About the Neumann TLM 103 Condenser Microphone
Neumann’s TLM 103 Condenser Microphone is a large diaphragm condenser microphone, geared toward studio use. Neumann is a premier microphone manufacturer, founded in Germany in the 1920’s, and they have since made a name for themselves as producers of high end, high priced microphones. The Neumann U87 is widely considered to be one of the best vocal mics for recording studios, and in 1997, the company introduced the Neumann TLM 103 as an affordable, less fully featured alternative to the U87.
The Neumann TLM 103 is a condenser mic, meaning it has a diaphragm that requires external power (called “phantom power”) to operate. Condenser microphones are useful for studio applications where you want to capture detail, like lead vocals or acoustic instruments. They large capsule is sensitive to incoming sound, and are quite delicate compared to the typical stage vocal mic. That means that condenser microphones are typically relegated to use in the studio.
Who is the Neumann TLM 103 for?
The TLM 103 is a great microphone for producers and engineers looking for a high quality microphone for recording vocals and instruments. The TLM 103 is a high quality product offering from a premium brand, so any professional studio and producer should feel comfortable adding it to their microphone locker.
The Neumann TLM 103 falls in the higher end of the “prosumer” category, offering a high quality product that’s in reach of home studio producers, while being nice enough for the commercial studio owner. If you’re someone who wants to record high quality vocals, voiceovers, or a studio owner, the TLM 103 is a solid choice.
Neumann TLM 103 Features
The Neumann TLM 103 features the Neumann’s K 103 large diaphragm capsule, which is based on the classic U87’s capsule. The mic only offers the cardioid polar pattern, meaning it rejects sound from the back of the mic. While the U87 offers three polar patterns, the cardioid polar pattern of the TLM 103 is what you’ll want to use for almost every application (close micing of vocals, recording instruments).
You can basically can think of the TLM 103 as a simpler version of the U87, allowing you to use it for the most practical reasons. When you compare the price of the TLM 103 to the over $3,000 price tag of the U87, it becomes an attractive option for producers and engineers that want to record vocals and acoustic instruments.
The TLM 103 features an easy screw-on holder, allowing you to attach it to a mic stand without a shock mount. Internal rubber buffers allow the mic to have a level of built-in shock absorption. It’s also super light-weight compared to other condensers with a similar sound. That makes it a great choice for drum overheads, since it’s easy to hoist them up on a mic stand. The TLM 103 doesn’t come with a pop filter, so you’ll need to grab one.
How does the Neumann TLM 103 sound?
The TLM 103 is a transformer-less microphone. Its lack of transformers leads to a more transparent, un-colored sound. While some microphones are chasing overly colored tones by adding tubes and transformers to the signal flow, the TLM 103 is a clean, true-to-the-ear sound.
That makes the Neumann TLM 103 a great choice for applications where you want to capture the true sound of what you’re recording. It’s a go to mic for instruments like violin, cello, and horns, where you want to get clean recordings of great sounding performances.
This transparency makes the Neumann TLM 103 a great choice for a catch-all mic. While it may seem like it lacks some character compared to some other microphones that add more color, it also is rarely the wrong mic for any source. This makes it a fantastic “set up and go” microphone. It’s fantastic for recording almost any singer, most acoustic instruments, and a stereo pair makes great drum overheads or orchestra mics.
The TLM 103 has a self noise level of 7 dB A, making it one of the quietest condenser mics on the market. For comparison’s sake the Warm Audio WA-47 has a self noise level of 11dB A, and the Slate ML-1 has a self noise level of 17 dB A. That means you can really turn up the gain on the TLM 103 without adding any noise the the signal. This makes it a great choice for recording delicate performances from quiet singers, or a great mic for recording an orchestra.
The Neumann TLM 103 is a fantastic, clean sounding microphone with low noise, a great sounding capsule, and a sound profile that suits almost any instrument or voice. Overall, it’s a high quality mic that will capture the detail and nuance of the performance you’re recording.
Other condenser mics to consider
If you’re looking for a high quality vocal mic that’s a little bit less expensive, the Aston Spirit is worth checking out.
Coming in at a much lower price point, the Spirit also has a built in shockmount and pop filter, making it a breeze to set up. The Aston Spirit is a great choice for someone looking for a great mic at a lower price point than the TLM 103 for home recording.
If you want something with a little more character, the Warm Audio WA-47 is a tube microphone with a lot more color.
Coming in at a similar price point, the WA-47 uses a vacuum tube to power the capsule of the microphone. This adds a lot of harmonic richness and color to the sound you’re recording, which is a stark contrast to the super clean TLM 103.
If you want to explore some other similar mics at other price points, we have a condenser mic buyers guide with options for every budget!
Final Thoughts on the Neumann TLM 103
The Neumann TLM 103 is a high quality, pro recording studio microphone in a slightly more affordable package. While it’s lacking some features of its big brother, the Neuman U87, it shares a similar capsule and sounds great out of the box.
Its transparent sound, along with its low noise level, means it checks all of the technical boxes for making high quality, commercially competitive recordings. The Neumann TLM 103 is a great addition to any studio or home studio’s mic locker, and it’s the best value mic that Neumann has on offer!