TLM-103 - Sell it off or modify it?

Discussion in 'rec.audio.pro' started by NeilH011, Aug 13, 2003.

  1. NeilH011

    NeilH011 Guest

    The recent TLM-103 thread started me wondering, so here it is:
    I have a TLM-103, and I think it's "okay". Nothing special, but it doesn't
    really suck, either; so my questions are:

    1.) Are there any currently-known mods available for this mic? Different
    diaphragm, or different electronics, or turning it into a "t0oB mic", etc? : )
    2.) If, so are any of those modifications capable of transforming this mic from
    something I might think is "okay" to something I might think is ultra-cool &
    has some degree of unique character (realizing, of course that both
    'ultra-cool' and 'unique character' might have different meanings for different
    people.
    3.) If so, is it even worth modding at it's price point, or not really?

    I'm open to uses - IOW if you know of a mod that would make this thing killer
    on piano, for example, then let's hear about it... vocals, same thing... banjo,
    keep it to yourself : )

    NeilH
  2. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    NeilH011 <neilh011@cs.com> wrote:
    >The recent TLM-103 thread started me wondering, so here it is:
    >I have a TLM-103, and I think it's "okay". Nothing special, but it doesn't
    >really suck, either; so my questions are:
    >
    >1.) Are there any currently-known mods available for this mic? Different
    >diaphragm, or different electronics, or turning it into a "t0oB mic", etc? : )


    Not really. It's a good enough mike that there isn't much you can do to
    clean it up, and it's not an interesting enough mike to bother with
    modifications that make it less clean.

    >2.) If, so are any of those modifications capable of transforming this mic from
    >something I might think is "okay" to something I might think is ultra-cool &
    >has some degree of unique character (realizing, of course that both
    >'ultra-cool' and 'unique character' might have different meanings for different
    >people.


    No, BUT a weird-sounding mike preamp might do something you enjoy, and it
    might make you like the mike more. Try the Opamp Labs box. You'll need
    an external phantom supply, but it sounds very midrange-heavy and very
    1970s.

    >3.) If so, is it even worth modding at it's price point, or not really?
    >
    >I'm open to uses - IOW if you know of a mod that would make this thing killer
    >on piano, for example, then let's hear about it... vocals, same thing... banjo,
    >keep it to yourself : )


    I think the whole notion of using a microphone like this on piano is very
    misguided.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  3. NeilH011

    NeilH011 Guest

    >Not really. It's a good enough mike that there isn't much you can do to
    >clean it up, and it's not an interesting enough mike to bother with
    >modifications that make it less clean.


    Hey Scott... that was kinda my impression based on just the mic & the way it
    sounded overall, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.

    >>2.) If, so are any of those modifications capable of transforming this mic

    >from
    >>something I might think is "okay" to something I might think is ultra-cool &
    >>has some degree of unique character (realizing, of course that both
    >>'ultra-cool' and 'unique character' might have different meanings for

    >different
    >>people.

    >
    >No, BUT a weird-sounding mike preamp might do something you enjoy, and it
    >might make you like the mike more. Try the Opamp Labs box. You'll need
    >an external phantom supply, but it sounds very midrange-heavy and very
    >1970s.


    Hmmm.... thanks for the tip, but I don't think I'd like that much. Almost
    sounds like I'd be buying that preamp just to compensate for the freq
    characteristics of that particular mic - which if it were a $5,000 mic, I
    supppose I might be inclined to do, but since it's a $500 mic, I'd probably not
    be.

    Then again, if it were a $5,000 mic, I'd be pretty pissed if it didn't already
    float my boat without a special single-purpose preamp LOL

    >>I'm open to uses - IOW if you know of a mod that would make this thing

    >killer
    >>on piano, for example, then let's hear about it... vocals, same thing...

    >banjo,
    >>keep it to yourself : )


    >I think the whole notion of using a microphone like this on piano is very
    >misguided.


    Well, that was just an example pulled out of the air at random. I could just
    have easily said "mandolin" or "kick drum". Then again, you're a big SDC fan
    for that sort of application (piano), yes? I've never tried the -103 on piano,
    but I'd be willing to give it a shot under certain circumstances.

    Hmmm.... kick drum!

    NeilH
  4. Paul

    Paul Guest

    Neil,

    I know you want to know about mods and such. I wouldn't go there.

    I think a better move would be to investigate a good mic pre eq compressor
    chain. This is a great mic. Like any mic, it needs to be tweeked for a
    particular application. If you had something like an avalon 737, you could
    roll off some of the ultra low end and put a little limiting on it and have
    a wonderful place to start on a vocal. Or run it through a neve pre, same
    thing with the roll off. It is a pretty smooth mic. Isn't tweekee in the
    upper mids (pre eq'd) like a lot of cheaper mics are. Next best thing to
    having a u87, or u67 at a fraction of the price.

    I think if you did an a/b comparison with other mics through a great chain,
    you'd see the beauty of this thing. Mic pres can dramatically change the
    apparent character of a mic.

    Paul



    > From: neilh011@cs.com (NeilH011)
    > Organization: CompuServe (http://www.compuserve.com/)
    > Newsgroups: rec.audio.pro
    > Date: 13 Aug 2003 00:54:11 GMT
    > Subject: TLM-103 - Sell it off or modify it?
    >
    > The recent TLM-103 thread started me wondering, so here it is:
    > I have a TLM-103, and I think it's "okay". Nothing special, but it doesn't
    > really suck, either; so my questions are:
    >
    > 1.) Are there any currently-known mods available for this mic? Different
    > diaphragm, or different electronics, or turning it into a "t0oB mic", etc? :
    > )
    > 2.) If, so are any of those modifications capable of transforming this mic
    > from
    > something I might think is "okay" to something I might think is ultra-cool &
    > has some degree of unique character (realizing, of course that both
    > 'ultra-cool' and 'unique character' might have different meanings for
    > different
    > people.
    > 3.) If so, is it even worth modding at it's price point, or not really?
    >
    > I'm open to uses - IOW if you know of a mod that would make this thing killer
    > on piano, for example, then let's hear about it... vocals, same thing...
    > banjo,
    > keep it to yourself : )
    >
    > NeilH
  5. Ron Charles

    Ron Charles Guest

    Funny you should ask about a mod for a TLM103, as I just got off the phone
    with Steven Sank and asked him the same question. His answer was a simple
    laugh!!!
    After that call I just decided to sell my matched pair and send Steve the
    funds in exchange for an old RCA BK11.
    RON CHARLES
    "NeilH011" <neilh011@cs.com> wrote in message
    news:20030812205411.24610.00001472@mb-m28.news.cs.com...
    > The recent TLM-103 thread started me wondering, so here it is:
    > I have a TLM-103, and I think it's "okay". Nothing special, but it doesn't
    > really suck, either; so my questions are:
    >
    > 1.) Are there any currently-known mods available for this mic? Different
    > diaphragm, or different electronics, or turning it into a "t0oB mic", etc?

    : )
    > 2.) If, so are any of those modifications capable of transforming this mic

    from
    > something I might think is "okay" to something I might think is ultra-cool

    &
    > has some degree of unique character (realizing, of course that both
    > 'ultra-cool' and 'unique character' might have different meanings for

    different
    > people.
    > 3.) If so, is it even worth modding at it's price point, or not really?
    >
    > I'm open to uses - IOW if you know of a mod that would make this thing

    killer
    > on piano, for example, then let's hear about it... vocals, same thing...

    banjo,
    > keep it to yourself : )
    >
    > NeilH
  6. Mike Rivers

    Mike Rivers Guest

    In article <20030812205411.24610.00001472@mb-m28.news.cs.com> neilh011@cs.com writes:

    > The recent TLM-103 thread started me wondering, so here it is:
    > I have a TLM-103, and I think it's "okay". Nothing special, but it doesn't
    > really suck, either; so my questions are:
    >
    > 1.) Are there any currently-known mods available for this mic? Different
    > diaphragm, or different electronics, or turning it into a "t0oB mic", etc? : )


    I don't know, but seems to be neither bad enough or good enough to pay
    someone to modify. If you were into doing your own mods, you'd have
    already disassembled it and either worked something out or given up.
    It's worth making a $100 mic into something that sounds like a $100
    mic only quieter and maybe a little smoother, but it's not worth
    screwing up a $1000 mic, and it's unlikely that you'll make it into
    either a better $1000 mic or a $5000 mic. If you don't find it useful,
    sell it to someone who does (or at least wants to try it) and buy
    something else.



    --
    I'm really Mike Rivers - (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
  7. Luke Kaven

    Luke Kaven Guest

    "Ron Charles" <portugal@3web.net> wrote:

    >Funny you should ask about a mod for a TLM103, as I just got off the phone
    >with Steven Sank and asked him the same question. His answer was a simple
    >laugh!!!
    >After that call I just decided to sell my matched pair and send Steve the
    >funds in exchange for an old RCA BK11.
    >RON CHARLES


    I asked Stephen Paul about this once in the course of a nine-hour
    phone call (of the sort that he's known for). I was trying to explore
    the hypothesis that one needn't start out with an expensive mic if
    Stephen was going to pretty much "start over" with it anyway. A good
    basic slug, a good housing, all made a good start. The rest was
    Stephen, and the results would depend upon one's ambition. He said
    that he would work on a TLM-103. The one Neumann he said he wouldn't
    work on was a TLM-170, which surprised me a bit, since he said he
    would take a crack at modifying a Chinese hybrid. Anyway, my point is
    here that none of us has undertaken such a thing, and that one ought
    to toss the question up to Stephen, who has actually done it.

    Luke
  8. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    Luke Kaven <luke@smallsrecords.com> wrote:
    >
    >I asked Stephen Paul about this once in the course of a nine-hour
    >phone call (of the sort that he's known for). I was trying to explore
    >the hypothesis that one needn't start out with an expensive mic if
    >Stephen was going to pretty much "start over" with it anyway. A good
    >basic slug, a good housing, all made a good start. The rest was
    >Stephen, and the results would depend upon one's ambition. He said
    >that he would work on a TLM-103. The one Neumann he said he wouldn't
    >work on was a TLM-170, which surprised me a bit, since he said he
    >would take a crack at modifying a Chinese hybrid. Anyway, my point is
    >here that none of us has undertaken such a thing, and that one ought
    >to toss the question up to Stephen, who has actually done it.



    Which Chinese hybrids has he worked on?

    The TLM103 electronics actually aren't bad at all, but the front end is
    a potted module that you can't really work on, you have to replace it
    completely.

    The TLM103 capsule could probably use some tweaking, but that would mostly
    be subjective stuff.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  9. Buster Mudd

    Buster Mudd Guest

    kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote in message news:<bhc4uo$gab$1@panix2.panix.com>...
    >
    > I think the whole notion of using a microphone like this on piano is very
    > misguided.



    Do you mean a large diaphragm condensor in general, or a TLM-103
    specifically, or the fact that a large diaphragm condensor when used
    on a piano would most likely be close miking the hammers or strings?
  10. Scott Dorsey

    Scott Dorsey Guest

    Buster Mudd <mr_furious@mail.com> wrote:
    >kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote in message news:<bhc4uo$gab$1@panix2.panix.com>...
    >>
    >> I think the whole notion of using a microphone like this on piano is very
    >> misguided.

    >
    >Do you mean a large diaphragm condensor in general, or a TLM-103
    >specifically,


    Both, pretty much. The large diaphram mikes are generally not a good choice
    either for area miking, or for spot-miking when there is a lot of the sound
    coming from off-axis. The TLM-103 is better than some large diaphram mikes
    about off-axis response, but it's worse than others. And it's got that huge
    peaky top end that is definitely not a good thing for a piano tone.

    >or the fact that a large diaphragm condensor when used
    >on a piano would most likely be close miking the hammers or strings?


    Close-miking is fine if you want that sound. Or a mix of close and distant
    miking for a very popular jazz sound. But if you close-mike the strings,
    you still have a huge amount of stuff coming at the mike from all directions
    so off-axis response is a big deal. Even if you select a really tight mike,
    you still need a tight mike that isn't honky off-axis.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  11. Luke Kaven

    Luke Kaven Guest

    kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote:

    >Luke Kaven <luke@smallsrecords.com> wrote:
    >>
    >>I asked Stephen Paul about this once in the course of a nine-hour
    >>phone call (of the sort that he's known for). I was trying to explore
    >>the hypothesis that one needn't start out with an expensive mic if
    >>Stephen was going to pretty much "start over" with it anyway. A good
    >>basic slug, a good housing, all made a good start. The rest was
    >>Stephen, and the results would depend upon one's ambition. He said
    >>that he would work on a TLM-103. The one Neumann he said he wouldn't
    >>work on was a TLM-170, which surprised me a bit, since he said he
    >>would take a crack at modifying a Chinese hybrid. Anyway, my point is
    >>here that none of us has undertaken such a thing, and that one ought
    >>to toss the question up to Stephen, who has actually done it.

    >
    >
    >Which Chinese hybrids has he worked on?


    He said he would take a crack at it, which left me unsure of whether
    he'd actually done it. I was exploring the idea that since SP was
    going to do radical surgery anyway, it might not matter so much which
    microphone he started with. There is some prestige in having a
    "SP-modified U47" to be sure. But I wondered how much of the identity
    of a U47 was left when he was finished. I wondered what Stephen could
    produce starting with a $500 microphone rather than starting with a
    $5000-$6000 microphone.

    >The TLM103 electronics actually aren't bad at all, but the front end is
    >a potted module that you can't really work on, you have to replace it
    >completely.
    >
    >The TLM103 capsule could probably use some tweaking, but that would mostly
    >be subjective stuff.


    I think the assumption was that he would build it pretty much from the
    ground up. The capsule would be treated pretty much as a slug, and
    the electronics would be entirely different.

    I'm trying to play havoc with people's notions of whether a "modified
    XX microphone" is still in any rational sense an "XX microphone" when
    the job is done, like the ship of Theseus. There are at least some
    cases where the source microphone is just a housing and a capsule
    slug, and the microphone is built up pretty much from scratch, and the
    result has no determinate identity. In such cases, it may not matter
    very much what you start with (modulo whether the capsule makes a good
    enough slug, which isn't a given in Chinese hybrids), and one may as
    well start with something relatively inexpensive. This is why the
    TLM-103 (or perhaps now the new multipattern cousin) seemed worth
    considering as a starting point.

    Luke
  12. Ty Ford

    Ty Ford Guest

    In Article <20030812205411.24610.00001472@mb-m28.news.cs.com>,
    neilh011@cs.com (NeilH011) wrote:
    >The recent TLM-103 thread started me wondering, so here it is:
    >I have a TLM-103, and I think it's "okay". Nothing special, but it doesn't
    >really suck, either; so my questions are:
    >
    >1.) Are there any currently-known mods available for this mic? Different
    >diaphragm, or different electronics, or turning it into a "t0oB mic", etc? : )


    My advice; buy your tube mic and sell the 103 if it doesn't float your boat.

    >2.) If, so are any of those modifications capable of transforming this mic from
    >something I might think is "okay" to something I might think is ultra-cool &
    >has some degree of unique character (realizing, of course that both
    >'ultra-cool' and 'unique character' might have different meanings for different
    >people.


    ?

    >3.) If so, is it even worth modding at it's price point, or not really?
    >
    >I'm open to uses - IOW if you know of a mod that would make this thing killer
    >on piano, for example, then let's hear about it... vocals, same thing... banjo,
    >keep it to yourself : )
    >
    >NeilH


    My question is, what do you have it plugged into that it doesn't sound special.

    Regards,

    Ty Ford


    For Ty Ford V/O demos, audio services and equipment reviews,
    click on http://www.jagunet.com/~tford
  13. Mike Rivers

    Mike Rivers Guest

    In article <j0ukjv0a4l6osvds44q4vgu4mprcj76ilh@4ax.com> luke@smallsrecords.com writes:

    > I think the assumption was that he would build it pretty much from the
    > ground up. The capsule would be treated pretty much as a slug, and
    > the electronics would be entirely different.


    Stephen Paul is working with the Studio Projects folks now on building
    a microphone from the ground up. It will be based on Stephen's design,
    construction, and manufacturing ideas. Last I heard, they're hoping to
    have something to show, probably a hand made rather than factory made
    prototype, at the AES show in October.

    I believe it was Harvey who got Stephen somewhat curious about
    reworking a modern Chinese mic from one of today's popular sources,
    but I don't think anything ever came of it. He got a better offer (to
    be the designer rather than the fixer). It should be interesting.



    --
    I'm really Mike Rivers - (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
  14. NeilH011

    NeilH011 Guest

    >It is a pretty smooth mic. Isn't tweekee in the
    >upper mids (pre eq'd) like a lot of cheaper mics are.


    Yeah, I'm not looking for the C-1 sound, so that's not my objection to the mic
    - in fact, I don't really have any objections to it other than the fact that
    it's a fairly plain-jane mic, IMO. Not that that's a bad thing, and maybe it IS
    the pre (right now I only have a couple of Grace101's & a JoeMeek VCQ).

    > Next best thing to having a u87, or u67 at a fraction of the price.


    See, to me the -87 has a bit more character than the -103... and the only -67
    I've used belongs to a friend of mine and it's not stock, it's got some kind of
    Stephen Paul mod... it sounds fan-freakin'-tastic, and I wouldn't expect a 103
    to get to that level even if modded, but like I said, I thought it wouldn't
    hurt to ask.

    Neil
  15. NeilH011

    NeilH011 Guest

    >My question is, what do you have it plugged into that it doesn't sound
    >special.


    Either a Grace 101 or Joe Meek VCQ, that's all I have at this moment & haven't
    had the opportunity yet to try it through anything else.

    Neil
  16. Luke Kaven

    Luke Kaven Guest

    mrivers@d-and-d.com (Mike Rivers) wrote
    luke@smallsrecords.com writes:
    >
    > > I think the assumption was that he would build it pretty much from the
    > > ground up. The capsule would be treated pretty much as a slug, and
    > > the electronics would be entirely different.

    >
    > Stephen Paul is working with the Studio Projects folks now on building
    > a microphone from the ground up. It will be based on Stephen's design,
    > construction, and manufacturing ideas. Last I heard, they're hoping to
    > have something to show, probably a hand made rather than factory made
    > prototype, at the AES show in October.
    >
    > I believe it was Harvey who got Stephen somewhat curious about
    > reworking a modern Chinese mic from one of today's popular sources,
    > but I don't think anything ever came of it. He got a better offer (to
    > be the designer rather than the fixer). It should be interesting.


    Thanks for adding that in. I've been following the progress on this
    project in the PMI forum at recording.org, where Stephen always seems
    to be just departing or arriving depending upon how you look at it. I
    think Harvey Gerst spent an evening on the phone with him just
    recently (for anyone who talks to him, you might as well make an
    evening of it) and got some information on the latest developments,
    though he's probably sworn to secrecy.

    If I understand the latest developments, they are getting some blanks
    manufactured in China, and perhaps other things like housings and
    grillwork. But they seem to have decided that the precision machining
    had to be done over here, and that is likely to drive the cost up to
    $2000+. So that falls somewhere in the realm of what we've been
    talking about. Stephen seems to think this is a "no compromise"
    design (in practical terms, I guess), intended to introduce some new
    concepts and compete with anything. I'm glad someone finally got him
    the capital to pursue a project like this, long overdue. [Thanks Alan
    Hyatt, et al.] I know we're all going to want to try this one out.

    Luke
  17. Paul

    Paul Guest


    > From: neilh011@cs.com (NeilH011)
    > Organization: CompuServe (http://www.compuserve.com/)
    > Newsgroups: rec.audio.pro
    > Date: 14 Aug 2003 01:00:29 GMT
    > Subject: Re: TLM-103 - Sell it off or modify it?
    >
    >> It is a pretty smooth mic. Isn't tweekee in the
    >> upper mids (pre eq'd) like a lot of cheaper mics are.

    >
    > Yeah, I'm not looking for the C-1 sound, so that's not my objection to the mic
    > - in fact, I don't really have any objections to it other than the fact that
    > it's a fairly plain-jane mic, IMO. Not that that's a bad thing, and maybe it
    > IS
    > the pre (right now I only have a couple of Grace101's & a JoeMeek VCQ).
    >
    >> Next best thing to having a u87, or u67 at a fraction of the price.

    >
    > See, to me the -87 has a bit more character than the -103... and the only -67
    > I've used belongs to a friend of mine and it's not stock, it's got some kind
    > of
    > Stephen Paul mod... it sounds fan-freakin'-tastic, and I wouldn't expect a 103
    > to get to that level even if modded, but like I said, I thought it wouldn't
    > hurt to ask.
    >
    > Neil


    Well, you have good taste then. So you're into the sound of a thinner
    capsule. It tends to make the top end shine in a different way. I'm not
    familiar with the sound of the grace or the meek, so we have no basis for
    comparison. Recently, I did a mic comparison with different mic pres for a
    friend who wanted to upgrade his setup. I arrived at the 103 and the avalon.
    i thought, hey this isnt bad at all. The class 'a' ness of the avalon and
    the tubes really made the thing come to life. It had a really nice airy top
    end and lots of body, and that was before adding eq. Easy on the esses too.
    Now based on the mic mod stuff you mentioned, you might try a c12, or some
    other akg. It is a different character all together.

    A substantial mic mod is gonna be the capsule, and not a cheap choice. Other
    than that, what do i wish the 103 had? a pad and a roll off.

    Paul
  18. Ty Ford

    Ty Ford Guest

    In Article <20030813210206.06077.00001553@mb-m03.news.cs.com>,
    neilh011@cs.com (NeilH011) wrote:
    >>My question is, what do you have it plugged into that it doesn't sound
    >>special.

    >
    >Either a Grace 101 or Joe Meek VCQ, that's all I have at this moment & haven't
    >had the opportunity yet to try it through anything else.
    >
    >Neil



    You and I have different expectations. What I'm usually looking for is a
    recording that doesn't sound like a recording. The TLM 103 does a very good
    job of that.


    Regards,

    Ty Ford

    For Ty Ford V/O demos, audio services and equipment reviews,
    click on http://www.jagunet.com/~tford
  19. Ty Ford <tford@jagunet.com> wrote:

    > In Article <20030813210206.06077.00001553@mb-m03.news.cs.com>,
    > neilh011@cs.com (NeilH011) wrote:


    > >>My question is, what do you have it plugged into that it doesn't sound
    > >>special.


    > >Either a Grace 101 or Joe Meek VCQ, that's all I have at this moment &
    > >haven't had the opportunity yet to try it through anything else.


    > You and I have different expectations. What I'm usually looking for is a
    > recording that doesn't sound like a recording. The TLM 103 does a very good
    > job of that.


    And that Grace with the mic ought to do that well. Neil might appreciate
    the cuts Harvey put into one of the RAP CD's that use the TLM103 for
    lots of stuff, very effectively.

    --
    hank alrich * secret mountain
    audio recording * music production * sound reinforcement
    "If laughter is the best medicine let's take a double dose"
  20. Harvey Gerst

    Harvey Gerst Guest

    walkinay@thegrid.net (LeBaron & Alrich) wrote:

    >And that Grace with the mic ought to do that well. Neil might appreciate
    >the cuts Harvey put into one of the RAP CD's that use the TLM103 for
    >lots of stuff, very effectively.


    That was the very first r.a.p. CD set. The track was "Not At Home On The
    Range", and I did it because we were getting a ton of questions here at
    rec.audio.pro about the new (then) TLM103 about how it sounded. So I used it on
    that track to record everything acoustic (guitars, mandolin, fiddle, vocals, and
    backup vocals). I thought it turned out pretty damn nice.

    Harvey Gerst
    Indian Trail Recording Studio
    http://www.ITRstudio.com/

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