Neumann TLM 102 review: What is it?
While there’s no shortage of low-to-mid price studio microphones on the market, knowing which way to turn when you’ve outgrown those can be difficult. At the top end, you’ve got brands like Mojave and Earthworks but perhaps the best-known name at that end of the scale is Neumann. The German brand is synonymous with pro-level mic technology, which is why finding the Neumann TLM 102 in our review studio was exciting. The TLM 102 isn’t exactly a cheap microphone, sitting around the $/£500 mark, but it does give mere mortals like us the chance to access a bit of that Neumann magic without the need to auction off our vital organs.
Essentially, the Neumann TLM 102 is a compact, large-diaphragm condenser mic with plenty of versatility. It’s been designed to withstand high levels of sound pressure - i.e. volume - meaning it will work well with guitar amp cabinets or acoustic drums, but it’s perhaps best suited to recording vocals. This is because it’s designed with a gentle boost in the upper mids, which adds a nice airy quality to recordings without making them sound nasal.
Physically, you may find yourself surprised at the size of the TLM 102; this is a small microphone, but an exceptionally stylish one. Our review model was black, but it also comes in a plain silver finish too if you prefer that. On the mic itself there are no controls of any kind; no pads, filters or otherwise, making for a supremely simple microphone to use. A simple red logo on one side indicates that’s the side to point at your sound source - it is a cardioid mic, after all, so it helps to know which is the active side. Otherwise, it’s a very clean design, but how does the Neumann TLM 102 perform? Let’s take a look.
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Neumann TLM 102 review: Performance & verdict
It made sense, for this Neumann TLM 102 review, to start with vocal and speech performance. While it’s a hugely versatile mic - more on this later - it is perhaps most likely to be employed in the studio for capturing vocal performances. Speech was a big winner here, with the Neumann delivering broadcast-style depth and richness in the low end and real punch in the low-mids. We didn’t find ourselves reaching for the EQ in post-production, as our habits would normally find us doing, which is a positive sign. For singing, we found that same clarity and pronunciation, although we’d suggest it is perhaps better suited to some styles or genres of music over others. Blues and jazz singing would benefit from the almost woody feel, but there might be better options if you’re looking for something you’ll be heavily editing in post.
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The TLM 102 comes with a pop shield built into the body, but we still found plosives to be an issue so ended up resorting to our trusty external shield. The mic’s capsule is suspended by elastic to offer some degree of shock absorption, but Neumann does offer a ‘proper’ external shock mount as an accessory. We’d advise that to be a near compulsory purchase because the TLM 102 was exceptionally sensitive to the occasional wobbles or foot-taps on the mic stand. You can of course use a high pass filter to mitigate this but prevention is always better than cure in the studio.
Aside from vocals, the TLM 102 is more than capable as an all-rounder in the studio. It’s able to withstand extremely high volume levels without noticeable distortion, meaning high gain guitar amplifiers and snare drums are all fair game. We’d go as far as to say the TLM 102 would make a near-perfect partner for a Shure SM57 when it comes to dual-mic amp setups, giving you a broad tonal palette from which to make your mixes sing.
So who is the Neumann TLM 102 for? For us, this marks the perfect mic for the committed home studio owner who is looking to upgrade from whatever starter gear they had to proper pro-level equipment. It’s a proper, grown-up microphone for producers with enough experience to know what ‘good’ sounds like. At near enough $/£500, this isn’t necessarily going to be an impulse purchase, but then nor should it be. The TLM 102 doesn’t come with fancy tricks or tech, and there are no learning curves involved in getting the best out of it. It’s simple in all the right ways, and it will have a significant impact on the quality of your recordings. If you’re looking to invest in something special, this may just be the one for you.
Neumann TLM 102 review: Hands-on demos
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Neumann TLM 102 review: Specifications
- Type: Condenser
- Frequency range: 20 - 20,000 Hz
- Connections: XLR
- Controls: None!
- Weight: 218g
- Contact: Neumann