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Neumann KH120 II Monitor Review

Rate this monitor speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 1 0.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 3 0.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 34 8.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 357 90.4%

  • Total voters
    395

amirm

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This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests/EQ of Neumann KH120 MKII DSP active monitor (speaker). It is on kind loan from the company and costs US $999 each.
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP review.jpg

I love the form factor for desktop use. It is not too deep or unwieldly as some larger configurations can be:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP side view review.jpg


Back panel shows the settings as used for testing:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP back panel digital AES review.jpg


One nit: while having power and XLR inputs vertically inserted allows for compact placement against the wall and such, it is a bit of a pain to get the cables to go in and stay properly. It is a one time nuisance fortunately. Here are the high level specs:
  • High-precision drivers, Mathematically Modelled Dispersion (MMD) waveguide
  • Linear frequency response 44 Hz to 21 kHz (±3 dB)
  • Linear phase response 120 Hz to 16 kHz (±45°) with latency <2.6 ms
  • DSP engine allows for room adaptive calibration via Neumann’s MA 1
  • Razor-sharp imaging due to extremely low tolerances (±0.5 dB)
  • May be combined with other KH line speakers in immersive/surround setups

Neumann KH120 II Speaker Measurements
As usual we start with our anechoic frequency response generated with Klippel Near-field Scanner:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP frequency response measurement.png

I expect precision from Neumann but I am always amazed how incredibly flat on-axis response is from their speakers. I mean this is the level of flatness we get out of electronics, not something electromechanical! Despite having just a 5.5 inch woofer, the speaker dares to go nearly flat to 50 Hz! Directivity is excellent other than the woofer slightly beaming before tweeter takes over.

Front ported speakers always worry me as far as amount of box/port resonances they can project. But in capable hands of Neumann engineers, this is a non-issue:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP near-field frequency response measure...png


Our modeling of early reflections is for far field listening but they still provide good insight as to how good the off-axis response is for near-field studio monitors:

Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP early window frequency response measu...png

You get excellent response other than unavoidable vertical dip which can be managed as noted. Perceptually it is not very important though.

Predicted in-room response has the same caveat but nevertheless, is almost textbook perfect:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP predicted in-room frequency response ...png


Due to its smaller size, I decided to go down to 80 dBSPL and measure distortion:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP 80 dBSPL Distortion measurement.png

There is a resonance at 334 Hz or so. This is seen as a tiny blip in on-axis response as well. It is well below my threshold though so not an issue. And at any rate, is overwhelmed at higher SPLs I normally show:

Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP 86 dBSPL Distortion measurement.png


This is amazing level of performance. Look ag the gap between measured distortion and our 50 dB target. It is massive. At 96 dBSPL we do get more distortion but it is where the speaker response drops rapidly anyway:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP 96 dBSPL Distortion measurement.png

As noted, the warning light came on in red although I didn't detect any sudden rise in distortion. Still, this is probably a good limit for the performance of this speaker.

Horizontal beamwidth/directivity shows excellence in design:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP Horizontal Beam width measurement.png


Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP Horizontal Directivity measurement.png


2-way non-coaxial speakers show the classic dip off-axis so best to stick to reference axis (upper ring of the woofer):
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP Vertical Directivity measurement.png


Waterfall shows the slight resonance I detected with other tests:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP CSD Waterfall measurement.png


But look at how clean the back of the chart is.

I don't normally comment on step response but I had to make an exception on how idealized it is here:
Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP Impulse response measurement.png


Neumann KH120 MKII Listening Tests
Going into this review, I expected to focus on tonality as I always do with my female reference/test tracks. But what I immediately noticed was the warmth of the bass out of this little speaker! Even on a track that doesn't show case this, there was nicely present low frequency response. And it wasn't just the ears that detected it. Low notes were accompanied by cool puffs of air landing on my nose! This was at 1+ meter/4 feet which again, is impressive for such a small speaker.

Tonality was of course was right on the money and a joy to experience.

An issue I often I have with active speakers is lack of power. Not here. Despite only testing one speaker, I could get to very impressive levels with no hint of distortion above sub-bass (see below). As noted there was impressive bass that at times started to even resonate into the floor of my room! It is hard to rationalize your eye seeing a small speaker and your body saying, "man that is impressive bass!"

Throwing my torture track for sub-bass response did result in distorted bass. I took a shot at dialing out the extreme lows with a simple high-pass filter and it nicely did the trick:

Neumann KH120 II Professional Monitor Speaker Active DSP Equalization EQ.png


At 35 Hz corner frequency, there was just a hint of distortion in sub-bass but no impact on tonality. If I increased that to 40 Hz, all distortion would vanish but there was tiny, tiny reduction in bass. Given that this is a DSP speaker, I imagine you could just dial this into the speaker.

Conclusions
Neumann once again shows that it takes its commitment to neutrality in professional monitor to the extreme. Once again, we see essentially ruler flat on-axis response and near perfect off-axis. Importantly, distortion is kept to very low level while pumping out a ton of bass relative to the size of the speaker. Combine this with a very compact form factor and you have one heck of a monitor -- for professional or consumer use. I have no need for another set of speakers but keep thinking I should try to buy this from Neumann! :)

It is my pleasure to recommend the Neumann KH120 II. You owe it to yourself to get a reference quality monitor like this and hear what your source material is supposed to sound like!

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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Matias

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Excellent as usual from Neumann. Thanks for the review, Amir.
 

Matias

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Doodski

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Neumann KH120 II​

Active Studio Nearfield Monitor

  • Drivers: 5.25" woofer and 1" tweeter
  • Frequency range: 44 - 21,000 Hz (+/- 3 dB)
  • Max. SPL 116.8 dB
  • Output power: 145 W woofer, 100 W tweeter (THD+N with limiter deactivated: 10%)
  • DSP-controlled electronics
  • Room-adaptive calibration via optional Neumann Automatic Monitor Alignment MA 1 (not included)
  • 4-Position acoustic control for bass, low-mid and treble
  • Independent soft-clip, peak and thermal limiters for woofer and tweeter
  • Excursion limiter for woofer
  • Temperature monitoring for electronics and power amplifier
  • Connections: 1 line input XLR, S/PDIF coax, Ethernet
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 287 x 182 x 227 mm
  • Weight: 5.4 kg
 

Matias

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For reference, the former KH 120 A was measured by Neumann here:

 

Doodski

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After I saw how small they are and how marvellous for their size I officially nominate them as the successor of my desk's fostex's when they die.

Thanks Amir!
This is just outrageously good. It's as good as it gets for me. I would PEQ that to death with my ears' freq response but at least I would know I have the best speaker.
index.php
 

Sokel

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This is just outrageously good. It's as good as it gets for me. I would PEQ that to death with my ears' freq response but at least I would know I have the best speaker.
index.php
What I like most is the absence of even the faintest increase at 2-5Khz and the perfect in room response.
Yep,that does it.
 
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