Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

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Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

Post by JonoTrott »

Hello forum! Hopefully I'm posting in the correct section.

I wonder if anyone could help me. I'm about to make a monitor upgrade for my home studio (3m x 4m). Going from Fostex PM1s and an Avantone Mixcube to a pair of one of the small Neumann monitors mentioned. I'll still use the Mixcube for mono and restricted mid-range monitoring. I have some rudimentary homemade acoustic treatment and soft furnishing that I think help the room, but it's certainly not a temple of audio fidelity!

I write, record and mix mainly retro-leaning band music (funk, soul, disco) as well as some miscallenous electronica - nothing very bass heavy fortunately as I don't think my room (or household....or neighbours!) would cope with it. For the same reasons, I would rarely monitor at very loud levels.

I have read mixed reviews regarding Neumanns proprietry DSP software, room measuring and correction...and also confess to being a bit worried about having something digital that could go wrong living in the speaker as opposed to a purely analogue speaker with any DSP handled just in the computer.

I'm wondering if the all-analogue KH120s paired with Sonarworks would be just as good as the KH80s? Or possibly better given it's lower bass extension coupled with Sonarworks room/speaker correction? Or whether the KH80s are deemed to be superior speakers in terms of their analogue performance compared the the KH120s regardless of the DSP factor?
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Re: Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

Post by JonoTrott »

Bump! Anybody?
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Re: Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

Post by blinddrew »

I completely missed this post first time around, sorry about that Jono.
I think one of the things to understand about DSP is that it's not just frequency information that is corrected, but time-based information as well.
Personally I bought the KH80s, I thought they had the best mid-range resolution and stereo imaging of anything I listened to in their class (including the 120s), and as the music I make doesn't require huge amounts of sub-bass I was happy to handle the higher bass roll-off.
In terms of potential issues with the added complexity of a DSP speaker I can't add a huge amount as I've never got round to borrowing a suitably modern Ipad to try and run the Neumann app.
But there does seem to be one fairly common issue with the KH-80s and that's the auto-standby feature. It can be very erratic and I've just got it turned off all the time now.
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Re: Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

JonoTrott wrote: Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:07 pmI have read mixed reviews regarding Neumanns proprietry DSP software, room measuring and correction...and also confess to being a bit worried about having something digital that could go wrong living in the speaker as opposed to a purely analogue speaker with any DSP handled just in the computer.

Stuff can go wrong in analogue speakers just as easily... and I've not heard any reports of DSP-related failures in the KH80s, so I think you can push that particular concern to one side.

There is widespread frustration with the auto-power switching facility in the KH80 which can be unreliable, particularly in installations with less than perfect grounding arrangements. But the function can be switched off, so I don't rate it as a major issue either. While the auto-power function is attractive for power-saving in professional studios and broadcasters (where studios are often left powered 24/7) I just don't see the point in a home studio. So I'd keep that function off anyway, and power the speakers up manually when I wanted to use them, and off when I didn't!

Configuring the KH80's DSP software currently requires an iPad, which not everyone has, and for for room correction duties you need the additional MA1 mic and a mac/PC with decent interface. It isn't the most elegant of such DSP systems... but it seems to do what is required.

I'm wondering if the all-analogue KH120s paired with Sonarworks would be just as good as the KH80s?

Part of the DSP in the KH80 is used to correct anomalies within the drivers themselves to ensure as perfect a crossover response as possible, and to ensure the off-axis responses are as good as they can be too, which plays a large role in how the speakers sound in the room.

An external room correction system like Sonarworks can't address each driver individually, so can't match the level of integration and alignment that the DSP80 does naturally. And, it only measures the sound in one part of the room, so in attempting to correct the frequency and phase response for that location, it can makes things worse elsewhere.

Having said that, I haven't tried the Sonarworks/KH120 combination, so I don't know how it compares to the KH80. What I can say is that I was very impressed with the KH80's overall performance and it's precision and resolution which were noticeably better than the KH120. I'm not convinced that adding room correction to the KH120 would deliver the same standard of results as the KH80 delivers.

And other DSP-corrected speakers are available...
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Re: Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

Post by JonoTrott »

blinddrew wrote: Fri Aug 13, 2021 12:05 pm I completely missed this post first time around, sorry about that Jono.
I think one of the things to understand about DSP is that it's not just frequency information that is corrected, but time-based information as well.
Personally I bought the KH80s, I thought they had the best mid-range resolution and stereo imaging of anything I listened to in their class (including the 120s), and as the music I make doesn't require huge amounts of sub-bass I was happy to handle the higher bass roll-off.
In terms of potential issues with the added complexity of a DSP speaker I can't add a huge amount as I've never got round to borrowing a suitably modern Ipad to try and run the Neumann app.
But there does seem to be one fairly common issue with the KH-80s and that's the auto-standby feature. It can be very erratic and I've just got it turned off all the time now.

Thank you Blinddrew! Interesting and helpful. Our needs sound similar and its heartening that you rate the KH80s above KH120s even without the use of the app. I can definitely live without the auto-off feature. Definitely capable of manually switching on and off :-)
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Re: Neumann KH80 DSP Vs Neumann KH120 with Sonarworks

Post by JonoTrott »

Hugh Robjohns wrote: Fri Aug 13, 2021 12:19 pm
JonoTrott wrote: Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:07 pmI have read mixed reviews regarding Neumanns proprietry DSP software, room measuring and correction...and also confess to being a bit worried about having something digital that could go wrong living in the speaker as opposed to a purely analogue speaker with any DSP handled just in the computer.

Stuff can go wrong in analogue speakers just as easily... and I've not heard any reports of DSP-related failures in the KH80s, so I think you can push that particular concern to one side.

There is widespread frustration with the auto-power switching facility in the KH80 which can be unreliable, particularly in installations with less than perfect grounding arrangements. But the function can be switched off, so I don't rate it as a major issue either. While the auto-power function is attractive for power-saving in professional studios and broadcasters (where studios are often left powered 24/7) I just don't see the point in a home studio. So I'd keep that function off anyway, and power the speakers up manually when I wanted to use them, and off when I didn't!

Configuring the KH80's DSP software currently requires an iPad, which not everyone has, and for for room correction duties you need the additional MA1 mic and a mac/PC with decent interface. It isn't the most elegant of such DSP systems... but it seems to do what is required.

I'm wondering if the all-analogue KH120s paired with Sonarworks would be just as good as the KH80s?

Part of the DSP in the KH80 is used to correct anomalies within the drivers themselves to ensure as perfect a crossover response as possible, and to ensure the off-axis responses are as good as they can be too, which plays a large role in how the speakers sound in the room.

An external room correction system like Sonarworks can't address each driver individually, so can't match the level of integration and alignment that the DSP80 does naturally. And, it only measures the sound in one part of the room, so in attempting to correct the frequency and phase response for that location, it can makes things worse elsewhere.

Having said that, I haven't tried the Sonarworks/KH120 combination, so I don't know how it compares to the KH80. What I can say is that I was very impressed with the KH80's overall performance and it's precision and resolution which were noticeably better than the KH120. I'm not convinced that adding room correction to the KH120 would deliver the same standard of results as the KH80 delivers.

And other DSP-corrected speakers are available...

Thanks Hugh. Yes, I'm aware that there are other DSP speakers available, and that their implementation of DSP software is better respected, better established and more cross platform (thinking Genelec here).

But I'm drawn to the Neumanns based on lots of reviews (including your own) and forum trawling.

It's very enlightening what you say about the various duties of Nuemann's DSP - I hadn't thought about that level of control when compared with something like Sonarworks.

I agree - auto-off is definitely something I can (and have until now) live without.
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