Updated: January 25, 2020 by Richard Cole
Microphones are very versatile devices that have been used in various applications for a very long time. Ever since we figured out how to record sound, various brands were looking for ways to further advance this technology.
Today, we have a large variety of microphones that offer an impressive level of sound quality that is available even to the hobby user.
With that said, if you want to get professional grade quality, you will need a microphone that meets certain standards which are generally much higher than what your average model is capable of reaching.
One of the companies which have been producing microphones that fit this description for quite some time is Neumann. They are known for developing new technologies and always trying to squeeze the best possible performance out of standardized microphone designs.
The one we are going to take look at today is the Neumann TLM170. This is one of their most capable models at the moment, which makes it perfect for use in a recording studio. With that said, this microphone is capable of a lot more.
Let’s see just what kind of performance it has to offer, and how it could benefit you as the a user.
Neumann Top Level
Condenser microphones are considered to be an industry standard in music recording. They are generally more expensive than dynamic microphones, but also deliver the type of performance and sensitivity that is necessary to achieve the best quality of sound possible.
The thing about condenser microphones is that you most often need to feed them additional power due to their design.
What this translates to is either a use of a mixer board that offers 48v phantom power, or another device that can deliver the same. However, the performance of a top tier condenser microphone such as the Neumann TLM170 is well worth the effort and additional requirements.
Neumann TLM170 is one of the most refined condenser microphones on the market, and it was built specifically for studio use. It comes with a fairly large diaphragm capsule that offers an impressive frequency response.
Neumann incorporated their FET100 technology which means that there are no output transformers. Actually, Neumann TLM170 was the first microphone to feature that type of design.
The housing of the microphone is made of high quality metals, and offers a very durable protection to the internal components. In terms of aesthetics, Neumann TLM170 is definitely one of the better looking microphones on the market.
In terms of controls, there is a 10 dB attenuation switch and a high pass filter switch in the rear. On top of that, you have five different patterns to choose from. These include omnidirectional, cardioid, wide-angle cardioid, hyper cardioid and figure eight polar pattern.
When it comes to raw specs, you are looking at a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, impedance of 50 ohms and sensitivity that is rated at 8 mV/PA @ 1 kHz into 1 kOhms. As you can see, this microphone definitely has all the hardware potential to odder the kind of performance you would need in a professional studio setting. Speaking of which.
One of the best ways you can describe Neumann TLM170 is as neutral. This microphone offers true representation of the sound and adds no color of its own. This kind of performance leads some sound techs to give characterize the TLM170 as flat.
The truth is that being neutral allows it to respond incredibly well to further EQ adjustments, which is something you definitely want to have if you are recording music for on a professional level.
What you can expect in practical terms is a very flat curve. This applies to all patterns available, which gives this microphone quite a range of application. Speaking of patterns, their directional noise suppression capabilities are far beyond anything you can expect from commercial condenser microphones.
Even the more complex patterns such as the figure eight one offer great noise elimination from the directions which are excluded. Because of its consistent performance, Neumann TLM170 is considered to be the staple condenser microphone in the music industry.
What we like
Neumann is a company that has been in the business for a very long time. Their TLM170 microphone first appeared in the mid ’80s, and its performance has since been proven many times in professional music recording studios around the world.
What we appreciate the most is its neutral nature. It’s ability to provide you with a very accurate recording allows you to later shape the sound however you see fit. Believe it or not, this is not something you often find.
What we don’t like
The only real problem with this microphone is its price. The performance you get definitely isn’t cheap, but at some point you are overpaying.
If Neumann lowered the price point a bit, this microphone would definitely be a more standard choice in the industry. The way things are now, TLM170 is in danger of being rendered obsolete in many ways by the new models which are hitting the market.
Neumann TLM170 is one of those microphones many professionals turn to when they need the highest levels of performance. This is pretty impressive considering that this microphone has been around in one form or another for over 30 years at this point. That type of longevity is only a testament to Neumann’s ability to push the limits of what is considered standard, and lead the industry to a new level of evolution.
From a practical stand point, versatile nature of this microphone makes it a good choice for a large number of different applications, and the multiple recording patterns definitely increase its practical value immensely.
The price Neumann asks for this microphone makes it attainable only to those who are ready to fully commit, however it is still at a point where getting this microphone is well worth the investment. If you are putting together a recording studio, this is the type of microphone you definitely want to have.