I’m Matt, and I was raised as a keyboard player and bassist in East Lansing, Michigan. While I had been experimenting with 4 track cassettes, early sampling keyboards, and drum machines throughout high school, my recording career really started with some college classes taught by a brilliant engineer named Glenn Brown, who has a passion for microphones and acoustic theory.
I ran project studios in Chicago and Cincinnati for many years. About 9 years ago, I decided to move Ice Cream Factory Studio to Austin, Texas. The music scene there is vibrant, the Mexican food is excellent, and the winters are warm.
Over the past 15 years of recording, usually on a shoestring budget, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find microphones that are affordable but sound outstanding. I’ve gone through a lot of different FET and tube condenser mics looking for a great all-around microphone that I can use for vocals, drums and percussion, piano, and anything else I can think of to put it on. Of all the modern tube mics I've tested, the LCT 840 fit my budget, and to me, it sounds a bit like a C12/U67 hybrid. In my opinion, that combination would be the holy grail of tube condenser mics.
My LCT 840 spends most of its time capturing vocals, like on this picture with singer Lincoln Durham.
Photo credits: Alex Masi - Swng Productions
Here’s an album by Belcurve (I play bass and keyboards in this group) with almost all the vocals recorded with the LCT 840. The only exception is the creepy sounding vocals in “Fish To The Hand,” which are recorded with a 1940s telephone plugged into a Leslie.
But I also use it as a mono drum room mic. I face the null point toward the middle of the kit and put it in figure 8 to get a room sound that’s perceptually bigger than the room it’s in. Here’s a sound sample of the LCT 840 on kick drum:
The chain is Bryan O’Flynn with a marching mallet > ’80s Pearl wood/fiberglass 24" kick > LEWITT LCT 840 (cardioid) > Manley Force Four preamp > SSL Alphalink converter
My thought process behind tracking the massive kick sound was that I wanted to get a totally mix-engulfing kick to add even more dramatic effect to this already very dramatic song (The Grandest Illusion by Jason Ludwig). The LCT 840 was able to clearly capture the attack of the mallet on the ’80s wood/fiberglass 24" Pearl kick drum, and also handle the wide range of frequencies this drum puts out. I wanted to ensure that all of the cool harmonic frequency content of the drum came through, so there was no way a standard kick mic like the AKG D12, Audix D6, Shure B52, or Sennheiser e602 would work. They would all get the fundamental and attack, but they all tend to cut out a lot of the harmonic frequencies that keep a really deep drum sounding interesting.
The LCT 840 also shines when placed about 2 feet from the center of the back of my 1908 Mason and Hamlin upright piano – the sound I get from that is uncannily similar to “Mrs. Mills”, the famous Abbey Road Steinway.
In July 2017, my studio merged with another Austin studio that was closing. As a result, our mic closet grew exponentially, so we’re now planning a shootout between the LCT 840 and a Telefunken ELA M 251, Neumann M49, U47, and U67, and AKG C24. I started on a shootout to see how it sounded against the other mics. I only got as far as a spoken test and a little acoustic guitar. It sounds quite good up against the vintage mics. The most noticeable differences I've heard are that the LCT 840 has a much heavier low end and a less bright high end. It's pretty similar to the U47 in some ways. If I use the low-cut filter it starts to sound more like the U67. I used it a few days ago in conjunction with an EV RE27 on upright bass, and really liked the sound of the two blended. It also seems to handle loud vocals a little more evenly than the M49.
All photo credits: Alex Masi - Swng Productions