Neumann KH 120A Studio Monitors Review

Dec 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Bobby Frasier



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Neumann KH 120A

Neumann has been setting standards in front-end transducer technology for 83 years, as well as producing phonograph record-cutting lathes, mixing desks and even rechargeable batteries. Now, the company has entered into the world of speaker manufacturing via an arrangement with Klein+Hummel, a company with a long-standing reputation of producing exceptional speaker systems for recording, mixing and broadcast. Carrying the Neumann logo on their speakers, this tradition will no doubt be continued with utmost German precision, as witnessed in this first product offering.

The KH 120A is definitely at the lower end of the size limitations when it comes to accuracy in audio monitoring. The 5.25-inch, composite-sandwich woofer benefits from a front-port design, bringing a much greater degree of punch and percussion to this tiny box, with a published low-end response down to 52 Hz, ±3 dB measured in a free-field. The cabinet has a beautifully machined one-piece aluminum front baffle, with the interior design sporting non-parallel construction engineered to reduce internal standing waves. This translates into smoother and more accurate reproduction characteristics in the lower-frequency range. The integral metal-mesh grille on the woofer gives you the assurance of component safety in hostile, remote recording environments.

To ensure phase alignment and dispersion criteria, Neumann uses an Elliptical Mathematically Modeled Dispersion™ Waveguide for the tweeter, providing a wide sweet spot, phase alignment with the subwoofer output and an attenuated vertical dispersion for a reduction in phase-canceling early reflections off a console, desk or other worksurface. I can attest to the wide-imaging characteristics after many hours of listening to many different genres of music.

To power the transduction motors, Neumann has chosen individual Class-A/B amplification, with separate 50-watt RMS/80W (peak) amplifiers going to the highs and lows. The fourth-order crossover frequency (24dB/octave slope) set at 2 kHz provides a smooth transition between drivers.

I was very impressed with the emphasis Neumann has put on training the user on placement of the speakers. There is a detailed quick-start guide that emphasizes speaker placement, including angles, distances, time alignment in less-than-symmetrical environments, symmetry of studio design and ITU-R BS.775-1 recommendations for surround sound production. In the operations manual, there are details on preparing your room, and even more explanation on the importance of positioning the speakers, with recommendations on the electro-acoustic control of the speakers in free space, half-space and quarter-space. There are also no less than 13 accessories for transport and mounting available as options. This level of detail regarding the acoustic space of your production environment is to be commended. There can never be enough discussion on calibrating your reference listening position, as any speaker is interactive within your particular given space. A full-page “installation angle diagram” is provided, allowing you to copy it, put it in the sweet spot and position the speakers accordingly. Neumann has also provided electro-acoustic controls onboard the speaker—level, tilt, cut, high-pass and limiter control—to dial in your space.

The bass tilt (cut) has fixed adjustments of flat, -2.5 dB, -5 dB and -7.5 dB, with the linear slope starting at 300 Hz, with the selected decrease at the stated LF bandwidth. This LF tilt will compensate for the acoustical loading in the LF range that is characteristic of speaker placement against a boundary, such as a wall. The treble adjustments are +1 dB, 0 dB, -1 dB and -2 dB, starting at 6 kHz, according to the supplied response charts, again with the selected increase/decrease at the stated upper-frequency bandwidth. This HF control will compensate for excessive or insufficient HF damping in your room. The low-midrange cut can be set for 0 dB, -1.5 dB,- 3 dB and -4.5 dB, with centering at 300 Hz. This mid-cut works very well on desk or bridge-mounted speakers, helping to eliminate any amplitude increase that is characteristic of this type of monitoring scenario.

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