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Neumann TLM 103

Test & Review

The Neumann TLM 103 succeeded the U87 in 1997. And since then, this cardioid condenser microphone has become one of the German brand's greatest successes. Many reviews claim that this little gem of technology offers exceptional sound. But I decided to test it to fully assess its effectiveness for all users.

Neumann Tlm 103 Complete Test

🎤 by Kevin Jung

Summary of the Test 👇

The TLM 103, a classic from the Neumann brand

Very popular in studios and recommended for the home studio, the Neumann TLM 103 is a transformerless cardioid condenser microphone. It was released 20 years after its predecessor Neumann U87 Ai (a condenser microphone most used and recommended by professionals since its conception.

Having become a successful classic model of the Neumann brand, it presents itself as a versatile microphone suitable for singers, as well as musicians in studio recording situations, as well as during live performances. Moreover, its use by the musician Jack White, during his live show for the sound reinforcement of the amps, the microphone reinforced its notoriety.

Neumann TLM 103 microphone
Picture from audiosource.ch

It is in some ways an update of the legendary U87, still considered today as the brand's best-known and most used condenser microphone. Its K103 large diaphragm capsule is based on the K67/K87 found in the U67 and U87 microphones. But, so to speak, the Neumann TLM 103 is an improved version of its predecessor.

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While the U87 features a large dual-diaphragm capsule with three directional patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8, the Neumann TLM 103 is a primarily cardioid condenser microphone with transformerless circuitry . Therefore, compared to dynamic studio microphones, it offers a more direct sound and excellent quality definition.

Neumann TLM 103 Design
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A careful design

At a glance, the build quality of the Neumann TLM 103 displays all the design desired in a high-end microphone designed to capture sounds. The device, made entirely of metal, appears meticulously put together.

The head, conical in shape, has a metal mesh grille that is visibly a little thin, but thick enough to effectively protect the capsule from shocks and explosive sounds while preserving ambient noise.

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
NEUMANN TLM 103

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And then, this also gives it a reasonable weight of around 450 grams. In addition, its black or metallic dress guarantees unparalleled refinement, with only the Neumann brand in red on the body.

Neumann TLM 103 Frequency Mono Set
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The frequency response of the Neumann TLM 103

On the technical side, the Neumann TLM 103 microphone has a bandwidth ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Indeed, following the response curve, the microphone responds to low frequencies at around 65 or 75 Hz. Then it remains flat over around 3.5 kHz, before climbing by 4dB at around 6 kHz to 15 kHz, up to to reach 6dB at 20 kHz.

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
NEUMANN TLM 103

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In other words, it provides a much more modern sound, with wider presence amplification for frequencies above 5 kHz. The sound is more direct, but very refined. It is perfectly suited for vocals or instruments used solo.

The Neumann TLM 103 also has an excellent midrange, characteristic of Neumann brand products, as well as a deep and controlled bass for recording vocals and bass instruments with great sound power.

Neumann Tlm 103 recording
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By the way, also discover our complete test of the Rode Podcaster USB microphone . It is a dynamic front pickup USB microphone. This microphone is for you if you are looking for an easy-to-use, durable, and versatile microphone with great sound.

Cardioid polar pattern for excellent sound quality

The Neumann TLM 103 additionally incorporates a cardioid polar pattern, although slightly omnidirectional, with a fairly wide frequency response of 2 kHz to 4 kHz . But it remains much more sensitive with a sound source coming from the front. Sound sources coming from other directions are rendered naturally. And most of the sound to be recorded is well isolated, without having to adjust the microphone volume.

Although it picks up a large amount of ambient noise, it suppresses feedback significantly and sound waves coming from the rear are well attenuated. Especially, when used in live situations or with playback through a speaker.

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NEUMANN TLM 103

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Note that this quality sound is obtained without having to correct the effects of resonance with the mixer. In fact, the Neumann TLM 103 is able to maintain a good impulse response. This, by reproducing every detail of the sound of the music or songs with a minimum of modifications depending on the recording technique.

Also, the self-noise level is very low, and the Neumann TLM 103 reproduces even the least inaudible sounds without ambient noise. The dynamic range is 131 dB (A-weighted). The microphone can withstand sound pressure of up to 138 dB without distortion.

Neumann TLM 103: A reference in microphone
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Neumann's TLM technology, a benchmark in microphones:

The Neumann TLM 103 has defined a new generation of high-end products from the Neumann brand. Indeed, it integrates a technology never used before: a transformerless output circuit . As a result, a simple electrical circuit replaces the usual output transformer

But this, while guaranteeing common mode rejection as well as less interference likely to harm the recording. And since the emergence of this TLM technology, it has set the standard by which microphones used in contemporary studios are considered to be of excellent quality.

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
NEUMANN TLM 103

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Who is the Neumann TLM 103 intended for?

Given its careful manufacturing and the quality of the sound provided, the Neumann TLM 103 is very popular in studios around the world. It actually delivers unparalleled performance, while remaining a more modern alternative to the U87 studio microphones in your recording equipment.

And as a result, the Neumann TLM 103 turns out to be very versatile. Among other things, you can use it for recording lyrics or songs, music obtained with drums, or as an amplifier for instruments such as acoustic guitars, cymbals or even the piano.

Neumman TLM 103 home studio
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It is also found as a microphone for classical recordings with stringed instruments such as guitar, cello or double bass. It is in all a universal sensor, perfect for picking up vocals , singing or instruments, and even for use in broadcasting or dubbing.

Although it is very popular in the studio for various recordings, it is also suitable for home studios, particularly due to its cardioid directivity. Sounds coming from the front are captured the most, making it simpler to use and easier to isolate from other sound sources.

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
NEUMANN TLM 103

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As the high sensitivity of the microphone allows it to pick up a lot of ambient noise, you will need to arrange the room in such a way as to promote attenuation of ambient noise.

Otherwise, recording or vocal recording may be seriously disrupted by handling noise, vibrations, background noise, interference, etc. take into account the sensitivity of the microphone to pick up sounds.

TLM 103
Picture from en-de.neumann.com

Summary of technical characteristics

  • Sensor: pressure gradient sensor
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Output circuit: without transformer
  • Bandwidth: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Nominal impedance: 50 ohms
  • Nominal load impedance: 1000 ohms
  • Sensitivity: ~ -33dB, 21 mV/Pa
  • Maximum sound pressure: 138 dB for DHT < 0.5%
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 87 dB (A-weighted), 76.5 dB (CCIR)
  • Maximum output voltage: 13 dBu
  • Minimum own noise: 7dBA
  • Maximum self-noise: 17.5 dB (CCIR)
  • Current consumption (P48, IEC 61938): 3 mA
  • Connector: XLR-3 F
  • Supply voltage: 48 V +/- 4 V
  • Dimensions: 132 x 60 mm
  • Weight: 450g
  • Color: Black or metallic
Neumann TLM 103 Packaging
Picture from Audiofanzine.fr

List of accessories supplied:

  • A wooden storage box
  • Microphone holder
  • 5/8” to 3/8” foot adapter
  • Instructions for use

What is the Neumann TLM 103 worth?

You will have to remember that its main advantages lie in its different characteristics. In particular, its wide dynamic range of 131 dB, and its optimal noise of only 7dBA. Not to mention its fairly smooth frequency response. And finally, its ability to withstand sound pressure of up to 138 dB without distortion.

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
NEUMANN TLM 103

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This best studio microphone also stands out for its versatility. In home studio, it is a perfect choice given its cardioid polar pattern. It is in any case a silent model, offering a very pure and refined sound. This is despite the fact that it picks up a lot of ambient noise. It also offers an advantageous proximity effect, even for beginners wishing to record voice or music. And the absence of a transformer is perfect for limiting interference.

Neumann TLM 103: Professional microphone
Picture from en-de.neumann.com

My verdict

Neumann TLM 103 cardioid condenser studio microphone I particularly remember the pure sound of incredible refinement. The minimum self-noise of only 7dBA and the wide dynamic range of 131 dB. And of course, the great versatility which allows it to rank at the top of the range.

It can be used for recording studio projects as well as in a home studio. Particularly for classic recordings and qualitative sound amplification. While it offers a very soft tone, you also have an excellent proximity effect.

Neumann TLM 103 large diaphragm
Picture from Audiofanzine.com

A detail that you can use to your advantage to strengthen your voice. And compensate for other disadvantageous technical details such as ambient noise. It is durable and can be used for live situations. As a microphone for a guitar amp for example.

Its main drawback is its ability to pick up a lot of ambient noise. For use in a home studio, be sure to work in an acoustically treated room accordingly.

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
NEUMANN TLM 103

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The Neumann TLM 103 microphone has everything it takes to impress professionals and amateurs alike. The sound reproduction is very correct. The sound emitted is very pure and faithful. This may also be the sound you are looking for in such a high-quality and expensive microphone. Sounds that are neither shrill, nor too high, nor too fat, but rather soft and pleasant to listen to.

I also appreciate its robustness. It can support live events. It's amazing. Not to mention its very high maximum acoustic sound pressure to save you from distortion.

Neumann TLM 103 Excellent quality
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In summary, if you are an artist or musician , you will recognize it as a concentrate of technology. It can really highlight and record your voice or musical instrument. Whether it's a microphone for singing, a voice recorder, an amplifier for musical instruments, in the end, only the price can make you reluctant.

But given its audio quality, the Neumann TLM 103 is a professional microphone with excellent value for money. Perfect to complete your recording equipment!

Neumann TLM 103 Purchase
Our Overall Opinion

Overall Sound Quality

4.8 /5
4.8/5

Value for money

4,6 /5
4.6/5

Global mark

4,7 /5
4.7/5

Our opinion on the Neumann TLM 103:

The Neumann TLM 103 microphone has everything it takes to impress professionals and amateurs alike. The sound emitted is very pure and very professional, especially given the price of the microphone.

Neumann TLM 103 demo

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Neumann TLM 103

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