Neumann has one of the best reputations in the business thanks to their industry-standard microphones. But they have moved beyond microphones and now offer a substantial amount of other studio necessities.
In this review, we check out the Neuman KH 80 DSP. One of the best mini studio monitors that sits comfortably in the mid-range price-wise. But does it live up to the Neumann name? Read on to find out.
Neumann KH 80
The Neumann KH 80 is an impressive studio monitor that gets the important stuff right. But it isn’t without some issues. Check out the highlights before we take a closer look.
The Neumann KH 80 DSP strays away from many of the other offerings in this price bracket. It’s a flexible monitor that performs a lot better than you would initially think.
Let’s jump straight into the most important element when assessing any studio monitor. And I’ll cut to the chase. These little monitors pack a serious punch. But more importantly, deliver superb sound quality.
I’ll admit my expectations from a 4-inch woofer are rather low when it comes to bass response. It is difficult to replicate the depth and fullness that a bigger woofer can provide. But the Neumann KH 80 has subverted my expectations. These little monitors deliver in the low-end.
The 4-inch woofer delivers an impressive bass response.
The bass response is clean and tight with plenty of crisp punch. For small studio applications, these are fantastic. You can easily forgo a subwoofer. But as always if you work with bass-heavy music with a lot of action in the low-end I’d still suggest picking one up.
Having initially been dazzled by the excellent low-end I was equally impressed with the mid-range delivery. Vocals are especially enticing and imaging is also excellent to give you the feeling of the vocalist in the room. Instrumental components also represent well. A solid showing in this area.
The highs are also up to the task with lots of clarity and precision. If anything this monitor leans a little on the darker side compared to others. I for one don’t mind this as overly bright monitors tend to be fatiguing.
Transient delivery is excellent with plenty of transparency to identify issues. A critical element for any studio monitor.
There is a little bit of audible hiss but at reasonable volumes and distance, they are negligible. You need to get exceptionally close to distinctly hear it.
Distortion is also not an issue. Even at higher volumes which is an impressive feat for a monitor this small.
Neutrality is also fantastic. No vicious dips or peaks. The response is very flat making it a good choice for analytical listening. Perhaps not as inviting for casual listening but certainly not as dry as other analytical monitors.
The Neumann name carries a lot of weight and I wasn’t sure if the KH 80 would be able to shoulder it. But it performs admirably. The impressive sound quality makes it among the best small monitors available today.
The Neumann KH 80 also delivers in the build quality department. These are plastic and lightweight but don’t let that fool you.
The polycarbonate composite cabinet is solid and doesn’t feel cheap. Something that many plastic monitors suffer from. Thick and scratch resistant the cabinet doesn’t present any hollowness.
The KH 80 features high-quality components.
Not as great as a well-constructed wooden cabinet. But nowhere near the shoddy quality that you’ll find from less reputable brands.
Component quality is also high with a superb long-throw woofer coupled with a titanium-fabric tweeter. Around the back, the connection points are all cleanly executed. Albeit a little awkward, but more on that later. Tuning switches and nobs also don’t feel cheap.
Designed in Germany and manufactured in the Czech Republic this is a dependable monitor. No complaints in this area.
When diving into the specifications for the Neumann KH 80 DSP it reveals some interesting details.
First is the frequency response of 57Hz – 21kHz (±3 dB). An impressive range that is flat and neutral throughout the entire run.
The KH 80 DSP is a lightweight yet capable studio monitor.
Next is the high level of headroom the KH 80 provides. A max SPL of 108.8 dB is exceptionally high for a small monitor. And it performs well at higher volumes. More than enough to fill your small studio space with sound.
It all comes to light when looking at the power configuration. Class D amps with a bi-amp design. 120W for the low-frequency driver and 70W for the high-frequency driver. Plenty of power is packed into this little monitor.
The combination between power and accuracy sets the KH 80 DSP apart from similarly sized options from the competition.
The Neumann KH 80 does provide you with some onboard acoustic controls. Four simply to understand switches adjust output based on various applications. This targets the low mid frequencies to help smooth out performance dependent on the size of your desk.
Beyond that, you can adjust the output level and input gain. But this is where I start seeing some issues with the KH 80 DSP. Other monitors do provide a bit more flexibility to adjust output. Don’t get me wrong these sound great out of the box but options are always welcome.
The KH 80 offers some basic acoustic controls.
If you do want further control you can access the Neumann Control iPad app. This opens up further options including a more detailed EQ. But if you are an Android user you’ll be out of luck as there is not a corresponding app.
This strikes me as quite odd considering there are a large number of Android users out there. I get that Neumann is a hardware brand but if you are going to dip your toes into software don’t go halfway.
The iPad app itself is quite good with a bunch of useful options. Guided or manual alignment. Presets for volume. Standby time options. And the ability to adjust the brightness of the logo.
But you will need a hardwired connection. I would have much preferred Bluetooth connectivity. Something that many competitors offer. This is a missed opportunity and I hope future options from Neumann will expand on compatibility and functionality.
Despite the restrictive nature of the Neumann Connect app the KH 80 does offer enough onboard options to suit most situations.
There are some interesting design decisions at play with the Neumann KH 80. Both in appearance and acoustic technology.
These unassuming monitors offer a gray speckled cabinet which is different from other options out there. It is appealing and well-executed. But the emphasis on curvature does give the monitor a slightly ‘bubbly’ appearance. This will come down to personal preference but I feel there are better-looking monitors out there.
The KH 80 DSP features a speckled dark grey finish.
Moving beyond appearance the technology behind the KH 80 DSP is excellent. The Mathematical Modeled Dispersion Waveguide dictates the appearance. But more importantly, it serves to deliver the excellent response that the KH 80 exhibits.
Around the back, the approach to cable connectivity is also different. These monitors allow for wall mounting with two M6 threaded inserts. The connection points face downwards allowing for vertical cabling. This is ideally suited for surround sound applications. An Ethernet port also allows for network control.
The KH 80 DSP also features an auto-standby mode. A great power-saving feature. By default, the unit will go into standby after 90 minutes of no input. Then when it registers input it will power back up. This takes about 5 seconds which is longer than I would like.
Additionally, the level of input required to fire these up is quite loud. This leads to many moments of having to crank up your music before they kick back into life. I’ve encountered this on other monitors and to be honest it’s a feature I can’t get on board with. It is often temperamental and generally more annoying than useful. Thankfully you can turn it off via the switch on the back.
Finally, I’d like to mention the Neumann logo on the front. It illuminates when the monitor is active and it is very bright. Like really bright. If you work in a dark environment it becomes a distraction. You can alter the brightness via the app but once again if you don’t have an iPad you’ll be out of luck.
This monitor offers excellent flexibility. You can incorporate these into a variety of setups. High-end acoustic technology is also fantastic. But a few odd choices coupled with the need for the app does make the KH 80 DSP lose a few points in my book.
One of the appealing aspects of the Neumann KH 80 is the small profile. These tiny monitors don’t demand a lot of space. Yet they still deliver plenty of power.
The KH 80 is a compact studio monitor ideally suited for small studios.
At just 7.7 lbs. (3.5 kg) these are also very lightweight. Thanks in most part to the plastic cabinet. Once again a great choice for surround sound applications where these will be attached to walls or on stands.
The Neumann KH 80 DSP features one primary connection point. The combo XLR/TRS jack will be able to handle the vast majority of potential setups. The lack of RCA doesn’t surprise me when you consider the target market.
The recessed connection points can be difficult to access.
As mentioned already these plugs are vertical. Great for clean cable management. But a little fiddly to get in and out. I would have liked a little more space. If you have large hands you’ll likely experience a little frustration.
Beyond the Ethernet port, there are no other connectivity options available. Bluetooth connectivity would have been great. Especially to work in tandem with the app.
The Neumann KH 80 DPS sits comfortably at the mid-tier price point. It performs exceptionally well and is good value for money.
Yes, there are cheaper monitors out there but they don’t sound as good. Likewise, some more expensive monitors outperform the KH 80.
But it’s a comfortable middle ground alternative. One I’m happy that a brand like Neumann has decided to embrace.
A brand like Neumann is sure to attract attention. And the response to the KH 80 DSP has been very positive. Plenty of 4 and 5-star reviews highlight the exceptional audio delivery. Even among professionals, there is plenty of praise for this well-priced compact monitor.
Transients are an integral part of any sound. These short bursts of energy are often the loudest component of a sound. They are at the start of the sound and can often be referred to as the sound’s attack. They are also the most susceptible to causing issues in your productions.
The initial hit of a drumstick on a drum generates a short and loud burst of sound energy.
This is where high-quality studio monitors come in. If they replicate the transients accurately you can identify if you need to make any changes. This could be within an instrument recording like a drum kick or even within vocals.
That is why some productions sound harsh or unfinished. The transients may not have been apparent to the producer due to the quality of their playback source. Whether that is a studio monitor or headphones.
Professional studio monitors like the Neumann KH 80 DSP offer exceptional clarity and transparency in this area. This provides a clearer indication of what you need to do to fix your mix. The result? Cleaner and more refined productions that will sound good on any system.
Compact monitors are a tricky category to get right. Here are some other options worth considering if you are looking for small studio monitors.
Edifier R1850DB Review
If you don’t want supreme accuracy the Edifier R1850DB is a versatile option. The wider range of features means it can be used as part of a TV set up or for casual listening.
- The slick and modern styling is attractive.
- A wide variety of connection options allows you to utilize this in any part of your home.
- The sound is more colored and not ideal for serious studio work.
PreSonus Eris E5 XT Review
Stepping up in size to a 5.25-inch woofer will give you better bass performance. The E5 XT still maintains a reasonable footprint making it viable for smaller studios.
- Rich and thumpy low-end delivery combines well with crispy highs.
- Very affordable price point while retaining an excellent selection of features.
- Some tuning using the rear controls is required if you want a more neutral response.
PreSonus Eris E5 XT
Presonus Eris E3.5 Review
For producers looking for a cheap alternative, the Eris E3.5 is a reasonable option. While not as refined as the KH 80 you can get a set of these at a great price.
- Super compact with a clean and subtle design aesthetic.
- The audio quality is pretty good when you factor in the low price.
- Not as accurate compared to the KH 80. Not ideal for serious studio work.
Presonus Eris E3.5
Should You Buy?
I’ll admit I am always skeptical when a brand moves beyond its core range of products. Too many times a big name brand dives in and struggles to match the quality and expertise of their main offering. But Neumann is bucking this trend.
The KH 80 DSP is an excellent addition to the Neumann product line. A highly capable studio monitor that delivers in several areas.
While there are a few things I don’t like it is hard to look past the excellent sound quality. And based just on that it’s an easy recommendation. Even more so if the surround sound flexibility is something you are looking for. If you need a neutral yet pleasant-sounding compact monitor the KH 80 DSP is worth picking up.
Neumann KH 80