Neumann TLM 127, April 2004STUDIO STALWART WITH A STRONG LINEAGE 5/14/2004 8:00 AM Eastern
The TLM 127 is the latest FET 100 Series mic in Neumann’s transformerless microphone line (TLM). 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, which is based on the K 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 the mic’s 140dB SPL handling to a hefty 154 dB) and a two-position highpass filter. The filter’s LIN (linear) setting is a 12dB/octave roll-off starting at 15 Hz for wind noise, handling and mic stand vibrations. The other position moves the corner frequency up to 100 Hz and is good for proximity effect reduction or just boomy sound sources.
A three-position pattern switch selects cardioid, omnidirectional and “R” (remote pattern control) mode over a standard XLR mic cable up to 300 meters long. Accessing the mic’s remote capabilities requires the optional N48 R-2, Neumann’s special phantom power 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 a flatter-sounding mic without the slightly low midrange 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-8 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 The EA 1 shock-mount is a necessity in all cases, as the 127 has terrific subsonic response. The mount 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 sounds 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 two inches above 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 nylon- and steel-string guitars.
I also tried the 127 in omni about a foot away, again with the roll-off engaged. 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 (7 dBA), I could crank up the mic gain without pulling up any mic noise or hum. Both of these methods produced a bright and clear sound with a minimum of EQ or fuss.
I close-miked my Fender Concert guitar amp and got plenty of sparkle and thick bass. 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. In this case, the mic placement helped, as I favored the outside of the speaker cone away from the center. I had to use the -14dB pad, because the 127’s hot output in this high-SPL situation distorted my API preamp.
For vocals in cardioid, the proximity effect can be an issue with a mic this fat-sounding, and backing my singer off a foot away still produced plenty of low-frequency “chestiness.” If your singer loves to “kiss the mic,” then the 100Hz roll-off position will combat bass buildup; but in this instance, I found the filter a little high in frequency. I wish there was a second lower position at 50 Hz.
The 127 is excellent for loud or soft singers. Loud singers who can become 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 lyric articulation.
The TLM 127 also opens up the option of omnidirectional vocal recording. In omni, there is no more proximity effect, so my singer could work around the mic without having to deal with tonality change. In the omni position, I encountered much less “beaming effect,” where the high frequencies can drop off in cardioid if the singer turns slightly off of the mic’s direction. In omni, the 127 had 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 little need for additional reverb or delay.
The TLM 127 is an excellent-sounding utilitarian studio mic. It comes in two kits: TLM127/SET Z with EA 1 elastic suspension mount and cherry 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 N48 R-2 power supply/remote controller will sell for $1,015 when it becomes available.