual AEA ribbon already on a stand and cabled to another preamp, ready to be whisked in without too much drama should things begin to go bad.
They didn’t go bad - judge for yourself. I can’t play any of these unreleased songs in their entirety but these are some relevant excerpts.
These are some extracts from Tremble Like a Ghost’s solo violin part, no treatments except a touch of reverb.
One of the smoothest string sound I ever recorded, and totally straightforward with the mic about 50cm on top of the violin’s neck.
Where it gets even better is how these mics stack. This is the middle eight form Tremble Like a Ghost, where we overdubbed the harmonies with a single player (the brilliant Galina Juritz). Totally smooth, focussed, round sound without a hint of that artificial top end:
It also captured the difficult transients of pizzicato in a beautiful, organic manner - you can hear the string, the wood and the skin:
We then tried it on a simple hi hat part Played by Rita for the middle 8. I would normally prefer a dynamic on hi hat, often the Shure SM7B but again this little mics completely nailed it. Again, with no eq, just the sound of wood against bronze:
The second song we did is a much more stripped down arrangement with vocals, backing vocals and a ukulele accompaniment. Encouraged by how well the LCT040 Match had captured the pizzicato violin, we tried at first to record the ukulele alone, in stereo, and to do a vocal overdub, but Rita decided that the lack of spontaneity involved in tracking the two part separately made her performance suffer, so we did another take using the two figure of 8 mics technique (the Lewitt LCT 940 for vocals and LCT 640TS for the ukulele), where the vocal mic has its null oriented towards the instrument and vice versa. This is the cut that became the final take. In that song’s mix I then “stereoised” the ukulele with the UAD Roland Dimension D. Nevertheless the two LCT040 MATCH captured the ukulele beautifully and I’d be happy to use them again and again for this application.
On Atsuko Kamura’s single I decided to try the LCT 040 Match on what many people would be buying them for - drum overheads. So I eschewed my to go AEA ribbons even this time.
The drums were played by Ravi Low Beer, of London band Psycho Yogi. Here’s the result.
Again, a beautiful take that needed no eq, has fantastic tridimensionality and very broad spectrum, not a hint of that dangerous tinny sound that I associate with some SDC used as overheads, and that very special rich and lush velvety quality that these inexpensive little mics seem to just have.
We then called them in again for a wind chimes overdub for the B side track, Merry Go Round. There’s quite a lot of headphone bleed when heard in Isolation because it’s such a quiet instrument but hey they sound beautiful.
I gave away my conclusion at the beginning of the review. The difficult thing with this one has been to find a register of judgment that will not tea off owners of more expensive small diaphragm wonder microphones who quite rightly would defend their investment.
Also, I should stress that I have not heard the SDCs in this price bracket that have come out in the past few years, so it's possible that the overall quality has steadily gone up.
But if I had been told that these little mics were priced at, say, £600 a pair I would have completely believed it and would still have found them to be a good deal. That they cost £170 for a matched pair is a thing of wonder and bliss to me.
I have asked Lewitt to buy the review pair plus the LCT140 AIR that came with them. If you record anything that an SDC would normally be pointed at you have try them, they are far too good to be ignored.
The recording chain for all samples is Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH/ LCT 140 AIR straight into the Metric Halo ULN-8 using the Metric’s fabulous preamps.