Rode, the audio company best known for its microphones, introduces its first pair of headphones, the NTH-100.
The NTH-100s are wired, over-ear headphones designed for audio and video productions. Compared to headphones made for casual listening, these deliver a flatter frequency response for more accurate mixing and monitoring.
The NTH-100 is intended to take over some popular models used in productions such as Sony’s MDR-7506, Sennheiser’s HD 280 Pro, Beyerdynamic’s DT 770 Pro and Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50x. They’re competitive in price, cost $149, and they have some unique features, indicating that Rode knows what producers and audio editors need when editing for extended periods of time.
I’ve had the opportunity to try out the NTH100 for the past month and these are the features that really stand out for me:
- CoolTech gel cushions with Alcantara fabric on the ear cups and headband: These are surprisingly comfortable headphones to wear – more than any of the headphones I mentioned before. After an uninterrupted four-hour session of editing our podcast Media Today Chroniclecast† there was little to no discomfort and they didn’t get too hot on my head (I’d love to see how they feel after working out in my warm apartment this summer). Those are common issues with headphones like these, and I was pleasantly surprised with the NTH-100.
- FitLock headband locking system: There is a twist-lock mechanism on each side of the headphones to adjust and then lock the height of where each earcup rests on your head. I appreciate that I can wear these on and off all week without having to adjust the headband every time — and my hair doesn’t get caught in them while I do.
- Double Sided Cable Fasteners: The NTH-100’s cable is removable, which is convenient for both repair and changing the length of headphone cables. But something new that these offer is the ability to connect the cable to either earcup. I don’t see this often when mixing headphones, and it came in handy when using these headphones in different setups. Rode has a 2.4 meter (7.8 foot) black cable, but also sells various color cables (green, orange, pink and blue) in 7.8 foot or 3.9 foot lengths to match the colored labels on Rode’s other audio products. Like many wired headphones, experiencing microphonics (the sound coming into your ear from the cable rubbing against itself or your clothes) is typical, and you’ll find them in these headphones. If that sort of thing bothers you, I recommend trying them on before you buy. At first I noticed it a lot when using the NTH-100, but since then I’ve gotten used to it, to a point where I almost forgot to write it here.
- Unique design: The NTH-100s are sleek with the earcup shape and subtle curves of the headband. While these will be used a lot behind the scenes, it makes sense that Rode makes sure they have a visual presence in the headphone bay – when I watch video podcasters on YouTube, many use Rode’s microphones and Rode’s audio mixer the Rodecaster Pro, but always Sony headphones, Wearing Audio-Technica or other brands. Rode is filling that gap to appeal to the creators who already trust products for their production work and who may also be looking for a different look for their headphones on video.
I’ve only been using these for the past month, but they feel very durable. Rode says the durability testing ensures “decades of use,” which is an impressive, but hard-to-test claim. There are no creaking or rattling parts that I noticed during use – something many other headphones in this price range suffer from (I’ve had to return my own Audio-Technica ATH-M70x several times for repair due to a plastic break). The NTH-100s have a strong headband, and it may be a drawback for some that they don’t fold at all. So you may need to leave some extra room in your suitcase, especially if you need multiple pairs for a podcast recording.
So how do they sound? They sound better than most headphones in the $150 price range. They’re not the ultimate mix headphones that will make you forgo using mix monitors, but great for a lot of production work. There’s no sonic element that caught my eye or surprised me when I tried them out, and that’s kind of the point. Nothing that matters if you rely on it for podcast or video mixing.
Rode claims the NTH-100s deliver an “extremely accurate frequency response”, but in addition to Sony’s MDR-7506s (a pair of headphones known for its flat frequency response) and Audio-Technica’s popular ATH-M50x, Rode’s NTH-100s have a bit more presence in the low mids, and eventually the other headphones make screeching or tinny with more presence in the higher frequencies. As an audio engineer, I’ve learned that any headphone model still needs my ears to adjust and analyze the color of the sound to properly mix and EQ audio, and this is no different. And after a while I started to prefer their frequency response over my other editing headphones.
In general, these stand out more for their comfort and durability than their sound. Ergonomics make the NHT-100s a thoughtful competitor to the crowded headphone market. They offer small but welcome features that others in the $150 price range don’t, and feel comfortable to wear for long periods of time. If you struggle with headphone fatigue in your production, are cursed with fragile headphones, or want a cool look for your video podcast, the Rode NTH-100s might be a great upgrade from your current pair. For now, they are my go-to headphones for editing long-session podcasts.