Neumann's most recent microphone — the TLM 67 — was a welcome visitor when it arrived. The mic is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and constrained within a riddle. To wit; how can a mic with no vacuum tube or transformer be positioned as the evolution of a mic with a tube and transformer? Is this not heresy? Let the impassioned fist-pounding arguments begin about how close to the original U67 (or prototype U60) this TLM 67 could be. Leave it to the Neumann marketing department to find a way to brew a controversy.
The TLM 67 is a three-pattern FET condenser microphone with two large Mylar diaphragms, a switchable 10 dB pad, and a high-pass filter. The patterns are the typical omni, cardioid and figure-of-eight. In that relative order, the sensitivities at 1 kHz into 1 kohm are 10/18/9 mV/Pa. The rated impedance is 50 ohms with a load impedance of 1 kohms. Equivalent noise levels, CCIR, are 29/24/30 dB. A-weighted self-noise is 16/11/17 dB-A. Maximum output voltage is -1 dBu.
The TLM 67 uses the K67 capsule. A bit of background from Neumann's Juergen Breitlow: "The capsules K67, K87 and K870 are acoustically identical (the K87 and K870 are used in the U 87i and U 87Ai, respectively). There is an electrical difference between the K67 and K870 on one side and the K87 on the other side: The 'half' electrodes in the K87 are isolated against each other, which requires four wires to connect the capsule to the circuit. In the K67 and K870, the electrodes are electrically connected."
Inside the TLM 67, Neumann uses surface mount technology similar to that in the TLM 103. As such, the insides are very tidy. Self-noise is not a problem. The TLM 67 sounds even quieter than its quoted figures. The figure of eight nulls are very deep. The omni is mildly beamy at high frequencies, but most omnis are. The cardioid is fairly wide.
In any of its three patterns, the TLM 67 doesn't sound particularly thick or "tubey" to me. It's crisp and clear with just a hint of something going on in the lower mids or upper bass. I think it's probably better not get too caught up in the "tube/not tube" thing and, instead, listen to how the TLM 67 makes things sound in its own right.
The TLM 67 is smoother than the TLM 49 I reviewed a few years ago. There's less proximity effect than I expected in either the cardioid or figure-of-eight pattern. Normally I have to pull out some low end when I work a mic at about three inches for voiceover — not so much with the TLM 67. The low end is more balanced and there's only a small presence lift, which means the source cuts through without getting edgy. After briefly auditioning the TLM 67 on my own voice, I felt comfortable using on "real work" — a recording of someone else's voice for a narration and a workout with one of my voiceover students.
I found that it wasn't what the TLM 67 brought to the party I liked as much as what it didn't: no nasty edges, no hyped bottom or top, just a clean and balanced sound. If you want a mic "with character," I'm not sure what that means other than a mic that changes the way things really sound. Sure, there's a case to be made for that kind of creativity, but I find it's frequently a ploy to cover up design inadequacies. The TLM 67 is not inadequate.
Fast Facts Applications
All professional recording
3-pattern large diaphragm condenser mic with high-pass filter and 10 dB pad; very smooth response; well suited for especially digital recording.
$3,459 (list) with kit including EA 87 suspension mount
Neumann USA | 860-434-9190 | www.neumannusa.com On my D28S Martin and 314 Taylor, I liked the high-pass filter on because these instruments have a plenty of LF energy. If you have thin sounding sources that you're trying to beef up a bit, then run without the filter. I found recordings of both guitars were accurate and with nice attention to mid range detail.
From this relatively light workout, I went further, miking my vintage pre-CBS Fender Vibrolux and strapping on my '72 thin-line Tele to record some nasty rhythm tracks. Using the TLM 67s figure of eight pattern, I found a good spot about six inches from the cabinet that gave me a nice chunk, good mids and a nice clean top. I didn't need the high-pass filter but did need the 10 dB pad even though the Vibrolux was only cranked up to 2 and 3/4 out of 10. The TLM 67 captured that classic slightly-overdriven Vibrolux tubey edge very accurately without adding any edge of its own. Later I had the Vibrolux volume up to 7 and the TLM 67 took it very easily with no breakup.
For about six years, I've been suggesting that mic design needed to change because, with good digital recording, the extra HF boost needed to overcome analog tape HF loss is no longer needed. The TLM 67 reflects that kind of change in design; it's audibly more linear — and more neutral — than the U87, with more attention to midrange. At $3,858 list (about $2,600 street and $2,300 without the EA 87 suspension mount), it's expensive and very nice.
Ty Ford has been writing for PAR since the first issue. Reach him at www.tyford.com.