Neumann KH 120A Studio Monitors Review

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



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The first thing I noticed, out of the box, was a certain amount of “darkness.” They just seemed “masked,” if you will, and a bit muddy. Read the manual and go by Neumann’s recommendations for electro-acoustical adjustments because they are highly accurate, as I found during the setup of these speakers. After setting the filters for my room and an extensive break-in period, they became both punchy and percussive in the low end, as well as fast and “airy” in the upper end of the frequency response. An extraordinary level of detail in the vocal range began to reveal itself, with both female and male vocal production exhibiting superb harmonic structure. Vocal editing is exemplified by the detail found in the reproduction of this critical midrange. The separation of midrange frequencies also excels as you can pick out the differences in instrumentation of similar timbre, without any associated smear or muddiness. While listening to the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the bowing of the string sections had a realism that I found superbly realistic, with the tympani arriving only slightly forward in the mix. The chorus and piccolos exuded the reverberant quality of the room with detail and realism.

During a recent recording session, I noted that the “air” and “grind” of a Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker was reproduced with a great deal of accuracy. Bass guitar, albeit not huge as in a dual 15-inch soffit-mounted system, had plenty of detail, warmth and harmonic structure in both plucked and picked performances. The word that comes to mind when listening to this speaker is “balanced.” Being a guitarist, I am most critical of the reproduction of the varying harmonic content of every genre, and these speakers sound great reproducing all types of guitar music. Even at low levels, this little speaker sounds linear; you won’t get any surprises when you take your mix to other speaker systems.

Acoustic guitars are detailed, with no muddying of the instrument’s harmonic structure. Bass guitar, particularly those instances where the musician is using a pick, is heard with a percussive attack that can get lost in other speaker systems. Very impressive for a 5.25-inch transducer.

For OB recording and monitoring, this speaker is an exceptional choice. For any mobile recording situation, you will find that the sound of your mic will be accurately reproduced, making your choice of mics and placement a much easier task.

The Neumann KH120A is an extraordinary little speaker system. The detail represented in the midrange is absolutely stunning, making your job as a mixer/editor a little easier during post. In a world where vocal production in pop music is king, you will love this speaker. The small footprint will allow the KH120As to be placed in “space-challenged” environments, such as an OB van or a small editing/mixing room. The stereo imaging and sweet spot is quite wide, taking into consideration your placement, as I did find that placement is critical to obtaining the very best imaging and linear frequency response. If you take the time to calibrate your system, along with fine-tuning the placement in your room, you will be rewarded with a superb listening experience. I have listened and worked on these speakers for hours on end, with no listening fatigue whatsoever. And with the Neumann name, your clients won’t be asking, “What kind of speakers are these again?” Recommended.

Bobby Frasier is an audio engineer, educator and guitarist for Beatles tribute band Marmalade Skies.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Neumann KH 120A product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Neumann KH 120A product page.

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