On a list of the top microphone companies…
It would be tough to argue that the #1 spot go to anyone else besides Neumann.
For many decades now, they’ve been virtually synonymous with high-end microphones.
However, because of the price barrier…
While almost every home studio owner knows the name Neumann…
Most know very little about the actual microphones they have to offer.
If this sounds like you, get ready, because for today’s post I’ll show you 7 of the most popular microphones in the Neumann line-up.
Let’s begin. First up…
1. Neumann U87 Ai
If there’s one Neumann mic that anyone and everyone knows…
It’s the Neumann U87.
Considered by many as the king of all microphones…
It’s the one that every pro studio has, and every home studio wishes they had.
Even musicians who know nothing about recording are somehow impressed if you have one.
Which is why if a pro studio has one, you can be damn sure they will mention it on their website so everybody knows. 🙂
The original version of this mic, the U87 i, which was made between 1967 and 1986, can be tough to find on the used market…
But luckily for us, Neumann now offers the updated U87 Ai, which uses the same original capsule, but with updated electronics for improved headroom and less noise.
Check it out:
2. Neumann TLM 102/103
Recognizing that not everyone can afford the price of a U87…
Neumann eventually expanded their audience base with their line of TLM mics, which are still pricey, but much more affordable to the average dude.
Short for for “TransformerLess Microphone”, the TLM design replaces the typical output transformer with an electronic circuit.
This technology, present in many Neumann mics, allows for both lower noise, and a higher SPL.
Not surprisingly, the TLM line was a huge success, and the TLM102, and TLM103 became two of the most popular vocal mics on the planet.
With a large diaphragm cardioid capsule derived from the legendary U 87, these two mics are now a standard for high-end home recording.
What people often wonder is:
What’s the difference between these two?
Well…statistically at least…the TLM103 is:
- heavier (450g vs 210g)
- less noisy (-4dB)
- lower THD ratio (138dB vs 144dB)
But the real question is…
Which sounds better?
Well despite the fact that the TLM103 is significantly more expensive than the TLM102…there is no general consensus in online forums as to which one is actually better.
Some prefer one; some prefer the other.
NOTE: Both of these mics have a wide frequency range and will reproduce bass frequencies quite accurately, making them vulnerable to breath and handling noises.
So…the optional shockmount, and pop filter are highly advisable for these mics.
3. Neumann KM184’s
When it comes to small diaphragm condenser mics…
There is perhaps no mic out there more famous among amateurs…
And more highly-regarded by professionals…
Than the Neumann KM184’s.
As part of Neumann’s “Series 180” line, which includes:
- KM183 – (omni)
- KM184 – (cardioid)
- KM185 – (hypercardioid)
…the KM184 is the original and best-selling of its 3 siblings.
Based off the original KM84, which was popularized back in the 70’s…
It uses the same capsule as the KM84, which is highly regarded for its smooth frequency response when dealing with off-axis sounds.
The KM184 however, adds numerous improvements including an increased dynamic range, lower self-noise, and a higher SPL.
Here it is, along with the others as well:
4. Neumann KMS 105
While not particularly known for their live mics…
With Neumann, quality is pretty much guaranteed with everything they make.
And their KMS series of on-stage condenser mics, featuring the KMS 105, is no exception.
Here’s a quick rundown of the features:
- supercardioid pattern
- great for in-ear monitoring
- Bass roll-off for proximity effect
- high signal-to-noise ratio
As Neumann states themselves, and as many users will confirm, this mic is particularly well-suited for female pop/rock vocals.
Unlike most directional microphones, where the bass frequencies are “less-directional”…
The KMS series maintains directionality on the low end as well, which offers an added layer of feedback protection.
All these features combined allow for maximum freedom of movement on-stage.
And as you will see, the KMS105 is one of the most expensive handheld vocal mics money can buy.
However, as most users agree, its well worth the cost. Check it out:
5. Neumann TLM49
Inspired by the legendary M49 and M50 microphones of the 1950s…
The Neumann TLM49 combines that classic look and sound of decades past…
With a few technical improvements for the modern day.
Using the same capsule as both the M49 and U47, the TLM49 performs similarly…
With a warm, yet open sound that is ideally suited for vocals.
The main upgrade here is: the transformerless circuit technology which offers various technical improvements such as lower noise and higher SPL.
Another variation of this mic is the M 149 Tube, which uses the same K49 capsule and transformerless circuit design…
Only this model is a dual-diaphragm tube microphone that offers both a 7-step hi-pass filter, and the following 9 polar patterns:
- wide cardioid
- …PLUS, one mid-setting between each of the these.
You can check out both of them here to see how they compare:
NOTE: As with most Neumann vocal mics, the wide frequency of the TLM 49 and M 149 will catch a lot of low-end rumble, which is why they both come with an EA 3 shockmount included.
6. Neumann BCM705
As the first dynamic mic ever offered by Neumann…
It’s no surprise to discover that the BCM705 is nowhere near as popular as the other mics on this list.
Designed mainly for the broadcasting industry (I assume BCM stands for Broadcast Microphone?)…
The BCM705 bears a clear resemblance to the industry standard Shure SM7B.
The question is…
Is it as good?
Well so far, it seems tough to say. But here’s what we do know:
The hypercardioid BCM705 has all the standard features you might expect from a dynamic broadcast mic:
- built-in pop filter
- built-in shock protection
- low-end bass roll off
- presence boost for speech intelligibility
Plus, it’s unique in the fact that special attention was paid to hygiene with its design. Here’s how:
- the built-in pop filter guards against food particles
- the headgrille twists off easily for quick cleaning
- the interchangeable color-coded headgrilles can be switched out for different users
While it’s definitely not a classic yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing this mic more and more in the coming years.
Check it out:
7. Neumann U47 FET
When you think…”large diaphragm condenser mics“…
You naturally think…”vocals“, right?
Because 99% of the time, that’s what they’re for.
But that’s not really the case with the classic Neumann U47 FET.
Because for the most part, it’s used to record kick-drums, amps, and other bass-heavy instruments.
The U47 FET employs the same FET 80 circuit technology used in the U87…and the same K47 capsule used in the M49.
Despite being insanely popular back in the 70’s and 80’s (and ever since), the original version of the U47 FET was eventually discontinued in 1987.
In 2014 Neumann brought it back, resuming production of this classic mic according to its original specifications. Lucky us 🙂
Anyways, here it is: