In our February 2012 issue, we took our first look at a mic from Austrian maker Lewitt. The mic under review was Lewitt’s feature-packed, impeccably built and wonderful sounding flagship, the Authentica LCT 640 multi-pattern condenser mic. In our February 2013 issue we looked at the equally unique DTP 640 REX kick drum mic, which housed a cardioid condenser and a dynamic element inside one body; the elements could be mixed and blended together, with their sounds controlled by a unique set of character switches. From just those two models Lewitt have established an identity with our readers, with sonic versatility and build quality as its major tenets. This month we look at the company’s newest flagship, the Authentica LCT 940.
The new flagship: tube or solid-state?
You betcha! Before we look at the hottest entry in the Authentica line, let’s step back and look at the previously reviewed LCT 640... the reason will become clear momentarily.
The LCT 640 is a solid-state, largediaphragm condenser housed in a sleek black modern styled rectangular body visually reminiscent of AKG’s C414. Inside it sports modern surface-mount PCB technology and a 1" K-7 style center-terminated capsule. Aside from its smooth, full and pleasant sound, what pushed the LCT 640 over the top was a feature set that included 5 pattern choices, 3 pad choices, and 3 highpass filter choices, all digitally controlled from front-mounted buttons on the microphone body. Now, if you guessed that the new LCT 940 is a tube variant of the aforementioned 640, you would be wrong! Actually that would be the just-released LCT 840, which is indeed a tubebased version of the LCT 640. No, the LCT 940 is more than that... it’s actually both the 640 and the 840 rolled into one mic.
As far as I know this is a first in the microphone world. The only other product on the market that I am aware of that comes close to the 940’s dual-architecture paradigm is Universal Audio’s 710 lineup of microphone preamps, where you have a solid-state circuit and a tube circuit simultaneously active and can choose and or even blend between the two. The LCT 940 is exactly that concept, in mic form!
Build, fit and finish
The LCT 940 looks very much like its solid-state sibling, with its rectangular body shape, black matte finish and all. However, at 7.5 x 2.4 x 1.8" and weighing 23 oz., it is almost twice the LCT 640’s size to accommodate its 12AX7B tube (which in proper “look it’s a tube” style is housed behind a thin sheet of plexiglass and glows a beautiful orange when on). The 940 is battle-ready and solidly built, just as I have come to expect from Lewitt. Designed in Austria and built in a company-owned Chinese factory, the LCT 940 sports a very European styling and nothing on this mic looks or feels cheap. Unlike the LCT 640, the LCT 940 is devoid of any switches or controls on its body; those are housed on the microphone’s external power supply.
The external power supply is a similarly Euro-styled black box measuring 9.8 x 5.9 x 2.8" and weighing 68 oz. Visually it reminds me of a high-end piece of home audio equipment. In its center are a pair of large black dials. The first, labeled Amplification, is a rotary knob that blends the mic between its dual personalities. The knob on the right is a spring-loaded dial that selects the mic’s polar pattern; there are nine to choose from. In addition to omnidirectional, cardioid, figure-8, wide cardioid, and supercardioid patterns, there are four “in-between” settings. On each side of the dials are a series of push buttons whose features were originally
found on the body of the LCT 640. There are three levels of attenuation, –6, –12, and –18 dB, and a selection of three highpass.
filter slopes and corner frequencies: –12dB/octave @ 40 Hz, –6 dB/octave @ 150 Hz, and –6 dB/octave @ 300 Hz. All controls are beautifully backlit, including the dials with glowing red and white status LEDs. On the back of the power supply are the cable connections for the multipin mic cable input, a standard male XLR output, and a standard power cable and power switch. Note that the LCT 940 uses a special 11-pin audio cable due to the extra switching options. The LCT 940 comes in a large jampacked foam-lined flight case that houses all necessary cables, the mic and power supply, as well as a foam wind screen and a larger and more robust version of Lewitt’s standard shockmount.
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The LCT 940 uses a dual 1" diaphragm that is an externally-polarized pressure-gradient transducer. It features a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response that in its cardioid state is fairly smooth, with a slight low-end boost at 30 Hz, a mid boost starting at 2 kHz and sloping off at 6 kHz, followed by a high peak from 10 to 20 kHz. Most of these are on the subtle side and not drastic. As the mic moves toward the omni side, the low bump recedes while the high end rises prominently around 10 kHz. The reverse is true as you move toward a figure- 8 pattern, with a tighter controlled top end and similar lows to cardioid mode. For its other specs like sensitivity, self-noise level, and dynamic range, check the company’s website, as they all vary greatly due to the various topologies and pattern choices.
On the solid-state side, this mic is virtually identical to its sibling. Although I did not have them side by side, I will guess there would be some slight sonic variations due to the physical size difference between the two mics, resulting in different body and grille reflections and resonances. Having said that, I found that my most of my previous LCT 640 recordings have the same sonic signature as the LCT 940. That makes the LCT 940 in solid-state mode a mic that has a smooth pleasant top end that is not biting or harsh; a thick, full low end; and very natural mids. It’s well suited to acoustic instruments, whether acoustic guitar, cello, piano, violin, or even banjo. It makes a great front-of-kick mic, is good for smooth tamed drum overheads, and even jazz and blues guitar cabinet. On voice, as in my previous review, I found it well suited for crooners, jazz and R’n’B vocals and even voiceovers, but not so much for hard rock or any style that needs a bright cutting forward thrust. The tube side of the mic and the blending capabilities really surprised me. While it’s not as aggressive as the tube blending on UA’s 710 series preamps, it’s not a subtle effect either! Moving from solid state to tube offers a pronounced change that fills out the sound like pouring warm honey from a pitcher.
It’s just a nice sheen of sweetness that envelops the sound and ultimately adds to this mic’s versatility and tonal palette. And by the way, this is as good a place as any to mention that this is one of the quietest tube mics I have used... the Lewitt website has the full story, but I can note here that the LCT 940’s rated self-noise is 12 to 13 dBA in tube mode and only 8 to 9 dBA in solid-state.
In my LCT 640 review I stopped short of labeling that mic a “workhorse” despite its versatility, and I called it “too sonically pretty for that designation”. As for the LCT 940? Thanks to its unique tube blending capabilities, 9 polar patterns and many pads and filters, rather than a workhorse, I would instead label the LCT 940 as a highly artistic mic with a wide range of tonal variation that can be caressed and carved to fit a plethora of applications, all with a hint of beauty and sweetness. At $1499 street price it’s not cheap, but it’s in line with many other tube mics; beauty this nice has a price. And no other tube mic at any price has this level of tonal variation.
Paul Vnuk Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a recording engineer, producer, recording musician and sound designer living and working in Milwaukee.
You can order Lewitt Authentica LCT 940 at our web-site