Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone

Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone
Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone
Neumann TLM 127 Condenser
by Barry Rudolph
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There was a celebratory feeling that
accompanied my receipt of the new
multi-pattern, large-diaphragm Neumann
TLM 127 studio condenser, the latest
FET 100 series mic in the
Transformerless Microphone line (TLM).
Maybe it's that Neumann released this
mic in conjunction with celebrating their
75th anniversary this past September in
Berlin or the posh cherry wood 'cigar
humidor-style' carrying case that holds
the mic and EA 1 shock mount. Suffice it
to say, it was fun testing out this
multi-patterned 'big brother' to the TLM
103 studio microphone.
Up Close In Proximity
Available in either black matte or
Neumann's trademark nickel finish, the
side-address TLM 127 starts out with the
K 127 large dual diaphragm capsule
that's based on the K 103 used in the
TLM 103 mic. Like all Neumann large
diaphragm capsules, the membrane
thickness is 6 microns. Built to
Neumann's impeccable standards, the
mic has flush-mounted Philips screws,
recessed switches, gold-plated XLR connector pins, and a threaded mounting collar that (1 of 5) [3/27/2004 11:12:03 AM]
Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone
mates to the EA 1 shock mount's captive, knurled locking nut. The EA 1 is the same elastic
suspension mount used by the TLM 103, TLM 193 and M 147 mics and permits you to
position the mic exactly by rotating and locking the mic's body within the spider suspension
Remote Pattern Control-How Does It Work?
There is a three-position pattern switch on the hot side of the mic for cardioid, omnidirectional
and R for remote pattern control mode over a standard XLR mic cable up to 300 meters long.
Remotely changing the polar pickup pattern back at the listening/mixing position has an
immediate appeal; you can dial in the exact size of the "recorded event" to fit your production.
Especially good for recording acoustic instruments like guitars, string sections and also choirs,
this is done by using Neumann's special phantom power supply, the N48 R-2 which will power
and control two TLM 127s.
This is just like the patented, high-end TLM 170R microphone system where five different
directional patterns are selectable with a detented rotary switch on the power supply. Although
the N48 R-2 will be available soon (I didn't get one for this review), the principle is simple. The
N48 R-2 switches the phantom power voltage over a range of 45 to 51 volts in five,
unambiguous 1.5-volt steps. (The IEC 1938 spec allows phantom power supply voltages to
fluctuate a maximum of +/- 4 volts.) If you were to switch the mic to R and could vary the
phantom voltage yourself you'd get: at 48V, cardioid; 49.5V wide cardioid; 51V omni; 46.5V
hypercardioid; and 45V gets you Figure of 8.
The TLM 127 uses a four-bit comparator and a kind of simple A/D converter to 'read' the exact
phantom voltage level (of each of those five steps) and 'hard' switches the appropriate bias
voltage to the rear-facing capsule as supplied from the mic's internal + and - 60 volt DC-to-DC
converter. Sorry, you cannot vary the pattern in between two positions.
With +60 volts bias always on the front facing capsule, the mic's directional polar pattern is
determined by the polarity and level of voltage on the rear-facing capsule. The patterns are:
cardioid (zero voltage on rear capsule), hyper-cardioid (-23 volts), wide-angle cardioid (+23
volts), omni-directional (+60 volts), and figure of eight (-60 volts).
On the back of the mic are two more switches: a -14dB attenuator pad and a high pass filter
selector. The high pass filter has two positions. LIN (or Linear) is a 12dB/octave roll-off
starting at 15Hz for wind noise, handling and mic stand vibrations. The other position moves
the corner frequency up to 100Hz and is good for proximity effect reduction or just boomy
sound sources. (2 of 5) [3/27/2004 11:12:03 AM]
Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone
In the
I found
the same
as the
TLM 103
Operation Principal: Pressure gradient
here in
Polar Patterns: Omnidirectional and Cardioid
In remote control mode, a wide-angle
cardioid, hypercardioid and Figure of Eight
Frequency range: 20Hz to 20kHz
when I
Sensitivity: 12 mV/Pa +/- 1dB
Impedance: 50 ohms
compared Rated
Rated Load Impedance: 1000 ohms
S/N ratio: 74dB (CCIR 468-3)
(both in
Equivalent SPL: 20dB (CCIR 468-3)
Equivalent SPL: 8 dB-A (DIN/IEC 651)
my totally Self-noise: 7dB-A
Max SPL: 140dB for <0.5% THD
154dB w/ attenuator
Max Output voltage: 10dBu
U87 to
Phantom Power: +48 VDC +/- 4 volts
the TLM
Phantom current: 3.2 mA
450 grams
127. The Weight:
Dimensions: 58 mm X 173 mm
127 is a
flatter sounding mic without the slight low
mid-range buildup and harder sounding upper midrange of the U87. There is also a very
smooth high frequency extension on the 127 where the U87 almost sounded rolled-off by
comparison. I tested the mic in cardioid and omni modes but without the power supply I
couldn't try my "two facing out-of-phase guitar cabs with figure of eight mic in between" trick.
In a practical sense, the 127 behaved very much like the TLM 103 in the studio except the
larger 127 does not fit quite as easily in tight places around a drum kit. The shock mount is a
necessity in all cases since the 127 has terrific subsonic response. The EA 1 will take care of
any external subsonics mechanically coupling and traveling up the mic stand. This extended
low frequency response is great at capturing ALL of the sound from drums, bass instruments
or the "thump" from loud Marshall guitar cabinets.
The 100Hz roll-off position worked well for recording acoustic guitars where I put the 127 in
cardioid very close (two inches) right over the sound hole--an 'old school' Pop recording
method that minimizes fret noise pickup while delivering a consistent and loud sound--albeit
boomy. Fingerboard noise permitting, I usually end up moving the mic up the neck a bit. Even
though I would not normally use a large diaphragm mic for acoustics, the 127 sounded great
on both gut and steel string guitars.
To get a better overall 'sonic picture' of the acoustic guitar, I also tried the 127 in
omni-directional mode about a foot away again with the roll off switched in. The sound of the
guitar 'moved back' as compared to cardioid but gained an open brilliancy; I liked this better
for transparent-sounding chord strumming than for flat-picking. With this mic's low noise floor
(7dB-A), I could crank up the mic gain, squash as much as I wanted without pulling up any mic (3 of 5) [3/27/2004 11:12:03 AM]
Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone
noise or hum. Both these methods produce a bright and clear sound with a minimum of EQ or
I close mic'd my Fender Concert guitar amp with the TLM
127 and got plenty of sparkle and thick bass. I like using a
Shure SM57, a Royer ribbon, and a condenser, usually an
87, on guitar amps. The 127 had more bass and less
upper midrange crankiness than the U87 but more super
top that can get a little twangy if you want. Mic placement
helped here where I favored the outside of the speaker
cone away from the center. I had to use the -14dB pad as
the 127's hot output distorted my API pre-amp.
There are even more options using the TLM127 for vocals.
In cardioid, the proximity effect can be an issue with a mic
this fat sounding so even backing my singer off a foot
away still produced plenty of low frequency "chestiness." If
your singer just loves to "kiss the mic" then the 100Hz roll
off position will combat bass buildup but I found it a little
high in frequency--I'd wish there was a second, lower
position at 50Hz.
The 127 is excellent for loud as well as soft singers. Loud
singers, who get edgy when singing in their upper
registers, will appreciate the 127's smooth top end that
doesn't exacerbate this typical problem. Soft singers will
notice a sensitivity and clarity that helps with the lyric articulation.
The TLM127 also opens up the option of omnidirectional vocal recording. In omni, there is no
more proximity effect so my singer could worked around the mic without too much tonality
change. I also find less "beaming effect" in omni where (in cardioid) if the singer turns slightly
off the direction of the mic, the high frequencies die. In omni position, the 127 had a more airy
sound and pulled in more room tone around my singer's voice and, for the Blues Rock tune
we were recording; it just worked with very little need of additional reverb or delay.
Today's Workhorse
The TLM 127 is an excellent sounding, cost-effective choice for an all-around utilitarian studio
microphone. As a direct descendant of the all-time studio workhorse, the U87, when you add
in remote pattern control ability, you have a microphone system that's hard NOT to have. The
TLM 127 comes in two kits: TLM127/SET Z with EA 1 elastic suspension mount and cherry
box at $2,149.99 MSRP and the lower cost TLM127/SET A with a SG 1 (same basic mount as
TLM 103) and cardboard box at $1,799.99 MSRP. The N48 R-2 power supply/remote
controller sells $1,015. Neumann is at 1 Enterprise Drive, Old Lyme, CT 06371. Telephone
860-434-5220 or visit
Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer. Visit his Web site at:
WWW.BARRYRUDOLPH.COM (4 of 5) [3/27/2004 11:12:03 AM]
Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone
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