Saturday, March 22, 2008

Neumann TLM 103. Good…Bad…Evil? How about GREAT!

So many TLM 103 users have bashed this mic on forums and blogs, it is just taken for granted. I mean, who wants to invest a grand when something less expensive will sound better? Wait a minute! We are talking about a Neumann tranformerless mic with the stated intended use for voiceover, aren’t we? Supposedly a less expensive and more purpose specific LDC than the revered U87.

These same questions bugged Josh Mahler and he tackled the mystery head on.

I had a 103 years ago and HATED it! But, I really do think that had to do with my studio at the time, and my inexperience with recording. When I first bought it, the living room of my one bedroom apartment was my studio with NO acoustic treatment, not even Auralex. Then I had a couple 2 bedroom apartments, with the spare bedroom as the studio, semi treated, but sounded like hell. But now, I'm in a room that has tons of DIY 2'x4'x4" bass traps along with super chunks in the front corners. So it's dead as hell. I can pretty much yell at the top of my lungs without an ounce of slap-back echo, and the frequency response of the room is 'relatively' flat.

So, my thought about the TLM now is that you REALLY have to have a properly treated recording space for this mic to sound its best. Granted, that goes for mic, but especially so for this mic IMO.

I'm telling you, the minute I played back the first line I recorded, I knew it was the mic for me.

Anyway, as far as the bad rap the TLM103 gets? I don't get it AT ALL. But it really is like TLM103 is a bad word. Almost as if it's right up there with the most derogatory racial slurs you can think of! Everyone says it's sizzly on voice, thin, harsh, too brittle, etc., etc. My impression was the opposite. Seemed to sound very full, with a fat low end, smooth high end, without a hint of harshness, but still clear at the same time. And that's on a voice that I consider to be very sibilant. I know why
so many guys use the TLM103, whether they admit it or not! ha ha

I've also heard the 103 is very particular about preamps. I've yet to try it with the Mbox2, Apogee or Mackie Onyx pres. I'll have to do that soon to see how much of a noticeable difference there is.
Good Room Acoustics….Match with the Right Preamp—There are too many pro studios using this mic successfully to dismiss it as unusable.
Listen to Josh’s test HERE.

5 comments:

Rob Ellis said...

I have always been intrigued by the TLM 103. All the bad press it got made it appeal to my rebellious side. It's like it was the black sheep of the Neumann family. But at the same time I knew that being a Neumann, it had to have some redeeming qualities.

When I first got it, it was too bassy and boomy. Once I got my room acoustics right, and turned down the input on the mic gain a little (duh), it started singing like a true Neumann. I am a huge fan of this mic!
Rob Ellis

vomictest said...

Don't you love it when your plan finally comes together like it is supposed to. All is right in the land. ....and Rob, you do sound good on the 103.

Daniel said...

May I ask at what distance do you guys usually get from the tlm103?

Nigel Wolovick said...

imo, its a bright mike, not best suited for vocals, good for other things like cymbals and when you want to pick up a lot of air (not really hip hop vocals because the whole upper register is very present.) It has a nice lower register but because of the highs on this mic it ends up sounding like a $150 made in china condenser, except its hotter with less noise and smoother response... but the tone quality is similar to every other bad condenser out there, which isnt good for most vocal applications, except maybe a beat boxer where you want to hear every little lip movement =) still a very useful microphone if used wisely.

Nigel Wolovick said...

imo, its a bright mike, not best suited for vocals, good for other things like cymbals and when you want to pick up a lot of air (not really hip hop vocals because the whole upper register is very present.) It has a nice lower register but because of the highs on this mic it ends up sounding like a $150 made in china condenser, except its hotter with less noise and smoother response... but the tone quality is similar to every other bad condenser out there, which isnt good for most vocal applications, except maybe a beat boxer where you want to hear every little lip movement =) still a very useful microphone if used wisely.