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Old September 8th, 2014, 07:32 AM   #1
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TLM 107 a new studio mic from Neumann

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For the complete story with pix, sound and video, hit this link. Ty Ford Audio and Video: Neumann TLM 107 - Medium Diaphragm, 5 Patterns, Quiet


Ty Ford

Neumann TLM 107 - Medium Diaphragm, 5 Patterns, Quiet

With the U 87 ai, U 89 i and TLM 170 cresting past $3,000 USD, what’s an average guy or gal to do to get a multi-pattern Neumann in the studio? My ears told me that the TLM 107 has more in common with the U 89i than the U 87ai. I've always enjoyed the more natural response of the U 89 i, TLM 170 and TLM 67 mics in Neumann line. Here's my TLM 67 review.

The TLM 107 is a pin two high, transformerless, five-patterned, medium diameter, studio mic with, high-pass and pad features. The three main patterns are augmented by a wide cardioid and a hypercardioid.

According to Sennheiser's Product Specialist, Christopher Currier, "The U-89i and the D-01 are the mics we compare the TLM 107 to in terms of frequency response. It’s not as bright as the U 87 ai or the TLM 103."

"It’s designed to be a little more linear. The navigation switch is a cool feature. The new grille has been designed to reduce sibilance and popping. The headgrille mesh is new and it's breaking up the high frequencies more than with the TLM 103."

According to Neumann’s Jürgen Breitlow, Director Research and Development, "We have a new generation of engineers in Berlin and with the TLM 107 they are showing how to make a modern microphone which is still very well recognizable as a Neumann in design as well as in sound. My part in this game was the overall concept, I was leading the project and had still a lot of influence on the capsule design.

While many manufacturers have gone Asian, all the parts are from Germany. “The goal in development was an affordable universal and modern microphone.”, says Breitlow, “It should be transparent without being boring.”

"The diameter of the capsule is equivalent to the K 89 and K 102 used in the U 89 i and TLM 102. Unlike the U 87 ai in which the diaphragms are charged with a centerpoint termination, the TLM 107 back plate is charged and its 6 Micron Mylar diaphragms are conductive from a point on their edge, like the U 89 i."

Design Details
On Neumann’s SD capsules and the LD M7, the diaphragms are glued (not screwed) into place. According to Breitlow, “Pairing front to back is easy because front and back electrode can be measured and selected for distance and tension. Matched pairs still have tighter tolerances than "normal" production. I am not sure if we ever will be able to be so precise that matching is no longer required. That would require tolerances much tighter compared to the diaphragm thickness of 6 microns, which is really tough.” Also, just a small note, the standard mic clip is made out of metal, not plastic. I've run into a number of these plastic clips supplied by other makers and you have to very very careful not to strip them or break them.

The high-pass filter corner frequencies are 40 Hz and 100 Hz. The pads are -6 dB and -12 dB. There’s a new fangled control button for changing patterns, pads and high-pass filter settings. It works well, but the etched numbers for the pad and filter may be smallish and difficult to read for old eyes. Not that you really have a lot to read. Once you learn the lights' positions, you really don't need to read the numbers. The LEDs go out after 15 seconds or so and if you want to know what the settings are you need to poke the button to turn the lights back on.

Sensitivity on the TLM 107 (11 mV/Pa) is noticeably lower than that of the TLM 103 (21 mV/Pa), and the TLM 103 also beats the TLM 107 by having a lower self noise; 10 dB-A for the TLM 107 versus 7 dB-A for the TLM 103. Having said that, the balance between self noise and sensitivity of the TLM 107 is better than my U 89 i, and I’ve been quite happy with it for almost 20 years. When I have needed to record very quiet sources, a double harp comes to mind, the two TLM 103 I have worked just fine.

According to Breitlow, "The noise figures are very often compared to the TLM 103. This is technically not "fair". A dual diaphragm capsule has to use both sides of the capsule. The backside is coupled to the signal as a load, reducing the the sensitivity by 6dB. With this reduced sensitivity the noise goes up by 3dB because the equivalent selfnoise takes the ratio of electrical noise to sensitivity. For this reason, dual diaphragm microphones have very often higher selfnoise figures compared to single diaphragm. The good part in the calculation is that with 6dB lower output you gain 6dB higher max SPL."

"In the U87 ai, the backside of the capsule is taken off electrically for the cardioid pattern to get a better noise figure. But this results in changing sensitivity between the different polar patterns. I preferred to have consistent sensitivity - so that gain can be kept when switching polar pattern."

For me, nothing takes the place of sitting in the quiet of my studio with a mic on a stand or in my hands; listening to what it sounds like in different patterns, with different filters and at different angles. After a 17-year career as a radio announcer followed by ongoing freelance voiceover work, I’ve become very intimate with how my voice sounds through a pair of headphones. I’m my own personal “test tone.” The TLM 107 gives my voice a nicely crisp sound with a palpable chest tone. The 10 dB-A selfnoise is more than quiet enough, but may allow you to hear background noises that other mics masked with their higher selfnoise. Ready for some listening?

Here's a link to my first voice test.
Here's a link to my exploration of the TLM 107 pattern with voice.

The TLM 107 has a three-layer headgrille that Breitlow designed to not only reduce popping but also to control high frequency response. According to Breitlow, “The result is a very good impulse response which shows up in transparency. We got a very nice consistency between on axis to 90 degrees and between the different polar patterns.”

The TLM 107 worked well on my D28S Martin acoustic guitar and J-28LSE baritone Martin. The D28S has a very balanced tone across its six strings. The J-28LSE baritone occupies a space between a six string guitar and a bass. Its strings are thicker and it’s tuned four semitones (four frets) below that of a guitar. The low end can overwhelm mics and require them to be pulled back a bit to keep from being muddy. I spent some time doing a pattern and EQ response study to find which settings worked best for the J-28LSE. Here's a link to that file. It's really interesting to hear the differences each time I make a change. The sound got better and better.

With a 141 dB SPL rating, the TLM 107 may also be used on drums. I headed out to Total Recording Studio, in Timonium, MD for an evening of trying the TLM 107 on John Wilhelm's drum kit. We used it as an overhead and also tried it on snare and kick. John's main monitors are four Mackie HR-824 (front and rear), a Genelec 1038a for center and a Genelec 7070A sub-woofer. I suspect as a drummer, John especially likes hearing the kick that way.

John’s drum room is small with a low but treated ceiling. John normally uses a pair of Audio Technica AT4033 for overheads, Sennheiser 421 on his snare, (a Maryland Drum 7" x 15" with Evans G1 coated head) and an EV RE20 on kick, (a 22” Birch Recording Tama, with beater head only.)

He also uses a signature model Yamaha SKRM-100 Subkick Low Frequency Capture Device, which is basically a speaker converted into a mic to capture the very low frequencies from the kick. We were both struck (pun intended) by how much of the whole kit we were hearing with only one TLM 107 in overhead. Everything, even the kick was very clear.

Reach John Wilhelm at

At one point I asked John to make sure he didn't have another mic open somewhere around the kit. Nope, no other mics. John was surprised by the TLM 107 and based on his short experience with it, likes it for a mono (or stereo) jazz drum overheads and would like a stereo stereo pair in the room for a live to 2-track recording. They'd also be great for live audience.

As we moved to the snare and kick, trying cardioid and hypercardioid, we were still hearing a lot of the rest of the kit due to the size of the room. The sound simply had no place to go. Even though John is a forceful drummer, we never even had to engage the pads on the TLM 107. As I left him that night, he said hearing the TLM 107 was a mixed blessing. He enjoyed our tests, but had to put the TLM 107 on his "wish list." Ready for some more listening?

TLM 107 in wide cardioid overhead
TLM 107 cardioid snare
TLM 107 hypercardioid snare
TLM107 cardioid kick

Again, here's a link to the entire playlist of files I recorded with the TLM 107.

Don Armstrong and Kirby Storms are Jazzmatazz; a jazzy-rock flute and guitar duo who play restaurants, clubs, wineries and corporate events. They had been asking me for suggestions to replace the flute mic which Don also uses for vocals.

They came into my “green room” and we tried the TLM 107 in a quasi live environment. Both the TLM 107 and my Martin D28s’ K&K Pure Western Mini pickup system were fed to my Fishman 220 SoloAmp which was positioned about five feet away and angled directly at them. A pretty tough test for the directionality of the TLM 107. I sent a mono mixed feed with effects to a Sound Devices 664 to record the track and also fed the 664 output to a Zoom Q4 camcorder set to record at 24-bits, 48 kHz. You can see and hear the results below.

Here are Don and Kirby live from my green room.
One of Don’s problems had been where to place a mic to balance out the mechanical key sounds, breath sounds and feedback. I found positioning the mic evenly between the keys and breath hole solved those problems. Then it was a case of choosing the right pattern. I started with the wide cardioid to capture more of the key and mouth sounds, but ended up with the hypercardioid because even the cardioid put us right on the edge of feedback given our proximity and angle on the SoloAmp. In a proper venue, I think the cardioid would be usable unless you had the monitors cranked.

The only problem, then, was an inconsistency with Don’s performance across the three registers of the C Flute. His top register notes were 10 dB to 13 dB louder than those in the two lower registers. (He says now that the other problems are dealt with, some practicing may solve that.) Both Don and Kirby liked the smoothness and openness of the sound and the way the two instruments combined.

Vintage Fender Guitar & Amp
At the very end, just before returning the TLM 107, I had time to pull out my mid-1960s Fender SuperReverb and 1970's modified Fender semi-acoustic (Thinline) Telecaster. I had the original pickups replaced with humbuckers years ago and had a precision bridge installed at the same time. The SuperReverb has four 10" speakers. I had the TLM 107 placed about a foot away from the upper right speaker.

This time I needed the pad. The SuperReverb only has a gain control for each of its two inputs. There's no way to get crunch without volume. I only had the gain up to about 4, which was plenty loud and found I needed the 12 dB pad to prevent clipping the input of my GML mic preamp.

I recorded some rhythm chops with the bridge pickup and with both pickups for a meatier sound and then backed off with some finger picking. No sweat. Nothing but net.

Fender SuperReverb and Tele both pickups in Figure of Eight @ 1 foot
Fender SuperReverb and Tele bridge pickup with wide cardioid @ 1 foot

In Conclusion
There's a theory about how much cost and effort it takes to get a project from 50% to 100%. From 50% to 75% takes another 100% increase cost and resources. From 75% to 85% it takes another 100%. From 85% to 90% it takes another 100%. From 90% to 95%, another 100% You get the idea. The TLM 107 may not cost as much as the U 89 i or U 87 ai, but having spent this time with it, I think it fits well within the Neumann bloodline at a price that, while not insignificant, is a lot more manageable and that fits into the scale of cost versus benefit. Nicely done!

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