When you think of Neumann it is natural to think of their exceptional range of microphones. They have dominated the industry and are the go-to option for microphones. But, they have never dabbled in headphones. Until now. With the release of the NDH 20, Neumann entered the headphone market. And what a debut it is.
The Neumann NDH 20 is a high-end analytical pair of closed-back headphones. Developed to meet a specific need in the studio these headphones have a lot to offer making them some of the best headphones for recording vocals. Below are the quick pros and cons before we check out these headphones in more detail.
The Neumann NDH 20 is an impressive pair of headphones. Especially as the first outing from a company better known for microphones. Below we take a closer look at what these have to offer.
The most impressive feature of the Neumann NDH 20 headphones is their exceptional sound quality. And that is not an exaggeration. These headphones deliver on the brief with stunning success. Specifically tailored for serious studio work these headphones are ultra-accurate.
Let’s start with the top end. If you spend a lot of time in the studio you’ll already be aware that an overly bright or harsh top-end leads to fatigue. None of that is here with the NDH 20’s. Super defined and clear.
Moving onto the mids these are just as clear without any overt forwardness that you can experience with other studio headphones. I’m partial to a more forward-facing mid-range as it is often the range that most people focus on when listening. But the NDH 20s strike an excellent balance of highlighting details without leading to inaccuracies in your mix.
The NDH 20 is a little heavier than comparable headphones.
Closed-back headphones can suffer from excessive low-end. The Neumann NDH 20 headphones do a stellar job of keeping everything in check. Plenty of crisp punch and warmth without excess. Restrained yet pleasing. And more importantly super tight and accurate.
And that is what it all boils down to. These headphones are for serious studio work. Whether that is mixing, monitoring, or editing. These are especially useful if you work in an untreated room and require precision for making changes. If what you’re working on sounds good with these you can be confident that will translate across all other scenarios.
But for non-studio-focused listening, they do take a little getting used to. These headphones don’t sound hyped in the slightest. Everything is where it belongs. If you are used to hi-fi style headphones or even lower-end studio headphones it can come as a shock. Some music may sound flat or boring. But this isn’t a fault of the NDH 20s. It’s a fault of how the source was mixed.
If you care about precision and detail these are among the very best options at this price point. No more second-guessing yourself. And for serious studio work that feeling is priceless.
This is one area that can be hard to judge. Everyone has a different shaped head and ears. One person’s comfort bliss is another’s torture. So take any review around comfort from me or others with a grain of salt. With that said these do offer a high level of comfort, and it seems most people agree.
The thick ear padding offers just the right amount of firmness without irritation. Opting for a near-perfect circle is an interesting choice. Generally, oval-shaped headphones offer a higher level of flexibility to adapt to different ear sizes. Thankfully I found that there was plenty of room for my ears which do tend to stick out a bit.
The padding and clamping force provides a tight and isolated experience.
Despite a slightly heavier build the headband also doesn’t feel uncomfortable. There is an appropriate amount of padding and give to not dig into your head. The headband is adjustable as well with a familiar sliding mechanism.
The one possible issue worth highlighting is the clamping force. These headphones do lean on the tighter side. It makes sense considering the excellent seal this provides.
There is plenty of passive isolation here. A tight fit is almost a requirement to help prevent spillage. But if you do have a larger head you may find that the clamping force is a little excessive. But this firm fit ensures exceptional performance in the studio.
While the clamping force may be too much for some the vast majority of reviews highlight that these are great for long sessions. And I’d have to agree with them, little fatigue during long stints.
Aesthetically Neumann has opted for a restrained yet modern appearance for the NDH 20s. Nothing spectacular but certainly not as horrendous as some other studio headphones out there. The focus is on quality and performance. The contrast between the silver and black accents looks appealing. It’s a welcome change from the black plastic that dominates the market.
The NDH 20s are an attractive pair of studio headphones.
Beyond appearance, there are also some interesting design decisions. The first thing to highlight is that the cable connection is on the right side. Most headphones opt for the left side so this did throw me off at first. Having said that it doesn’t take long to get used to the new position.
The Neumann NDH 20 headphones are also collapsible and feature detachable cables. Two features which I also consider a must-have. Finally, there are no exposed wires which is another benefit worth highlighting.
On the compatibility front, the NDH 20s have an impedance rating of 150 ohms. This means they are not the best choice for connecting to lower-powered devices like smartphones. But with an SPL 114dB, they still put in a decent showing even with reduced power.
These headphones are sleek, attractive, and more importantly functional.
This is another area where the Neumann NDH 20s perform well. The aluminum earcups are durable and dependable. The extension of steel to the headband is also a welcome sight. Plastic is kept to a minimum which helps with longevity.
High-quality components and durable materials throughout.
The attention to detail extends to the component quality. The 38mm drivers feature high-quality Neodymium transducer magnets along with Duofol diaphragm material. The earpads are also replaceable which is another tick in my book.
The cables are rather thick. You’ll have access to both a coiled and straight option along with an adapter. But the straight cable does introduce handling noise due to the metal build. A small gripe but worth highlighting if you happen to move a lot when working. No such issues are present with the coiled cable.
The cables feature a locking mechanism.
Reliability is high on my list of priorities in the studio. And at this price, I would expect nothing less. Thankfully the Neumann NDH 20s delivers.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. The Neumann NDH 20 headphones are expensive. But there are a few caveats worth mentioning.
First, these are not your stock standard run-of-the-mill headphones. These are high-quality studio headphones with a specific purpose. To help you work faster and more efficiently. And in that regard, they succeed. Far more dependable and accurate than cheaper headphones. And they can also give more expensive audiophile headphones a run for their money.
The included pouch could be better.
My only complaint is the quality of the included pouch. For headphones in this price range, I would have liked to see a hard-shell case. These headphones are built tough but even they can’t withstand potential damage in transport.
The Neumann NDH 20 headphones are an investment. And for many may be the end game of their upgrade path. If you’d prefer to skip to the best, these are a great choice. Fantastic sound and quality that is worth every dollar.
The Neumann NDH 20 headphones have gathered a staggering amount of positive reviews. From studio professionals to home-based producers they all highlight the excellent transparency these provide.
It’s Not You, It’s Them
How many times have you thought you’ve completed your latest task only to find things fall apart when listening back on other systems. It happens more than you may think. This can be disheartening and also results in having to go back and do more work. You may even begin to doubt your skills. But this is where it’s worth taking a step back to assess potential external factors.
Every studio is different and can impact your workflow.
Every studio is different, every monitor is different, and every pair of headphones is different. And each of these elements can disguise or mislead you when you are working on your latest project. High-quality gear like the Neumann NDH 20 headphones can solve a lot of problems. The ability to hear every detail, to analyze where the issues are is a time-saver. No more running back and forth tweaking things further because your gear lied to you.
You need to trust your instincts and your skills. And you need to trust your gear. Invest in quality gear and you’ll be rewarded.
The headphone market is a saturated place. From consumer gear that tries to market itself as professional grade. To excessively expensive audiophile options that don’t deliver. It can be confusing. Below are some other noteworthy studio headphones worth adding to your shortlist.
Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X Review
Beyerdynamic is another German-based company that produces high-quality audio gear. The DT 700 Pro X is a closed-based pair of monitoring headphones at a great price.
- Excellent audio quality that retains an impressive balance.
- Ultra-plush ear padding makes these among the most comfortable options available.
- Exposed wires that could get caught on things.
Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X
Sennheiser HD 400 Pro Review
If isolation is not important to you the Sennheiser HD 400 Pro is a solid open-backed alternative. These are both affordable and functional for studio work.
- Excellent airy sound quality thanks to the open-backed design.
- Large oval earcups can accommodate nearly all ear shapes.
- Much like the NDH 20s, they have a high impedance rating. Not ideal for lower-powered devices.
Sennheiser HD 400 Pro
Mackie MC-450 Review
Sticking to the open-back theme, the MC-450 from Mackie is another top-of-the-line choice for serious studio work. Clean and refined design combined with top-notch sound quality.
- Neutral sound profile with an expansive soundstage.
- Superb build quality and a fantastic range of included accessories.
- As with the NDH 20s, these are not cheap headphones.
Should You Buy?
Neumann has come out swinging with their first pair of headphones. A focused and refined outing that accomplishes a clear goal. Provide serious studio professionals with the most transparent headphones possible.
The high attention to detail in both construction and execution is on full display. A sensational-sounding pair of cans that can easily fill the workhorse role in any studio. They are an investment but worth it. If this is how Neumann enters the scene I’m excited to see what may come from them in the future.