Published by Reveirg on 4th December 2011
Neumann TLM 103
The Neumann TLM-103 is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone suitable for all kinds of work, but especially useful for vocals, acoustic guitar and wind instruments.
I've mostly used it on vocals, and find it to really shine for that use. It has a very nice, sparkly top-end, that doesn't become too harsh if used the right way. I'm a particularly sibilant singer, but simply placing myself a bit off axis from the microphone fixes all sibilance problems with the TLM103. I've used it with a few female singers who were an even better match. I rarely have to EQ at all most of the time, and when I do, I find that the TLM103 is a mic that can be EQed very well.
Nice proximity effect if wanted. I personnally use it with the LA-610 mic-pre/compressor, which is a bit of a dark pre. I find the mic to become a bit too bright when use with my cleaner SSL pre from my Nucleus.
It's also worth noting that this kind of condenser microphone requires to have a nice room, or at least a reflection filter of some kind. I doubt the TLM-103 would sound good in a poorly treated bedroom.
Overall, a fantastic vocal mic that can also shine for many other instruments. Not the cheapest, and not as good as a U-87, but it's definitely a winner for those who can afford it.
By Preme Diesel on 4th December 2011
Great Mid Level LDC Mic
This was my first "real" mic purchase, stepping up from the Chinese mic market, and has served me very well. I use it primarily on vocals, where it sometimes even beats out a u87 on certain sources that call for a bright tone.
Excellent quality for the price.
Bright tone is great for a crisp pop vocal sound.
Takes EQ well.
On some voices, sounds very very similar to u87.
It's bright nature can mean sibilance problems for certain voices. But like the first reviewer noted, changing mic position/axis is generally a pretty easy fix.
Not great on many acoustic instruments, including acoustic guitar.
Non switchable polar pattern.
Started with one, and now we have a stereo pair at the studio, because its affordable and they are great mics. Even with u87's in the house, these still find use. I would recommend anyone starting out their mic collection to consider the TLM103.
By gjbass on 6th December 2011
For vocals this mic is exceptional; clean and detailed with plenty of headroom at 138dB max SPL and a dynamic range of 87 dB. The bass frequency response of this mic is focused and clear with no muddiness while the treble end sings brightly without a “ceiling”. This mic can also capture nuances of performances that would be lost on plenty of lesser mics (sensitivity at 1 kHz into 1 kohm - 23 mV/Pa). It is these subtleties that separate recording a person singing & an individual's voice, in my opinion.
The TLM 103 has a great signal-to-noise (87 dB A weighted) ratio too with no self noise at all.
I recently recorded a six part vocal harmony, all delivered by the same artist and although I am lucky to be recording a stellar vocalist the mic needed no eq what so ever. I just cleaned up the edit, panned, and mixed levels. It was a male vocalist in the style of R&B with plenty of falsettos, but this mic has handled loud hard-core rappers with the same ease and clarity while maintaining a clean undistorted sound.
I've used this mic to record room drums, trumpet, flute, and acoustic guitar and it has excelled in all fields with the same brilliant detail I’ve come to expect. I highly recommend this mic for anyone starting their own studio, it provides the level of professional recording Neumann’s reputation has earned, and at around $1000 it is one of the best values. I gave it a 6 for features because it doesn't have multiple polar patterns, or pads and filters however, that's not what this mic was designed for and if you're looking for one good vocal mic this is it.
By mikeg09 on 6th December 2011
I do not own a TLM 103 but I used one in an audio class I took in college last year and I was amazed by the quality. We were doing a project recording a commercial and doing voice over’s for it. We were running pro tools and using monitors. I eqed the mic a little and boosted up some low mids on my voice which is very deep. People say that this mic can be bright but for my voice, it was perfect for that reason. Really put some kind of nice "shine" on my voice. I’m sure it also has a lot to do with the fact that its made by Neumann. The preamp we ran it through was transparent as well. We were using the preamps inside of the Digidesign Mbox 2 for pro tools which is around $550.00. There were no extra features on the mic though. There were no selectable patterns to pick from like most other microphones. I think it comes in the cardioid pattern automatically. It is a very small mic and does not weigh too much but weighs more than what it looks like it does. I would definitely buy one in the future for that clean sound. Very versatile as well.
By guitarz on 6th December 2011
Bought this mic in 1998 and it came in a nice wooden box with the Neuman Logo and a adapter for the stands. I love these nice details, nothing like a wooden box to impale a sense of greatness to a mic
The only thing I miss is that it didnt include a shock mount, but for the price of this mic its understandable.
I was using at the time an U87 I had as a loan. The TLM 103 was brighter, had more output and way less noise that the U87.
Actually the singer I was recording back then sounded better through the TLM103 that through the U87
By all accounts this is a really incredible mic... if you happen to have one of the early units. I dont have any experience in the newer ones but I have seen several reports about vocals sounding thin and harsh.
The old unit I have sounds bright and forward but not sounding harsh at all. It is really good in my opinion for the modern in your face vocals that you are currently listening in pop/rock productions these days.
What the mics lacks a bit is in the mids specially bass-mid.
But for the price it allows for really pro-sounding recordings with the use of and EQ to compensate a bit for the lack of body.
I have one of the early units from the 90s it sounds great even when compared to much more expensive mics.
By mista min on 8th December 2011
Broadcast mic perfection.
Point and shoot! This cardioid mic is a wonderful addition to any radio station or voice over studio's setup! It is great because of it's sweet proximity effect and is as easy to use as any cardioid only solid state mic should be, all you do is add phantom power and turn up the gain!
The TLM-103 is a FET amplified, transformer-less balanced microphone, no fancy tubes or pieces of iron in here! But what you do get is a perfectly designed grill, beautiful body and one of the best capsules manufactured on planet Earth.
The microphone itself is featureless and doesn't have any pad's, filters or extra patterns, but in cardioid you'd be pressed to fine another microphone that sounds so well on voice for the money, regardless whether it's radio, commentators, voice over or even rap. When it comes to the human voice it excels; however, it is not my first choice for a singer. It can be used for that and if it is the only the mic in the locker and can do almost anything, but for singers, there are better mics for less; same goes for most instruments.
However, for drums it can be a great multipurpose tool! Snare, hihat, overheads, front of kick, mono room mic, and toms (boy oh boy toms!) this mic can do it all! I wouldn't necessarily use it for that, just incase the drummer misses and hit the mic, since replacement head cost's about $400 if I'm not mistaken. Still, for toms it is wonderful, floor tom too.
Overall, this mic is a great intro mic to the Neumann brand so as to get clients in studios and wonderful tool. Two thumbs way up!
By coffeecup77 on 8th December 2011
Had a TLM-103 since 2004, have used it on 3 albums.
Well ... wish I had had an SM-7 or an RE-20. It's a good entry in the LDC world but I recommend comparing with others of that family or another, before buying. Or better, shoot it out with the 2 mentionned above coupled with a tube pre, you're probably in for a surprise.
Compared it with a Shure KSM 353 (I know it's a ribbon, so what ?), did 6 lead vocal tracks with 3 different preamps, resetting the pres each time at best for the take.
The takes were always the same verse and chorus.
Preamps were Avalon 737, TL Audio Dual Valve Eq and R.Neve Portico II channel strip.
Of course, this is blind listening with the engineer mixing up the tracks, playing (for example) mic 1 into pre A for the verse, then swapping, on the fly, to mic 2 into the same pre A for the chorus, etc ... Also sometimes faking a swap, just to make sure the impressions are real and not influenced by the track change, AND, as much as possible, listening with eyes closed.
Listening for an hour, jotting down our fav list from 1 to 6, taking a long coffee & cig break outside, eating a bit, coming back in for another listen and fav-listing a second time.
My favorite track ? Both times, the 353 in the TLAudio.
Would I buy it again today ? Nope, I would rather buy the 2 dynamics named above and couple those with a great tube pre, and save up a little longer, then buy a real high-end LDC.
Last edited by coffeecup77; 8th December 2011 at 11:02 PM.. Reason: wrong word
By bxt403 on 9th December 2011
This mic is a necessary evil in the studio.
This mic is one of those pieces I had to buy in order to get people into the door through brand recognition , since it was my only option for a real Neumann mic (although the TLM102 has been made to fill in the lower price gap/prosumer niche- the 103 still seems to be their budget professional mic). The sound is great- however there is a HUGE luxury tax you're paying for the bragging rights of owning a 103. Yes, it has great sound and is a swiss army knife in the studio- the price is ridiculous if you compare what many other great sounding mics you can get for a fraction of the price of the 103 (new or used).
This mic does become a much better value if you can find it used (I got mine for around $850 CND). I'm a little surprised so many people give it a 10 for bang for the buck, although I suspect that's a justification for them for paying so much for it. Yes it is a Neumann- and much like the luxury tax/bragging rights you get from buying a BMW or Apple computer- you can be 100 percent confident that it is going work as advertised.
This mic is definitely a great value used (although be sure to sterilize the metal grille to get rid of all those nasty germs from the previous owner). If you're buying new- IMHO there are way more mics out there that are a better value. As mentioned before by another reviewer- if you want a professional entry into LDC Neumann mics: for all intents and purposes, this is it.
By cronus on 9th December 2011
I love this mic for almost all the vocals I have ever recorded (In fact my vocals were the only ones that I found didn't do it for me). It sounds a little bright on most acoustic guitars I have used it on (with the exception of the martin D-16)
As nice as this mic is on some sources, when it sounds bad on a source it sounds UBER bad.
All in all this is an awesome mic for the money.
By piperopigeon on 2nd January 2012
This is a great mic. Not just for the money, but in general. It has an even tone, with good low-mid definition. I use it primarily on male hip hop vocals; it has a tendency to make them larger and more pronounced in the mix. I also use it as a drum room mic. It takes EQ well and is generally very forgiving.
By doug hazelrigg on 11th January 2012
I don't think there's a single piece of gear that's generated more debate than this microphone -- it's either loved or despised.
Let me brief:
>nice on acoustic guitar, there's a natural compression that fits this application
>on vocal it's problematic to get position/distance right, compared to other LDC's... the mic has a boxy quality at the wrong position
>a bit hyped on the high end
By brianellefson on 12th January 2012
TLM 103 Needs a Hug
I've owned this mic for 3 years and use it on my own voice. I don't operate a studio, but I do my own recordings at home and enjoy a nice little career in music (for the time being).
I run this mic through a Universal Audio M610 and sometimes a GAP Pre 73. That vocal chain works the best for my own voice, but there was a trick that really helped it all out ..........
May not suit everyone or every occasion, but I found that addressing the mic from a bit of an angle tweaked things in a really nice way. It seemed to take just a slight edge off of the higher frequencies. I've also used it on acoustic guitars with really good results. Works nicely with the M610 and GAP Pre 73. Works fantastic as a room mic, as well.
For sound samples, you can listen to any of my tracks at Brian Ellefson - all vocals with the exception of the song Girl were recorded with the TLM 103.
By KIRKSOUND on 14th January 2012
I used this mic in the Studio of our local Community College (recording class). This was supposed to be the premier Vocal Mic of our selection. I had not read or heard anything about it, but assumed that with a name like Neumann,
it would of course yield spectacular results. I assumed wrong. Giving the mic the benefit of the doubt, it may do a better job placed a little farther from the vocalist (like at least a foot!) It was like his voice was hitting a concrete wall.
The signal was put through a Presonus ADL 600 Pre, and I used ProTools with a Control 24 Work Station (A chain that offered a good chance for the mic to do well).
I have a $500 Audix LDC mic that beats this thing hands down! There was no time for a do-over (using the Audix..) or I certainly would have. My conclusion, save your money, and get an M-149.
By IGive'nTakeInfo on 22nd January 2012
It's nice to have the Neumann name in your mic locker. It also looks the part. It's a bit over priced when you consider other mics in the market that perform very similar. This is a clean sounding mic, perhaps a bit bright. Works well on acoustic guitars. May not sit well with everyones vocal, but will work on most. Bottom line, you can get a cheaper mic to do the job, but it wont say Neumann on it
By Haywire on 24th January 2012
This mic is to the studio what sm57 and sm58 is to the stage. Versitility is the strength. I have a pair of these that I have used as room mics and on many different instruments with great results. Try a TLM-103 paired with a KM-184 on accoustic guitar for a sweet sound. It's not for everything but when you don't have the luxury of time for experimentation it's a more likely fit than most.
By barforama on 24th January 2012
All the Neumann TLM 103's I have owned came in wooden boxes. Some of them came with an Neumann EA1 shockmount, but I believe it is optional these days. The microphone has resemblance to the classic Neumann U87, but the body is shorter. The compact electronics is partly because this, U87's little brother, mic is part of the TLM (Transformer Less Microphone) series from Neumann.
It sounds great as a stereo pair for drum overheads, BUT it is a problem that the mic does not feature a PAD switch. I have been using TLM 103's for this purpose and I have been forced to switch them with a different set because they were clipping.
It is quite good for close micing acoustic guitars. It captures the dynamics of fingerpicking style guitar better than most other budget mics, but it will benefit from a darkish-sounding preamp to tame the high end a bit.
As a vocal mic it can, as many other mics, be the perfect match for the voice, but it tend to be very bright, however, compared to the vast majority of budget mics, it compares favourably! The TLM 103 has VERY good transient response and sounds very good on the right source. The build quality is, as all other Neumann mics, great.
All though this is a indeed a good budget microphone, I think the price tag is a little too high.
By S.J.Band on 25th January 2012
I owned this piece of Microphone for around 6-7 years, - my experience with it that many unexperienced singers that came to record and sing in my studio had to do lots of re-takes, and I could get frustrated on where I should place the mic or the vocalist to get a good recording.
But I also made some superior recordings with some more Experienced Vocalists.
The TLM103 is great, but beware about the cheaper alternatives, I call it pricey for the performance, but it is made of quality products (Atleast mine still works).
By thewailer2003 on 11th February 2012
Great, HOT Mic
I have been working with this mic for a couple of years now, and it sounds awesome once you get used to it.
(Not that I do this in normal use)-->
Particularly when working with less-than-pro A/D conversion (or otherwise sensitive inputs, this mic has a very high output and will easily clip. A pad is almost mandatory on your preamp, however once levels are set well, this mic is truly one of the best values I have found ($600 used) anywhere.
The lack of features (pad, rolloff, etc.), I believe becomes not entirely, but somewhat irrelevant once a good familiarity is reached with this particular microphone. Placement, impedance variances (-if you have access-) can tame somewhat the emphasis of sibilance this thing has been criticized for.
When paired with a good pro tube pre, the mic really thickens up and the clarity can really shine once that tube starts sprinkling on those desirable harmonics.
In my opinion, the difference in cost between the TLM 103 and its older, more expensive family members, more than justifies the work required to get results that can come pretty dang close.
By Mark_Andrasko on 30th March 2012
Neumann TLM 103
The Neumann name is legendary. You're a starving artist and you want to be legendary too so you scrape up your coin for the mic.. is it worth it? Answer. Only if you've got the preamps to back it up!
This mic sounds NO BETTER than an SM57 through crap or average preamps, possibly slightly worse (although my voice does sound pretty decent through an SM57). When I bought the 103 and brought it home I was dismayed by this fact. I kept it around figuring I was doing something wrong and months later when I bought a Daking Mic Pre One microphone preamplifier I was ASTOUNDED at the transformation it gave to my TLM 103.
My vocals were suddenly lush and juicy, my acoustic guitar was popping out of the mix, my drum overheads were full and prominent. The only area where it failed for me, even though Jack White reputedly uses it on electric guitar amp, was close miced electric guitar amp (but there are endless guitar/amp/tonal options where I suppose it might work.. I might need to experiment more).
To sum up: the TLM 103 is a pedigree horse that DEMANDS a skilled rider (preamp). It won't go to work without it. The difference is like a plump, juicy berry compared to a shriveled, maggoty plum. I've truly never heard another microphone behave this way and I'm 99.8% certain this is why the quality of the Neumann TLM 103 is widely debated.
By Bluemukizu on 1st April 2012
This little microphone is incredible! Although this is typically preferred by smaller studios and project studios this microphone is still a popular choice by many professional studios. I began my search looking for a cost-effective yet professional way to create a recording chain; knowing that a microphone is one of the most important elements I placed my emphasis on getting the best I could possibly get for around 1000 dollars.
The Neumann TLM-103 really is a supreme choice with its detailed and natural characteristic. It sounds warm and big and never thin. In terms of finding an incredibly high quality mic in your studio that has the signature of the classic Neumann sound than the TLM- 103 is a great choice. In its price range I think there are many other respected large diaphragm condensers, however I believe that it is incredibly hard for them to compare with the quality of the Neumann TLM-103 and the price of this mic makes it more accessible to many people.
I accompany this microphone with my Universal Audio Solo 610. The combination of these two is really great. If you connect your TLM-103 to high quality pre-amp and high quality a/d converters the mic will pick up all types of detail and nuisances of the voice. If you are considering purchasing a condenser mic then deeply consider the Neumann tlm 103.
By soundmark on 1st April 2012
Not A Fan
I'm very suprised in retrospec to the see Neumann label on this mic.
I have used 3 heavily (for more than 9 months everyday) with 3 Avalon 737's and got forgetable sounds.
We shot the mic out with the talent and they picked the mic. I will seriously reconsider letting clients have such sway in the choice of hardware because of my choice to buy 3.
By Keeno Noir on 23rd August 2012
I own this mic and have loved it. It is a little bright, so I tend to stand a little closer to the mic to get a fuller sound out of it- about 6-8 inches away. I think it's perfect for vocals, but haven't liked it for anything else. I tend to use less sensitive mics for guitars. I used this exclusively for vocals on my projects located: Keeno Noir | Middle River, MD | Rock / Punk / Rock and Roll | Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos | ReverbNation
By Salty James on 8th September 2012
Umm.. Yikes! The artificial top end on this is the worst I have ever heard from any mic. The bottom is the least manageable too. It makes it very difficult to get a singer into position. It either sounds weak or is overpowering. When you stack vox there is a build up of this ridiculous reedy sound.
Ease of Use:
The above reasons make this thing a nightmare to use nicely.
Shockmount is nice.
Bang for the Buck:
Terrible. I have many high and low end mics. Cost means nothing to me. I will us an sm57 for a whole album if I like it on the singer. Truth is there are many better, more honest sounding mics for less money: any Rode, any Shure etc..
I am convinced due to the massive divide on these mics that there must be some inconsistencies in the manufacturing. BUT... I have heard tracks by other artiest that use them and I hear the same harsh top end in their material.
By The Famous Yard on 3rd October 2012
Someone left this at my studio many years ago. So I have used it for free. At first I liked it. Wow! Neumann! For free! The high end seemed nice (although a bit much) and it seemed quite clear and "condenser"-like. The more I used it the less I liked it. The high end starts sounding annoying and brash. Other mics overtake it. I got a pair of AT4033s a while ago. They sound a lot better, and the pair was cheaper than one TLM103. It slowly started being left in the nice wooden box more and more and only got used on big session if I'd run out of other mics. Eventually it stopped coming out of the box.
It's still in its box. It doesn't come out anymore, and the guy who owns it hasn't ever asked for it back. I can understand that.
By axyrium on 18th March 2013
Bought this mic when it first came out because of the price. I was able to order it for $500 US from Europe, including shipping when the US dollar was worth something.
Sounds great on acoustic guitar, better with fingerpickers because of its brightness. Can be hard to find a sweet spot for strummers for the same reason, but it can be done.
Results of this mic can be heavily dependent on mic pre selection. I got amazing results when paired with a Tab Telefunken V72s. Ok, so most mics would sound good with such a V72s, but the TLM sounded amazing on guitar and vocals.
I have also gotten very good results with it with a chameleon 7602 so I know it can sound good with lesser pres.
Highly recommend it if you can pick one up for $500-$700.