Neumann can be undoubtedly named as one of the most recognizable microphone brands, especially in professional circles and this is far from being an accident. The company has a long history – it survived the World War II to bring forth the first-ever commercial condenser mic and eventually set quality standards for the whole industry. Neumann mics remain to be the top-notch up to day, but what’s even more important is that they have their own distinctive and inimitable sound, produced by nothing else. Such is the Neumann TLM-103, which we’re going to review in this article.
Probably the first thing you should know about TLM-103 is that it belongs to the high-end range of condenser microphones, hence it will never be affordable for everyone. On the other hand, when it comes to professional recording all the equipment suddenly triples and quadruples in price, and microphones are not an exception. Thus a thousand-dollar Neumann mic may easily become another necessity tool rather than being something whimsy. Moreover, this model also offers a probably best pound for pound price for its class. But as always, it all depends on your needs and ears.
The sound and quality
Talking of ears, TLM-103 uses a superb quality capsule derived from a more expensive Neumann model. It has a large diaphragm, which measures 26 mm in diameter, and it is so sensitive that it captures even the faintest sounds you’d never notice otherwise. Note, in such situation, good acoustics is a must. Sometimes it may require an upgrade, so it’s better to be prepared. However, you should never take it as a negative aspect of the mic. In fact, the sound characteristics are so good and clear, it can be compared to an X-Ray that flashes through your entire equipment, revealing its weakness.
TLM-103 sound is exceptional: it offers a remarkable detail clarity along with excellent dynamics. The sounds recorded with this mic sound vivid and lively. Try comparing it with a hundred dollar range mic in a good studio environment and the cheaper device will suddenly sound dull and lifeless. This Neumann mic also captures even slightest inflections that are otherwise imperceptible with low-priced mics. Beware that any speech defects may also get more audible. In such cases, it may take some time to get used to. However, when you perfect your techniques it will indeed sound only better.
Frequency response is another great asset of Neumann TLM-103. Although it does produce a slight accentuation when it comes to higher range pitches, this isn’t very crucial for most of the uses. For the rest of the range though, it gets a very stable curve with a perfect spectrum. If you compare the frequency responses for the one hundred dollar range mics, you will often see that the curves are highly inconsistent. Therefore, some manufacturers don’t even bother including that info on their websites. No wonder such microphones sound like crap.
Among other advantages, the large diaphragm of TLM-103 helps to achieve an excellent signal-to-noise ratio. However, just like all large diaphragm mics, this one requires some extra care about the placement. Experimenting with the best position will be a sane idea, as it can both improve and worsen the overall quality dramatically. Proximity effect would be one of the factors in the equation. Ideally, you would need to keep some distance from the mic, and yet even if you get too close you’re still very unlikely to sound distorted or overblown. Overall, it’s pretty much balanced.
Neumann TLM-103 will be a great addition for anyone striving to achieve a clean professional sound and this model is very hard to dislike. It may take some time to adjust but its numerous benefits will truly worth it. The microphone has its own sound, which is full of life but also crisp and well defined. It can improve and enhance your voice, and it’s certainly musical. High sensitivity, good frequency response and low noise levels also earn it a lot of credit. If you have the budget, it will totally worth the purchase! The only thing to remember: don’t forget about the necessary equipment and accessories.