The Neumann TLM 127 is a pressure gradient transducer that offers omnidirectional and cardioid operation by itself, but can also provide five patterns if used with the power supply originally designed for the N 48 R-2 power supply for Neumann’s TLM 170R. Even though the power supply handles two mics, its $999 list price is apt to put some folks off. A soon-to-be-delivered less expensive Neumann power supply, N428, is expected shortly.
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key Features: Cardioid and omni patterns; optional remote pattern switching among five patterns; 14 dB pad; 15 Hz and 150 Hz high-pass filters
Set Z: EA 1 elastic suspension mount in a wooden jewelers box, $2,149
Set A: Stand mount EA 1 in cardboard box for $1,799
Contact: Neumann USA at 860-434-5220, Web Site.
Getting five patterns is achieved by the ingenious implementation of an internal logic circuit that detects changes of 1.5-volt increments from 44 to 52 volts in the phantom voltage and thereby alters the bias of the front and back sides of the microphone’s capsule. Those changes in bias voltage create the five patterns.
The implications of a phantom power supply that also switches mic patterns remotely may not be obvious. You may have an application in which the mic is positioned quite a distance from the console; in the rafters, down the hall, even in the next room. In addition, pattern choice also results in different frequency responses and different proximity effects.
The TLM 127 is longer and more narrow than a TLM 103, and fatter and shorter than a U 89. There are three switches around the base of the body. One allows selection of the cardioid or omni patterns or remote mode. One enables a 14 dB pad. One switches between -3 dB at 15 Hz or 150 Hz, using a 12 dB/octave slope. A minor point, the EQ switch is presumably designed to move in accordance with the 15 Hz to 150 Hz corner frequencies. That means sliding it to the left – towards the downward slanted end of the EQ marking – results in the lows being rolled off at 15 Hz. It took my mind a moment to get used to the idea that moving the slide switch toward the right (to the 150 Hz corner frequency) would actually result in more LF cut.
Inside the three-layer metal mesh covered head grille, I noticed a small plastic strap screwed to the top of the capsule. It is a safety shield to keep the capsule from coming in electrical contact with the inside of the head grille, should the mic be dropped.
The capsule in the TLM 127 is a dual-diaphragmed revision of the TLM 103 capsule. Sensitivity is listed at 12 mV/Pa ± 1 dB. Output impedance is 50 ohms. Rated load impedance is 1 k ohm. Self-noise is a very quiet 8 dBA. Maximum SPL is 140 dB without pad and 154 dB with pad. Maximum output voltage is 10 dBu. The TLM 127 likes its phantom power at 48 VDC and 3.2 mA.
Two small electrolytic capacitors are mounted on the top of the circular printed circuit board. On the TLM 103, these caps are mounted on the bottom side of the card. Neumann says having the caps mounted on top and to the rear of the capsule has no effect on the sound of the mic and makes wave soldering of the PCB easier and less expensive.
After selecting the TLM 127 cardioid pattern, I recorded my voice while positioning the TLM 127 and a TLM 103 three inches from my mouth. The TLM 103 was 5.1 dB more sensitive than the TLM 127. During playback, I adjusted the gains so that they were of equal level and listened keenly. The top ends sounded extremely similar. The TLM 127 had slightly less bass response than the TLM 103.
I moved the mics out to 12 inches and repeated the exercise. This time the difference was only 4.9 dB and the difference in low end was not as apparent. From this I deduce that the TLM 127’s Ð3 dB high-pass filter at 15 Hz is removing some of the low end, including some of the proximity effect. Again, the top ends sounded extremely similar.
The active rear diaphragm of the TLM 127 does give it a noticeably different frequency response than the TLM 103 for sounds arriving from the rear. The TLM 103 has a more prominent low-end response and this difference presents itself more when the sound source is closer than 12 inches from the rear of the mic.
The TLM 127 does not start to build low end from the rear until the source is four inches or closer. Even at distances of over a foot, the TLM 103 allows mildly more upper bass or low mids than the TLM 127. This means the TLM 127 may be more useful in close quarters situations where it is desirable not to hear low frequencies that are to the rear of the mic.
The published frequency response of TLM 127 cardioid pattern indicates that the low-frequency response of the cardioid pattern is down 5 dB at 20 Hz, rising very slightly to -1 dB at 200 Hz before reaching 0 dB at 2 kHz. From there, a slow rise of about +3 dB starts at 3 kHz and peaks at 14 kHz before recrossing 0 dB at just over 15 kHz.
If you like the sound and quietness of the TLM 103, but have not been able to nuzzle yours close enough to sources without rolling off a lot of low end proximity effect, the TLM 127 is an obvious option with either of the high-pass positions.
The TLM 127’s omni pattern has a -4 dB dip at 4 kHz followed by a pronounced +5 dB peak at 9 kHz to 11 kHz that begins at 6 kHz and recrosses 0 dB at 15 kHz. As a result, the omni pattern sounds much brighter than the cardioid, especially at close range. At distances of a foot or more, the brightness is nowhere nearly as prominent.
Using the omni pattern, I recorded voice and acoustic guitar together in one pass, positioning the mic within the high frequency emphasis range; about six inches from my face and nine inches from my D28S Martin. I was tracking with GML preamps, an RME A/D converter and recording into a Digidesign 001 at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz.
Even though I was using the omni pattern, how on or off-axis the sound source is plays an obvious part in the capture of high frequencies. I angled the mic somewhere between my face and the Martin. If I had tilted the mic more towards the guitar, I could have taken a bit of the brightness off of my voice and the guitar would have been brighter. After I cut the track, I dropped 9.5 kHz by 1.5 dB with a Q of .55 to take the edge off and shelved the bottom off Ð3 dB at 120 Hz. Adding slight amounts of compression and limiting made for a harder, brighter track. It is called Angel.MP3 and it is in the Audio Archive on my website; www.jagunet.com/~tford
I serve as a member of the AFTRA/SAG Conservatory in the Washington-Baltimore local. In that capacity I train union performers seeking to become narrators. After my afternoon with the TLM 127, I continued on into the evening and used it for the Conservatory class. I set the mic in the cardioid pattern and engaged the steeper high-pass filter (-3 dB at 150 Hz with a 12 dB/octave slope.) That was a great setting and through my GML mic pre, the voices sounded very nice; solid, not too thick and with a nice cutting edge. Although I do not have a U 87 at the moment for comparison, I remembered thinking that the TLM 127 sounded like a hybrid of the TLM 103 and a U 87. It is slightly edgy, in a “U 87/API preamp” sort of way, even through I was using a GML preamp.
Some folks have found the TLM 103 too sensitive, restricting them from pushing it up against guitar amps, because the level overdrove the mic preamp. Being 5 dB less sensitive than a TLM 103 without the pad and 19 dB less sensitive with the pad, makes the TLM 127 usable in front of louder sources.
The TLM 127 can be ordered in nickel or matte black finishes. Set Z offers the EA 1 elastic suspension and ships in a wooden jewelers box for $2,149. Set A offers the SG 1 standmount and ships in cardboard box for $1,799. Space is at a premium in my studio, I would go for the cardboard box. The TLM 127 has the traditional Neumann sound. The control options make it more versatile than the TLM 103. Its low self-noise is increasingly more valuable, especially if you are trying to record quiet sources into a good digital system.