In our February 2012 issue we introduced Austria-based Lewitt Audio, a then brand new microphone company marrying European design with Asian manufacturing. As I mentioned in that review, Lewitt sprang up out of nowhere and hit the ground running with a full product line of unique-looking, well built and versatile microphones in every category, from stage-flavored dynamics to studio-focused condensers and even mics of the wireless variety.
Versatile indeed -- the Authentica LCT 640 I reviewed last year is a large-diaphragm studio condenser with 5 polar patterns, 4 levels of attenuation, 4 choices of low-end roll-off, and to top it off each of those controls is digitally controlled! And that was just the start... for this review we look at Lewitt's flagship kick-drum mic, the DTP 640 REX that continues the Lewitt versatility trend.
Dynamic or Condenser? Yes!
First up in the versatility department, the DTP 640 houses both a standard dynamic capsule as well as a small-diaphragm condenser capsule on top of it, with the two capsules in perfect phase alignment.
Of course this is not a new idea; Audio-Technica shipped just such a mic a decade ago with the AE2500 (reviewed December 2003). But Lewitt has added to the basic concept with some interesting tweaks of its own for more versatility; the DTP 640 REX adds a unique character voicing or Enhanced Frequency Response switch and two levels of padding.
Heavy and built like a tank
With all of those electronics inside and weighing over 27 oz. this is one of the heavier kick drum mics I have seen. The DTP is also quite sizable at 6.22" in length and 2.80" in diameter. The closest mic in its size and appearance class would actually be Shure's Beta 52A. In other words, if you plan on placing it inside of a sound hole on a boom close to the drumhead, you will need a nicely counter-weighted stand.
This mic is over-built and rugged, and does not give away its overseas origin at all, which so far is another trait I admire in the Lewitt line. The mic is finished in a matte black with the Lewitt logo in silver and green embossed on its backside. The mic capsules sit behind a large domed double mesh, foam-lined windscreen. On top of the body are the pair of recessed 3-position slider switches for the voicings (more on that in a minute) and the pad selections of 0, -10, and -20 dB
A built-in forward/rear pivoting mic mount sits on the bottom of the mic. It houses the XLR cable connection and mic stand threads, and is completed by a large knurled knob for positioning adjustments. The mic comes with your standard leatherette pouch and a special Y-cable that splits into separate outs for the two mic capsules -- this mic takes up two input channels of your mixer or preamp, because it's actually two mics.
Behind the dome
Behind the domed windscreen we start with the dynamic microphone that makes use of a 1.25" capsule. It has a stated 20 Hz to 16 kHz freq response with a healthy low-end boost centered from 50 to 70 Hz, a flat midrange, and top-end peaks of roughly 4 kHz and 12 kHz.
The condenser element is a 0.88" cardioid capsule that is listed as having a 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response. It is gently rolled off from 20 to 100 Hz and then flat up to peaks at 2.75 kHz and a smaller one at 15 kHz.
Combined, the mic has an equivalent noise level of 28 dBA and a max SPL of 170 dB when padded. As you can guess, the condenser element requires phantom power.
Quite the character
The frequency switches on top of the mic are marked =//= (FFR - Flat Frequency Response), +//= (Dynamic EFR - Dynamic Enhanced Frequency Response) and +//+ (Dual EFR - Dual Dynamic Enhanced Frequency Response).
The =//= is the flat and natural state of each capsule.
In the +//= setting the cardioid capsule remains the same, while the dynamic gets an extreme bass boost and a moderate high-end boost akin to many modern kick drum mics.
In the +//+ setting both capsules undergo an extreme makeover, if you will. The condenser mic boosts and focuses on 70 to 150 Hz, and the dynamic mic becomes just the opposite, focusing on 3 to 5 kHz.
This mic offers a plethora of mixing choices and I have only just scratched the surface. Not only do you get the choice of the frequency settings, but also blending the capsules in a mix offers endless possibilities, because with any two mics a 2 dB change in relative level can yield big sonic changes. Here are some of my initial uses and impressions.
In the mic's neutral position the sound is huge, and in a large subwoofer-equipped church sanctuary the low end from the DTP 640 REX rivaled my usual combination of Yamaha SubKick and Audix D-6. While the SubKick gives bass tones that are felt more than heard, the DTP was just overall rounder and larger sounding, enough so that a few folks after service asked what was different about the kick drum this week? And that they liked it!
I also made an initial mistake with the DTP; in our system I need to have the polarity flipped on the SubKick channel for it to sound right, and when I first hooked up the Lewitt, I forgot to flip it back and spent about 15 minutes trying to fruitlessly eq and tweak the mic's two capsules, thinking they sounded anemic and awful when combined. The moral of the story is simple: this isn't top vs. bottom snare here -- never flip the polarities of this mic's two channels with respect to each other!
In the studio I put the mic through its paces against a number of well-known modern mics, in various kick-drum situations as well as on a bass guitar amp cabinet.
Overall I was a bit surprised when listening to the dynamic mic by itself in its flat state, as it really did not sound like any of the other current mics on the market such as the Audix D6, Shure Beta 52A, AKG D112, or Audio-Technica ATM25LE. It's actually much fuller and, dare I say, more vintage sounding -- because unlike most of the above models it has no midrange scooping, nor is it as highly hyped in highs or lows as most kick-centric models.
As for the condenser capsule by itself, it is about as exciting as throwing a Shure SM81 on a kick drum, meaning it's just as lifeless. However, blending the two mics together is where the magic starts. In simple terms, the dynamic is your boom and the condenser captures a clean kick hit in a way a dynamic won't.
Inside the kick, right up on the head by the beater, the flat response was interesting and sounded like a big, thumpy vintage '60s kick with no front head... which was interesting as I had the front head on and the drum pretty tightly muffled. It was a thick and rubbery, almost AKG-ish sound. To get a more modern take in this mic position I found the Dual EFR setting worked best with the dynamic mic down 12 to 14 dB below the condenser.
Moving to the outside of the kick, FFR was very loose and vintage sounding, especially with all of the muffling removed. Here I found bringing the dynamic down about 3 dB added just the right amount of modern high end back in for a nice bit of attack. For a straight-up heavy modern rock sound I deadened the kick and used the middle Dynamic EFR (+//=) setting, this time with the dynamic 6 dB below the condenser.
Placing the mic in the sound hole of the drum was unfortunately problematic with a heavy-footed player, as I found that the condenser could sound a bit splatty and subject to extreme bursts of air focused through the hole when the drummer really laid into the head. However, just like using a Beta52A in this position, with the Lewitt the sound is similarly huge and powerful. Here I preferred the flat =//= and the middle +//= settings, this time with the condensor dialed down anywhere from -3 dB to completely out (which is a good way of saying the dynamic element alone sounds great here!). [Lewitt reports that it is aware of the air-blast issue and is looking into possible solutions.—Ed.]
I should also mention that this mic takes eq quite well. Beyond basic comparative tests, when used in actual live and studio sessions, I equalized it just like I would any kick drum track: boosting the lows, de-emphasizing the boxy low mids, and adding in some upper mid snap, and it sounded even better and was easily tailored to the mix.
Lastly I used the DTP 640 REX on a 15" bass amp on a cover of the Beatles' classic "Come Together", and came away with some interesting conclusions. I liked the flat setting with the condenser down 7 dB relative to the dynamic, and I loved the Dual mode, and even though the settings are the reverse of what you would expect, i.e. the dynamic handling the highs and vice versa, it sounded very full, distinct and natural. As for Enhanced Dynamic mode I found the hyped dynamic tone to be too exaggerated in the lows.
Bottom line, the DTP 640 REX is a fabulous and full-sounding mic capable of many kick drum colors. While it is not as hyped and specific as many of the modern kick mics we are used to, it hints at flavors and combinations that are quiet expressive and unique.
This is not a kick drum mic you would get bored with easily, and the best part is that all of this versatility can be had for a mere $299 street price, which is only slightly higher than some of the usual suspects.