Neumann microphones have been an integral part of the sound recording and broadcast industry for over seventy years. Seeing one of their microphones in the studio is like a guarantee that professionals work there. Famous performers like the Beatles, Celine Dion, and Beyoncé have used Neumann mics. Let’s look at these two models and see which one will be best for you.
Neumann TLM-103 Microphone
The TLM-103 may be the most acoustically sensitive cardioid microphone in its class. It has a hand-tensioned diaphragm, which isn’t common in microphones these days. It has the same capsule that is found in the Neumann U87 mic, but with a presence boost that the U87 doesn’t have. Thin voices get a little help from the rumble on the TLM-103.
This mic has only 7dB of self-noise, so it’s very quiet. Many users warn that it needs an acoustically stable environment for recording because it picks up everything in front of it, even sounds most people don’t notice. But because of its sensitivity and low noise, it works really well for foley work, voiceovers, and even classical music recording. It’s also very good at suppressing feedback.
The wire mesh head grille helps reduce pops and plosive sounds. It can withstand up to 139dB of sound pressure without distortion. Since it is transformer-less, the TLM-103 also prevents radio frequency interference. But be aware that the capsule is set in an elastic mount so it easily picks up handling noise.
Another feature that users love is the small size of the TLM-103. It measures just a hair over 5 inches long by a little over 2 inches in diameter and weighs just under a pound, so it’s very portable. It needs 48 volts of phantom power to run and uses an XLR3F connector.
More features of the Neumann TLM-103 microphone
- 2-year limited warranty
- Comes with a wooden box for storage but no stand mount
- Very low impedance of just 50 ohms
- Pressure gradient transducer
Neumann U87 Ai Shockmount Set Z Microphone with Box
The Neumann U87 Ai is an updated version of the studio classic that has been around since 1967. It won an award from Sound on Sound magazine in 2012 for best microphone. With it, voices and instruments have a clear and rich sound. Many users have remarked that it makes their lives easier because they have so little equalization to do.
It’s versatile with three directional pickup patterns: cardioid, figure-8, and omnidirectional. A switch below the head changes between them. To minimize proximity effect it can reduce its low frequency response with a switch on the back. There’s also a 10dB attenuation switch that can be turned on so the mic can handle up to 127dB without distortion. The high-pass filter against vibrations and wind noise is already built-in. All of these features make it so the mic can be used close to the source of the sound, hence its popularity in studios. But be careful because it also picks up handling noises, and a pop filter is essential for good vocal recording. For best results, this mic deserves a high-quality preamp and analog to digital converter.
Like many microphones, the U87 runs on 48-volt phantom power supplied by an XLR connector. Neumann includes a cable in the box. The mic has a low impedance of 200 ohms and the maximum cable length is limited to 980 feet to avoid signal loss.
More features of the Neumann U87 microphone
- Comes with XLR cable, rosewood storage box with molded foam, stand mount, and wind screen
- Pressure gradient transducer with double membrane capsule
- 2-year limited warranty
Both of these are excellent microphones from a brand name well-known in the music industry. Both have a clean and rich sound ideal for projects when it counts.
If you’re doing more vocal recording, for example, voiceovers, the TLM-103 would probably work best for you. The only downside is the fact that it comes with no accessories like the U87 does. On the other hand, it is priced a lot lower than the other mic.
If you record both vocal and instruments, the U87 has a lot of useful features. Like one user said so well, it does the work for you because a lot of the adjustments can be done at the mic instead of at the equalizer.