Test: Neumann KH 310
Test: Neumann KH 310
Near-field monitor
With the KH 120, the traditional microphone manufacturer Neumann succeeded in making a brilliant debut in the near-field studio monitor
market segment. Within a short time the small monitor was at the top of the sales charts – justifiably so, due to the sound characteristics and
the unbeatably good price/performance ratio. This was ample reason to be curious about how the new 3-way system would fare in our measurement and testing studio.
Neumann KH 310
3-Way High-End Monitor Tested & Measured
Sound quality
Possible applications
Workmanship and value
Price/performance ratio
Manufacturer/Model Manufacturer/Sales Neumann / Sennheiser
MSRP per pair: 3,994 euros r www.neumann.com
With the KH 310, Neumann Berlin is
now presenting the second newly developed monitor since the takeover of the
Klein+Hummel brand under the Neumann label. The KH 310 is a compact 3way system for near-field and mid-field
applications, which is also well-suited
for use as a surround monitor in larger
studios. In contrast to the approach of
many other manufacturers, the external
appearance continues to be very inconspicuous, and has scarcely changed in
comparison to the previous model O
300. However, when examined closely,
the KH 310 is revealed as a completely
newly developed system with many
technical fine points. Only the concept
remains unchanged: 3-way with a sealed housing, with the external shape
and dimensions of the housing remaining the same. All of the drivers, the
entire electronics and the driver waveguides are newly developed.
The KH 310 now continues the concept
of the O 98 (1982-1998), O 198 (19982000) and O 300 (1999-2013) into the
fourth generation. Thanks to its closely
arranged loudspeakers and the resulting small front surface area, the application possibilities of the compact 3way system include use as a large nearfield monitor, or as a main or surround
loudspeaker. Due to its low height, the
KH 310 hinders neither the acoustics of
main monitors located behind it, nor
the view through the control room
The midrange and tweeter are
favorably situated one above the other.
For the woofer positioned to one side,
the “side-by-side” arrangement is less
problematic, because the crossover at
650 Hz occurs at such a long wavelength that the distance between the
drivers no longer has an adverse effect.
Particularly for compact monitors,
sealed housings are rather rare. The
reason for this is the greater level stability of bass reflex designs, which exhibit
higher sensitivity at low frequencies,
thanks to the support of the bass reflex
resonator. However, such designs have
two disadvantages. Not only does the
frequency response below the resonance tuning frequency of the housing
diminish twice as sharply (24 dB/oct.)
as that of a sealed housing (12 dB/oct.),
but also the phase shifts, of 360° instead of 180° through the high-pass function, are twice as great. This means that
apart from the achievable bass level, a
The following measurements of frequency response, directivity and distortion values come from the measurement
laboratory, with anechoic conditions. The class 1 measurement chamber permits measurement distances of up to 8 m, and provides free-field
conditions for the range of 100 Hz upward. All measurements are performed via a B&K 1/4" 4939 measurement microphone with a 96 kHz sampling rate and 24 bit resolution, with the aid of the Monkey Forest audio measuring system. Measurements below 100 Hz are performed as combined near-field/far-field measurements.
01 It could scarcely be better: On-axis frequency
response measured at a distance of 2 m. At the top
are the filter curves for the treble, low-mid and bass
filters (blue, orange and green, respectively). The two
gray lines indicate the frequency range from 100 Hz
to 10 kHz, for the evaluation of ripples. The curve
(violet line) extends from 30 Hz to 22 kHz (-6 dB),
with an almost vanishingly small ripple of only 2.2 dB
(maximum to minimum).
02 On-axis phase response measured at a distance of
2 m. At the crossover frequencies of 650 Hz and 2 kHz
in each case there is a 360° phase rotation. At the
lower end of the transmission range there is another
rotation of 270° due to the electronic 1st order highpass filter and the acoustic 2nd order high-pass filter
(sealed housing).
03 Maximum SPL at a distance of 1 m, at maximum
3% distortion (red curve), and maximum 10% distortion (blue curve) for the bass range up to 300 Hz.
Below 100 Hz the woofer averages 104 dB, and between 100 Hz and 10 kHz the average maximum SPL
appears as 111.7 dB. There are no weak points at all
in the form of sharp drops in the Max. SPL curve.
04 Spectrogram of the KH 310, with perfect decay
free of resonances.
05 Horizontal directivity represented by isobars.
At the transition from yellow to light green, the level
dropped by 6 dB relative to the center axis.
06 Vertical directivity with a slight constriction at the
transition point between the midrange and tweeter at
2 kHz.
07 Measurement of intermodulation distortion with
an EIA-426B spectrum multi-sine signal having a
12 dB crest factor, for 85 dBA Leq at distances of 2 m
(red curve) and 4 m (blue curve). Here the red curve
for measurement at a distance of 2 m likewise provides optimal values, with distortion considerably below
-30 dB (3%). If the level is increased by 6 dB (85 dBA
at 4 m), the intermodulation distortion in the range of
the woofer below 600 Hz then increases by approximately 10 dB, but still remains below -20 dB (10%).
08 Oscillation behavior of the Neumann midrange
dome at 2 kHz (left), compared to that of a dome of
similar size of another manufacturer (right).
09 Oscillation behavior of the Neumann tweeter
dome at 15 kHz (left), compared to that of a dome of
similar size of another manufacturer (right).
10 Averaged frequency response measurement for
each of 30 positions of the left and right loudspeaker
around the listening position (blue). Below 150 Hz,
the room modes are clearly evident. An EQ (green) for
the room correction was derived from the measurements. At the bottom is the averaged curve with EQ
sealed housing is in fact a better choice.
The bass level is precisely what makes a
bass reflex housing indispensable as a
rule, especially for small monitors, since even at low frequencies a certain
minimum level is essential for listening
under usual level conditions. However,
with an 8" woofer, the size of the KH
310 is such that even without the support of a resonator a high level can be
achieved, which is thus primarily
dependent upon the capabilities of the
This design was developed completely by Neumann itself, from the simulation, to all of the series of measurements, to the tools. Special attention
has been paid to the large linear excursion. With sufficient amplifier power,
here ensured by a 210 W peak for the
woofer, the desired sound pressure level
can thus also be attained with a sealed
housing. Even the two domes have
been developed completely by Neumann and, like the woofer, are manufactured exclusively for Neumann as
OEM parts.
Above a certain frequency, a dome
no longer oscillates as a unit, but
begins to develop independent breakup modes, where particular zones of the
diaphragm form local oscillation patterns. Figures 8 and 9 show images of
the midrange and tweeter domes obtained via laser interferometer scanning.
Here the differences can be clearly seen.
For the tweeter, the goal is to shift the
break-up modes as much as possible to
the range above 20 kHz. For the large 3"
midrange diaphragm of course this is
not possible, but here it is also not
required, since the midrange is driven
only up to 2 kHz, where it operates without any problem, as shown in Figure 8.
The large midrange dome, like the
tweeter, is equipped with a waveguide,
which controls the directivity and also
provides for an increase in sensitivity,
thus combining two advantages. For
the midrange, due to the compact
arrangement at the front, the waveguide is of necessity rather small. The gain
in sensitivity is therefore also
somewhat secondary. Nevertheless the
curves, as well as the bulge around the
woofer, result in less reflection interference for the other drivers.
Frequency range: 30 Hz - 22 kHz (-6 dB)
Ripple: 2.2 dB (100 Hz - 10 kHz)
Horizontal opening angle:
112° (-6 dB isobar 1 kHz - 10 kHz)
Horizontal standard deviation:
19° (-6 dB isobar 1 kHz - 10 kHz)
Vertical opening angle:
82° (-6 dB isobar 1 kHz - 10 kHz)
Vertical standard deviation:
24° (-6 dB isobar 1 kHz - 10 kHz)
Max. SPL:
111.7 dB (3% THD 100 Hz - 10 kHz)
Bass capability:
104 dB (10% THD 50 - 100 Hz)
Max. SPL at 1 m (free-field) with EIA-426B signal at
full-scale level:
102.4 dBA Leq and 116 dB peak
Pair deviation:
0.45 dB (max. value 100 Hz - 10 kHz)
Noise level (A-weighted): 16.5 dBA (distance 10 cm)
Dimensions: 383 x 253 x 292 mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 13 kg
The electronics of the KH 310 are all
found at the rear panel, which is manufactured in one piece from a section of
continuously cast aluminum. Inside are
the circuit boards for the power supply,
the amplifiers and the filters. The number of cables is kept to a minimum,
with the result that the entire installation, even with cables, makes an orderly,
tidy impression. For the power supply,
a modern HF switched-mode power
supply was selected. The amplifiers are
integrated class AB circuits with
150/70/70 W continuous and
210/90/90 W peak output power. Crossover is effected by 4th order filters
(24 dB/oct.) at 650 Hz and 2 kHz.
In addition to the usual exterior photos taken in the test laboratory, details and the interior of the monitor were also brought to light
via the camera. Opening the rear panel reveals the complex electronics. In the background the housing made of MDF can be seen, with many covered cables.
11 Perfectionism is also apparent from the back, with a rear
panel made of a section of continuously cast aluminum. All of
the switches are well-arranged
and clearly labeled.
12 Nothing is left to chance.
Thermogram of the rear panel,
demonstrating a uniform distribution of heat over the heat
13 The electronics inside the
rear panel, with a switchedmode power supply and four
amplifier integrated circuits
on the aluminum section.
14 The three drivers seen from
the rear. The woofer and tweeter are equipped with ferrite
magnets, including compensation magnets. The midrange is
provided with a neodymium
At Neumann nothing is left to chance. For users, this can be seen in various aspects, e.g. very practically in the
instructions, which truly deserve the
name, or – not so immediately apparent, but nevertheless important – in
the heat dissipation via the rear panel.
Developer Markus Wolff illustrated this
with a thermogram (Fig. 12) of the rear
panel of the KH 310; the temperature
distribution shows the uniform heating
of the heat sink, with no hotspots that
could be dangerous for the components. At the same time, the temperature of all of the control areas is considerably lower.
The limiters have also been developed with great attention to detail. There
is an independent thermo limiter for
each driver, with a long time constant,
as well as peak and excursion limiters
for the woofer. As soon as one of the limiters is active, the Neumann logo on
the front of the monitor flashes red.
All of the controls are found on the
rear panel, in the form of reliable sliding switches. Once one is familiar with
the function of the switches, the settings can be quickly recognized by reaching behind the monitor. In the
“Acoustical Controls” area there are filters for the bass, low-mid and treble,
each with four settings. The effect of
the filters is demonstrated by the green,
orange and blue curves in Figure 1. An
additional switch marked “Output Level” has the four settings 94, 100, 108
and 114 dB, for the sound pressure level
reached with an input voltage of 0 dBu
at a distance of 1 m. Beside it is a trimmer, in case intermediate settings are
desired. There are also controls for the
brightness of the logo on the front of
the monitor, and for the ground lift.
The listening test took place under
well-known conditions, and also involved several other loudspeakers, which
were all installed and tested in sequence. As expected, the KH 310 proved to
be completely neutral and comprehensive. Nothing was lacking, at either the
lower or upper end. At a listening distance of 2.5 m, even with difficult
material, the impression that the KH
310 had reached its limits never arose.
This is probably one of the most obvious advances achieved in comparison to
the previous model O 300. The differences with regard to the other systems
tested in the same session were clearly
identifiable, in favor of the KH 310.
Nevertheless, the results were
genuinely interesting in terms of many
details often noticeable only at the
second hearing, e.g. the depth differentiation of sources in the recording. Although with other loudspeakers these
lay more or less in the plane of the
loudspeaker, the KH 310 succeeded in
reproducing clear depth differentiation.
Over time one thus detected various
other details that had not previously
been heard. However, despite all the
precision of the reproduction, this was
never at the expense of enjoyment or
the reproduction dynamics, and this
held true independently of the type of
music material being monitored.
In the fine tradition of the earlier monitors, for the KH 310 one expects excellent measurement results that require
no discussion. The frequency response
(Fig. 1) is one of the best ever measured
in our testing laboratory. Above 20 kHz
the curve then drops sharply, since this
is the range of the tweeter dome diaphragm resonance, the excitation of
which is to be avoided. This is effectively suppressed via a special circuit
design for the tweeter control.
Basically, one could be of the opinion that in fact no more signal components are to be expected here. Nevertheless, if such components occur, e.g.
in the case of 96 kHz recordings, then a
strong excitation of the diaphragm
resonance via intermodulation distortions would be perceptible even in the
audible frequency range, and this is
precisely what is to be avoided.
In the spectrogram shown in Figure
4, the KH 310 proves to be extremely
impressive. The decay behavior is perfect in every respect. The promise
shown by the special woofer design and
by the oscillation behavior illustrated
in the images of the two domes has
thus been fulfilled.
In terms of the maximum SPL and
the intermodulation distortion, illustrated in Figures 3 and 7 respectively, here
too the KH 310 exhibits excellent
results. For the midrange and tweeter
the values increase only minimally,
demonstrating one of the advantages of
the 3-way system. If the woofer receives
strong inputs and large excursions are
generated, the accompanying intermodulation distortions are restricted to a
small, uncritical frequency range in
comparison to the situation with a 2way system.
If the KH 310 is operated close to
the level where the limiter takes effect,
then at a distance of 1 m, an average
level LAeq of 102.4 dBA and a peak
level LZpk of 116 dB are achieved. All of
the data were measured for an individual speaker.
With regard to directivity, the KH
310 has two advantages which come
into play. One is the extensive tweeter
waveguide, and the other is the 3-way
principle, where the midrange does not
have to be reproduced by the large
woofer diaphragm. In large areas, the
relationship of the “diaphragm diameter to wavelength transmitted” thus has
a more favorable ratio than is the case
with a 2-way system. The horizontal
isobars in Figure 5 appear correspondingly uniform, with an average opening angle of 112° and a deviation of
only 19°. The vertical isobars are naturally somewhat poorer, but still very
good. Here the average opening angle
is 82° and the deviation is 24°. The
smaller vertical dispersion angle here
is intended to reduce reflection interference from the ceiling and work surfaces.
Two additional measurements
should be mentioned. The noise level of
16.5 dBA at a distance of 10 cm is at an
exceedingly low level, which is imperceptible at normal listening distances,
and the pair deviation of only 0.45 dB
is extremely low.
As a near- to mid-field monitor, the
KH 310 from Neumann displays the
same almost obsessive perfectionism
which is already familiar from the KH
120. The workmanship, measurements,
and listening impression are all completely convincing throughout, all of
which has been accomplished without
the use of any exotic concepts, transformers or the like. With straightforward
engineering skill, here a highly professional tool of the highest quality has
been created.
Anyone who now thinks that this
may all be fine and good, but certainly
sounds boring and will not provide any
listening pleasure, is greatly mistaken.
A listening trial at Neumann Berlin or a
dealer can quickly dispel this impression. Possibly one may then be 4,000
euros poorer, however with the good
feeling of having made a safe and
worthwhile investment. n
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