Summary and Rating: Neumann TLM 102 vs 103
Neumann TLM 102
Neumann TLM 103
Our Overall Rating
4.8 (out of 5)
4.9 (out of 5)
pros TLM 102
- Our favourite versatile, high-end condenser
- Sources sound closer in the mix
- pop filter built in
pros TLM 103
- Incredible, pristine high end for vocals
- Musically responsive
- Uses the same capsule parts as a U87
- low self-noise
cons TLM 102
- No carry case, or shockmount included
cons TLM 103
- No shockmount included
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They are different mics, not better or worse. You will be happy with either of them. The TLM 102 is a do-it-all, high-end condenser. The TLM 103 is a refined, high-end mic that sounds like its cousin, the U87.
A common misconception is that the TLM 102 and TLM 103 are the most closely related mics in the Neumann line simply because they have consecutive numbers.
The 102 and 103, however, are different beasts. Let’s get started.
What’s in the box?
Both mics come in satin nickel or matte black.
The TLM 102 ships with the bare minimum in terms of accessories. It includes the mic, a standard swivel mount, and a hard foam mold encasing in the cardboard box it ships in. No suspension mount, or carry case is provided. There is a built-in pop filter under the grille of the TLM 102.
The TLM 103 is not that much better accessory-wise. The TLM 103 comes in a lovely wooden case with a standard swivel mount (SG1 mount). No cable, shockmount, or pop filter included.
Considering AKG ships their entry-level mics with shockmounts, pop filters, and steel carry cases, it feels like Neumann could step up their game.
Who are these mics for?
The TLM 102 is a do-it-all fixed cardioid condenser mic for serious podcasters, home recordists, or studios who want a reliable mic with rich detail under $1000.
The TLM 103 is for serious home recordists, professional broadcasters, or professional studios who want a top-end mic with the character of the famous U87 mic.
Who are these mics NOT for?
Neither of these mics is suited for the following applications:
- live set-ups
- noisy, untreated rooms
- situations that require polar patterns other than Cardioid
Build / Design
The first thing you will notice about the TLM 102 is that it is a little guy. It is a large-diaphragm condenser in a smaller body, weighing in at 260g.
The fundamental difference between these mics in terms of the build is in the capsule. The TLM 102 sports a newly developed capsule with an edge-terminated design, aimed at being a high-end versatile workhorse.
Its massive dynamic range makes it suitable for drums, brass, and amps. But also, the TLM 102 has high sensitivity and detail suitable for intimate vocals and nylon guitar. It offers a max SPL of 144 dB and a self-noise at 12 dBA.
With a built-in pop filter under the grille, it is also catering to broadcasters.
The TLM 103 is designed to be a top-end studio condenser with the character of the famous U87.
The TLM 103 is a little bigger and chunkier than its brother. In terms of build and sound, it is more closely related to the Neumann flagship U87 mic.
This is because it uses the same parts in its capsule as the U87. Neumann designed the TLM 103 as a cheaper, quieter, smaller U87.
The TLM 103 measures at 7 dB for self-noise with a max SPL of 135 dB.
Check out our category gear page for more mic reviews and audio gear buyers guides.
Alternatives to the TLM 102
Audio Technica AT4033a
An excellent affordable condenser for vocals with a silky sound.
AKG C414 XL II
The hailed flagship condenser for AKG.
Alternatives to the TLM 103
The Gold standard for large-condenser studio mics. A classic that will outlive you and your children.
Townsend Labs Sphere
This is a modeling mic that can successfully model the sounds of all the famous mics.
You’ll notice in the chart below that both mics have a generally flat response with a slight lift at the high end.
The TLM 102 is slightly more neutral than the TLM 103 in the vocal ‘bite’ or ‘nasal’ area, starting this lift in frequency response around 7kHz.
Neumann TLM 102 vs TLM 103 Frequency Response Chart
Neumann TLM 102 vs 103 Test Drive
We used a Universal Audio Apollo Solo Interface recorded with Logic Pro X. There is no EQ or compression or other enhancements applied to any of the audio clips here. We adjusted the gain from the audio interface to taste. The guitars were a Martin steel-string acoustic guitar and Fender Strat plugged into 40 Watt Fender Champ.
Full disclosure: We fully acknowledge that there is no one way to use a microphone. Mic placement, how you play or sing, not to mention EQ, compression, Impedance, and pre-amp settings can all have dramatic effects on the final result.
Sung Vocals Test
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Spoken Vocals – Sibilance / Brilliance
Acoustic guitar test
Electric Guitar (Clean) Test
Conclusions about the sound
It is my opinion that anyone would be lucky and happy to use either of these mics in your studio. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. The TLM 102 (apple) is a high-end, all-around large condenser, whereas the TLM 103 (orange) aims to create an even more refined sound similar to that of the U87.
The TLM 102 is a great all-around condenser, pulling you somehow nearer to the sound source in the mix (a fantastic feature with vocals).
On guitar amps, you can go as loud as you want with full detail and little to no distortion. It essentially sounds just like the amp in the room (if that’s what you’re going for).
On a personal note, I have used this mic on vocals, guitars, pianos, entire rooms, and drums for about 5 years now. It continues to reliably deliver a top-grade sound.
The TLM 103 delivers on its promise for our ears – it does sound like a U87.
The TLM 103 delivered a musical response to everything we threw at it. Although it has no onboard attenuation pads, we weren’t let down by the performance. It handled loud and soft with aplomb.
The pristine high-end was more impressive than I expected. (see sung vocals with acoustic guitar test above) It was never harsh and balanced smoothly with its considerable low end.
I actually prefer this mic’s sound over the U87s that I’ve heard – the low self-noise of the TLM 103 is the main difference for me. And I think it outperforms the TLM 102 in its refined top end and musical response.
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