Neumann U87 Vs TLM 103 Vs Audio Technica At4040 microphone comparison
Often among voice artists, radio presenters and audio professionals in general the subject of microphones comes up. Which is best really is a matter of personal opinion really. However there are a few usual suspects which I always seem to use when doing voiceovers or working in radio studios (in the UK). Having had my own home studio for a number of years I have a few decent condenser mic around by which to make comparison. At one time they have all been my first choice mic, but as time goes on and the piggy bank fills I have chosen to invest in new equipment.
Coming from a radio background and having worked at a number of UK stations, these are mics I worked with in those studios. When I began to do voiceover work and build a studio around 10 years ago I decided to use microphones that I had previous experience of.
I have 3 condenser studio microphones, each at different price points. To start I have my very first microphone which I purchased around 10 years ago in my first effort at building a home studio. It is an Audio Technica AT4040 condenser mic which whilst being considerably cheaper than the other options I have really does stand up well. This microphone comes in at around £350 new which for the quality is awesome. As you’ll hear, it’s perhaps not as full sounding as the others and maybe has a touch more top end but is crisp and clear.
After around 5 years using the AT4040, I progressed onto my first Neumann mic. I couldn’t quite stretch to a U87 at the time, but instead got the next best thing which is a TLM 103. According to what I’ve read about this mic, it’s the same as the iconic U87, but just a little more compact and has no switches or pads. Have a listen to the audio and you can compare for yourself, to me though it’s great and much fuller than the 4040. However doesn’t quite have the extra icing on the cake of the U87. Price wise we are hiding into the mid range bracket here at around £800 ish. So a lot more expensive than the AT4040, but less than half of what comes next.
And finally of course we come to “The Daddy”. The Neumann U87. This is the newer Ai version, and is transformerless. This mic is the one you see in music videos, it’s the one that has recorded thousands of hit songs, many say simply the best mic there is. However it does come at a cost. You are not going to have much change if any, from £2000 for a brand new one of these. On the plus side, as the cost is higher you may have more room to haggle the price. Worth noting though that you can come by some vintage versions of the U87, from the 60’s and 70s, which are worth much more and very much a collectors item. I came across one on Ebay which used to be owned by Fleetwood Mac and as you can imagine, had a price to match.
Purists suggest the newer versions of the U87 are not as good as the vintage mic. That is down to personal opinion but whichever version the U87 is a classic and has something a little in terms of the fullness and crispness of the sound.
I have read the same script into each mic, using the same chain which is..
DBX 286 preamp with no EQ and very minimal compression etc.
Behringer 1622 mixer
Universal Audio Apollo Twin Thunderbolt
Adobe Audition on iMac
Each mic also had the same mesh pop filter attached too.
The script itself is taken from the Harvard sentences, which are supposed to be phonetically balanced to measure speech quality. They are not the words of my inner soul.
Take a listen here..
I hope you find this useful, at the end of the day it’s all down to personal preference. When buying a mic always try a few and see which suits your voice. The pre amp and the room you are using also effects how it will sound, so pay attention to those too.
Thanks for reading, and have fun!