Review: Neumann NDH 30 Headphones

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Review: Neumann NDH 30 Headphones

Words by Rob Gee

Sennheiser Australia | RRP: $1,229

We all know the name Neumann.Berlin when it comes to studio microphones. It is a name, a label, and even a sound that has been with us for over 70 years and one that represents outstanding quality in audio capture and reproduction. Let’s face it, Neumann microphones have been found in every major recording studio around the world for decades and the Neumann sound continues to be a staple for hit album after hit album. That is to say, it is for those of us who actually remember buying albums, and not just listening to playlists.

So, it goes without saying that when Neumann put their name to a pair of studio monitors or reference headphones, it’s not just going to be another average product, but one that sets the standards for audio quality in a studio and home listening environment. With that in mind, I didn’t have to think twice when I was asked to give the Neumann NDH 30 headphones a test run. I just wanted to hear them, writing about it could come later.

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So, right out of the box, you know you have a quality product in the NDH 30 headphones. The packaging itself oozes with class, if class was in fact an entity capable of oozing. The Germans certainly have a way of doing things and taking pride in their quality of workmanship is right up there. So, from what can only be described as a presentation box, you get the idea that you’re in for a treat with these headphones even before they’re plugged in. They’re folded to sit flat in the box and will happily return to that as a resting position when not in use. But they can also be folded up so the earpieces rest within each other to create a compact bundle for ease of transport or storage when you don’t want them taking up more space. But how they’re packaged and how they store away isn’t really important, it’s about how they perform. 

So, the first impression on the feel is a big two thumbs up. They have a very solid build, with smooth moving components in the headband and swivel points. The ear pads themselves are a soft and inviting texture, so when they’re placed over your ears, you don’t feel like they are applying excessive pressure at any point, and they settle into a nice level of comfort pretty much straight away. And, after the first hour of listening to a selection of music, they aren’t fatiguing in any way, nor do they overheat the ears like some over-ear headphones can do. In all, they are a very comfortable pair of cans to listen to music through for extended periods of time. The second hour of straight listening, as I am writing this, is no issue either. And for long writing, composing, editing, or mixing sessions, comfort is the key. I took them off at about the 90-minute mark, just to step out of the room for a few minutes but got right back in there when I sat down again.

Now, the sound. That is the most important element really. Being an open-backed headphone, these present as more forgiving to the listener, and not so for the room. They are not an ideal headphone for tracking as the spill from the cans will get picked up in the microphone. In that instance the NDH 20 closed back headphones are a more suitable solution. But, if you really want to hear the music the way it should sound, with space, and movement of air, the NDH 30 open back headphones set the reference standard. Neumann has worked tirelessly to ensure these behave like a pair of the KH Line studio monitors, in a portable package. There is a very clearly sculpted frequency response that has been calibrated by the Neumann MA1 microphones to replicate a studio monitor setup. There is adequate low frequency response without booming out of control, even when running at higher SPLs. The mid-range response is unnervingly enjoyable, with no forced presence that is often found in studio monitor headphones. The NDH 30 isn’t trying to pick out problems and emphasise them, it’s allowing the music to be heard as it is delivered, with the air and presence that the mix contains.

And when you shut your eyes and listen, you can just about see each instrument around the room, in its precise location, just from what you hear. This comes down to a beautiful spatial resolution that doesn’t just give you 100 per cent left signal in the left ear and 100 per cent right signal in the right ear. After all, when we hear monitors within the space of a room, we hear both monitors with both ears, in varying degrees, and the NDH 30s allow you to fully realise that sound.

Seriously, when all is said and done, I have not heard a better pair of studio reference monitors in many years. The Neumann NDH 30 are headphones that can be reliably used in mixing, editing, and critical listening situations when you need the responsiveness and spatial variance that studio monitors offer. And on a pure enjoyment level, for just listening to music and knowing you’re hearing everything in the best possible way, these are a delight. 

I could happily go the rest of my days listening to music on no other set of headphones. You may well feel the same way once you’ve heard what the NDH 30s have to offer. So, do your mixes and your music collection a favour and go try a pair for yourself.

Head to Neumann for more information. For local enquiries, reach out to Sennheiser Australia.