Neumann TLM 102 Review

If you want to buy a high-quality recording microphone, Neumann is an obvious choice, but many Neumann microphones are expensive. But that is set to change with the large-diaphragm TLM 102. Has Neumann managed to capture the magic into a lower-cost option? The answer is a resounding yes.

The Neumann TLM 102 is a superb condenser microphone with exceptional capturing capabilities. Outstanding results for vocals but equally impressive across a range of instruments.

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Neumann TLM 102

Front view of the Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

Overall Rating

9/10

Pros

Cons

RATING SCORECARD

RATING METRIC

OUR RATING

Sound

9

Studio Vocals

10

Live Vocals

7

Instruments

9

Drums

8

Build

10

Design

8

Value

7

AVERAGE

8.5

Features

Neumann microphones have an excellent reputation for high-quality microphones, and the TLM 102 expresses the best qualities of Neumann microphones without an eyewatering price tag. Below, we take it for a test run to see how it holds up.

Sound Quality 

The Neumann TLM 102 meets our high expectations with sublime recording capabilities. This versatile microphone is well-suited to tackle a broad range of studio recording tasks.

The first test was to see how it faired with male and female vocals. The results were exceptional, with a beautiful blend of precision and clarity and a boost of warmth that elevated the vocal performances while retaining the singer’s unique vocal characteristics.

Neumann TLM 102 Soudn Profile.

Versatile recording capabilities with superb sound.

The cardioid pattern offers clean capturing capabilities with excellent rejection of sources outside the capturing sphere. The capabilities for capturing smooth and engaging voice-over work were just as impressive as the performance with vocals.

The elevated boost from 6kHz adds tonal depth and just the right amount of sparkle without excessive brightness, which some microphones exhibit when attempting this high-end boost.

Neumann TLM 102 Response Graph.

The top-end boost adds character and life to recordings.

The integrated pop screen does an admirable job of controlling plosives. However, I would still opt for a dedicated screen or filter for maximum peace of mind.

I can already comfortably recommend the TLM 102 based on our vocal tests, but it also offered fantastic performance in other studio recording situations.

We tested a range of instruments with a focus on organic gear. Acoustic guitar, strings, woodwinds, and brass all shone brilliantly, and the recordings had ample richness and depth.

The TLM 102 is an excellent addition to the Neumann microphone product range.

Not content, we pushed the TLM 102 further to see how it would stack up with drums, which can notoriously be challenging to capture without issues. Once again, the results were beyond our expectations. While I would still opt for dedicated drum mics, the TLM 102 is more than capable if it is the only microphone in your studio.

There is little that the Neumann TLM 102 can’t handle. It is surprisingly versatile for a microphone that doesn’t offer additional bells and whistles. It is a testament to the team’s prowess at Neumann.

Specifications

The Neumann TLM 102 is no slouch in the specs department. As expected, it offers a standard frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. A gradual roll-off in the lower end is typical, but the gentle boost beyond 6kHz is a distinct design decision that yields effective results.

The TLM 102 also offers a high Max SPL of 144dB. This is ample for capturing louder instruments and is especially effective when dealing with electric guitars and loud drum hits.

Neumann TLM 102 Specifications.

Low self-noise and high SPL capacity.

Self-noise is also low at 12dB (A-weighted). This ensures smooth and clean recordings even when dealing with quiet sources. It is more than capable, but some alternatives on the market drill down further in this area.

As expected, the Neumann TLM 102 requires 48V phantom power, which is the stock standard for a professional microphone.

Design 

The Neumann TLM 102 features a smaller profile in a stubby yet attractive shell. The microphone is available in a predominantly black finish and a complete silver offering.

Both look fantastic, and the iconic Neumann diamond is the only design embellishment. It’s a refined and attractive combination that ensures the microphone won’t look out of place in any professional studio setting.

Neumann TLM 102 mounted in a shock mount.

The TLM 102 is available in black and silver.

Looking beyond aesthetic design, the Neumann TLM 102 doesn’t feature any additional bells and whistles. There is no pad for boosting Max SPL capability. But at a high 144dB, it isn’t required. Likewise, there are no high pass filters, and the mic only features a cardioid pattern.

I don’t expect these extras from a more approachable microphone from one of the industry leaders. But if you need some extra flexibility, you’ll need to look at alternative brands or up your budget to remain within the Neumann ecosystem.

Build Quality 

Some might think that since this Neumann microphone is much cheaper than other options in the Neumann lineup, it might be of lower quality. But that is far from the truth; the Neumann TLM 102 offers exceptionally high build quality.

Neumann TLM 102 Details.

Outstanding quality from a legendary microphone maker.

The newly developed large diaphragm condenser capsule is a genuine Neumann design that retains the inherent philosophy of high standards evident across Neumann’s entire product line.

Everything about the microphone screams quality and feels fantastic in your hands. It is a high-quality microphone that will last you for years and is a worthy addition to any microphone locker.

Dimensions 

The Neumann TLM 102 offers a stumpy profile that is noticeably shorter than many other large diaphragm microphones. This smaller profile makes it easy to set up in awkward positions where larger microphones might struggle to squeeze in.

Neumann TLM 102 Dimensions.

The TLM 102 is shorter than many other large diaphragm mics.

As for weight, the TLM 102 offers an excellent level of heft and weighs in at 0.57 lbs. (210 grams). It is far from heavy but not light to the point where it feels overtly fragile or cheap.

Value 

Perhaps this section might prove to be the most divisive. On the surface, the Neumann TLM 102 is far from a budget microphone. It’s a hefty investment, but a frame of reference is essential when analyzing the value offering.

While it might be a lot of money, it is also substantially cheaper than other Neumann microphones. It’s hard to ignore the superb performance and high reputation of Neumann. If you want to enter the Neumann ecosystem of products, the TLM 102 is a far more affordable price point.

Neumann TLM 102 Accessories.

The Neumann TLM 102 only comes with a stand mount.

The quality on offer is also outstanding, and the TLM 102 is a valuable investment in longevity and optimum performance. It lacks extra accessories like a shock mount, and I find it essential for this microphone, so you’ll need to factor that into your purchasing decisions.

Other microphones might offer more features and a broader range of inclusions, but it all circles back to performance. In that regard, what the Neumann TLM 102 offers is well above expectations, making the high price more than justified.

Customer Reviews

The Neumann TLM 102 receives consistently high scores. Most people sing the praises of this microphone and give it five stars. I’ve had difficulty finding anyone negative toward the microphone. Even industry reviewers rate the TLM 102 highly.

Give Vocals A Boost

One of the features of the Neumann TLM 102, which I love, is the presence lift as you reach beyond 6kHz. It’s a subtle boost that adds a lot to vocal recordings, and the TLM 102, in particular, executes this boost perfectly.

This boost can enhance the presence and clarity of the vocals, making them more intelligible and cutting through the mix. This can be particularly useful for genres where the vocals must be upfront and prominent.

A woman singing in a recording studio.

Boosting the upper end can be a great choice for vocal recordings.

The boost can also add brightness and sparkle to the vocals, making them sound more vibrant and engaging. This can help to create a more polished and professional sound. Plus, boosting this range can bring out the natural nuances and details in the vocals, resulting in a more fine-tuned and expressive performance.

While there are several other factors to consider to get the most out of your vocal recordings, starting with a rich and dynamic microphone is an excellent foundation for you to then apply other EQ principles and tonal shaping.

Alternatives

If you are exploring the possibility of buying the Neumann TLM 102, it is worth stepping back and looking at what else is available in this price bracket. Below, I quickly cover some other options.

Mojave Audio MA-201fet Review

The Mojave Audio MA-201fet is another high-quality large diaphragm microphone with an excellent reputation. But it does feature a different sound profile, which might not be ideal for everyone.

  • High clarity and rich sound profile.
  • Superb build quality and great accessories.
  • The darker tonality might be overbearing for deeper voices.
Front view of the Mojave Audio MA-201fet microphone.

Mojave Audio MA-201fet

Soyuz 1973 FET Review

The Soyuz 1973 FET is another short-profile microphone with outstanding vocal recording capabilities. Handcrafted and inspired by a golden age of microphones, it has proven to be a leading choice at this price point.

  • High accuracy and authenticity for smooth vocal recordings.
  • Attractive vintage style and high build quality.
  • Much like the TLM 102, it has no notable accessories.
Front view of a the Soyuz 1973 FET microphone.

Soyuz 1973 FET

Shure KSM44A Review

For those who want a more complete package, the Shure KSM44A is a worthy contender at this price point. Impressive sound and fantastic inclusions make it an enticing choice.

  • Neutral sound with access to three polar patterns.
  • Includes a fantastic case and shock mount.
  • Lacks the distinct character and tonality of the TLM 102.

Should You Buy?

Saying that a Neumann microphone is superb and worth your money is like calling water wet. Neumann has an excellent reputation, and I have no hesitation in recommending any microphones in its lineup.

However, the TLM 102 highlights that Neumann can also refine its offerings into a more affordable price point to help more people experience the high-quality recording capability Neumann microphones are known for.

The Neumann TLM 102 offers impeccable sound quality. It is an outstanding candidate for several roles in a studio setting. There is little to fault once you factor in top-notch build quality and eye appeal.

While it might still require a sizeable investment and lacks included extras, there is no doubt that the Neumann TLM 102 is among the leading large diaphragm microphones at this price point.

Front view of the Neumann TLM 102 microphone.

Neumann TLM 102

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Picture of Article by Patryk Biernacki
Article by Patryk Biernacki

Patryk has been immersed in the world of music since the early 90s. This coupled with his creative talents, drove his passion to become an expert writer in the music industry. He constantly researches and tests new products, and enjoys playing with all types of gear in his spare time. Electronic music runs through his veins and he absolutely loves DJing in his home studio.

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