RØDE | US$149
The RØDE team in Sydney have been hard at work making stellar audio gear for the last 30 odd years, so it’s no surprise they are one of the few Australian pro audio companies that have gained recognition alongside global household names such as AKG, Shure or Sennheiser.
Known for making high quality audio gear at a modest price point, they’ve carved out a reputation for being somewhat different – they’re one of the few industry leaders that is still family-owned, designing and manufacturing everything in Australia before shipping out to the great beyond.
Read more product reviews here.
Now, if you were to pop onto RØDE’s website in the recent past, their homepage has a bold, emblazoned ‘SOMETHING NEW IS COMING’. There’s a silhouette of some young, fresh figure folding their arms, listening to music in front of that giant, iconic ‘Ø’. What this was hinting at is not an overstatement, as that ‘something’ has arrived and it’s exciting. As of today, RØDE has released their first-ever pair of headphones. This new step for RØDE is not unlike that young, fresh silhouetted figure, but these headphones are not to be taken lightly – with exceptional sonic detail and user comfort, the closed-back NTH-100 headphones are a solid debut for the brand.
When you first open up the box the NTH-100s are sitting in a sleek little cloth pouch, with some minimal accessories nestled here and there. The design is nice, with a matte black finish, clean lines and compact, ergonomic-looking ear cups that are whispering softly at you to pick them up and press them around your ears. The headphones have the recognisable RØDE ‘Ø’ printed onto the sturdy industrial plastic, almost like a reverse-emboss effect all glossy and smooth. The little metal gold dots at the base of each headphone make them look a little bit expensive when they’re not. Bonus.
The headphones come with 1×2.4m headphone cable, 1×3.5mm to quarter-inch adapter and nifty little coloured ID rings for easy cable identification. Sitting at 350g, the NTH-100s are a fairly average weight, so there’s a familiar satisfaction when picking them up. What is not average is the design, which manages to merge some fairly out-of-the-box features with a nod to classic features.
The trimmings include dual-sided TRRS cable attachments, locking headphone connectors, and RØDE’s own FitLok headband locking system that minimises movement when the headphones aren’t in use. Essentially it’s a mechanical ‘save’ button. The whole piece is modular too – you can remove the major components easily, and customise them with four colours available. This design feature is fairly forward-thinking, as it could significantly increase the lifespan of the headphones.
It’s clear that they’ve put a lot of time into the design for longevity: the headband is a high-grade stainless spring steel with a highly durable coating; the Alcantra ear pad and headband cushions are designed to be extremely resistant to wear and tear. As this soft, durable fabric is used in high-end fashion and sports cars, it has a bit of a sporty feel to it. Every component in the headphones looks like it was made to last, right down to the little wire that hooks up the earcups. All this adds up to their suitability for both field and studio work, giving it the potential to be a sturdy workhorse.
The NTH-100s are marketed towards all realms of professional content creation; podcasting, streaming, location recording, and audio and video production. But what makes them shine is their suitability for mixing. At 32 ohms, they are low impedance which is great for plugging into any device, making them suitable for consumer as well as professional use. These cans have an incredibly superior acoustic performance considering the low ohms, with a frequency response between 5Hz – 35kHz, 110db sensitivity, a max SPL of 126dBSPL and an ambient noise attenuation of 20dBA.
Though they are closed-back headphones, they still have quite a natural sound, which is something you’d associate a bit more with open-back headphones and studio monitors. The audio quality is high, with a balanced and detailed sound. It is mostly transparent, retaining a bit of warmth and liveliness. The custom-matched drivers deliver a closely accurate frequency response, delivering the subtle energy of the lows, some beautiful mid range detail and clarity in the highs without fatiguing the ears. It sounds smoother somehow, like vinyl to an MP3. Subtle and wanky comparison, but incrementally, this is the kind of sound you’d want in a pair of headphones you’re intending to keep for a couple of decades.
After wearing them for an hour or two they still felt comfortable. RØDE has manufactured their own CoolTech gel integrated into the ear pad memory foam, which supposedly absorbs and dissipates heat. This felt noticeable by a fair whack in comparison to other headphones with leather earpads. Bring on the long, grinding sessions in summer when you’ve got to turn off the aircon for each take.
All up, the NTH-100 headphones do follow in the footsteps of RØDE’s ethos of making high quality, affordable pro audio gear. These headphones sound excellent, but are also comfortable and a bit more breathable despite being closed-back. When compared to other brands maybe they are a middle-of-the-road option for content creators, but what makes them stand out is their highly-detailed, balanced frequency response, ergonomics and sturdiness.
Any professional audio engineer should consider checking these out to add to their arsenal of headphones, as they’re great considering their price point. And also, you’re buying RØDE. They’re Australian, they’re excellent, they’re generous with their warranties and customer service because they want you to be able to use their gear for a long time.
These headphones represent an exciting new chapter for them, and will no doubt be spotted on the wall hooks of many professional studios very soon.
Head to RØDE’s website for more information.