The GS moderators have asked me, for technical reasons, to split this review into two separate ones. I am away for work right now, and will do that as soon as I will be back to base
The Lewitt microphones I have reviewed so far were all numbers from the upper segments of their stable, all of which have become quite indispensable tools in my workflow.
The upper end Lewitt mics are favourably priced considering the excellent sound and plentiful features, though I wouldn’t exactly call them inexpensive.
The two mics I have here now are Lewitt’s shot at the very competitive entry level LDC market: The LCT 440 Pure, priced at around 269 Euros, and the LCT 240 Pro, which sells at around 149 Euros.
I have to point out that I’ve been out of touch with what is available in the segment of entry level LDCs, and going by the memories I had of inexpensive mics from the early 2000s I wasn't expecting too much. That I quickly proved myself to be so wrong is a testament on how fast design and manufacturing techniques have evolved, and of the care that pro-active new companies like Lewitt put in every product they put out.
I threw both mics right in at the deep end as I received them in a busy period - so this is not a detailed test, though I hope others will benefit from the examples and my personal impressions.
Both microphones, in order to maximize the price quality ratio have none of the sophisticated features of Lewitt’s more expensive brothers. In fact they are both rather spartan – you’ll find no pads and low cut filter buttons and certainly nothing like the overload protection and clip memory present on my other Lewitts. There are also no illuminating logos to signal that phantom power is present. Not everybody likes little lights on their microphones - personally I do as they help me troubleshoot those ever recurring “sound of silence” moments.
However, if I was buying my first LDC I’d much, much rather go for something where all the budget and thought has been channeled into the sound quality, and skip on extra goodies that can always be worked around.
A pad button on a microphone is reassuring to have but rarely necessary (and with 140 dBSPL for the 440 Pure and 142 dBSPL for the 240 Pro it is extremely unlikely that you will ever need a pad in a project studio setting, unless you plan to have Godzilla star in your next record) and though a low cut filter is something that I would keep engaged when recording vocals, its always possible to apply a filter when mixing, if necessary.
They come in a cardboard box with a soft pouch. With the LCT 440 Pure you also get the excellent Lewitt semi-circular shock mount and the same nifty (and effective) magnetic popper stopper that comes with the LCT 640 TS.
The LCT 240 Pro comes with a simple yet solid rubberised stand adaptor, however it fits in the shock mount perfectly, so if Lewitt sells it separately (they should) you could always buy it at a later stage.
The LCT 240 Pro, from what I see, is also available in white. I’d rather have the black version anytime!
The build quality is superb, as I have come to expect, with a dense, reassuringly heavy, metal body and a very solid basket. Looking inside the basket it’s easy to spot what is probably the main difference between the two mics: whilst the LCT 440 Pure sports a white, 25.4 mm capsule that looks very much like the one found on it’s more expensive siblings (is it the same one? - it does sound like it is…), the LCT 240 Pro’s capsule is a smaller 17mm type.
To compare the two on vocals, sung and spoken, I recorded two snippets with both mics positioned as close as possible on a small bracket and the LCT 240 Pro in one of the shock mounts of my LCT 550s, in order to keep the capsules at the same level. Vocals were courtesy of the excellent Arianna Robertson. The first thing that comes across is that the LCT 440 Pure has (unsurprisingly) way more output, and a more neutral quality, with that excellent smooth yet clear balance that I’ve come to see as a trademark Lewitt voicing. It might not be quite as refined as it’s more expensive brothers but the family voice is all there. There’s absolutely nothing that would give away it’s affordable price.
The LCT 240 Pro, with it’s smaller capsule, is voiced a bit more like I would expect an entry level microphone to sound - don’t get me wrong I’d have no problems if I had to do some serious recordings with this microphone - but the slightly hyped highs might work well with some voices and less so with others. On the other hand, if this mic will work on your vocalist, it would need very little tailoring to fit in a mix.
On a quick spoken word sample, the outcome was, for me, the same. I prefer the LCT 440’s smoother and more malleable output, but the LCT 240 works pretty well too. Both would make terrific podcast microphones – the 240’s more cutting sound might actually work well for those who are not prepared or willing to fiddle with eq in post.
I’ve been using the fantastic Lewitt LCT 640 TS in stereo mode as my microphone of choice for drum overheads for the past few months. The instrumental booth in my little studio boudoir is tiny and a big drum set can be a squeeze. With the LCT 640 TS, placed over the left shoulder of the drummer from behind, I get a fantastic, no compromise overhead sound and save the space that using two mics would occupy. For this example I placed the LCT 440 Pure on a short bracket, parallel to the 640 DM to see how it would perform as a mono overhead.
Very well, it turns out. Sorry for not having tested the LCT 240 Pro on this, but it was a busy session and I just couldn't squeeze three microphones in there.
Though it’s hard to compare a stereo track with a mono one, it seems to me that the LCT 440 Pure is in a similar ballpark with the LCT 640 TS, with the same ability to capture the full spectrum of the drums with detail that is clear and natural and most importantly never straining or harsh, particularly on the cymbals. The drums are played by the brilliant London drummer Tom Clarke.
Next, I recorded some congas and bongos with the new mics. They both worked really well, listen for yourself. Again, I prefer the more linear capture of the LCT 440 Pure, because I could shape it the way I want it when mixing, but the slightly more cutting rendition of the LCT 240 Pro leaves nothing to be desired.
Acoustic guitar was quite a revelation – on this particular guitar (a Guild D-150) I actually preferred the zingier, slightly more forward capture of the LCT 240 Pro. That surprised me since I was expecting the more cutting voice of the 240 to bring up maybe too much grit and string noise, whereas it proved to be perfect. My wiser self would steer me towards the LCT 440 Pure and a touch of eq in the mix, but maybe it’s the inner nerd rather than the wiser self. If you are primarily interested in recording acoustic guitar both of these mics would be great budget choices, with the 240 giving ready to go results and the 440 something to satisfy the mix fiddler.
Electric guitars and LDCs can be a marriage made in hell - I’ve mostly used ribbons or condenser on my amps – having said that since I had my two LCT 550s and the LCT 640 TS I’ve been less shy at aiming condensers at a speaker, since the Lewitts capture a lot of detail without that white noise harshness that can be so annoying on guitar tracks.
I had good hopes for the LCT 440 Pure, and, I admit, less so for the LCT 240 Pro, but they both surprised me.
On this clean track the recording chain is Jazzmaster> Celmo Sardine Can Compressor> Malekko ID 600 Dark (for a touch of delay) > Fender Deluxe Reverb.
Sounds great, there are differences between the two but I would be happy with both.
On this fuzzy guitar example the chain was Jazzmaster> Zvex Fat Fuzz Factory > Celmo Sardine Can > Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret Mark III > Fender Deluxe Reverb.
Again both sound, really, really good to me. I’d go for the LCT 440 Pure because that’s my taste but I’d have no problem using either.
So, which one to get? If you can spare or save the extra 120 Euros, I'd go for the LCT 440 Pure. It’s a mic for life that will earn it’s keep even when you will have pricier numbers in your locker. Like it’s more expensive Lewitt siblings it captures a sweet and solid audio picture where all the elements of the source are there and can be sculpted to suit the mix. Using a photographic analogy, it’s a bit like working with a RAW file rather than a jpeg that has been already processed and compressed for you. It’s not quite as refined as the more expensive numbers in the Lewitt range, but it allows you to achieve similar results for quite a lot less money. It responds beautifully to eq and I can see it delivering in just about any situation it would be thrown at in a project studio.
Having said that, at 149 Euros the LCT 240 Pro is a fantastic entry level microphone. If you budget is monumentally immutable you can rest assured that there will be nothing in your recordings that will make people think “cheap”. It works well on many sources, excels on acoustic guitar and is built as microphones costing several times the price.
We’re living in good times - when it comes to gear at least – just a few years ago this level of performance for this kind of money would have been the stuff of dreams…