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Review: Neumann TLM-103 Studio Microphone

If you’ve always wished you could record your vocals with a U87 – is this mic the next best thing?

Item: Neumann TLM-103 Studio Microphone
Price: $1099 (US), £749 (UK)
Our Rating: 4.5/5

At A Glance: Over the years, Neumann have produced some of the most popular high-end microphones that are used in recording studios. Although a lot of these great sounding mics are often out of the budget of many musicians, their TLM range is designed to offer Neumann quality and classic sounds, but at a more affordable price point. The TLM-103 is a large diaphragm microphone designed for professional and semi-professional applications. Its capsule is derived from the one used in their U 87 microphone and it comes with a fixed cardioid pattern, making it a good choice for vocal recording.

High Notes: Despite its relatively low cost, the TLM-103 is a professional sounding microphone that is built to a quality standard that you would expect of a high-end microphone. On vocals it is capable of capturing a detailed and clear sound that picks up every nuance of your performance. It has a largely flat frequency response up to 4kHz, however there is a high frequency boost to help what you are recording cut through the mix a bit. Although most people will buy the mic primarily for vocal recording, the TLM-103 can also work well on instruments from acoustic guitar to percussion (although getting the right placement can be key).

Off Pitch: To get the best out of the mic you are going to need a good quality preamp (and a nice sounding room). Its bright tonality won’t necessarily be to everyone’s taste and it can sometimes makes voices sound a bit sibilant; however this can be easily tamed with a de-esser.

VoiceCouncil Reviewer Says: The TLM-103 is a lovely sounding mic that offers great value for money in comparison to a top of the range Neumann. That said; as good as it is, it’s still not a vintage U87 and it may not be enough to stop you longing for one! In order to cut costs, Neumann haven’t included some of the features you might find on other microphones such as variable polar patterns, a low-cut filter or an attenuation pad; however for most vocal recording applications this is an acceptable compromise. Overall, if you have dreamed of owning a Neumann microphone to record your vocals at home, the TLM-103 is definitely worth considering.

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.neumann.com/

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Chris Kennedy is the principle technology reviewer for voicecouncil.com. Chris is a musician in the United Kingdom – you can see more about this work at www.chriskennedymusic.co.uk You can also see more articles by Chris here.

  • Totally agree, this give the U87 a serious run for it’s money. Have used it in several sessions and love everything about it!

  • Dennis Barrington

    The reviewer is spot on. This is a sibilant mic and you long for a U87. I got the U87 and man I don’t have to fight to get a great sound. The TLM103 really needs a tube slow compressor to help it out a bit. Some preamp with character (Neve 1073 was the one for me,UA 610 wasn’t always the best, I liked the 2A comp) It was great for background vocals and breathy takes on my male voice, but was terrible on acoustic guitar and many of my vocals. The U87 just works on both (again nice preamps/comp) and not much mixing left to do. The TLM103 requires some work come mix time to fight those elevated high end issues and still sound natural. I found it rather harsh on it’s own w/o a good preamp/comp.

  • Sound Breaking Productions

    The Neumann TLM 103 is an amazing microphone. We currently have two in our studio and would recommend them to anyone looking for the true Neumann sound. Here is our review of it on our website!