This new studio mic “will revolutionise the way we think about the recording process,” according to its maker. Ross Simpson finds out whether the Austrian brand is right to make such a bold claim.
“Fix it in the mix” – it’s a saying many have used at some point in their engineering career, and with so many tools available to us, it’s all too easy to do. However, as we know, this does not always yield the best results and we should aim to “get it right at source” – that creative fusion between the musicality of the artist and technical decisions made by the engineer. This leads me onto the questions of whether there is the need for a mic that has so much flexibility at the mixing stage and do we need these options or would it be just another gimmick?
It is Roman Perschon, founder and CEO of Lewitt, with its LCT 640 TS, that is able to present us with a new microphone to consider here. Keeping hands-on with the production side of the company in China for six months and then at the helm for the rest of the year at HQ in Vienna, he is a man that seems to have been present throughout the process. Still in its relatively early stages, Lewitt launched in 2010 – very soon after Roman had left his job with another leading microphone brand. Together with his Chinese business partner, Ken Yang, they seem to be seeking to push the boundaries of new product development, innovation, flexibility and perhaps most important for some, affordability.
The mic comes with the manufacturer’s own shock-mount, which holds it firmly in position using a neat, quick-acting screw thread and supports a clever magnetic pop filter – a handy addition but perhaps not as effective as a separate one that can be placed a good three-plus inches from the diaphragm. Other goodies included are a typical foam windshield and a cushioned leatherette storage bag, all packed in a rather impressive military-grade, nearly indestructible case.
On offer are five selectable polar patterns in Multi-Patten Mode: omni, wide cardioid, cardioid, supercardioid and figure-8, whereas in Dual Output Mode you can create any polar pattern you like, even in post-production. Also, in this twin output mode, various forms of stereo recording are available from just the one mic, including mid-side.
Sensitivity is quoted as 30.1 mV / Pa (-31.4 dBV) cardioid, 30.3 mV / Pa (-30.3 dBV) omni, and 29.4 mV / Pa (-34.1 dBV) for figure-8. Maximum SPL (for 0.5% THD) is 133.8dB. Self-noise is low at 10.5dB (A) cardioid, giving a dynamic range of 123.3dB (A) and a signal-to-noise ratio of some 83.5dB. Standard 48V phantom power is needed for operation on both channels and preamp gain levels need to be matched when tracking in Dual Output Mode.
The LCT 640 TS has four low-cut filter settings: linear, 40Hz, 80Hz and 160Hz; four attenuation settings: 0db, -6db, -12db and -18db plus a clipping history, in the unlikely event of overloading the mic. All these, plus the polar setting are operated by three silently operated, flush buttons on the face of the mic with corresponding white LED lights to clearly outline your setup choice. Holding down the centre button for two seconds sees the white Lewitt logo turn green to activate Dual Output Mode. This enables you to record the front and back diaphragm of the capsule separately to fine-tune the polar pattern in post-production, using the simple, free downloadable Polarizer plugin, compatible with both Mac and PC. A red illuminated logo indicates evidence of clipping (for the user) with the ability to check clipping history.
Perfect Match technology ensures that every LCT 640 TS capsule is adjusted to the same sensitivity at manufacture.
I consider microphones to be the most valuable tool when recording; they are the first step in a chain of creative techniques where the setup aims to record exactly what is needed and avoids what really isn’t. I have spent many years building up my studio’s portfolio of microphones (with many more on the wish list) but does the arrival of the Lewitt LCT 640 TS mean I can shorten my list, or even throw it in the bin? Well let’s find out.
I first tried the 640 TS on some vocals and was immediately struck with its clarity, presence and uncoloured sound. It seemed fairly well balanced across the whole spectrum, apart from an apparent presence boost around 8-12KHz. I compared the LCT 640 TS with my old AKG 414 (the B-ULS model), which sounded a little dull in comparison, yet seemed to have a little more character. I then chose to put the LCT 640 TS to the test against my Neumann U87 Ai. It was surprisingly similar in clarity, output level and signal to noise ratio, but lacked the smoothness of the U87 – maybe an unfair test as the U87 costs more than twice as much, from a brand established for nearly 90 years, but for the price bracket the Lewitt LCT 640 TS stands up well in this crowded market.
Next up was acoustic guitar, in which I gave the MS Stereo recording a go in Dual Output Mode. The process was made very simple with the Polarizer plugin and the simplicity of only having to set up one mic. I found the results to be detailed, upfront and assertive. The low signal to noise/high output of the LCT 640 TS gave really useful, detailed recordings, however I was left wanting a little more warmth from the sound.
When using the Dual Output Mode you need to use the second output, which is via the supplied mini three-pin XLR cable. This exits the side of the microphone and through the shock-mount, which I feel would have been better exiting the bottom along with the main XLR output. The decision for the side exit may have been down to the lack of internal space on the mic. When you’re not using the second XLR output, there are three rubber grommet dust caps supplied (two of which are spare). However, a rubber tag may have been a neat addition to stop you from losing them!
The Lewitt LCT 640 TS is the swiss army knife of microphones and is always ready for action. It is a pleasure to use, well designed and built to last. It holds some weight but not so much that it would give you boom arm issues, and it is attractively priced for a multi-pattern mic (or two mics really) especially with plenty of accessories. I like the novel LED lights and multiple choices of pads and filters. The online manual explains things well enough and I think it’s safe to say that, given its price and performance, the LCT 640 TS will be a big hit.
And so for the “fix it in the mix” aspect – do we want or need these options in post-production? For us who have spent years developing an ear for the right microphone selection, in the right position, located in the right space, with the best settings for the sound source, will using this new mic cause us to be accused of over ‘vocal-shopping’ the end product? The answer I believe is down to the individual and how they like to work. I for one like this mic for it’s quality, pad, filter and pattern options, plus the stereo recording, but would probably not actually use it’s post-production features, although, having said that, who knows when I might actually need it to ‘fix’ an imperfect take!
Sennheiser’s MKH800 TWIN was released in 2008, which does appear to be a model along similar lines, although with a far heftier price tag. Perhaps then it is ambitious to call the LCT 640 TS “unique,” however, the distinct Lewitt user interface and Polarizer plugin are notable differences.
If you are looking to invest in a clean, all-rounder microphone with stereo recording options, then you will most certainly get more sound for your pound with this neat microphone.
With four new microphones due from Lewitt in 2017, it will be exciting to see what they have up their sleeve. Let’s keep listening.
- Dual Output Mode – provides the signal of the front and back capsule separately
- Polarizer plugin allows the user to change the polar pattern in their DAW
- Can also be used as a large-diaphragm multi-pattern condenser mic
- Magnetic pop filter to reduce plosives and hisses
- Any two LCT 640 TS mics will always form a matched pair
Ross Simpson began his career as a professional dancer/singer, working with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Geri Halliwell. He runs Woodbury Studios, where he works on a variety of projects from independent artists’ albums to music videos, photography and fully orchestrated live productions. www.woodburystudios.co.uk