Fire and Ice
Vienna may be the largest city in Austria but it’s not really considered a hot bed for music technology, so Lewitt GmbH could possibly be one of the best kept secrets in the industry. With the unusual ability to develop all of their products in-house it’s almost no surprise that they take a left-
field view of the microphone game and as such, have come up with an enormous amount of clever solutions or off the wall features for their very unique looking microphones. APN was lucky enough to cop hold of the LCT 540 SubZero and the LCT 940 Authentica which is their top LDC.
The SubZero in it's svelte carry case (above)
Beginning with the rather demure 540 SubZero, it’s interesting to see how strongly the design ethos and branding are carried all the way through Lewitt’s range. The diminutive stature of the SubZero will be appreciated by many but it’s useful to note that the SubZero has a very high quality, cast zinc body and is deceptively weighty.
“…the SubZero has a very high quality, cast zinc body.”
The thing that surprised us the most when unboxing this microphone was the brilliant, mini Pelican case that the SubZero is shipped in. As any AV tech will attest, these cases are practically indestructible as well as water resistant, so it’s hard not to be impressed when a manufacturer decides to add such obvious value to their product. Lewitt are clearly confident in their presentation.
Inside that case are some important and well thought out accessories. The most obvious of which is the custom shockmount, a really interesting, High quality, form-fitting, steel pop-filter, a boring, old fashioned foam spit guard (Actually pretty useful to use as diaphragm protection if you have an aversion to packing up the mic after use) and a sweet, pencil-case style protective pouch. Nice.
Industry leading pop filter design (above)
SUB ZERO POP FILTER
A quick note on the LCT540 SubZero’s unique pop filter. This has to be one of the best designed accessories we’ve seen on any microphone. We were almost crushed not to find the same deal in the far more expensive Authentica package. Such are the forces of change. The pop-filter itself is a pretty solid but sleek affair with the de-rigeur, Lewitt branding. Once you have the mic prepared in the custom shockmount you slip the pop-filter over the top and drop it onto the broad, flat, top surface of the shockmount. There are magnets under the filter so once attached you’re in the game.
“…it’s hard not to be impressed when a manufacturer decides to add such obvious value to their product.”
The SubZero is an extremely quiet and proficient microphone. It’s our belief that every mic locker should have a healthy collection of FET mics as well as unwieldy/vintage Tube Condensers. The Lewitt proves this through it’s extremely low self noise and it’s excellent response. As with all transformerless, Field Effect Transistor mics you’ll need to use the +48v phantom power on your interface.
The SubZero was definitely a favorite with certain rappers in the studio. This is partly down to it’s excellent transient response with more mid-rangey vocals highlighting the SubZero’s unfussy, articulate sound. Also, whilst the 540 S has a dynamic range of 132dB it’s capable of withstanding a very high SPL of 136dB. This means
that Artists who like to be more on top of the mic are still able to perform in a natural fashion. We also loved the on-body, backlit clipping indicator and clipping history display (another unique Lewitt feature) which allows you to know for sure whether a performance may have overstepped ‘technical’ boundaries.
“We also loved the on-body, backlit clipping indicator and clipping history display (another unique Lewitt feature).”
LCT 540 S In Use
First up was Alex. With that aforementioned clean, midrangey tone, suitably opposed to Phoenyx’s thicker, overtone laden output we felt the FET circuitry and lower self noise of the 540 S would be ideal. The SubZero really excelled, handling his less heavy transients perfectly and allowing his voice to breath in the upper mids and top end without creating any awkward moments or forcing an overuse of EQ – which is a very real problem in a great many microphones where there is too much push in the response curve of the mic. We found a similar result using Alex on the FET setting of the Authentica but during a blind test of the files he picked the SubZero every time. This is testament to the suitability of different microphones to the very personal need for artists to represent themselves sonically in a way that makes sense to them. Personally, we could have gone either way but whatever makes the artist feel most comfortable becomes an overriding factor when all other aspects are equal.
I was appreciative of the choice of -6dB and -12dB pads in this situation and, combined with a choice of 80 or 160Hz Hi-Pass filters it helped a lot to reduce (or even eliminate) any noticeable proximity effect induced by bubble-invading artistry. Aside from the fact that the SubZero’s are so finely engineered any two you may randomly purchase will make a matched pair, the other reason we were sold on the mic is the good taste
that was used to determine the shape of it’s response curve. Instead of the typical, brittle top end hype found in lower priced mics it has a lovely, gentle lift all the way up to 12kHz which, although it can’t be described as air, it still opens up the mic beautifully without cracking under processing. The SubZero is far better than it’s modest price tag suggests, matching the performance of more expensive FET mics.
“The SubZero is far better than it’s modest price tag suggests, matching the performance of more expensive FET mics.”
The LCT 940 Authentica is Lewitt’s Blue Ribband entry into the premium market place. Just like the SubZero. it comes in a super-impact resistant Pelican travel case with custom cut foam insert and a bunch of useful accessories. Interestingly, the Authentica uses a custom 11pin cable arranged in a ‘W’, the likes of which we have not seen before.
The cable wraps neatly around a foam insert in the lid of the Pelican which is a nice detail – something you’ll get used to with the 940. You’ll also find the excellent, Lewitt-designed, open-front shock mount (which enables you to get the mic closer to a source), a power cable and the extremely high-tech PSU/control unit.
The Authentica has a unique, 9 Pin Mic/PSU Connector (above)
This PSU unit has two purposes. One to power the mic itself and the other as a brain or control unit for the different electronic features of the Authentica. The left AMPLIFICATION encoder takes you from a full blooded tube signal when turned anti-clockwise to a sweet, super clean FET signal when all the way right. in between these two extremes the Lewitt successfully cross polinates these two, diametrically opposed sounds. The results are extremely surprising – this is a legitimate first. The right rotary control is marked DIRECTIVITY and allows you to select from the nine polar patterns: Figure of 8, Super Cardioid, Cardioid, Wide Cardioid and Omni, with the other positions being intermediate.
“The PSU unit has two purposes. One to power the mic itself and the other as brain or control unit for the different electronic features of the Authentica.”
The jog style encoders on the unit have a great feel and offer brilliant visual feedback – especially if you have a dark, vibey recording space. Also of note are the large, positive feeling buttons on the unit. The right hand gives you a choice of high pass options from 40Hz (12 dB per octave) to 150Hz (6 dB per octave) and a surprisingly useful 300Hz (also 6 dB per octave). On the left hand side the button actuates different stages of pre-attenuation from 0 dB to-6 dB, -12 dB and -18 dB. Very accessible and easy to use. The current state will be lit in white.
Control Unit's Unique Start-Up Display (above)
“The jog style encoders on the unit have a great feel and offer brilliant visual feedback – especially if you have a dark, vibey recording space.”
LCT 940 In Use
The LCT 940 weighs in at a fairly hefty 1kg+ when in it’s shock mount so make sure you warn any arm flailing artists to go-easy if you don’t have a counterbalanced stand as things can get out of hand very quickly. Thankfully the locking ring between the shock mount and mic is actually super fat and easy to grab hold of, preventing the microphone nose diving out of your life as we have seen on a few other designs.
“Set up is quick and easy thanks to the well built PSU which can be positioned on the desk where it’s easily reachable and stays put on it’s rubber feet. “
Set up is quick and easy thanks to the well built PSU which can be positioned on the desk where it’s easily reachable and stays put on it’s rubber feet. Pull up the amount of padding or pre-attenuation on the left. Dial in your preferred sound with the left Tube/FET encoder, pick your Polar Pattern on the right encoder then punch in the filter cut you desire. Job done, all without leaving your seat…
One Of The Most Unique Forms To Ever Grace a Microphone (above)
With Phoenyx manning the Authentica it was a sure thing that we could comfortably test the AMPLIFICATION blending control and find something perfect for the track. Starting with FET it was immediately noted that it was very flattering to his voice. With plenty of detail and a very three dimensional feeling to the clean and controlled
signal it simply felt correct. Next, we dialed in some BLEND, discovering that the unique tech behind this is no joke. The change is buttery smooth and the difference in sound is definitely gradual. We liked a setting right between FET and TUBE – exhibiting marginally more comfortable handling of transients and a slightly thicker, more crispy sound
that, whilst still being clear had slightly less air and a smidgeon more weight to it than the 100% FET setting. Finally we went all the way TUBE where we noticed a distinctive, more gentle handling of transients coupled with a less plosive prone representation of the voice and a very pleasing, subtle growl in the overall tone.
Open Weave Head Basket Reduces Proximity Effect (above)
On both the Authentica and the Subzero we also noted that they are less prone to proximity effect than other mics thanks to the very open nature of their basket design. This makes both mics an excellent choice for voiceover and audiobook work, although the downside of this is that they are very prone to allow dust and other airborne impurities to slip through and reach the 25.4mm, gold sputtered diaphragm.
Open Fronted Shock Mount Allows Close Placement to a Source Such As a Speaker Cabinet (left)
“This makes both mics an excellent choice for voiceover and audiobook work”
I think the most important thing to understand about the LCT 940 Authentica is that fundamentally it is simply a great microphone that doesn’t have to adhere to an olde worlde design perspective either visually or technically. It’s not laden with the multiple caveats and pitfalls that pursuing such an outdated (read ‘classic’) design philosophy or objective might bring. Don’t be fooled by Lewitt’s liberal use of tech either. Although it’s a welcome addition and definitely adds value to the Authentica it is by no means a bigger deal than the fundamental correctness of
“…fundamentally the 940 is simply a great microphone.”
the mic itself. It’s simply eye candy sprinkled on top of the cake. However when you take into account the AMPLIFICATION encoder and the overall elegant operation of the PSU/control unit you start to build up a more rounded opinion based on overall value – and this is where the 940 really wins. The balance between great design, great sound, ease of use and extra tech is almost perfect. We look forward with a peculiar mixture of excitement and interest to see what the next generation flagship mic from Lewitt will bring to the table. This is definitely a mic to consider and a company to watch.
“This is definitely a mic to consider and a company to watch.”
- Tube | FET option
- Informative PSU Brain Unit
- Stunning eye candy for clients
- Outdated, foam Pop Filter cover
- Large body does not accommodate Kaotica Eyeball
- Modest Size
- Value For Money
- Low Self Noise
- Body Style does not accommodate Kaotica Eyeball