Updated on Apr 13, 2021
Today we will be reviewing the Neumann TLM 102, a studio condenser microphone offered by the most high-end brand in the microphone industry. This particular mic has turned a lot of heads, as it comes from a brand that normally sells the most high-quality microphones in the range of thousands of dollars. However, as we'll talk about later, the Neumann TLM 102 comes in a bit lower than $1000, making it much more consideration for those working on their own home studios.
The big question we're going to cover... is it still worth the money? How does it compare to other Neumann's? Is this still going to bring us that legendary sound?
I'm excited to test it out and tell you all about it. I'll be testing it for a vocal performance, guitar, drums, and various other applications. By the end, we'll have a clear picture of what the Neumann TLM 102 is capable of.
I'll start by going into the positive sides of this microphone. What I love about it, and what it's best used for. I'll then dive into the downsides if there are any, and finish it off with a few alternatives for you to consider.
The Neumann TLM 102 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, that produces one of the most elegant sounds an XLR microphone could offer. I'm going to say it right off the bat, this microphone sounds absolutely incredible, arguably better than most other <$1000 microphones that I've worked with over the years.
The Neumann TLM 102 has a wide range frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, which is the common spectrum of the human ear. You're going to find the sound it produces offers both deep, warm, and rich bass, with smooth, silky highs. You're getting so much depth you could hardly tell it was recorded audio. That smooth high end is one of the finest sounds I've ever heard a microphone produce, and is easily comparable to the much more expensive (and famous) Neumann microphones.
They use a cardioid polar pattern, which means the microphone is conditioned to only record what's fed to the front of the capsule while blocking out most of the sides & rear. With a highly sensitive microphone such as this one, it's crucial to avoid as much background noise as possible. The sensitivity comes from the large diaphragm, which works almost like a piece of tissue paper. It's so light that the sound waves move it in the most subtle ways, and these patterns are picked up with extreme detail by the condenser, creating what's known as capacitance.
As expected from Neumann, they use the finest electronic components possible, to increase the level of detail the condenser can process. However, something we'll touch on in the next section, is how well it can record loud sound sources. It has an SPL (Sound Pressure Level) of 144dB, which is very competitive. This represents the maximum volume of the target you're recording before the microphone begins to distort. This figure adds to the versatility for the Neumann TLM 102 to be effective in your own recording studio.
The last part I want to note about this gorgeous sounding microphone is the internal components. The Neumann TLM 102 offers an internal pop shield, which will help minimize plosives, which are distorting sounds your mouth makes from letters such as "B" & "P". It also includes an internal shock mount, which limits handling noises. However, as we see with other microphones, this feature only works so well, and it's always worth considering external shock mounting components on your microphone stand.
The first most obvious answer to the question of what it's best for would be as a studio microphone. It was designed for this purpose, and as such it highly delivers on that. The level of depth you get from the microphone gives a professional touch to everything you use it for. Many would benefit from using the Neumann TLM 102 as their primary vocal microphone, but thanks to the quality of the build, it can extend well beyond this.
The Neumann TLM 102 has two features that really stood out to me. These were the transient response, which records fast moving vibration with accuracy, and the SPL (Sound Pressure Level), which records loud sound sources without distorting them.
With both of those features, the Neumann TLM 102 is highly qualified for recording instruments. Unlike the voice, many instruments have incredible complexities and can be very loud. The bass drum, for example, has loud low-end frequencies, and the level of transcience is difficult for many microphones to process. This Neumann mic did a great job in the tests I ran for recording the drums.
It's also one of my favorite guitar microphones, although I often use two mics for stereo recording. This can be expensive if you need two of them, but it pairs well with other more affordable microphones like the SM57.
I've also noticed influencers using the Neumann TLM 102 as their primary ASMR microphone. The rich level of detail this microphone can produce is essential for getting that "in your ear" sampling. If you're recording soft vocals, then you're going to love this mic.
It's not often that I'm struggling to think of a downside, but you'll be happy to hear that's the case with the Neumann TLM 102. Overall I really enjoy this microphone, and while some people find the price to be incredibly high, it's quite the opposite for a Neumann. This is a touch of luxury at a more reasonable cost from them, which I appreciate a lot. There is one minor downside that I can come up with, so let's talk about the lack of accessories!
When I'm paying this much money, I would expect either a shock mount to be included or a protective case. I'm going to need both at some point, so having to go out and spend a little more money is a bit frustrating. Even some more affordable studio microphones include a shock mount at the very least. As we mentioned, it does sport an internal suspension system, however, that will not be as effective as an external one.
Best Used For
The Neumann TLM 102 is most famously going to be used as a studio microphone. With the versatility to be used for both vocals & instruments, we're going to tell you about a much more affordable condenser microphone that can be used for similar applications. The AKG P220 is one of my favorite home studio microphones under $200.
What I love about the AKG P220 is the level of depth this microphone offers. The wide range frequency response delivers super warm lows with clear & authentic crisp highs. It's the perfect microphone for painting a clear picture of whatever it is you're recording. It works great as both a vocal microphone and a guitar microphone.
All in all, if the studio microphone aspect is what appeals to you with the Neumann TLM 102, then give the AKG P220 a try. It'll blow you away.
Next up is a very hot microphone that's been highly recommended for years. It's one that I've used on many occasions and many friends of mine use it religiously. Whether you're making videos, recording vocals, or recording instruments, the highly versatile Audio Technica AT2020 may be the right fit for you.
For starters, unlike the AKG above, the Audio Technica AT2020 can come in both XLR format & USB. This offers the advantage of plug-and-play if you don't have equipment to process an XLR microphone. It offers a great frequency range for getting the most depth out of your audio recordings, and has a very high SPL (Sound Pressure Level) for recording loud audio sources without distortion. On that same thought, it also has a high transient response, letting it record complex vibrations with prestine accuracy. This makes it perfect for a guitar microphone.
The Audio Technica AT2020 is one of the most popular microphones on the market right now. If it sounds like it's up your alley, give it a serious look.
Overall, the Neumann TLM 102 is exactly what we were hoping for it to be. A beautiful sounding studio microphone at a lower than normal cost from Neumann. Yeah, you're going to feel like you've got a little slice of luxury in your studio when you buy this one because who wouldn't want to tell people they have a Neumann?
Whether you're looking to put a new vocal microphone into your studio, or you need the best mic for your acoustic guitar, you're in good hands with the Neumann TLM 102. I'm really impressed with how comparable it is to their higher-cost line of microphones. With all of the new content, people are creating for the internet, I've watched several popular influencers use this as an ASMR microphone, which could seem excessive, but for that line of work, you need the most crystal clear detail from your voice, and the TLM 102 delivers!
So let us know in the comments below if you got one, and how it's working out for you! Your valuable feedback helps us learn better what others think of the microphones we recommend to our audience. If you create anything you want to share, feel free to link it below! We love seeing the interesting content you all enjoy making.
Posted on Apr 08, 2021
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