GEARHEAD #2: Neumann TLM102 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

GearHead Blog Jason Marraccini ECG Productions Atlanta Georgia
If you’re looking to upgrade your voiceover mic, check out our review of the Neumann TLM102 Cardioid Condenser Microphone. We break down design, features and more.

I’ve lusted after Neumann’s superior quality vocal mics for years. It’s a brand that demands respect, but their gear also typically carries a very hefty price tag.  When it came time to upgrade our in-house voiceover setup, I was delighted to find that Neumann had released a high-quality microphone in the sub-$1000 price range.  Once I read up on it, the TLM102 seemed like a perfect fit for our needs. In fact, it seemed almost too good to be true given it’s very reasonable price-point.

Neumann TLM102 cardioid condenser microphone nickel finish
The Neumann TLM102 (nickel finish)

The Neumann TLM102 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a fixed cardioid polar pattern that is perfectly suited for studio-based voiceover recording. Dubbed the “VolksMikrofon” (people’s microphone), it is smaller in size, more rugged, and comes in at a significantly lower price point ($699.00) than Neumann’s typical side-address offerings, like the well-known U87 ai ($3200.00). That said, its got every bit the stunning sound quality you’d expect from this pedigreed German brand.  Vocal tones are rich and clean without being overly “bright” and it definitely allows you to take advantage of proximity effect, performing beautifully when talent is right up on the mic.

Audio post-production Atlanta Georgia ECG Productions quality microphones for voiceover
TLM102 with the basic stand mount in both nickel and black

The smaller form factor and added durability mean that, while we purchased this mic mainly for in-house VO work, we can definitely take it out into the field comfortably.  With it’s attractive black finish (also available in nickel) it looks great on-camera in a shock mount suspension, so we’ve even used it as a practical microphone (see photo) mounted on a short tabletop mic-stand.

The Neumann TLM102 as a practical microphone on set for ECG Producitons
The TLM102 working as a practical mic in the studio

Full disclosure: the lower price-point does mean you get the mic, and only the mic, when you buy the TLM102.  No carrying case, no shock mount, just the basic SG-2 stand mount and a foam-lined product box. To fill out our setup, we added the Neumann EA4 suspension (the same model that holds this mic’s big brother, the TLM103), as well as a CAD AS32 Acousti-Shield vocal isolator, and of course a decent pop-filter.  We’ve owned the TLM102 for just over a month now and it has been an absolute workhorse for VO content.  We run the mic through an M-Audio MobilePre to an i7 iMac running Adobe Audition for recording sessions.  We use a Peak Music SMS-50 6 ft. music stand (a handy piece of gear in its own right, it folds up into a nice little carrying bag for easy transport) for holding scripts above the vocal shield so that the talent can easily read while staying on-mic.  For taller VO talents we typically place the music stand on an apple box to clear the top of the shield.

VO recording setup ECG Production Neumann microphone accousti-sheild
The TLM102 with pop filter and Accousti-Shield

The TLM102 has totally revolutionized our on-site VO recording process. I now feel confident that any content we record in-house can stand right beside what we get from the various independent VO artists we hire. The results are absolutely amazing and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my first Neumann mic purchase. I’m sure it will be the first of many.

Jason Marraccini

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