These are 4 of my absolute favorite microphones. I sell these as well as a few additional brands. However, the U87 Ai is a classic and you owe it to yourself to at least own one of these if you’re putting together a really good studio.
Neumann U87 Ai
THE GOLD STANDARD
The Neumann U 87 Ai is probably the best-known and most frequently used studio microphone the world over. Its smooth and refined sound is as iconic as its elegant exterior design. The U 87 Ai is the standard microphone for speech and vocals. Three polar patterns plus pad and low cut options make it adaptable to a wide range of applications.
OMNIPRESENT YET UNIQUE
The Neumann U 87 Ai is a true legend. Introduced in 1967, it has shaped the sound of countless hit records for the past 50 years. And when those hits were announced on the radio, many a DJ sat before a U 87 Ai. The legend continues: To this day, no professional recording studio is complete without a Neumann U 87 Ai.
The U 87 Ai is the epitome of a large diaphragm condenser microphone. Its tapered body and iconic headgrille design have become part of the collective consciousness: This is what a studio microphone looks like. The same is true of its sound: The U 87 Ai represents studio quality; it has become the gold standard by which other microphones are measured.
What sets the U 87 Ai apart is its unique combination of linearity and character. Although its on-axis frequency response is remarkably flat, it does exert certain charisma. It just sounds right! This makes the U 87 Ai both versatile and instantly recognizable.
Neumann TLM 103
A MODERN CLASSIC
The TLM 103 has quickly become one of the biggest successes in Neumann’s history. Its pristine, clear sound is a modern update on the classic U87. The TLM 103 is a transformerless cardioid condenser microphone with a gentle presence boost for a stunningly direct sound with breathtaking definition and ultra low noise.
THE NEW STANDARD
Introduced in 1997 as an affordable alternative to the venerable U 87, the TLM 103 has since become a modern classic in its own right. Today, the TLM 103 defines the standard by which contemporary studio microphones are measured. Its classic tapered headgrille design gives the TLM 103 a distinct Neumann look.
The TLM 103 is a cardioid microphone with a large diaphragm condenser capsule derived from the classic K67/87 capsule of the legendary Neumann U 87. However, the TLM 103 has a slightly more modern voicing with a wide presence boost for frequencies above 5 kHz. Its very direct yet refined sound is perfect for vocals, and solo instruments that pop out of the mix without effort. Of course, the TLM 103 also has the famous authoritative midrange that has become the hallmark of Neumann microphones and made them the number one choice in studios around the world. A unique feature of the TLM 103 is its impressively deep yet controlled low end, perfect for sonorous voices and powerful bass instruments.
The TLM 103 has set new standards for technical performance, too. With an incredibly low self-noise of only 7 dB-A , it is among the quietest microphones available. And its high sensitivity of 23 mV/Pa, ensures ultra low noise even with budget preamps and audio interfaces or vintage tube equipment. At the same time, the TLM 103 can handle enormous sound pressure levels of up to 138 dB without the need for preattenuation. Its vast dynamic range of 131 dB makes the TLM 103 a very easy to use studio microphone as it will capture anything from a soft whisper to a thunderous bass drum without adding noise or distortion.
As a member of Neumann’s TLM series, the TLM 103 works with a transformerless output stage, which minimizes transmission losses and ensures a very immediate, uncolored sound, true to the original, as well as a clear, powerful bass response, even at highest signal levels.
Neumann TLM 102
SMALL, SMART & POWERFUL
The TLM 102 brings Neumann quality to even the smallest studio. Like its more expensive siblings, the TLM 102 combines technical excellence with a beautifully balanced sound for silky vocals, crisp guitars and powerful drums. With its cardioid pattern and an integrated pop screen the TLM 102 is a joy to use, even for novices.
THE PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO THE NEUMANN SOUND
The TLM 102 is Neumann’s most affordable large diaphragm condenser microphone. And, of course, it is a true Neumann, designed and manufactured in Germany with great attention to every detail. Compared to more expensive Neumann microphones, the TLM 102 is reduced in size and features, but Neumann would never compromise on sound quality. Despite its affordable price, the TLM 102 has a very attractive look with a gleaming chrome ring between a classic tapered headgrille and the famous Neumann diamond.
SMART LOOKS – SMART ENGINEERING
The TLM 102 sounds as smart as it looks! Its newly developed large diaphragm condenser capsule has all the qualities that made Neumann microphones the first choice in recording studios all over the world: a clear and focused sound with superb definition. Due to its remarkably linear response across the entire midrange, the TLM 102 is able to capture the authentic character of any voice or instrument, enhanced by a slight lift around 10 kHz for silky highs. The TLM 102 has gorgeous bottom end, too, enriched by the well-controlled proximity effect of a large diaphragm cardioid capsule. A joy for every singer!
The TLM 102’s technical performance is impressive, too. Its self-noise of only 12 dB-A is much lower than the ambient noise in even a very quiet room. At the same time, the TLM 102 is capable of handling extreme sound pressure levels of up to 144 dB free from distortion. As a member of the TLM range, the TLM 102 is equipped with a transformerless output stage, which means: powerful bass, even at highest signal levels, and a very direct sound without transmission losses.
BIG SOUND FOR SMALL STUDIOS
Due to its enormous dynamic range of 132 dB and a remarkably uniform cardioid pickup pattern, the TLM 102 is a very easy to use microphone for home and project studios, and also for demanding live applications. Its uncolored sound and fast transient response make the TLM 102 an excellent choice for male and female vocals as well as a wide range of instruments, such as acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar and double bass, drums, percussion, brass, saxophone. The TLM 102 is a true workhorse for any small studio!
- Compact microphone with genuine Neumann large diaphragm capsule
- Uniform cardioid pattern
- Transformerless circuitry for high SPLs without distortion
- Very low self-noise
- Gentle treble lift for silky highs
- Integrated pop screen
UNCOLORED, TRANSPARENT, VERSATILE
The KM 184 is a state-of-the-art small diaphragm condenser microphone with a uniform, frequency-independent cardioid polar pattern. Its very natural, transparent sound with very low self-noise and high SPL capability have made the KM 184 a worldwide stage and studio standard for many applications ranging from classical piano to heavy metal drums.
While many microphones, these days, are designed to add some sonic imprint of their own, there are many applications that require a faithful reproduction of the original acoustic event, without adding or removing anything. That’s where the Neumann Series 180 comes in.
The Neumann Series 180 consists of three members with different pickup patterns: KM 183 (omni), KM 184 (cardioid), and KM 185 (hypercardioid), thus covering the majority of stage and studio applications. Because the Series 180 microphones are non-modular, they are more cost-effective than the modular Series KM A and KM D (which offer a wide range of interchangeable capsule heads for analog and digital output stages).
Despite its attractive pricing, the KM 184 offers state-of-the-art Neumann engineering. Its cardioid pattern is frequency-independent; rejection of rearward sound (180°) is excellent, even at low frequencies. In practical usage, there is no sound coloration over a wide pickup angle, which is crucial in multi-microphone setups and for precise stereo/surround imaging. The KM 184’s frequency response is very smooth and linear with a slight treble lift around 9 kHz for added brilliance. Its innovative transformerless head amplifier offers a wide dynamic range of 125 dB and is carefully designed to maintain the capsule’s sonic integrity. The KM 184 has a very low self-noise of only 13 dB-A and can handle high sound pressure levels of up to 138 dB free from distortion. Due to its low impedance output stage, the KM 184 can drive long cable runs of up to 300 meters (1000 feet) without transmission losses.
The KM 184 is a universal microphone for studio and stage applications. Its transparent sound makes the KM 184 a superb microphone for acoustic instruments, such as piano, percussion, drums, acoustic guitar, upright bass, violin, cello, woodwinds, and brass. The KM 184 can be used for soloists as well as ensembles. Thanks to its superior off-axis behavior, the KM 184 is an excellent microphone for stereo and surround recording with perfect imaging. Although the KM 184 is not specially optimized for the human voice, it is often used for classical vocals and whenever sonic authenticity is paramount. Due to its small size, the KM 184 is visually unobtrusive and well suited to TV and radio applications.
- Uniform cardioid pattern without off-axis coloration
- Linear frequency response with a slight treble lift
- Very low self-noise (13 dB-A)
- Low impedance output for long cable runs without transmission losses
- Transformerless circuitry
- Compact size, visually unobtrusive