When I first heard about Neumann getting into the headphone game, I was skeptical, maybe unfairly so. Was an established studio monitor and microphone manufacturer doing a headphone because everyone else is doing it? Was their mother-company Sennheiser using Neumann to brand their professional line of headphones? As it turns out – neither! The Neumann NDH 20 offers something of a unique sound signature that’s different from anything Sennheiser has put out. It’s not perfect, but let’s find out where it definitely shines!
- Type: Dynamic driver around-ear, cabled
- Impedance: 150 Ohm
- Claimed Total harmonic distortion at 1kHz/100dB: <0.1%
- Claimed frequency response: 5 – 30,000 Hz
- Includes 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter
- Weight: 390 g (without cable)
Does NDH 20 require a headphone amp? NO
- Despite the high-ish impedance of 150 Ohms, the NDH 20 is a gentle load for just about any headphone output out there. High sensitivity coupled with high-ish impedance will make sure that your amplifier stage works at its most linear. 150 Ohms also mean that these headphones are fairly resistant to tonality changes due to output impedance of your audio interface or headphone amp.
Build quality: 9.5/10
- Built like a [German] tank! Almost all parts that are not padded are made out of cast aluminum with most surfaces being matte, thus fingerprints are not a problem. Most parts can be taken apart with a torx driver and all padded surfaces seem to be swappable. Knowing Neumann, all parts for the NDH 20 should be readily buyable should they need replacement. Cables seem to be built well, however their connection to the earcup uses a custom molded plastic 2.5mm TRS jack. A more common connector would’ve been better as it would allow the user to easily repair and craft their own cables.
How do they sound out of the box: 7/10
- I own a pair of Neumann KH310 monitors, so I was a bit biased to what their headphones could sound like. Neutral, even boringly so with scary good resolution which reveals itself once your ears get accustomed, was my expectation. Once I tried the NDH 20, I was surprised! Bottomless low-end extension with some “belly” and no trace of the usual “pro” hyped highs. The measurements partially confirmed with my impressions. Highs are accentuated, but no mt. Beyer. The bass emphasis on the Neumann NDH 20, while fun to listen to, will force your hand to do thin sounding mixes. Upper mids are scooped which usually robs distorted e-guitars of their bite, again biasing the engineer (or guitarist) to add too much crunch. Low THD throughout the frequency range means the NDH 20 has terrific resolution, but bass boost muddies up the mids a bit. Overall the signature is a bit too fun to be used for mixing without reservations or calibration.
- The all-aluminum chassis on this Neumann headphone is not light, but a far cry away from the heavyweights like Audeze which go over half a kilo. The fit is well done with no pressure hot-spots due to weight or clamping. Cable microphonics on the NDH 20 can be troublesome at times, but that’s more of an on-the-go issue.
Channel balance 8/10
- Overall very good with around 1.5dB imbalance in mids which can mess with some surgical positioning, but you can meet worse in other more popular headphones. Imbalanced low-end extension looks worse than it really is. You’re probably doing everything in mono under 100Hz and even then the ear isn’t too sensitive to position changes this low.
Are they worth the price? 6.5/10
- This is a tough one, as the Neumann NDH 20 isn’t exactly affordable. There are less costly options with better overall tonal balance, but worse THD performance. These aren’t the closed back HD650, everyone probably was expecting, but with some frequency correction the NDH 20 can be a solid 10.
How would we evaluate the Neumann NDH 20 out-of-box?
- Overall: a very decent tonal response for a closed back headphone, no closed headphone coloration, but too much low end and scooped upper mids stop them from reaching absolute greatness
- Pros: a well-engineered headphone driver with class leading THD performance and low-end extension, superb build quality
- Cons: too much bass, upper mid scoop is pleasant, but can misguide your mixing decisions, highs a tad too hot
Some observations on how the Neumann NDH 20 performs after applying Sonarworks correction
- Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 9.5/10 What THD? The NDH 20 driver plays super clean, which means superb resolution. And it takes calibration like a champ.
- How accurate and consistent the correction effect is among different listeners?: 9/10 They will sound nearly the same no matter who is using them. Also, these headphones don’t change their frequency response and overall feel when position on a head is changed.
- How much do they differ from pair to pair in terms of frequency response?: 9/10 Based on our experience, they do not differ a lot from pair to pair. There could be a slight difference in high and high-mid frequency perception, otherwise they sound very similar.
Conclusions after calibration:
Pros: Handles correction perfectly, translates well among different listeners, aren’t too sensitive to changing wearing position on listeners head
Recommended music genres: superb for any type of music
Best use case: great for mixing, mastering, film sound, composing, tracking… you name it! As Naumann NDH 20 are closed back and have tons of resolution, they’ll be suitable for dissecting even the most dense of mixes
Alternatives: Audeze LCD-2 Closed, Focal Listen, Oppo PM-3 (if you can find them)
Overall score after correction: 9/10