Lewitt’s new flagship hybrid microphone could be the last vocal mic you ever need...
A few months before Covid first made itself known to the world, I accompanied Sam Inglis, our esteemed Editor In Chief, to Vienna to visit Lewitt’s head office and impressive R&D labs. While there we listened to a pre‑production prototype of the company’s planned flagship product: a statement microphone intended to mark the company’s remarkable first 10 years.
After dreaming up the initial concept in 2015, Lewitt embarked on years of meticulous research, studying the reasons why different microphones are chosen when recording vocalists. This research defined the requirements of the first prototype microphone, which was then trialled on numerous recording sessions, with Lewitt gathering feedback to confirm the goals and feature‑set requirements.
Lewitt’s team further refined the technology and evolved the product’s form factor over a further two years, eventually creating a fully functioning pre‑production microphone system — codenamed Project 1040 — which is what Sam and I saw and heard in September 2019. With the official product name LCT 1040, the mic was demonstrated at the January 2020 NAMM show, while the R&D team embarked on the complicated business of turning the prototype into a real consumer product. Inevitably, Covid slowed things down a little, but the finished product has now arrived.
Fundamentally, the LCT 1040 is intended as a vocal microphone — a uniquely versatile one, in fact — although it can obviously be used to record other sound sources too. Superficially, the LCT 1040 is a radical extension of the design concepts behind the highly regarded LCT 940 (reviewed SOS May 2013: www.soundonsound.com/reviews/lewitt-lct940), and it looks quite similar. Both are built around a one‑inch, centre‑terminated, dual‑diaphragm capsule connected internally to both valve and solid‑state (FET) circuitry.
Like those of its sibling, the LCT 1040’s polar pattern, high‑pass filters, attenuation, and the blending of tube and solid‑state signal paths can all be adjusted from a remote‑control unit, although the new microphone’s facilities are slightly different in detail.
There are four high‑pass filter options: flat, 40 or 80 Hz (for removing rumbles, and with a 12dB/octave slope), and 120Hz (at 6dB/octave for countering the proximity effect). Four attenuation levels are also available (0, ‑6, ‑12 and ‑24 dB), and a continuously adjustable polar pattern control spans the usual range from omni through hypocardioid, cardioid, supercardioid, and on to figure‑8. An additional mode switch effectively reverses the capsule’s two diaphragm outputs such that the front of the mic becomes the rear, hence the cardioid pattern can be made to face in the opposite direction.
Another more significant difference between these two models is the choice of valve (tube). The LCT 940 uses a common ECC83 (12AX7) valve, while the new microphone employs a selected E88CC (6DJ8/6922) from JJ Electronics. Both types are double triodes, but the E88CC is described as a ‘special quality’ valve. Unusually, the valve within the LCT 1040 cannot be replaced by the user, and any attempt to do so will invalidate the warranty, but it may be comforting to know that one of the ‘special qualities’ of the E88CC is that it’s designed to have a particularly long life!
The outputs from the microphone’s separate valve and FET signal paths can be blended together, as mentioned above, although where the LCT 940’s remote control labels this feature Amplification, it has been renamed Circuit in the new microphone. Perhaps a reason for the label change is that the LCT 1040’s circuitry is much more complicated. In fact, it can be substantially reconfigured at the operation of a switch to offer four completely different valve topologies and operating parameters. These, naturally, deliver four substantially different tonalities, labelled Clear, Warm, Dark, and Saturated — and since the selected valve sound can be blended with the FET signal path as required, an enormous range of tonal variations is instantly available.
What this means in practical terms is that instead of starting a studio vocal session by rigging multiple microphones of different technologies and properties and comparing them to discover which best suits the talent’s voice, the LCT 1040 provides a similarly broad sound palette which can be adjusted remotely and in real time from the convenience of the control room, providing the flexibility and versatility that recording engineers seek with a new level of convenience, reducing the time needed to find the mic with the perfect character during a pressured session.
Without doubt, the LCT 1040 is the most impressively and comprehensively packaged microphone system I’ve ever seen! As a buyer of an LCT 1040 you’d certainly feel you had received good value for money, even before plugging the mic in!
The review unit arrived in a stout protective cardboard shipping carton containing a large Peli‑style rugged plastic case — and an unusually heavy one for a mic system, weighing a little over 5kg. Opening the case reveals a lower section covered by a hinged divider, and two large (roughly 20 x 30cm) black, zipped wallets, held in place in the lid by embedded magnets. One of these wallets contains a 5‑metre mic cable fitted with 10‑pin Hirose plugs at both ends, a padded zipped pouch for mic storage away from the case, and a complete set of eight replacement elastic loops for the supplied shockmount. The second zipped wallet contains user manuals in English, German and Chinese, a substantial 85‑page glossy booklet describing the mic’s six‑year development, a warranty card (registering the mic with Lewitt activates the impressive 10‑year warranty), a book of recall sheets, and a ‘Welcome Card’ signed by Lewitt CEO and founder Roman Perschon.
In the bottom half of the case, under that divider, are the microphone, power supply and remote controller, shockmount, pop screen and a fabric dust cover for the mic grille, all located neatly in foam cut‑outs. The dark satin‑grey microphone itself nestles in a removable foam‑lined cardboard box, under which is stored the mains cable, various plug adaptors and a hard standmount.
The LCT 1040 microphone is fractionally larger than the 940, measuring 196 x 65 x 45mm. It’s also heavy in a ‘reassuringly expensive’ kind of way, at 652g, and as with its sibling, the microphone’s valve is on show through a window covering the lower front of the mic body. The capsule, with its striking lime‑green edge ring and centre termination screw, is also clearly visible through an open mesh grille. A 10‑pin female Hirose output socket is recessed into a stalk at the base of the mic.
A large and beautifully engineered C‑shaped shockmount is provided, making the suspended mic quite an imposing beast. A lever clamps the mic securely into place via its connection stalk, and it can be suspended upside‑down quite safely if desired. A double‑mesh pop screen clips in front of the mic’s grille using embedded magnets in the shockmount’s arms.
It’s often overlooked, but effective pop suppression relies on having still air in front of the diaphragm, and that’s achieved by spacing the pop screen away from the capsule. In the LCT 1040, the screen’s two mesh layers are spaced 15mm apart, with the inner mesh sitting 20mm in front of the mic’s own grille and roughly 35mm away from the diaphragm itself — an arrangement that proved extremely effective at trapping plosives and blasting.
With the heavy microphone in the shockmount, the centre of gravity is about 80mm in front of the standmounting thread, placing a considerable torque on the pivot. However, a second lever clamp fixes the shockmount at any desired angle very securely — droop is simply not an option here! Both the shockmount and simple hard mount come with their own 3/8‑inch to 5/8‑inch thread adaptors.
Unusually, the supplied mains cable is an IEC‑IEC (C13‑C14) type, and a set of four grounded adaptor plugs are provided to convert the lead for different international mains supplies. The four adapters suit USA/Canada (type B), Europe (type F), UK (type G) and Australia/China (type I) wall sockets. The power unit has a universal mains input accepting 100‑240 V AC and consumes around 30 Watts.
The power unit and remote control is finished in the same dark‑grey satin as the microphone, and measures around 240mm wide by 170mm deep and almost 100mm high. Although it is stored within the case as a single unit, the remote‑control section on the top can be detached from the power‑supply base by pressing a button at the front — but even when separated these two sections are still impressively solid units, with the remote weighing 1.9kg and the power unit almost 2.4kg.
Most connections are made directly to the power‑supply base, where there’s an IEC mains inlet with integrated on/off switch and fuse holder, two male XLRs for the audio outputs (the FET signal path on one and the blended signal on the other), a female Hirose mic connector, and a third three‑pin male XLR for linking the remote‑control panel. If the blend is set fully to the Tube side, the FET and valve signals can be recorded separately and blended in post‑production instead.
The only conventional socket on the removable remote‑control panel is a three‑pin female XLR at the rear. This is used to link the controller to the PSU base when the two are separated — any standard, directly wired, balanced mic cable (or studio wall‑box connection) can be used up to a maximum distance of 150 metres. Low‑voltage DC control signals pass over this XLR connection, which is ‘studio safe’. When the PSU and controller are clipped together, six spring contacts between the two sections pass the control data and an external XLR cable isn’t required.
LEDs on the controller and PSU sections indicate when mains power is present, when the mic is connected, when it is fully operational (after powering up, changing the polar pattern and so on), and when the controller is connected remotely. A button at the rear of the controller activates or disengages a system ‘sleep mode’, and also switches on or off the illuminated logo on the microphone itself.
As with most valve mics, the power unit is intended to be located near the mic in the studio. The supplied cable is 5m long, which should be plenty and, unusually, it can be connected either way around as both the mic and the power unit have female connectors (presumably to reduce the risk of connector damage — it’s a lot easier to replace a cable with bent connector pins than to replace a broken chassis connector!).
If you’re recording vocals in the control room, the remote‑control panel can remain affixed to the power unit. The mic connects to the base unit, and the audio outputs are routed to ordinary mic preamps. Naturally, the valve takes a little while to warm up and stabilise, but the Operational LED removes any doubt as to when the system is ready. In conventional studio applications the remote can be detached and taken into the control room, connected to the PSU using a spare mic tie‑line and some XLR cables (the control data passes freely through balanced patchbays, but not transformers or amplifiers).
Operation is very straightforward, and the rotary controls all feel solid and precise. The top three rotary switches adjust the valve configuration, high‑pass filtering and attenuation. Below these are two much larger continuous rotary controls, which adjust the FET/Tube blend and the polar pattern. The latter has detents at the standard hypocardioid, cardioid, and supercardioid positions, and as the same physical pot is used for the blend control, the detent positions correspond to the 25/50/75% blend positions.
Published specifications state that the mic’s sensitivity is a healthy 17.2mV/Pa (‑35.3dBV/Pa), while the self‑noise is a very respectable 10dB(A) for the FET channel and an impressive 13dB(A) for the valve channel. The maximum input level (for 0.5% THD) is a whopping 137dB SPL — and that’s with the attenuator at 0dB. This implies a nominal dynamic range of 127dB, and a maximum tolerated level (with the 24dB pad engaged) of an incomprehensible 161dB SPL!
It is often recommended that to really capture the best from a vocalist, it is crucial to find a vocal mic that complements their specific voice. The aim of the LCT 1040 is essentially to circumvent that need to experiment with different physical mics, since the mic’s whole tonal character can be adjusted radically, and in real time, from the remote control.
It’s difficult to put into words just how elegantly versatile this microphone is, but the Tube character labels do a pretty good job. Take your pick of clear, warm, dark or saturated, and blend in the fast, quiet and very precise FET contribution to taste.
This microphone exudes real class and quality... It’s a complete joy to use, even better to hear, and being able to literally dial in the required sound is a genuine revelation.
Whichever setting is selected, this microphone exudes real class and quality. It can sound rich, full‑bodied, and three‑dimensional in that larger‑than‑life way of really great mics. It can sound very vintage or very modern at the twist of a dial, serenely mellow or crisply precise, and anywhere in between. It’s a complete joy to use, even better to hear, and the ability to literally dial in the required sound is a genuine revelation. The LCT 1040’s striking physical presence in front of the vocalist will boost egos and help inspire confident performances, too.
Defining a product as the ‘Ultimate Microphone System’ is bold and ballsy... but having tried it, actually I think Lewitt fairly deserve the accolade. The LCT 1040 is a phenomenally impressive, versatile, super high‑quality microphone, with a unique feature set. It’s also packaged thoughtfully in a way that genuinely protects this serious investment, and the 10‑year warranty affirms Lewitt’s confidence in their flagship design, too.
If you’re seeking a versatile workhorse vocal microphone, and your budget allows, the LCT 1040 must top the wish‑list. Highly recommended.
There are several mic systems using various technologies that aim to emulate a variety of established microphones, but the LCT 1040 takes a different approach by providing different core tonalities and allowing the user to configure their own unique sound.
- Stunning sound with unique versatility.
- Innovative design with four selectable valve tonalities.
- Ability to blend the FET and valve sounds.
- Separate FET and Blend outputs for post‑production options.
- Elegant PSU/remote unit which can be split.
- A beautifully packaged mic system.
- 10‑year warranty.
- Only cost...
- …and the need for some weight training!
Lewitt’s flagship microphone celebrates the company’s 10th anniversary in style, with a unique set of features, in a beautifully engineered product that deserves its Ultimate Mic System accolade.