The Neumann NDH 20 is Sennheiser’s new closed-back set of headphones, combining isolation with carefully balanced sound image and resolution. Eng Zaher Al Tamimie is the sound engineer at the private studio of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and is also the founder and owner of Hajeer Film & TV Studio. He puts the headphones through their paces.
Eng Zaher Al Tamimie is an Iraqi who has worked as a sound engineer in the UAE since the late 1980s. As the owner and founder of Hajeer Film & TV Studio, he has worked with top composers and musicians from across the Arab world, including big names like Egyptian composer Walid Fayed; Iraqi artist Kadhim Al-Saher; Saudi artists Mohammed Abdu, Rashid Al-Majed and Abdul Majeed Abdullah; and Emirati artist and singer Mehad Hamad; and Ahlam and Hussein Al Jasmi. He is also the sound engineer at the private studio of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who publishes his poetry under the name Fazza.
With so many celebrity singers, musicians and artists as clients, Al Tamimie has a number of different mics and studio headphones, as well as other equipment designed to cater to the individual artistic needs of his high-profile clients, who write songs, compose music or even make music videos. These solutions include different brands like Neumann/Sennheiser, AKG, Ultrasone and so on.
Last month, Al Tamimie tested the NDH 20 and gave us his take on the headphones.
As a long-time user of Neumann studio microphones and monitors, my interest was piqued when I heard that the brand had introduced its first ever pair of studio headphones. With the Neumann brand having the backing of Sennheiser – which already has an established track record in the headphone market – I was keen to see how the NDH 20 would differentiate itself from the likes of iconic Sennheiser models like the HD 280 Pro and the HD 650, or some of the other brands I have in my studio.
At the outset, at a $500 price tag, the NDH 20 sits in the upper tier of the studio headphone price range, so it’s no surprise that the design and aesthetics reflect this premium positioning. The orange colour on the inner part of the earcups is an eye-catching highlight. Unlike the HD 650, however, Neumann has gone with a closed-back design for the NDH 20, so that’s the first differentiation that comes to mind when you have a quick look.
“I work a lot with Arabic music and Arab musicians, and we prefer products that can capture low frequencies as we tend to use the tarabuka, cello, counter bass and other traditional instruments a lot,” says Eng Zaher Al Tamimie, sound engineer, Hajeer Film & TV Studio, Dubai.
Given that these are designed for studio engineers who are likely to wear the headphones for hours on end, I was happy to see that the weight and the pressure while wearing them were well balanced. The earcups have been designed to swivel, which isn’t something I personally like, but this is only an annoyance when one is not actually wearing the headphones. The circumaural memory foam ear pads ensure your ears don’t heat up, so once they’re on they feel extremely comfortable and I could easily use them for hours without pressure on my ears or any discomfort.
As a long-term user of Neumann monitors and microphones in my personal studio, I have very high expectations in terms of the sound quality from these new studio headphones. Fortunately, they do not disappoint and the sound is both clear and balanced. The NDH 20 performs especially well in the mid to high frequency ranges, but performance is a bit wanting in the lower frequency range, with a very flat frequency response. This is a challenge if you are working with Arabic music.
I work a lot with Arabic music and Arab musicians, and we prefer products that can capture low frequencies as we tend to use the tarabuka, cello, counter bass and other traditional instruments a lot. There are three or four different kinds of bass in Arabic music that you don’t generally find with Western instruments. So we require headphones that can capture those different bass nuances.
It’s clear that Neumann has done its best to ensure the most accurate replication of sound, rather than boosting superficial characteristics for a more pleasurable listening experience. I therefore find the NDH 20 to be ideally suited as a tool for monitoring and delivering true replication. Noise isolation has also clearly been another area of focus, evident in the fact that Neumann has even listed the amount of sound isolation these headphones are capable of in the very detailed data sheet that accompanies them. While the fact that they vastly outperform open-back headphones in terms of sound isolation was expected, they are also among the best closed-back headphones in terms of sound isolation.
All in all, the NDH 20 is a strong and compelling entry into the crowded studio headphone market for Neumann. I’ve been impressed with the choices the brand has made, as they help differentiate the headphones from other offerings. If you’re looking for closed-back headphones with great isolation and accurate sound replication, they hit the mark.