A high-tech blend of solid state clarity and flexible tube flavors
Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.
Headquartered in Austria, LEWITT blends European design with global production to offer affordable microphones with a reputation for clear sound and sonic versatility. Billed as an ‘ultimate microphone system’, the new LCT 1040 breaks the clear and neutral LEWITT mold to offer its most flavorfully varied microphone to date, and that’s just the start.
Working the system
Not just a mic, the LCT 1040 is a multi-faceted system. At its heart, the 7.7″ x 2.6″ microphone is similar in size and style to the tube-based LCT 840 and LCT 940 models (reviewed May 2013). At the center of its body lives a glowing E88CC / 6DJ8 tube visible behind clear plexiglass (the 840 and 940 models use a 12AX7). The capsule is a custom Austrian-designed 1″ center-terminated true condenser with the distinct LEWITT neon green plastic ring behind a dual-layer grille. On the opposite side of the metallic dark-gray body is a backlit LEWITT logo. There are no controls on the body of the mic.
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The mic attaches to either a simple swivel clip or one of the most overbuilt shock mounts I have ever seen or used—made of carbon fiber, spanning 7.5″ and quickly adjustable with two compression clamps. It features an open-front design that accommodates an attachable magnetic dual-layer pop screen. The mic, mounts, cables, power supply and accessories nest into one of the most well designed cases I have ever seen. At 19″ x 16″ x 8″, this resin-based container features tiered layers and magnetic, clamshell zipper cases for the cable and documents—a beautiful example of everything in its perfect place.
More than meets the eye
The external power supply features a cast metal enclosure matching the microphone’s finish. It measures 9.4″ x 6.7″ x 3.9″ and weighs 10 lb. On its slanted top are a pair of 2″ knobs. While equipped with stepped indentations, both can be operated continuously as well, with in-between settings available. The left dial blends between the FET and tube circuits (similar to the LEWITT LCT 940); the one on the right selects the polar patterns (omni, wide cardioid, cardioid, supercardioid, fig.-8).
Above these are stepped switches for attenuation (0, -6dB, -12dB, -24dB), highpass filter (linear, 40 Hz @ 12dB/oct., 80 Hz @ 12dB/oct., 120 Hz @ 6dB/oct.) and tube tone (clear, warm, dark, saturated). A dip switch flips the direction of the capsule, allowing you to choose which side of the mic is the front.
All functions are digitally controlled. Three LED lights indicate power, mic connection status, and operation mode. When making changes that affect the capsule voltage (polar pattern, capsule direction, attenuation), the operation light will flash. The time needed to make a change depends on how much the voltage changes—quicker when moving from cardioid to wide cardioid, longer when moving from omni mode to fig.-8. The light becomes steady again after the control changes are complete.
Cables, connections and remote control
On the back of the mic are a pair of male XLR audio outputs. One is a direct feed from the FET circuit and the other carries the blendable tube output. Connection to the mic is made via a thin yet robust proprietary locking 11-pin cable. The power supply contains the IEC socket, power switch, and a sleep button. A final pair of XLR I/O delivers another unique feature—the top half of the unit can be detached from the power supply and used as an XLR-tethered remote control. Thus, the power supply can sit on the floor by the mic while you have complete control of the features from the comfort of the control room; implementing this feature via XLR allows you take advantage of your pass-through panels and patchbays. This explains the convenience of putting the mic to sleep from the remote panel.
To describe the mic’s sound, with the LCT 1040, it becomes a matter of which sound. The FET side is akin to previous LCT 440, 540 and 640 models, with a controlled yet full low-end, a neutral midrange, and a broad and pronounced upper-mid / high-end peak (2.5dB, 2 kHz to 10 kHz, followed by a 5dB peak from 10 kHz to 18 kHz) resulting in a gorgeous neutral clarity that never imposes itself on a source, and yet also manages to not sound clinical, harsh or spikey.
On the Clear tube setting, the mic is similar to the LCT 940, and I stand by my description from that review: “Moving from solid state to tube offers a pronounced change that fills out the sound like pouring warm honey from a pitcher.” The mic’s tone does not change, it just gets a touch thicker and fuller. The effect is most noticeable on sources recorded up close, taking advantage of its proximity effect.
Moving from Clear to Warm smooths out the upper-mids, and especially the high-end, giving the mic a more even tone, like a high-end vintage tube mic. The Dark setting rolls off the top end from 6 kHz on down; if you need a thick, pillowy tone, choose this setting. Saturated mode is aptly named—it pushes the tube for a thick, saturated tone that I would describe as rough around the edges more so than overdriven. The overall tonal signature is similar to the Clear setting with a gentle lessening of the high-end detail and an equally gentle low and low-mid thrust.
Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 17.2 mV/Pa, -35.3 dBv/Pa
Self Noise: 10dB (A) FET, 13dB (A) Tube
Max. SPL for 0.5 % THD: 137dB (0dB attenuation)
S/N Ratio: 84dB (A) FET, 81dB (A) tube
Dynamic Range: 127dB (A)
The wizardry of the LCT 1040 is in how easily you can adjust it to fit any genre or style, from clean and pristine classical instruments to round and warm traditional jazz fare to pop, rock and R&B styles. For instance, on cello I preferred a 50/50 tube blend on the clean setting. I liked the full, warm tube tone as it chilled out the cymbal bite when placed over a drum kit. In front of the kit, augmented only by a kick drum mic, I liked the rough edge of the full-on saturation setting. This was also nice on an electric guitar amp and a bass cabinet in a vintage Motown style. I liked both the clear and warm settings on vocals and was surprised by how much I liked the saturated setting here as well in an aggressive rock track. The blend knob dialed in the perfect amount of personality in every case. Dark is a tad too imposing for my taste, but the fact that you can dial the clean FET sparkle back in is quite useful.
The LCT 1040 can easily be the high-end centerpiece of any studio, not only because of its sound and build but also because you can set it up at the start of a session, and rather than swapping mics, you can dial in multiple mic choices without ever needing to get out of your chair!
While there are a handful of mics on the market with onboard tone options, few are as sonically broad or as elegantly executed. It’s also handy that you can always record a clean safety feed from the FET side of the mic.
The LEWITT LCT 1040 is an industrial design of the highest order. Its craftsmanship, execution and attention to detail are superb. Sonically, this system succeeds in offering a range of broad, varied, yet coherent tonal options that few other mics can rival, in one of the nicest packages ever produced.
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