If there’s one factor tech customers can’t resist, it’s a product carrying the “pro” label. I’m one such individual, having owned an ATI Radeon 9500 Pro graphics card, an Iiyama ProLite monitor, and now a MacBook Pro laptop computer. Coming to the NAMM present for the primary time, I’ve made an open secret of my pursuit of professional headphones that may fulfill my shopper tastes, and I may need discovered one of the best candidate for that within the form of the Neumann NDH 20.
Freshly introduced at NAMM 2019, the Neumann NDH 20 are the primary headphones from an organization with a superb repute in skilled circles for its microphones and studio monitor audio system. Costing $499, the NDH 20 are very a lot within the premium phase, whether or not you’re contemplating them for skilled or private use. Most studio monitor headphones are usually considerably drab, industrial-looking issues, however every thing from the packaging to the orange-accented headphone plugs on the NDH 20 conveys a — dare I say it — luxurious really feel. A chamfered edge on the outside of the cups catches glints of sunshine in a reasonably and welcoming trend, and the artwork deco-style Neumann emblem speaks of the corporate’s almost century-long historical past.
Neumann is a daughter firm of German large Sennheiser, and as quickly as I laid eyes on the NDH 20, I may see the household relation. The exterior shell of those headphones relies on the Sennheiser HD 630VB: they share the identical headband, yoke, and ear cup design, albeit with a extra premium appear and feel on the brand new Neumann pair. The NDH 20, just like the 630VB, are foldable to make storage and portability simpler. However, each fashions are additionally fairly giant and chunky. I admire the NDH 20’s reminiscence foam pads for his or her consolation and sound isolation, each of that are good, but it surely’s laborious to get away from the sense that you just’re carrying a considerable pair of headphones.
Having satisfied Neumann to let me borrow a pair of those headphones in a single day, I can even touch upon their sound and luxury over an extended interval of damage. Working intently with their Sennheiser colleagues, the Neumann acoustic engineers modeled the NDH 20 on the Sennheiser HD 650, utilizing that traditionally superior pair as a sonic reference level, after which re-balancing the sound to squeeze out the added bass heat from the 650s and obtain a balanced tuning that’s as devoted as potential to the unique recording. This is the place the “pro” component of those headphones comes by means of: they’ve much less bass, extra mids, and extra treble than essentially the most pleasing and pleasant headphones, such because the HD 650s, will provide. But the humorous factor is as a lot of a fan of bass-rich headphones as I’m, I actually just like the NDH 20s’ sound as effectively.
Neumann’s effort has paid off in creating headphones with exact imaging — the positioning of sound sources within the area round you — and distinctive readability and element. These are precisely the belongings you need from studio headphones, however they’re additionally universally interesting qualities that anybody can admire. I very a lot loved listening to Miles Davis, Autechre, Amon Tobin, MJ Cole, and Bjork with these headphones. Basically, something with acoustic instrumentation or multilayered manufacturing advantages tremendously from the perception these headphones present. On the opposite hand, aggressively distorted or intentionally loud and in-your-face music resembling Rage Against the Machine’s laborious rock or System of a Down’s pounding heavy steel tends to come back throughout with all its harshness intact.
As to the consolation of the NDH 20s, I’d describe it as imperfect. After an hour with them on my head, I began to really feel a little bit of stress from the scarf, although that was rapidly dispelled by me shifting them round barely. The ear pads give me no trigger for grievance, and I like that they don’t warmth up my ears over longer durations of damage. Overall, I feel a lighter and considerably extra ergonomic design — human ears are usually not completely spherical, so why headphone corporations insist on producing excellent circles to placed on them is past me — would have benefited the NDH 20s and higher justified their comparatively excessive worth.
The philosophical distinction between headphones for studio and private use is that one class exists to recreate absolutely the actuality of the music whereas the opposite is meant to convey forth the thrill, emotion, and pleasure of the identical recording. No matter what we inform ourselves, most of us would gravitate towards headphones with a sweetened, bassy sound that’s a neater and friendlier pay attention. The Neumann NDH 20s don’t change that reality, however they’re a really respectable entry within the professional studio market, they usually have the sonic efficiency and high quality to earn a layperson’s admiration if not love.
The Neumann NDH 20 can be found now for a worth of $499 or €499.
Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge