Technology

Field Test: Neumann TLM 127 Condenser Microphone

Studio Stalwart With a Strong Lineage 4/01/2004 7:00 AM Eastern

The TLM 127 is the latest FET 100 Series mic in Neumann'stransformerless microphone line (TLM). Available in either black matteor Neumann's trademark nickel finish, the side-address TLM 127 startsout with the K 127 large dual-diaphragm capsule, which is based on theK 103 used in the TLM 103. The membrane thickness is 6 microns.

On the back of the mic is a -14dB attenuator pad (which takes themic's 140dB SPL handling to a hefty 154 dB) and a two-position highpassfilter. The filter's LIN (linear) setting is a 12dB/octave roll-offstarting at 15 Hz for wind noise, handling and mic stand vibrations.The other position moves the corner frequency up to 100 Hz and is goodfor proximity effect reduction or just boomy sound sources.

A three-position pattern switch selects cardioid, omnidirectionaland “R” (remote pattern control) mode over a standard XLRmic cable up to 300 meters long. Accessing the mic's remotecapabilities requires the optional N48 R-2, Neumann's special phantompower supply, which will power and control up to two TLM 127s.

IN THE STUDIO

Compared (both in cardioid) to my stock U87, the 127 is aflatter-sounding mic without the slightly low midrange buildup andharder-sounding upper midrange of the U87. There is also a very smoothhigh-frequency extension on the 127 where the U87 almost sounded rolledoff by comparison. I tested the mic in cardioid and omni modes, butwithout the power supply, I couldn't try my “two facingout-of-phase guitar cabs with figure-8 mic in between” trick.

In a practical sense, the 127 behaved very much like the TLM 103 inthe studio, except the larger 127 does not fit quite as easily in tightplaces around a drum kit. The The EA 1 shock-mount is a necessity inall cases, as the 127 has terrific subsonic response. The mount willtake care of any external subsonics mechanically coupling and travelingup the mic stand. This extended low-frequency response is great atcapturing all of the sounds from drums, bass instruments or the“thump” from loud Marshall guitar cabinets.

The 100Hz roll-off position worked well for recording acousticguitars, where I put the 127 in cardioid two inches above the soundhole — an “old-school” pop recording method thatminimizes fret noise pickup while delivering a consistent and loudsound, albeit boomy. Fingerboard noise permitting, I usually end upmoving the mic up the neck a bit. Even though I would not normally usea large-diaphragm mic for acoustics, the 127 sounded great on bothnylon- and steel-string guitars.

I also tried the 127 in omni about a foot away, again with theroll-off engaged. The sound of the guitar “moved back” ascompared to cardioid but gained an open brilliancy. I liked this betterfor transparent-sounding chord strumming than for flat-picking. Withthis mic's low noise floor (7 dBA), I could crank up the mic gainwithout pulling up any mic noise or hum. Both of these methods produceda bright and clear sound with a minimum of EQ or fuss.

I close-miked my Fender Concert guitar amp and got plenty of sparkleand thick bass. The 127 had more bass and less upper-midrangecrankiness than the U87, but more super-top that can get a littletwangy if you want. In this case, the mic placement helped, as Ifavored the outside of the speaker cone away from the center. I had touse the -14dB pad, because the 127's hot output in this high-SPLsituation distorted my API preamp.

For vocals in cardioid, the proximity effect can be an issue with amic this fat-sounding, and backing my singer off a foot away stillproduced plenty of low-frequency “chestiness.” If yoursinger loves to “kiss the mic,” then the 100Hz roll-offposition will combat bass buildup; but in this instance, I found thefilter a little high in frequency. I wish there was a second lowerposition at 50 Hz.

The 127 is excellent for loud or soft singers. Loud singers who canbecome edgy when singing in their upper registers will appreciate the127's smooth top end that doesn't exacerbate this typical problem. Softsingers will notice a sensitivity and clarity that helps with lyricarticulation.

The TLM 127 also opens up the option of omnidirectional vocalrecording. In omni, there is no more proximity effect, so my singercould work around the mic without having to deal with tonality change.In the omni position, I encountered much less “beamingeffect,” where the high frequencies can drop off in cardioid ifthe singer turns slightly off of the mic's direction. In omni, the 127had a more airy sound and pulled in more room tone around the voice.For the blues/rock tune we recorded, it worked well with very littleneed for additional reverb or delay.

TODAY'S WORKHORSE


The TLM 127 is an excellent-sounding utilitarian studio mic. Itcomes in two kits: TLM127/SET Z with EA 1 elastic suspension mount andcherry box at $2,149.99, and the lower-cost TLM127/SET A with an SG 1(same basic mount as TLM 103) and cardboard box at $1,799.99. The N48R-2 power supply/remote controller will sell for $1,015 when it becomesavailable.

Neumann, 860/434-5220, www.neu mannusa.com.


Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer. Visit hisWebsite at www.barry rudolph.com.

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