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High-Performance Desktop Actives - Neumann or Genelec?

mj30250

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Dec 5, 2021
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Greetings,

I work remotely often, and during project / busy work at my desk I generally listen to music. My current (and old) Klipsch ProMedia setup has served me well for a very long time, but last year I was fortunate to have installed what may very well be my end game speakers in my primary system, and now that I've gotten used to what extremely competent speakers can do, I'm looking for a one-and-done, reasonably uncompromised pair of active speakers for the desktop. The current frontrunners are Neumann KH 150 and Genelec 8331a.

I prefer neutral / transparent speakers (provided they are competent in all other important areas). I will not be including a sub at this time, but may be open to adding one in the future. Frankly, reclaiming some space under the desk by removing the Klipsch sub would be a plus, so if I could permantently avoid the need for a sub, that would be nice. I will not need any super deep / sub bass with this setup. Something that extends into the 30Hz area in-room should be sufficient for my needs here. I also don't need a tremendous amount of SPL output. I'd say the loudest that I'd listen for any length of time would be around 85dB average, possibly pushing into the 90s in short spurts for fun. But most often and certainly for longer listening sessions I'd expect be in the 70 - 80dB average range. Certainly this is well within the capabilities of either of these speakers at a 2-3ft listening distance.

I've never heard (and I'm not sure where I could locally demo) either speaker, so I'm looking for some thoughts / guidance, particularly from anyone who has heard both. Here is what I have for possible pros/cons of each:

Neumann KH 150 -

Pros:

Extremely accurate in the form of a ruler-flat frequency response
Appreciably more bass extension than 8331a
Offers a significant price-savings versus 8331a
Ridiculously low distortion for its size

Cons:

From a size perspective, a pair of these would push the physical limitations of my desk - while not impossible, it would be a challenge to get these to fit "comfortably"
I sometimes lean in closer to the desk while working (within 2 feet of where the speaker fronts would be), and I'm not sure when doing so if the Neumanns would sum properly
I am a stickler for detailed / spacious / "live"-sounding treble (never harsh or clearly shelved up), and I've seen some subjective commentary indicating that the Neumanns may be slightly dry in this area

Genelec 8331a -

Pros:

Also very accurate if not quite as impressively flat in frequency response
While it can't extend as low, it is rear ported, and as my desk sits against a wall the additional boundary gain might potentially help to make up for this
A bit smaller than the 150 and would be easier to place on the desk
Being coaxial there should be little to no change in tonality when my head moves in and out
I don't own any other coaxial speakers and I am interested in trying one of the better examples of the technology
Possibly "better" highs?

Cons:

Significantly more expensive (this is a big one)
Outside of potential boundary gain, appreciably less bass extension

As an aside, I am certainly open to any suggestions / direct messages from dealers regarding potential discounts on either of these, shipped to the US.

Thanks in advance!
 
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If you listen closer than 30” very often, I think 8831a’s or KH80’s(much cheaper option) are your best bet.
 
Doesn't seem like these two should be in the same conversation:
That link didn't work for me, but while the Genelecs are smaller I wouldn't call it a dramatic difference. However, it is enough that they would definitely be easier to place on my desk.

G & N.png

Does it have to be one of Genelec's "The Ones"?

Not necessarily, but at a close listening distance coaxial could be a benefit - or maybe not? Additionally, 3-way versus 2-way is appealing to me (yes, I know the 150 is a 2-way).

You'll get more bass extension for less money with Genelec's traditional models.
At a similar size or smaller, though? The 8030 has less extension, and stepping up to the 8040 would be too large for the desk (anything wider than the 150 is a no-go).

If I went with 8030s I think I might just cross the line into needing a sub (7040?). 8030s+7040 is certainly appealing from a cost perspective, though.

As for the KH 80, I'm not convinced that such a small speaker w/ a 4" woofer would provide the scale, impact, and "end game" experience I'm looking for, even at a close distance. I suppose I could be wrong. I think with the KH 80 in the conversation I'd be very inclined to go 8030C instead.
 


As for the KH 80, I'm not convinced that such a small speaker w/ a 4" woofer would provide the scale, impact, and "end game" experience I'm looking for, even at a close distance. I suppose I could be wrong. I think with the KH 80 in the conversation I'd be very inclined to go 8030C instead.
Well, if I was going for an “end game” desk setup, I’d probably go for 8341’s on stands like so:
31963846-DA49-4D8C-8F31-5896BD0958C9.jpeg
Mainly for the extra bass extension and coaxial advantage in extreme near-field. If you start taking about subs too, things change for sure.
That ups the budget but I think I could be happy with that setup sans subs. (And I’m a bit biased toward Genelec) :)
 
Flip a coin.
If it's truly that simple, I'll take the less expensive speakers (hello, Neumann).

Of course as these things tend to go, I'm back to possibly considering something like an 8030C and just grabbing a darn sub now and being done with it. Despite how irritating they can be, thank goodness for first world problems.

At published pricing:

8030Cs + 7350A = $2815
KH 150s = $3500
8331As = $4900

In this scenario, the Neumanns don't seem to make much sense, but then 8331As + a sub later down the line might be an option (it's not now) and then I wouldn't be second guessing what I might be missing.

If the 8331s were $1000 less per speaker this would be much easier. I can't help but be pulled back to the potential advantages of coaxial for ultra nearfield use.
 
If it's truly that simple, I'll take the less expensive speakers (hello, Neumann).

Of course as these things tend to go, I'm back to possibly considering something like an 8030C and just grabbing a darn sub now and being done with it. Despite how irritating they can be, thank goodness for first world problems.

At published pricing:

8030Cs + 7350A = $2815
KH 150s = $3500
8331As = $4900

In this scenario, the Neumanns don't seem to make much sense, but then 8331As + a sub later down the line might be an option (it's not now) and then I wouldn't be second guessing what I might be missing.

If the 8331s were $1000 less per speaker this would be much easier. I can't help but be pulled back to the potential advantages of coaxial for ultra nearfield use.
Bro it's easy. Go with the kh150. Why? Its not much bigger but has much deeper bass. i mean down to 30hz from a 6,5 woofer is insane.
8030c's dont got built in dsp.
 
After much thought and debate (and slacking off from work), I've decided to take the 8331As out of the running. While I'm sure they are extremely impressive, I just can't make $4900 for a desktop setup without a sub translate to good sense in my head.

I'm now down to the KH 150 w/ no sub at a published price of $3500 (I could go through Thomann and roll the dice that I wouldn't get hit with a customs fee, in which case they would be just a touch above $3000 to my door), and the 8030Cs + 7050C for $2815 after taxes.

One of the big appeals of the 8030Cs + sub (outside of the cost savings) is that they won't take up as much room on the desk. The 150s would look huge and definitely draw more side-eye from the wife. Because they are shallower, I could also push them back a further 3" and reduce the potential for getting too close for the drivers to sum properly. And not that I "need" it, but the dedicated sub would offer a good deal more bass extension than that 150s alone.

Or possibly better yet, since this wouldn't be a SAM setup anyway, 8030Cs + 10" Monolith V2 = $2100 after taxes. Hmm.
 
If you’re now considering a sub, KH80 + subwoofer should get consideration too. KH80 is inexpensive, within its limits one of the best performing speakers period, and mounts beautifully on a desk.

KC62 would pair naively and is very compact.
 
If you’re now considering a sub, KH80 + subwoofer should get consideration too. KH80 is inexpensive, within its limits one of the best performing speakers period, and mounts beautifully on a desk.

KC62 would pair naively and is very compact.
…. Good idea.

Or even with the KH750 Neumann sub plus the MA1 Room EQ kit. One often gets a bundle price.

I once compared the 8030 and the KH80. As the KH80 have DSP and are the somewhat newer design they also seem to deploy more modern amps which are less noisy. When sitting idle the 8030 emanate a very slight hiss from their tweeters and the KH80 do not. Usually when listening to music one never hears that, but when I sat quietly at my desk it bothered me. Well not everyone is bothered and one can switch of the speakers when doing quiet work. So just to let you guys know in case that is a criteria for you. I kept the KH80 and sent back the 8030.
 
…. Good idea.

Or even with the KH750 Neumann sub plus the MA1 Room EQ kit. One often gets a bundle price.

I once compared the 8030 and the KH80. As the KH80 have DSP and are the somewhat newer design they also seem to deploy more modern amps which are less noisy. When sitting idle the 8030 emanate a very slight hiss from their tweeters and the KH80 do not. Usually when listening to music one never hears that, but when I sat quietly at my desk it bothered me. Well not everyone is bothered and one can switch of the speakers when doing quiet work. So just to let you guys know in case that is a criteria for you. I kept the KH80 and sent back the 8030.
Yep, that was one of the reasons I went with KH80 as well. I needed something that would be silent from my chair when nothing playing.
 
I second the suggestion of KH 80 + KH 750. This is the desktop system in my study room. I'd also suggest to get MA-1 calibration kit, well worth it.

This is the end game system for my study room.
 
Pair of 8350s cost the same as 8331s. I'm pretty sure in a blind test most people would choose the former. And no sub needed.
 
8350s are too big.

After sleeping on it I think I'm going to go with the KH 150s. I don't really want to futz around with a subwoofer right now, and I have plenty of low/sub bass capabilities in my main setup when I need it. I don't think I'll miss sub 30Hz at my desk, and I'm nowhere remotely near there now anyway with the Klipsch sub, so the 150s will already offer a huge bass improvement.

I got a shipped price of $2940 for the pair from Thomann, and based on feedback, IF I get hit with customs duties they shouldn't come in at more than 5%. I rearranged my desktop and if I clear out the corners they may actually work out well as they'd be a bit further away and feel less imposing. The dead neutral / transparent performance / controlled directivity of the Neumanns along with their bass extension is appealing.

I'll be back as I change my mind another 7 times...ha.
 
For desktop use I would not even consider KH 150. At that distance you will easily hear mids / treble coming from different sources. I used KH 120 at 1.2 meters and it was just too obvious and distracting. Get 8331 or KH 80. Smaller is better in that case, but coaxial will clearly outperform everything else on a desk.
 
After much thought and debate (and slacking off from work), I've decided to take the 8331As out of the running. While I'm sure they are extremely impressive, I just can't make $4900 for a desktop setup without a sub translate to good sense in my head.

I'm now down to the KH 150 w/ no sub at a published price of $3500 (I could go through Thomann and roll the dice that I wouldn't get hit with a customs fee, in which case they would be just a touch above $3000 to my door), and the 8030Cs + 7050C for $2815 after taxes.

One of the big appeals of the 8030Cs + sub (outside of the cost savings) is that they won't take up as much room on the desk. The 150s would look huge and definitely draw more side-eye from the wife. Because they are shallower, I could also push them back a further 3" and reduce the potential for getting too close for the drivers to sum properly. And not that I "need" it, but the dedicated sub would offer a good deal more bass extension than that 150s alone.

Or possibly better yet, since this wouldn't be a SAM setup anyway, 8030Cs + 10" Monolith V2 = $2100 after taxes. Hmm.
I gone the 8030c+7040 route as desktop endgame a year ago, due to extreme lack of space and budget consciousness. As I am using pc as source I didn’t even go with GLM, umik 1 with rew and equalizer APO is easy enough to do the calibration myself, plus side is in room extension to 30hz, free up quite some desk space compared to previous kef x300a. And around $1200 total which makes bank account happier
 
For desktop use I would not even consider KH 150. At that distance you will easily hear mids / treble coming from different sources. I used KH 120 at 1.2 meters and it was just too obvious and distracting. Get 8331 or KH 80. Smaller is better in that case, but coaxial will clearly outperform everything else on a desk.
That's somewhat surprising since 1.2 meters is well within Neumann's "recommended" range, and we have a couple of recent nearfield 150 users who have not shared that complaint.

The KH 80 is certainly tempting from a price and space perspective but a sub would absolutely be required. Even with a KH750 integrated, I would still be concerned about upper bass / midrange dynamics / scale / fullness / smoothness from such a small woofer. I tend to be sensitive to those things and do not not care for many 2-ways for that reason, but the 150s seem to largely address those concerns. If I could be confident that KH 80s + KH750 would give up nothing to the 150s from the upper bass to the lower treble I'd be happy to go that direction.

I'd love 8331s + a sub but the cost is just too high to justify.
 
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I have the 120'a and the kh750 on my desktop.
Prior to getting the 750 i used the kc62.
Both setups sound exactly the same (using REW and a mic) after proper sub integration.
The only reason for switching to the 750 was i had another use for the 62.
This setup is as enjoyable ... or more, than my living room dutch 8c's.
Something similar and you wont go wrong. All of your choices are great options and you likely wont be able to tell the difference after proper setup.
 
Thomann has a KH80s + KH750 + M1 mic package for $2477 shipped (less potential customs fees to the US), which is nearly $500 less than the KH 150s by themselves. Obviously I'd have more bass extension with that setup (which I don't really need) but I could also then take full advantage of the integrated DSP alignment. My concerns above remain, though.
 
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