Recently, German high-end gear manufacturer Neumann announced they were stepping into the headphone market with the brand new NDH 20, a closed-back, over-ear headphone designed for studio-grade monitoring in a whole host of different environments. Whether tracking vocals, doing live broadcasting, or even just sitting on your couch, the headphones are meant to excel in all categories. In this review, we'll be taking a look at the headphones and if they truly live up to the Neumann name.
What are they?
The NDH 20 is a professional-grade over-ear studio headphone, with a 38mm driver, and what Neumann calls an unusually even frequency response, which means they have a pretty flat sound. This is courtesy of the newly designed 38mm drivers, which are capable of delivering from 5hz to 30khz, allowing you to hear nearly the full spectrum of sound. Most times, headphones like these aren't meant to leave the studio, but Neumann decided they wanted to have the power to access studio-quality sound on the go, resulting in the NDH 20 to have some great and convenient features for traveling. While things like folding hinges, detachable cables, and a carrying case are standard on headphones, most aren't designed by a company known for making fantastic studio monitors and mics.
As mentioned, they are designed to be used in the studio and out in the world, and their closed-back design makes them excellent at isolation, even in noisy environments. They also feature two different cables, one coiled the other straight. They even have swiveling cups that, if so desired, allow them to be used for DJing as well. The NDH 20 150 ohms, so they can be used with things like mobile devices, but you might not be able to crank it as much as you might want. The memory foam earpads are replaceable, as are the cables. For a full list of specs, click here.
What do I think?
Seeing as Neumann is known for premiere quality gear, from mics to studio monitors, I was extremely excited and curious to try their first headphones. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, they look both elegant and rugged, with nice suede earpads and an interesting leather and rubber headband. They are a bit on the heavy side but don't feel so when on the head, which is great for long sessions. In terms of sound, the lows and highs are detailed and crisp, but I feel the mids are a bit lacking. Specifically the lower mids. This could also just be something I'm particularly in tune with since I'm so used to my own headphones. This is a bit of an issue with reviewing headphones, especially if you're so used to how your own sound. That being said, I didn't find this to be much of an issue when using them to produce or mix. I actually found that the mixes translated well between these and my 650s.
As they are in the mid-range in terms of power needed to drive them, I actually thought they still sounded great when plugged directly into my phone. There's definitely a difference when plugged into an amp, but, they will indeed work without one. A headphone amp, or something with more power than a mobile device, will allow you to push the drivers more, achieving a much more rich and true sound. The earpads are a bit hard at first. They aren't uncomfortable, just takes time to break them in, but that's the case in many headphones. They are on the bulkier side as well, so while yes they can travel, you might need to make sure you've got enough room in your bag. Sonarworks just released a new update of their Reference 4 that includes the NDH 20, but I had trouble loading up the profile for some reason, so I can't tell you how they would sound with that on.
Overall, I was impressed with Neumann's first venture into headphones. I can't say they particularly "blew me away," but they definitely are high quality in sound and build. Again, that could be from me being so used to the headphones I normally use, but everyone hears things differently. My other headphones are open back, so that could and probably does play a big factor into that. I will say they are definitely very flat, which is great and makes them similar to the Beyerdynamic 1990s and such. They are a bit chunky, with hard edges that might make them seem even bigger, but that could also specifically be to ensure the sound is protected. Either way, they were comfortable to wear for long periods. They aren't cheap, but most headphones of this quality aren't either. They won't break the bank, but if you do get them, I would suggest getting a headphone amp to make sure you really get your money's worth. Good isn't great, and while they sound good without one, they sound much better with one. If you're looking for a new pair of headphones that are in that professional-grade area, but aren't ready to spend over $800, I would suggest taking a look at these. I'm actually surprised they weren't more expensive, and most of what Neumann makes isn't cheap.