It‚Äôs been four years since Neumann bought speaker manufacturer Klein + Hummel and since then, Neumann has begun a process of updating their existing range of professional studio monitors. Far more than simply rebadging the existing range, Neumann has invested a lot to improve on already great speakers.¬† The first to be released was the small 2-way Neumann KH120 which offered impressive performance for speakers this size followed shortly by the KH810 subwoofer. It‚Äôs been a long-time coming but Neumann has just released the Neumann KH310, an eagerly awaited update to the popular Klein + Hummel o300.
Being a Klein + Hummel o300 owner myself I have to admit that it was with great anticipation that I was waiting to hear them for myself.¬† As they arrived, the first thing I noticed was the packaging containing the usual rigid cardboard box but with a rugged black polystyrene inner protection, a definite improvement on Klein and Hummel‚Äôs box inside a box.
The Look of it
Once out of the box, the Neumann KH310 monitors are the exact same size as the o300 but with a more matt grey finish. There is a reassuring air of familiarity about the new KH310 but notable differences soon catch the eyes. First the woofer, although it is of the same size, the design is clearly different with first some ridges all around its edge and a concave membrane compared with the convex centre found on the o300 near-field monitors. The Mid-range driver is also different using a smooth meshed silk membrane instead of the rugged mid-band dome found on the former model. The Tweeter is not exempt from changes and features a noticeably larger and higher wave guide.
At the back features controls for the Class AB amplification system which has been greatly improved by Neumann making them much more efficient. The Woofer driver boasts a 220W instead of the 250W of the original o300, the mid driver 70W instead of 75W and the tweeter 70W instead of 110W. Amplification controls at the back include a 4-way switch changing the nominal level of the speaker. At its lowest setting, the speaker operates at 94dB with an additional-15dB input gain control. At this setting, the KH310 exhibit the same subjective level as the Klein and Hummel o300. Other values of the amp include 100dB, 108dB and 114dB SPL which make them much more powerful than the original o300 (I found out only later how much louder they actually were).
Just above to the amplifier controls, features the room correction EQ which is also changed using three way switches instead of the minuscule knobs featured on the older model. The frequencies and gain between both speakers are different between both new and old models. The LF section of the latter model features a 4-way switch with values with cut only values of 0dB, -2.5dB, -5dB and 7.5dB. ¬†The LMF section is also cut only with values of 0dB, -1.5dB, -3dB and -4.5dB while the HF can cut or boost the signal and features values of +1dB, 0dB, -1dB and -2dB. These values have been carefully chosen to adapt to requirements of many studios and to compensate for console reflection, distance from the walls and corners.
Other controls at the back include a Ground lift switch to remove hum and a logo brightness switch so that the White Neumann logo can be dimmed if too distracting. I personally didn‚Äôt feel the need to tweak it.
Once installed (on top of my K+H o300) I decided to break them and played some pink noise. What I didn‚Äôt realise though was how much more powerful they were! I had to stop straight away and switch the amp to its lowest setting with the gain knob set all the way up. Set this way the perceived loudness of the KH310 is similar to that of the o300 which was always sufficient for my particular needs. This was always one criticism of the old model and Neumann clearly took note of it. I seriously doubt people will complain about lack of power now.
What really impressed me with the original o300 was how neutral they felt and their ability to reproduce bass frequencies without any exaggeration. They didn‚Äôt sound harsh yet if something was harsh in the mix you could clearly hear it. Listening to commercial music on the Neumann KH310 felt really balanced with a tighter low-end. ¬†The midrange felt also more detailed giving an impression of working with a microscope. As a result vocals seemed to jump more at me and the overall sound seemed a little more forward. Generally the sound felt more expansive and detailed compared with my o300.¬† Switching back and forth between both speakers revealed some subtle elements of the mixes I hadn‚Äôt noticed before. The Neumann KH310 also displayed a sense of depth and a proper 3D rendition of the music. This feeling was accentuated by the possibility of hearing with astonishing precision the reverb tail ends.
I then decided to play some songs I had mixed to see how they translated and it confirmed my previous impression that the speakers were more forward sounding. Badly mixed songs sounded really unpleasant as expected and good mixes sounded as they should. I then quickly proceeded to mix using the KH310 and felt really comfortable mixing on them very rapidly. There was a familiarity to them that became obvious the further I spent time mixing on them. I didn‚Äôt experience any fatigue mixing on the KH310s even after long hours. What I found however was that I was more confident in my choices when I mixed, things felt a little more effortless and checking the mixes on other devices clearly supported that I had made the right choices.
I had been eager to try the¬†Neumann KH310 since I was told they would be updated and although I was a little surprise by the differences at first I rapidly warmed to them and felt that they offered a better representation of what I needed to hear to create better mixes. I really love my Klein and Hummel o300 and up until now felt that they were always giving me what I needed to hear to get great results but¬†Neumann has clearly refined the concept and the¬†KH310 monitors are a definite improvement in terms of imaging, tightness and let‚Äôs not forget loudness. Fans of the original Klein + Hummel monitors will undoubtedly appreciate the KH310 while critics should definitely give these new monitors a listen.