Lewitt dare to be different with their first foray into the world of audio interfaces.
Based in the historic microphone‑making Austrian capital Vienna, Lewitt Audio are rightly famous for making microphones. Their product line encompasses multiple markets and a wide price range, from affordable stage vocal mics and drum miking kits to the stunning flagship LCT 1040. Until now, though, Lewitt have been content to leave other manufacturers to deal with the signal that comes out of the other end of the XLR cable.
That changed late last year with the launch of the first Lewitt‑branded audio interface. The Connect 6 is a highly portable, bus‑powered device with several novel design features.
Lewitt’s determination to be different is apparent as soon as you open the box. The paper‑based, recyclable packaging has a classy feel that is reminiscent of current Apple offerings, and the connection is reinforced by an official “made for iPhone” legend — which hints at some of the Connect 6’s more unusual functionality. The unit itself, meanwhile, resembles less a conventional audio interface and more a scale model of a brutalist housing development from 1961. And, having complained more than once in these pages about the conservatism of audio interface design, I mean that in a good way!
As well as being stylish, the design has several practical advantages. Being made of rigid plastic rather than metal, it’s robust yet very lightweight; and the only moving part is the large rotary encoder in the centre right of the panel, so there are no protruding knobs or switches to break. It’s also surprisingly compact, measuring only 220 x 114 x 43mm. Since it’s a bus‑powered device, this all goes to make the Connect 6 one of the most handily portable small interfaces around. I would lament the inclusion of a carrying case, but in fact it really doesn’t need one, though a soft bag to protect it from scratches would be welcome.
Despite its compactness, the Connect 6 has a surprisingly comprehensive complement of socketry. On the front panel, there are full‑sized and mini‑jack headphone sockets; unusually, these are fully independent, with their own volume controls, and can carry different signals from each other. Round the back, the tallest part of the edifice houses two combi XLR/jack inputs that can accept mics, line‑level or instrument signals. Adjacent to these, the main outputs are presented both on balanced quarter‑inch jacks and a stereo mini‑jack. Another stereo mini‑jack provides an additional aux line‑level input, but perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the design is the inclusion of no fewer than three USB Type‑C connectors.
The host computer, tablet or phone connects to the rightmost of these (as seen from the front), and both C‑to‑C and C‑to‑A cables are included. Some devices may not be able to provide the requisite level of power, or you might prefer to avoid having the Connect 6 drain your battery, so the second USB port enables connection of a dedicated mains power supply or battery pack. The third is altogether more unusual: it’s labelled Mobile, and is designed to allow a mobile device such as a phone or tablet to be used as an additional stereo input and output device.
The rotary encoder has a press action that cycles its focus through controlling the level of the main outputs, headphones 1 and 2 and the gain on inputs 1 and 2. A single square LED per input indicates signal present and clipping, whilst a more lavish 12‑LED ladder meters the output level. And, as far as hands‑on control and visual feedback go, that’s it.
Many small stereo interfaces are designed to be used without the need to install any control‑panel software. The likes of UA’s Volt range, SSL’s 2 and 2+ and the smaller Focusrite Scarletts have physical controls for everything, including basic low‑latency input monitoring. Lewitt have taken a completely different approach. Although the Connect 6 is a class‑compliant device and therefore does not require a driver installation on Mac OS, it’s very much a hybrid hardware‑software system. The software component of this is known as Control Center and is available for Mac OS and Windows. However, there’s no iOS or Android version, so if you want to use a phone or tablet as the host device, you’re basically stuck with the last‑used setup.
Most manufacturers nowadays have clocked that providing a painless ‘onboarding’ experience makes a huge difference to perceptions of an audio interface, especially one targeted at new users. I cannot fault Lewitt on this front: getting started with the Connect 6 is a commendably smooth process. The design flair that’s apparent in the hardware is pleasingly carried through into the software, beginning with a neat and informative animated introduction that acquaints you with its controls the first time you use it. Like so much of today’s software, it’s extremely grey, but it’s also clear and well laid‑out, and fits everything comfortably into one resizeable window. And there’s a surprising amount to be fitted in!
Despite its diminutive size, the Connect 6 actually presents a total of six stereo or 12 mono inputs to your DAW software. As well as the two mic/line/instrument inputs, the stereo aux in and the Mobile in, you can also record the master outputs from both of the two internal mixers, while the icing on the cake is a stereo loopback input. On the output side, meanwhile, there are three stereo output paths available from the DAW. These show up as sources within the two mixers, which in turn can be routed to any or all of the outputs. This makes it trivially easy to, for example, set up one monitor balance for the headphones and another for the main outputs — but if you prefer, any of the physical outputs can be made to pick up a DAW output directly, and it’s also possible simply to route an input pair directly to an output pair.
To keep everything visible within the one window, each source has an A and a B fader to set the levels it feeds into the two mixers, plus associated active/mute buttons labelled A and B. This means you’re never having to tab between mixers, or getting confused about why you can’t hear something because you’re inadvertently looking at the wrong one. One slight oddity, though, is that it’s not possible to adjust a fader level without activating the channel first. Since the faders default to maximum, this could easily land you in hot water, as it’s not possible to pull the fader all the way down, activate the channel and then push the fader up to find the right level.
Control Center does a lot more than simply combine audio signals and send them off to the appropriate destinations. It also incorporates signal processing, beginning with the Maximisers enabled using buttons above each mixer’s rotary master level control. These are simple on/off affairs with no user‑adjustable controls, and they do what they say on the tin, presumably introducing some sort of brickwall limiter to boost the output level. This has obvious value for monitoring unmastered input signals, especially given that, like most bus‑powered interfaces, the Connect 6 doesn’t have unlimited power on tap to drive its headphone outputs.
Further processing is available on the two mic/line/instrument inputs. At the top of both channels you’ll find a button labelled Auto Setup. This can be thought of as an extension of the Smartgain feature found on Audient’s EVO interfaces. On pressing it, you’ll be asked what sort of a device you’ve connected, whether you’re using it to talk, sing or play an instrument, and whether the application is for live (such as streaming) or recording. You then play or sing for 10 seconds and the Connect 6 sets input gain, phantom power and the high‑pass filter appropriately. Should you decide to set these parameters manually, you’ll find that the gain control has an enormous range: it can be set in 1dB increments anywhere between ‑6 and +72 dB.
Auto Setup is also capable of optimising two of the three signal‑processing modules that follow the gain control. These are, in fixed order, an expander, compressor and four‑band equaliser, the last of which must be configured by the user. They get recorded if enabled, so it’s probably best to err on the side of caution in setting them up; and given that the Connect 6 is aimed at least in part at those new to recording, this could perhaps be a bit more idiot‑proof. For example, if you set all the compressor controls to their halfway positions, you’ll end up with attack and release times of half a second each, and a ratio of 32:1, so it’s possible to do some serious damage to the input signal if you’re not careful. In my tests, Auto Setup was suitably cautious with the compressor settings, but a bit bolder with the expander than I’d be comfortable with. Like the Control Center app as a whole, each module is capable of storing and loading its own presets, but there were none supplied with the version I tested (v3.0.6).
Incidentally, if you click on the Sample Rate button in Control Center, you’ll find that the Connect 6 supports 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz sample rates, but not 88.2, 176.4 or 192 kHz. On Mac OS, it seems to use the built‑in Core Audio driver; as usual, the internal mixer adds a small amount of latency to this. Reaper reported a round‑trip latency of just under 8ms at 44.1kHz with a 32‑sample buffer size, and a loopback test confirmed that this was within a few samples of the true figure.
The published specifications for the Connect 6 are a little unusual, not least because all signal measurements are given in dBV rather than dBu. Dynamic range figures of 100dB (A‑weighted) on the mic inputs and 104dBA on the main outputs are unexceptional by today’s standards, though still far better than adequate for all real‑world applications. By contrast, the specs for the mic preamps are pretty decent, especially the A‑weighted equivalent input noise of ‑133dBV, which translates as ‑131dBu A‑weighted and approximately ‑127dBu unweighted.
As I’ve already mentioned, the huge input gain range is also impressive, at least on paper. In practice, though, there is a fly in the ointment, which concerns the alignment of the preamps to the A‑D converters. The maximum signal level that can be accommodated at the inputs is only 6dBV, which is just over 8dBu, and there are no input pads available. With a total gain range of nearly 80dB available, this seems puzzling, and I struggle to imagine a recording scenario in which the top half of that gain range is useful. To give you an idea of how this pans out in real life, quiet speech into a passive moving‑coil dynamic mic like an SM7B generates a very healthy signal at about halfway on the gain control, leaving at least 35dB in reserve for... what?
You won’t need a Cloudlifter with the Connect 6, then; but equally, you could struggle when recording very loud sources. As far as recording with microphones goes, this perhaps doesn’t matter too much, because a desktop interface like this will be used for recording voices and acoustic instruments more often than it’s used for drums or guitar amps. However, as is the case with many interfaces, line‑level signals fed in through the quarter‑inch jacks also pass through the preamps, and are subject to the same maximum input level. You may have to watch the volume control on your synths quite carefully.
The choice between a desktop interface where everything is handled in hardware and an interface with control‑panel software usually comes down to how far you’re willing to trade off simplicity and immediacy for greater power and flexibility. The Connect 6 gives you plenty of the latter, with minimal compromise on the former. For typical recording scenarios, the most ambitious you’d probably want to get with this sort of I/O complement is to establish separate balances of inputs and playback sources to feed two sets of headphones, or one set of phones and monitors, and this is a breeze with Control Center.
In fact, the possibilities on offer go a lot further, and the aim here is to enable much more than boring old‑fashioned recording. There’s a reason why Auto Setup asks you whether you’re playing live, and it’s because the Connect 6 has been specifically designed for live streaming as well as podcasting and music production. In this context, features such as the smartphone input, compressor and expander, loopback and flexible routing of inputs to outputs really come into their own. I confess I didn’t go as far as setting up my own Twitch channel to test all this, but the features themselves all work fine and seem very well thought‑out. Even though my ancient iPhone isn’t officially supported, it was recognised and happily piped audio into the Mobile input — which also charged it.
As just one example of the sophisticated setups that the Connect 6 makes possible, let’s say you want to live‑stream a musical performance whilst simultaneously capturing it for posterity. Easy. You could, for example, use a phone or tablet to handle the actual streaming, with visuals supplied by its own camera. It would be child’s play to generate an audio feed to the phone that balances live inputs and pre‑recorded material from your DAW, whilst passing the live inputs back to the DAW to be recorded cleanly. The Maximiser could be used to beef up the mix going to the live stream, while the other mix feeds your headphones and incorporates a click and other cues from a separate DAW output. Guests could be brought in over Zoom through the loopback input. And so on.
Its flexibility makes it more than just an audio interface for music recording. It’s a sort of hub or focal point around which a surprisingly advanced streaming, podcasting or live collaboration setup can be configured.
Considered purely as an audio interface for music recording, then, the Connect 6 is impressively complete, highly portable and very flexible. But its flexibility makes it more than just an audio interface for music recording. It’s a sort of hub or focal point around which a surprisingly advanced streaming, podcasting or live collaboration setup can be configured. The market for small audio interfaces is an extremely competitive one, but I think Lewitt have given the Connect 6 the unique selling points it needs to stand out.
- Stylish, compact and highly portable.
- Impressive preamps with nearly 80dB gain range.
- Friendly and intuitive software and setup process.
- Very flexible internal mixing and routing that enables podcasting and streaming workflows as well as music recording.
- Built‑in compressor, expander, EQ and Maximiser.
- More I/O than meets the eye, including a unique smartphone/tablet socket.
- Converter alignment means there’s limited headroom for loud sources, and makes the upper reaches of the preamp gain range redundant.
- Signal processing is always in the record path if used, and if you get the settings wrong, it can mangle the signal.
- Faders in the Control Center software can’t be moved while channels are inactive.
- No iOS or Android version of Control Center.
Lewitt’s first foray into the world of audio interfaces gets a lot right, serving up a combination of good looks, portability, flexibility and innovation.