Neumann TLM 102 vs TLM 103 (Microphone Shootout)

  • We compare the Neumann TLM 102 vs 103 microphones.
  • Find out what the differences are in sound, features and build quality.

Neumann TLM-102 vs TLM-103: Which Is The Better Mic?

While both microphones are outstanding, the almost double-price for the TLM-103 is warranted, for its fuller, richer bass response, and crisper, airier high frequencies.

With a capsule design based on the legendary U87, the TLM-103 also has a louder output signal and lower self-noise. It’s an easy decision, and the TLM-103 (check out user reviews here) is the clear winner out of the two.

Photo
Neumann TLM-102 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone (Black) with Suspension Shockmount & Pop...
Our Pick!
Neumann TLM103 Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone with SG1 mount and box - Black
Name
Neumann TLM-102 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone (Black) with Suspension Shockmount & Pop...
Neumann TLM103 Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone with SG1 mount and box - Black
Max SPL
144 dB
138 dB
Dynamic Range
132 dB
131 dB
Signal To Noise Ratio
82 dB
87 dB
Self-Noise Rating
12 dB (A)
7 dB (A)
Price
$699.95
$1,098.95
Our Score
8.5/10
9.5/10
Photo
Neumann TLM-102 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone (Black) with Suspension Shockmount & Pop...
Name
Neumann TLM-102 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone (Black) with Suspension Shockmount & Pop...
Max SPL
144 dB
Dynamic Range
132 dB
Signal To Noise Ratio
82 dB
Self-Noise Rating
12 dB (A)
Price
$699.95
Our Score
8.5/10
Find Out More
Our Pick!
Photo
Neumann TLM103 Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone with SG1 mount and box - Black
Name
Neumann TLM103 Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone with SG1 mount and box - Black
Max SPL
138 dB
Dynamic Range
131 dB
Signal To Noise Ratio
87 dB
Self-Noise Rating
7 dB (A)
Price
$1,098.95
Our Score
9.5/10
Find Out More

Build Quality

Right out of the box, both microphones feel like their built like a tank.

Everything from the weight, to the paint job, to the individual parts themselves — you can tell there’s very little skimping on quality when it comes to build. Though, this is hardly surprising, as Neumann are known for having some of the best quality control and manufacturing in the audio world.

The paint finish on the TLM 102 that I own is a glossy black while the TLM 103 sported a matte grey finish. Personally, I am more of a fan of the classic grey, but I didn’t purchase either of these based on their looks (and neither should you). Both microphones also come in a black version.

There is no clear winner in this department, as they are both perfectly crafted pieces of studio gear.

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Features

Rather than read out a long list of specs, we’ve opted to instead just jump straight into the differing features between the two. Conveniently, these are also the factors that will help you make your decision.

Output Signal

The 103 has an output signal that is 6dB louder than the TLM 102. Why is this a benefit? Basically, it means you won’t need to drive your preamp as hard in order to get a signal equally as loud.

If you’re driving legendary SSL preamps, this might not be much of an issue, but this 6dB could mean a world of difference through a less than average preamp.

This comes at an (insignificant) trade-off though… SPL levels.

Max SPL

The max SPL of the TLM-103 is 6dB less than that of the TLM-102.

I state this is insignificant because unless you are recording sounds over 138dB (unlikely if you’re using this as a studio microphone), the max SPL is more than sufficient regardless.

So while the TMA-102 wins in this department, it is not a big deal.

Self-Noise Level

What Is Self-Noise?
Self-noise is the signal the microphone produces of itself, even when no sound source is present. In other words, the lower the self-noise, the less unwanted noise you’ll get in your recordings from the microphone.

The TLM-103 has a self-noise level of a staggering 7dB (A).

While not the quietest microphone in the world (RODE NT-1A still takes the cake for its 5dB (A) self-noise rating), 7dB (A) is still remarkable.

On the other hand, the TLM-102 has a self-noise level of 12dB (A).

This is a whole 5 dB louder than the TLM-103. As a result, the lower self-noise level makes up a large part of the TLM-103’s heavier price tag.

The TLM-103 is significantly larger than the TLM-102. Feature-wise, they are both clean and bare. No fancy switches, no extra modes, and just a standard XLR port.

Neumann TLM-102 Frequency Response & Polar Pattern

Image result for neumann tlm 102 pattern

Neumann TLM-103 Frequency Response & Polar Pattern

Image result for neumann tlm 103 pattern

As you can see from the differences in the frequency spectrum, the TLM-103 has a shallower bass frequency cutoff/roll-off. This is responsible for the fuller low-end response achieved by the TLM-103.

There is a caveat here, though. Having a richer full-end doesn’t necessarily warrant you shelling out double the money. If you are purely intending to use the microphone for vocals, the frequency energy below 60Hz (in most cases) will be redundant anyway.

Other than that, the Neumann TLM-102 has a much narrower boost in the high-frequencies compared to the Neumann TLM-103.

It could be argued that a flatter response is desired, however, again, there are too many variables that go into this assumption, for example:

  • Certain vocals work better in different microphones.
  • Your room response might benefit from less ‘natural’ curves.
  • You just might prefer the sound of a more ‘colored’ microphone.

Finally, the high-frequency shelf/roll-off on the TLM-103 begins its descend much later than that of the TLM-102, which is responsible for the TLM-103’s airier, more present qualities.

Some users have reported that they do find the extra ‘air’ in the TLM-103 to be ‘harsher’, and this just goes to show that taste and preference will come into play here. That being said, my preference is still the TLM-103. There were not any situations where I felt that the high-frequency response was ‘harsh’ to me, but to each their own!

The TLM 103 is so low noise that even the faintest nuances become audible. Thus, it is perfectly suited for vocals and audio drama productions in high definition as well as for demanding samples production and instrumental recordings.Neumann
Neumann TLM-102 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone (Black) with Suspension Shockmount & Pop...
  • Large Diaphragm Cardioid Microphone
  • Handles up to 144dB SPL
  • Transformerless
  • Elastically Suspended Capsule
Neumann TLM103 Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone with SG1 mount and box - Black
  • Large diaphragm cardioid microphone
  • Pressure gradient transducer with with one-diaphragm capsule
  • Transformerless circuitry
  • Extremely low noise: 7 dB-A
  • Includes swivel mount

What are your thoughts on Neumann’s microphones? Did you end up going with the TLM-102 or the TLM-103? Let us know in the comments below.

Last update on 2019-07-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API