Make / Model: Neumann TLM-103
For years, Neumann microphones cost thousands of dollars. However, in the early 2000s, Neumann decided to make a more affordable mic. Called the TLM-103, it featured Neumann’s transformerless design (the TLM part) designed for ‘transparency’. And it featured one of their standard capsules, but with a Cardoid-only pattern. This was how Neumann was able to make it affordable. That and a smaller body. Still German made, still made in the same German factories. Still receiving the same QC as any other Neumann. And it came with a wooden Neumann box. It was pretty amazing they did this, as many companies would have cut corners all OVER THE PLACE on this mic. Neumann, however, said fuck that.
The result? A very decent, large diaphraghm condensor microphone in the Cardoid pattern. As this pattern is pretty useful for most applications, and useful for the person recording in a bad room, this Mic became a hit with the home studio crowd. As it should. However, there is one little issue with this. If your room sucks enough that you need a cardoid, you probably also want a dynamic, not a condensor, as the latter will incomporate more ‘room sound’ into the signal than a dynamic version of the same pattern.
Regardless, I used this mic mostly in the studio, as well as in a well-treated home studio, and the results were fantastic.
Because of the TLM aspect, this mic was deceptively quiet. Paired with something like a Hardy M-1, it can be quite a jarring experience switching between this mic and any other mic, even something like a U89. The sound seems to come from nothing, because of the lack of sublte coloring usually inherent in mic transformers, usually from self-noise, that you don’t really notice, until you listen to something without it.
This mic was super useful on vocals, and some acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and even drums.
It has that ‘Neumann sound’, which is an odd yet familiar upper midrange response, but it works and sounds good. However, as with most Neumann’s there are sources where that midrange characteristic will simply sound HORRIBLE. So my working MO, was to have this, and it’s polar opposite, an AKG 414 TLII, and between them, one of them would be brilliant on the source. It really is that simple.
Overall, a great mic, not just a cheap mic, and useful on it’s own strengths. The only drawback I’ve found outside of the characteristic Neumann sound and it’s work or not work appliaction to source, is the lack of pattern select. Which is the main reason the mic is affordable. So it’s kind of a mute point.