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TECHNOLOGY REVIEW Neumann TLM 107 STUDIO MICROPHONE


Stephen Bennett puts the latest release from Neumann to real- world tests and finds it stacks up nicely to its vintage siblings.


T


he release of a new microphone from Neumann should


be a welcome event for us audio geeks, but I wonder if, for the company itself, it’s always something of a two-edged sword? Neumann’s reputation, built on condenser microphones such as the U87, U67, and variants of the U47, means that any new boy on the block is unfairly and, usually unfavourably, compared to these classics. Undaunted, Neumann continues to innovate. Te latest baby on the block, the TLM 107 utilises a capsule based on the D-01 – so that should immediately endear it to those who regard the ‘digital’ microphone as one of Neumann’s modern classics. What may not be so readily welcomed though, is the physical design of the TLM 107. Eschewing the long silver tube of the U87 or the squat cylinder of the TLM 49, the short body of the TLM 107 is more akin to some of the models in the Audio-Technica range or, as some online wit had it, NASA’s latest spacesuit design. Whatever you think of its rounded curves, its size means that it’s going to be easy to place in most recording situations.


First impressions


Te TLM 107 is a multi- pattern condenser mic. It features a large double- diaphragm capsule with a flat frequency response up to approximately 8kHz, with a gentle feed upward into a wide, flat presence boost. Tis, of course, implies that the microphone is primarily designed to capture vocals –


38 June 2014


although that smooth upper frequency lift can be extremely useful in most recording situations. Te TLM 107 offers the user five polar patterns – namely omnidirectional, cardioid, wide-angle cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure of eight – selected by a novel navigation switch/joystick combo affixed to the back of the mic. As you would expect, the TLM 107 is beautifully finished and the joystick is firm in operation – I have no doubt that it would take the slings and arrows of outrageous studio use in its stride. Once +48V phantom powering is applied, pressing the joystick allows the polar pattern to be selected by flicking it up or down, with the chosen setting illuminated by LEDs. Te -6dB or -12dB pads are selected by moving the joystick to the left, while the high-pass filter – with a cutoff frequency of -3dB – can be set at 40Hz or 100Hz by moving the joystick towards the right, with LEDs again illuminating your selection. One minor niggle is that the


LEDs are only illuminated for 15 seconds – I’d have preferred that there were a choice to have them on permanently, as that would make it easier to see what the settings were when working with a lot of microphones – although the power saving might be important if you’re using a battery operated rig. Te TLM 107 can also be powered using Neumann’s N 248 power supply, which usefully enables the remote selection of polar patterns.


In use Te TLM 107 is a low-noise


transformerless design and its specifications are exemplary. Signal to noise is 72dB, and the maximum SPL it can handle is an ear-splitting 141dB to 153dB, depending on the pad setting. Neumann supplies measurement charts showing the frequency balance of the individual polar patterns, so you can easily make judgements on the usefulness of the mic in a given application. However, specifications are only part of the equation and proof of the sonic pudding is in the studio. I initially decided to test the mic in two common recording situations – recording a Mariah-a-like female vocalist and a solo violin in a church. On vocals, the TLM 107 proved immune to the SPL hitting it from close quarters and reproduced the singer’s powerful tones while adding no additional stridence of its own. I tried the various multi-patterns on the violin and eventually chose the omnidirectional mode as it captured a nice balance between player and room. Additional work with a typical day’s recording of guitar, drums, flute, sax, and bass proved the microphone’s versatility – the setting of the pads’ attenuation and the cutoff frequency are well chosen taming double basses, close mic’ed male singers, and bass drums without breaking a sweat.


Te microphone that I own that is probably the nearest competitor to the TLM 107 is the AKG 414 XL II, a similar size multipattern condenser. Sonically, the two are quite different though, with the TLM 107 being a tad brighter, while not displaying the


“I often find that a microphone only shows its sonic mettle when trying to blend recorded audio in a mix. In this scenario, the TLM 107 passes this test with aplomb.” Stephen Bennett


harshness you often find in a cheap microphone, rather it’s a smooth improvement in high- frequency definition that can really be useful when mixing. I often find that a microphone only shows its sonic mettle when trying to blend recorded audio in a mix.


In this scenario, the TLM 107 passes this test with aplomb – slipping it in with the 414s on a recording of a string quartet posed no problems at all, while its low self-noise means that it also takes compression well. In comparison to my 80s U87, the TLM 107 appears to have improved upper frequency definition, better handling of proximity effect, and a higher resistance to belters – I’m inclined to believe it’d be a preferable choice over my vintage Neumann in most vocal recording situations.


Conclusion


Te TLM 107 is a welcome addition to the Neumann range and its small design, impressive build, technical specifications, and useful and innovative controls means that it should find favour in many applications.


The Reviewer


Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the University of East Anglia.


INFORMATION


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