RØDE NTH-100 headphones review: RØDE’s debut headphones deliver astonishing performance at an incredibly low price
As RØDE moves into new territory, we find out whether its respected reputation as a mic-maker can translate to headphones.
⊕ Deep, tuneful bass
⊕ Accurate midrange voicing
⊕ Sparklingly extended treble
⊕ Supremely comfortable
⊕ Exceptional value for money
⊖ No negatives at the price
When RØDE launched the brilliant, affordable NT1 microphone at the onset of the 1990s, it’s no exaggeration to say it revolutionised the world of large diaphragm condenser microphones, rivalling far more expensive products from the big guns in pro-audio. Now RØDE has done it again with the NTH-100 headphones.
A closed-back, circumaural design, they provide excellent rejection of external noise while expressing the superior sonic character of open-back designs. Each pair features custom-matched drivers, which incorporate a voice coil with a four-layer aluminium alloy, coupled to a triple-layer diaphragm made of Mylar. A rare-earth neodymium magnet completes the transducer component assembly.
The beautifully contoured earcups are not only aesthetically pleasing and a welcome change from standard round and oval-shaped designs, but also acoustically optimised and incredibly comfortable – possibly the most comfortable headphones we’ve tested.
This is in no small part due to the construction of the earpad and headband cushions. They are made from alcantara, a premium material more commonly used in the luxury and sports car industry. It’s extremely soft and comfortable yet incredibly durable, though should they become damaged, they are easily replaceable.
Adding to the headphones’ long term comfort is RØDE ‘s proprietary CoolTech gel blended into the memory foam cushions, which, in the company’s own words “absorbs and dissipates heat, actively cooling your ears.” This aspect of the NTH-100’s performance is superb. We’re well aware that lengthy recording and mixing sessions with sweaty, sticky and stifling ‘phones are detrimental to the creative process; these headphones are refreshingly cool.
Another proprietary feature is the headband’s FitLok locking system, which ensures your personal size adjustment remains in place indefinitely, while sockets for the (replaceable) cable are located on each earcup for maximum convenience.
Obviously, a considerable amount of thought and time has gone into getting the ergonomics spot-on and while the headphones look (and feel) seriously cool, this is no case of style over substance; RØDE means business here. The beautifully contoured looks and fantastic functionality are only half the story though. The NTH-100’s sonic abilities are nothing short of breathtaking.
Most professional headphones are voiced in one of two different ways. Companies that claim their headphones to be accurate avoid boosting bass frequencies, often resulting in a lean sound that makes monitoring low-frequency content tricky. On the other hand, those aiming for a more musical character sometimes sacrifice bass quality for quantity. Producing deep yet un-hyped bass from small transducers is one of the more challenging aspects of the designer’s art and usually the preserve of extremely expensive hi-fi ‘phones.
RØDE has pulled off a rather neat trick here as the NTH-100s are ruthlessly accurate across the frequency range, yet don’t sound rolled off at the bottom end. Mid-range performance is correct, accurately portraying natural sounds such as voices, acoustic guitars and orchestral instruments while the true top-end is sparklingly extended with no added brightness to over- explicitly push forward detail. Designs that do this sound impressive on first listen but become distracting and fatiguing over time.
In an A/B comparison with many similarly priced headphones, the competition may initially sound more exciting, however in the long-term, this brilliant new product from RØDE is more honest and faithful to your work. And did we mention how cool they are?
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