Neumann TLM 102 VS 103 – Which is Better? (2022)


For as long as most current producers can remember, Neumann has been at the forefront of developing premium-grade microphones. In this article, we’ll be learning more about these mics, specifically the TLM-102 and the TLM-103, to determine which is more worthy of a purchase.

The TLM-102 and TLM-103 are excellent microphones, But the TLM-103’s nearly double-price is justified by its deeper, richer bass response and sharper, crisper high frequencies.

Neumann TLM 102

Neumann TLM 102 Black Cardioid Condenser Microphone Studio Set w/ Shock Mount MT

When you see the TLM 102, you may underestimate it due to its small size and compact design. However, you will be taken aback when you hear it for the first time. At a distance of 10 cm, the TLM 102 reproduces sound intensity of up to 144 dB with remarkable clarity and detail, with strong bass and polished treble. 

What’s in the box?

  • Neumann TLM 102.
  • Microphone mount.
  • 5/8 to 3/8-inch stand adapter.
  • Documentation.

Sound quality 

The Neumann TLM 102 is essentially a small, large-diaphragm condenser mic with many adaptabilities. It’s been built to tolerate high process gain, so it’ll sound great with guitar amp cabinets or acoustic drums, but it’s also ideal for recording vocals.

Its transformerless output stage produces a clean, direct sound and solid bass transmission down to the lowest frequencies reducing transmission losses. The mic amplifies the low-mids and offers a rich, deep timbre that stands out in the mix when used on male vocals. 

This characteristic is not shown on the frequency response chart, indicating that it is most likely due to the proximity effect, which can be decreased by pulling the vocalist back about 10 inches. 

These traits lend a vintage vibe to a female vocal, comparable to what you would expect from a ribbon microphone, which is intimate and detailed, excellent for a jazz singer but the polar opposite of what you usually hear on countless pop songs by female singers.

Read more about the Neumann TLM 102 on the Neumann website.

Build quality 

The TLM 102 features a fixed cardioid condenser with an integrated pop filter in a small, durable housing. Its most noticeable feature is its modest size. Because of its size and functionality, the TLM 102 is regarded as an affordable entry-level addition to any producer’s studio.

In terms of structure, it has an all-metal body, a metal grille, and a substantial amount of weight. The surface of the microphone is devoid of features, and the XLR port is positioned on the bottom. You get the quality of higher-priced equipment at a lower price.

Key Features 

  • Large-diaphragm condenser.
  • Fixed cardioid polar pattern.
  • Easy use for voice and instrumental recordings.
  • Zero distortion even at high gain.
  • A slight treble boost for smooth vocals (independent of music genre.)
  • Built-in pop filter.
  • Max SPL – 144 dB SPL.

Setting Up 

If you’re a beginner producer looking for a step-by-step guide on how to set up your microphone, you’ve come to the right place. Below are steps to help you set up your Neumann TLM 102. But if you prefer to follow along with a video tutorial, you can watch this tutorial on YouTube.

1. Set Up Your Recording Area

Record in a room with no reflective surfaces, such as tiles, to get the best audio quality. A living room or bedroom are excellent substitutes for a professional recording studio. 

If you want to improve the results of your room, you can place an acoustic treatment on the walls. But it’s not required.

2. Set up Your Mic Stand, Shock Mount, And Pop Filter

Get a mic stand that can support the weight of your microphone. It’s ideal to avoid the room’s corners and walls, but don’t put it in the middle. Your microphone stand should be placed slightly off-center in the room. The shock mount is attached to the mic stand’s arm-end and is designed to protect your microphone from rumbling. 

To avoid plosives, you’ll need a pop filter. Plosives from a vocalist arise from airy words with P and B sounds, such as pop, band, palpitate, and balcony. You can also remedy these sounds through post-processing, but the result won’t be as good as using a pop filter in the first place.

3. Set Up Your Audio Monitoring

An audio interface is required to use the Neumann TLM 102. Make sure your audio interface is linked to your computer before recording vocals. Modern audio interfaces connect to your laptop or desktop via a USB port, so you don’t require adapters.

You’ll need decent headphones if you want to get the most out of your recording equipment. Closed-back headphones would be ideal for preventing unwanted feedback. Avoid putting your headphones on the mic stand after recording to avoid feedback issues.

4. Connect Your Microphone

Finally, connect your mic. You can easily connect your Neumann TLM 102 to your audio interface via XLR cable. All that’s left is to run your DAW (Digital audio workstation), and you’re good to go.

Pros and Cons 

Pros 

  • Excellent results from various sound sources.
  • Great design and build quality.
  • Nice presence boost around 6kHz.
  • Affordable for a Neumann mic.
  • Lightweight.
  • Low Noise Level.

Cons

  • Needs an external pop filter and shock mount for optimal performance.
  • Expensive.
  • Bass build-up due to proximity effect.
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Neumann TLM 103 

Neumann TLM 103 Condensor Microphone (Renewed)

The Neumann TLM 103 is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone that features a U87 capsule, a transformerless circuit, and the legendary Neumann sound! It is an excellent choice for any professional or project studio because of its low self-noise. 

This mic has been used for a wide dynamic range of classical recordings, sampling, particularly for extremely low amplitude sources, and Foley work. It is also tough enough for live use, as seen by Jack White on stage to mic amps.

The TLM 103 has a wide increase in presence from 6 to 15 kilohertz, which helps the voice cut through the mix. It features everything a demanding user might want, including nuanced voices and precise sibilant reproduction, as well as excellent speech intelligibility.

If you want to read about the Neumann TLM 103, you can visit neumann.com for more information. 

What’s in the box

  • Neumann TLM 103.
  • Mic mount.
  • 5/8 to 3/8-inch stand adapter.
  • Documentation.

Sound quality 

This condenser microphone is exceptionally good for recording voices, acoustic guitar, and wind instruments, among other things.

Its sound is modeled after the legendary Neumann U87, and Neumann has done an excellent job of providing exquisite sound quality at a (relatively) low price. The most impressive feature of this microphone is its sensitivity and detail, with very little audible self-noise.

Neumann’s transformerless design produces a sound that is incredibly clean and precise. And the maximum SPL of this microphone is 138dB, which is rather outstanding. Meaning it excels at recording extremely noisy sources without the need for pre-attenuation. 

However, due to its low self-noise, it excels at recording very quiet sources. Perhaps this is why the TLM 103’s pre-attenuation and high-pass filter controls have been removed. Neumann believes this microphone is designed to be a dynamic workhorse right out of the box.

Build quality 

The Neumann TLM 103 has an all-metal construction, metal mesh grille, and a straightforward build. To suit your taste, you can get it in satin nickel and matte black colors. 

Its electronic circuit ensures that the audio transmission has a high purity level, reducing electromagnetic interference that could impair the signal. 

The TLM 103’s transformerless design aids in producing highly accurate low frequencies while also avoiding the core saturation that transformer-based microphones suffer from.

Neumann KMS 105 is also worth taking a look at here.

Key Features 

  • Large-diaphragm condenser.
  • Fixed cardioid polar pattern.
  • Inspired sound design from the renowned U 87.
  • Ideal for vocal and instrumental recordings that require a lot of presence.
  • Low self-noise catches even the most subtle characteristics.
  • Max SPL – 138 dB SPL.

Setting Up 

The Neumann TLM 103, like other studio recording microphones, is set up similarly to the Neumann TLM 102. You can go to the tutorial previously provided if you prefer to watch a video.

1. Set Up Your Recording Area

Record in a space without any reflective walls and floors to get the finest audio quality. Your living room or bedroom will do just fine. You can install acoustic treatment on the walls to get better audio quality. However, it is not essential.

2. Set up Your Mic Stand, Shock Mount, And Pop Filter

You’re going to need a microphone stand that can hold your microphone’s weight. It’s best to keep it away from the room’s corners and walls, but it shouldn’t be in the middle. Keep your mic stand positioned at an off-angle for better results.

Use the shock mount that comes with your TLM 103 to protect your microphone from any rumble. You’ll also need to use a pop filter to avoid plosives. 

3. Set Up Your Audio Monitoring

To use the Neumann TLM 103, you’ll need an audio interface. Before recording vocals, make sure your audio interface is connected to your computer. If you want to get the most out of your recording gear, you’ll need good headphones to monitor and reference your backing audio.

4. Connect Your Microphone

Finally, plug in your Neumann TLM 103 microphone to your audio interface using an XLR cable. And all you have to do now is run your DAW and start recording your vocals.

Pros and Cons 

Pros 

  • Ideal microphone for lead vocals.
  • Great for acoustic instruments that are supposed to cut through the mix.
  • Wide frequency range.
  • Low Self-Noise.
  • High SPL.

Cons

  • Only one pickup pattern.
  • Lack of additional controls.
  • Expensive.
  • Ultra-sensitive; may expose room imperfections.
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Which is better? 

There are several differences between TLM 103 and TLM 102. The 103 is the larger and heavier of the two in terms of features. Of course, the sound quality should take precedence over the quantity.

When comparing these two mics, the 103 produces less self-noise, making it the quieter of the two, eliminating undesired noise in your recordings. 

However, both mics can handle an incredible amount of dB SPL while recording electric guitar or drums, so one isn’t always better than the other.

Because the TLM 102 has a more obvious low-end cut-off than the 103, many customers prefer the 103’s sound in the lows. However, the 103’s richer bottom will be EQ’d out on a vocal, for example, so it depends on what you want to record the most.

Compared to the 103, the 102 has a smaller top-end boost and is often considered the two’s more ‘natural’ sounding. 

The 103’s high-end roll-off starts much earlier than the 102’s, making it the more airy and present microphone. The exaggerated high end on the 103 can be enjoyable and desirable for some but harsh and clinical for others.

FAQ 

If you have more specific concerns regarding these mics, check out these frequently asked questions. You might find the answer you’re looking for.

Does TLM 102 need a pop filter? 

In the world of music production, it’s not a rule to use a pop filter. But if you want to get the best quality out of the recording equipment you already own, you have to use one.

Who uses the Neumann TLM 103?

Many musical musicians have reported using a Neumann TLM 103, including John Mayer, Steve Aoki, Johnny Marr, FINNEAS, Tommy Trash, and Pharrell Williams.

Who uses the Neumann TLM 102? 

FKJ, Paul Davids, Ryan Bruce, Andy Othling, Christian Löffler, DaBaby, Metrik, Taska Black, and Mac Lethal have all used the Neumann TLM 102 for vocal recording.

Conclusion

Since both mics are great and offer unique features, it’s hard to decide which one is better, TLM 102 or TLM 103? Though it may ultimately come down to personal preferences, everyone can agree that this is a difficult decision. So, before deciding which one to buy, you need to consider a few factors.

It may be more cost-effective for amateurs and home studio owners to acquire a single adaptable microphone that you can use in various scenarios with little to no effort. The Neumann TLM-102 is an easy choice due to its high versatility. You can use it anytime and anywhere.

Shawn Shepherd

Hi, I'm the owner of the Hifi Guide and have been an audio lover enthusiast for over 16 years. I have a Bachelor's degree in Sound Engineering and I work on producing content for the Hifi Guide in my spare time. My love for audio stemmed from my Dad who was an audio technician, and now I share my knowledge here on this website!

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