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This article was originally published in issue #45
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A studio condenser that lets you select the pickup response after you've made your recording? Andi Picker returns from Hogwarts with a new spell...
First things first - check out the case this new Lewitt mic comes in. Review gear can have a hard life getting shipped around, and sometimes manufacturers and distributors will invest in high grade cases for their kit on the basis that it’s always good if it actually works when it reaches a reviewer. Well, Lewitt has packed the LCT640TS in a very impressive mil-spec shipping case, along with a shock-mount, pop shield, soft carry case and foam wind shield: the good news is that your mic will come in one too! That’s the “Best packed mic” award won then!
Next things next. This is purely personal, but I’m still coming to terms with 'clever' microphones. I like kit that does a thing, and if it needs a switch then let’s have a simple switch. The LCT640TS is a clever mic, in fact it’s a very clever mic, and it’s got clever switching to go with it.
What you have is a multi pattern LDC (Large Diaphragm Condenser) microphone, with a 1” capsule and fairly normal specs for noise, sensitivity, maximum levels etc – take a look at the details at the end of this review if you need that stuff. Soft-switching gives you three levels of pad, three levels of low-cut and five different polar patterns, so I guess they have a reason for not wanting to use old-world switches. Power the mic down and it will remember how you had it set, blast it with too much noise and the status indicator will flash red to warn you (and in case you miss it, it’ll remember so you can check later in the session). Get it just the way you want it and you can lock the settings so it doesn’t get adjusted when you move it. Oh, and if you need a pop shield, there’s a rather good perforated metal one that fastens onto the mount with a magnet.
So far then, we’ve got a well thought-out and attractive microphone that’s easy to use, but is it really that much different to the LCT640 that came-out several years ago. There’s got to be something else?
Oh yes! Switchable pickup patterns in microphones are generally achieved by having two capsules back-to-back. Both capsules are hit by the pressure waves of the sound that’s being recorded, and by adding their signals together in varying amounts, and with different polarities, the range of polar patterns is generated. Usually, these signals are summed together and output as a single source. What the LSC640TS does is to allow you to record the output from both signals individually, which means that you can add them however you like, after recording, so you can change the polar pattern of the mic. 'Fix it in the mix'? Yes you really can!
It’s not difficult to combine the tracks manually in a DAW, but Lewitt has produced a 'Polarizer' plugin for PC and MAC based DAWs that provides a simple interface to fine tune the patterns. You can even record stereo images with a single mic, with the obvious limitation that you can’t vary the angle of the capsules. The secondary output is from a mini 3-pin XLR output on the side of the mic, and I was initially a little concerned that the pins look as though they might be a bit fragile, but the socket is designed with a key that engages in the body of the plug on the supplied lead and by the time the pins are engaged, the plug is locked and can’t rotate to stress them.
That’s all very clever but what’s it like to use? Once you get it the right way round (hint – the switches go towards the source, which is the only way you can reach the secondary output socket when it’s in the cradle - ahem!) it’s got a very satisfying tonal balance, with enough weight to capture body, and enough brightness for bite and sizzle, but without the harsh/spitty top end that some modern condenser mics have.
Now it’s time for a confession; when I first heard about this mic I thought the adjustable polar pattern thing was a gimmick, something to stand-out from the crowd but not really of much use. Wrong! The ability to select the polar pattern in the context of a mix is absolutely brilliant – bear in mind that this isn’t some DSP trick, it’s the real thing, just like adjusting the mic at recording time but without the artist getting bored while you try to choose the best setting. Different polar patterns alter the sound as proximity and off-axis effects have more or less impact, but the Lewitt maintains its own identity throughout and presents a sound that’s somehow a bit polished.
As always with microphones, if you’re after something for a specific purpose, you need to check it with your source, but as a general-use mic for all sorts of studio jobs I think it’s an excellent piece of kit. Oh, and if you need a pair, you can just buy another one; Lewitt claims that their 'Perfect Match Technology' enables them to match all mics straight out of assembly!
This really is a genuine 'do it all' mic and it absolutely kicks ass – superb stuff!