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Neumann TLM 102 vs. Neumann TLM 103 vs. AKG C 414

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by guitarskills101, Nov 7, 2012.

  1. I have a small home studio and I am looking to purchase my first high end mic. It will be running directly into the preamps on my apogee duet interface. I will use it mainly for recording my Taylor GS5 and Vocals and will occasionally use it for piano as well. I have about 1000$ to spend and I am looking for the best mic. I have a lot of experience with the C 414, some experience with the TLM 103, and no experience with the TLM 102 but I hear that it is nice. I like the C 414 but I don't know the other mics well enough to say that one is better. I only really need the cardioid polar pattern so that is not an issue.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Are you expecting to track the guitar and vocals separately?

    How well treated is your "small home studio", acoustically speaking?

    Is your choice limited to those three mics?
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    You know the 414 so what is the question? You have answered this as simply as you can. Keep using the 414 as you have in he past. enjoy.
  4. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    If I had to choose just one of the three I would choose the 414 for the versatility offered by its multi-pattern feature.

  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    There is no best as they are all the best. The difference is in whether you make your recording well or not. You certainly have a great converter running on your Macintosh in the Apogee. You got experience with the good mics. How about the 57 or 58 SHURE's? Those are every bit as fabulous as any of the microphones you've already mentioned and a mainstay in the recording business. It's what you use all of the guitar amplifiers, drums, other vocals, lead vocals, saxophones, everything. And if you've already had experience with those other good microphones, how come you can't answer your own question? In all reality you have. You just have to learn how to place it what pattern to select and why. As you would with any microphone. And actually, I would suggest you purchase all three of those microphones, in pairs. Because they're all good on everything and not good on everything. And that's why you need some 57 and 58's also. So waste some of your money on those as they are only $100 each. Get yourself one 414 and one 214. And you'll be good to go for just about any recording application.

    See wasn't that simple? And after a while, you might actually own $30,000 worth of various microphones... like I have. Simply because they all sound different from each other and all have their places. So there is no one single best to purchase. Just like your Apogee isn't the best but one of the many of the best. Your recording quality is really only based upon your abilities to record and mix. It really doesn't have much bearing on the equipment in which you use. So I actually think that they SHURE SM-57 & 58's are actually the best microphones to own and use on just about everything. Leaving those expenses condenser thingies for a solo vocal or other solo instrument, drum overheads. So now what do you think? I mean I've done a lot of rock 'n roll, jazz, for television and if ya look at the microphones you see, on television, what do you see? Doesn't it sound good? And it's all cheap microphones only causing about $100 each that get that fabulous sound. Where you see those condenser microphones on TV? Over top of the drums and that's about all. That doesn't mean that they had secret better microphones you couldn't see. It means they were using a cheap $100 apiece microphones. And that's what makes it sound good. Not the condenser thingies.

    I don't even work for SHURE.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i vote for the 414. get 3 or 4 of them. if you're going to get a Neumann, get a u87 or if you can afford / find one, a 67. anything else is just an "instead of". u87 is a great room mic.
    lol. 57's are good on amps and ok on toms / snare and a great little utility mic but if they were all i had to use i think i would kill myself. there are better mics for these applications in some cases. 421's on toms, beyer 201 on snares .. imo the best dynamic for vocals is a SM7a.

    414s are a standard. there's a long lineage there. if you can find them get older ones. vintage akg 451's are great for acoustic guitar and overheads.
  7. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    Do you have any dynamic mics?
    If so what do you have and do you use them much?
    I am a big fan of dynamic mics, and personally feel ( most often ), they do not get the recognition they deserve. Well earned recognition, and for good reason.

    I would like to know more about the 102 mics mostly out of curiosity. I have a couple 103's I do not think they are bad, but they really do see much if any use here.

    I use a Audix om2 for recording a Tyler we have here a fair amount of time.
  8. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    The multiple patterns on the 414 will still suit you. You can not only do the 3 "standard" patterns, but also several tighter-than-cardioid patterns which will benefit you in a less-than-ideal room. Also keep in mind that they make (2) versions of the C414 these days. I have the "silver" model, the C414XLS, which is a bit less hyped in the top end than the "gold" (C414 XLII ). The gold is popular for strummed guitars and vocals in country and pop recordings, the silver is a bit smoother and is popular in the jazz and classical fields. I love my XLS on an old (OK, a '67) Martin D18 that I record now and again, and it worked well on a small Yamaha grand at a recent local jazz festival for the opening act for Spyra Gyra. I used it on the top end, with a Shure KSM32 on the bottom, the result was very detailed and clean, and solos were easy to pull up in the mix.
  9. Olijanovi

    Olijanovi Active Member

    I own a TLM 103 and it's very sweet on my vocals, although I sometimes find it hard on the acoustic guitar. If you already know that you need it for both, I would go for the C414
  10. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Yeah for an all arounder, i love my 414xls. i decided to go w/ that because i felt i could add my own boost in the top end on the way or after. i otpted for options (lol) instead of being stuck w/ the boost. i've used the 414 on rooms (at the studio a pair of uls's are the default room mics), acoustic guitars, vocals (depending on singer of course), drum overhead, guitar amps + 57, and it passed the test delivering good consistent results, and versatility. there are better mics out there for more specific applications, but you cannot go wrong w/ a 414. i kinda relate it to the "sm57 of LDC's" it sounds good on most things.

    one note, if your going used, i believe that the xls/xlII, were the first 414;s to introduce the additional pickup patterns moonbaby is talking about. The uls, and models prior, do not.
  11. Ty Ford

    Ty Ford Active Member


    The TLM 102 has a more natural, flatter sound than the TLM 103.

    When I had it here for a review, I recorded some samples. They are here.

    I have NT1A/TLM 103 samples here.


    Ty Ford
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I don't think people realize that a lot of these condenser microphones were never intended to have a perfectly flat response? Most of them were designed with a tailored response. This was certainly helpful back in the days of analog tape as you had that beautiful soft mushy saturated quality to cut through. And we all knew that what was going into that microphone preamplifier to begin with would need a little extra help before it came out and went into the next series of amplification stages and Transformers before it ever got to your analog tape machine with its Transformers.

    Those kinds of condenser microphones are still very good and sought after for that particular sound and a particular sound they are tailored to enhance. This doesn't always work out well today with the shorter signal paths along with the conversion to digital. Which is why numerous variations of these microphones have been released with more linear response characteristics. Since our preamps and newer design Transformers along with the digital recording medium itself is now far more linear in its transfer characteristics. PCM audio already sounds like bright white fluorescent lights look. And who wants to add insult to injury?

    It's been frequently talked about that early " greatest hits ", compilation albums that you can purchase sounded rather rough on these CD releases. And for a while, that's all we got. Some of them sounded rough by virtue of the fact they were taking the Mastered record lathe safety backup Masters. These things had all sorts of gobbledygook processing on them for cutting into lacquer not onto a linear digital PCM-based CD. So there are great efforts going on right now all over the globe and pull out many of the original large-format multi-track masters for a higher level of quality and consistency through modern day remixing hardware and techniques. And some awful tracks, have instruments that have been completely replaced due to poor generational bounces through reduced response record/sync head Playbacks while trying to mimic like quality of original performance. I understand the Beatles new vinyl box set release was done in that manner? Which I really have mixed feelings about. It's better according to them. I would rather experience what was captured from the original incarnation than something better. I want to hear the flaws of the time. So I consider that a little blasphemous. But if it was Paul doing it, I'm still not sure? It was a unique recording. I mean nobody went back and repaired the Liberty Bell. We marvel at the crack and what it means. What it stood for. Without that crack it's like any other bell. It just doesn't go boing the way it originally did and perhaps that's the concepts behind the new vinyl release? Trying to get the original boing from the groin?

    Back on topic here now after that brief commercial message. You know that Neumann doesn't make a single bad microphone. While all are not hits with everybody, most of them are. And because they are one of the premier microphone manufacturers in the world, they offer up so many different flavors. They don't really tell you however in what application you might find they work best for. Because it's art. And they don't want to make suggestions like that. So they give ya the specs and they tell ya it's nice. Of course it's nice. We all know they're all nice. And you can only find out via the grapevine what kind of perceivable auditory tickling may be perceived by different engineers. Of course their perceived auditory coupling may not match yours? And you will still continue to search for the ultimate decibel. And you can tell everybody how crummy you think that microphone was.

    Some of our other guests and moderators have indicated they don't care for the sound of the U87. They certainly don't feel that there is justification of the cost. But I remember them when they were $800 or was that $400? Still a lot of dough but not quite as uneven profit oriented prices are today. And especially in the day when a good bulk of it can be automated in assembly as compared to completely by finely German engineered hands. And I agree.

    So the 103 was originally intended to be a transformer less, cardioid only 87 along with its subsequent tailored presence rise. But that tailored presence rise coupled with its transformer less architecture and design made it far more crispy sounding on the digital recording side of things. Still a sound many of announcers and music recording engineers want to have. But certainly not in an application where you find it objectionable sounding and really require a more linear response curve. And that's what you get in the 102 along with a slightly smaller and easier to handle form factor. Bravo I say! A linear response curve Neumann... who would have ever thunk?

    I want a Hitler bottle microphone with whatever is left over of Hitler in the bottle of the microphone.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I was going to say something very similar to this, but Remy said it better.

    All of these mics may have their own individual characteristics, BUT... that alone isn't the only variable. The other variable is you. I'm a firm believer in that there is no such thing as an "end all - be all " mic.

    Sure, you can hedge your bets and go for quality, because having a U87, or a U89, or a 414 or a 103 is going to be far better across the board than relying on something like an EV PL9 as your only mic.

    But, at least when it comes to vocals, it also comes down to the individual nuances of the person being recorded, as well...

    I believe I've told this story before, but I will quickly repeat it... of how I was in a session once with a female pop singer, and how we started with a U87, didn't like what we were getting, switched to a U89i, still not there, so we moved to a 414, still not satisfied, and finally, with no choices left, put up an SM57, and that was the one. For whatever reason, the timbre, breath or resonance in her voice, the 57 sounded the best for her. So we went from a $3k Condenser to a $99 dynamic, and in the end, the dynamic sounded best. ( and yes, we were tracking to digital).

    Now.. this was an exception to the rule, in that most of the time, you're gonna be more than happy with most any quality condenser.

    The other major variables, of course, are what you are front loading your DAW with; the quality of the pres, channel strips, converters, etc. that can add to that mic's color, and in no small way, either, and what you are tracking to, for example, tracking to something like Tascam DA 88's will likely sound very brittle regardless of what you use on the front end. (by the way, I have three of these monsters in storage and they have all gone passed their hours for maintenance and need a head rebuild... make me an offer... (sound of crickets chirping.... hello? Hello? Buehler? LOL)


  14. Ty Ford

    Ty Ford Active Member

    "So the 103 was originally intended to be a transformer less, cardioid only 87 along with its subsequent tailored presence rise. But that tailored presence rise coupled with its transformer less architecture and design made it far more crispy sounding on the digital recording side of things. Still a sound many of announcers and music recording engineers want to have. But certainly not in an application where you find it objectionable sounding and really require a more linear response curve. And that's what you get in the 102 along with a slightly smaller and easier to handle form factor. Bravo I say! A linear response curve Neumann... who would have ever thunk?"

    Remy, et al,

    I gotta disagree with the 103 being a cardioid version of the U 87, although I remember that characterization when it came out. In marketing speak, the TLM 103 was designed to provide an "affordable Neumann", and that it did. I reviewed it then. I own a pair and have worked with many U 87. It never sounded like a U 87. I use it (them) on quiet and/or slightly dull sources that need a little pick me up.

    Here's local Piedmont/Delta picker Neil Harpe on a strange dual neck Stella he found when I was with him at the Wilmington (or Philly) guitar show. This was for video, so I wanted a more open view without mic stands everywhere. I found a nice lobe of sound coming off the bottom bout of this beastie. The guitar was quiet and slightly subdued, so I used one TLM 103 which can be seen as I pull back. I mixed with a little reverb, limiting and compression.

    Neil Harpe Plays a 1918 Stella Harp Guitar at Ty Ford's studio - YouTube

    Yes! The TLM 102; more linear and more versatile. The TLM 67 is another wonderfully linear "new" Neumann that sound nothing like a U 67.
    Here's my review: Ty Ford Audio and Video: Neumann TLM 67 - Everything Old Is New Again, Or Is It?

    At some point after the TLM 103 came out, I had been asking mic makers why they were putting out mics that were brighter and brighter. Remy, as you indicate, we were fully into the digital age of recording where HF loss on analog tape was not an issue. It took about 18 months to two years, but I remember being at an NAB show in Vegas and talking to a Neumann rep who was talking about the pendulum swinging back from overly bright to more natural for the same reasons.

    Now, there's an important difference between the brightness of a TLM 103 and the etched distortion of many chinese made condenser mics. The two sounds are often confused by folks who haven't had a lot of time with their faces stuck in a mic locker. The TLM 103 is bright, but not distorted. The would be chinese mics have an nasty little distortion. You can put 'em in front of guitar cabs (which are usually distorted) and that's fine, but if you want a clean sound you can't eq that distortion out.


    Ty Ford
  15. Ty Ford

    Ty Ford Active Member

    and here's a tlm 102 sample



    Ty Ford
  16. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I was not to excited about the 103s I just grabbed them as the price was rite. My first plan was to flip-em and make a buck, after planing with them I plan now to keep-em. I have I reach for much more often but these have a home.

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