Very occasionally a product works pretty much exactly how I would like it to. Checks all of the want/need boxes and actually goes beyond what I was hoping for. The Neumann NDH 20 Headphones that I picked up a little while ago are just about perfect for what I do (whether that’s writing, recording or engineering).
First off, the NDH 20’s are extremely comfortable, so I’m able to wear them for long periods of time. If headphones are uncomfortable in any way I just can’t use them — simply can’t concentrate on the music I’m working on. The build quality is also incredible. They feel rock solid and substantial. My guess is unless you are really hard on gear (I’m not), these headphones will last for a long, long time.
The NDH 20’s are closed back headphones, which is important for me. My studio is by a somewhat noisy road and the NDH 20’s cut out quite a bit of the stuff I don’t want to hear. This isn’t to say the headphones completely isolate me from all of the V8 pickups, muscle cars and leaf blowers, but they do help me to better focus on my music.
Obviously, sound quality matters a lot and can be very subjective. Some people want headphones (and/or speakers) to give them a hyped vibe (i.e. boatloads of low end, sizzling high end, etc.). I’m the opposite — I want whatever system I’m listening to to be as neutral as possible. This is where the NDH 20’s really shine. I have an Apogee Element 24 and when using the Neumann’s with that interface, the sound is very flat and remarkably clear. The headphones are also loud — they have way more output than I need.
So what’s not to like? Well… I don’t like the sound of the cable rubbing against my shirt. Neumann used a texturally rough cable and you can definitely hear the cable when it touches your clothes. The sound transfers inside the headphones. Also, they flipped the cable output — put the cable out on the right headphone instead of the left. Not a big deal and it actually works better for my setup, but still it’s different than I’m used to.
Would I recommend these headphones to someone? Maybe. Really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re primarily a casual listener, then I’m not sure these guys are for you. I find the NDH 20’s to be very revealing — I hear details in music I’ve listened to forever that I never noticed before. Personally, when I’m listening to music for enjoyment, I can find it distracting to suddenly be aware of amp hiss, weird edit points, etc. On the other hand, if you’re working on the creative/production side of the equation, the Neumann NDH 20’s are an amazing tool and I’m happy I have the opportunity to use them.