Just when you thought that nobody could come up with anything new and genuinely useful in the large-diaphragm condenser microphone market, Viennese microphone design house Lewitt has 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.
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 660g 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-metre long 11-pin XLR connector, and kettle-lead.
There is a little Perspex window that shows the valve inside the mic glowing when switched on, but as the glow is a sort of greenish-yellow, it reveals that it 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 including drum overheads, 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 the LCT 940 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 the fact 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 case 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.
Testing, 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 affected by choosing valve or FET.
Self-noise is low at 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.
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-metre 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!
Andrew Graeme has been in the audio business since he was 16. He began his first studio, music shop, and PA company in Germany in 1979 and continues to have business interests in Germany while running The Byre recording studio in the Scottish Highlands.