Rode, the audio company best known for its microphones, launches its first pair of headphones, the NTH-100.
The NTH-100 are wired over-ear headphones designed for audio and video productions. Compared to headphones designed for casual listening, these offer a flatter frequency response for more accurate mixing and monitoring.
The NTH-100 aims to support 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 price-competitive, costing $149, and they have some unique features, underscoring that Rode knows what audio producers and editors need when editing for long periods of time.
I got to try out the NTH100 over the past month and here are the features that really stood out to me:
- CoolTech gel earpads with Alcantara fabric on ear cups and headband: These are surprisingly comfortable headphones to wear, more so than any headphones I’ve mentioned before. After a continuous four-hour session, editing our podcast The Vergecast, there was little to no discomfort and they didn’t warm my head too much (I’d like to see how they feel after climbing into my hot apartment this summer). These are common issues with headphones like these, and I was pleasantly surprised with the NTH-100.
- FitLock headband locking system: There’s a locking mechanism on each side of the earbuds to adjust and then lock the height of where each earbud rests on your head. I appreciate being able to wear them and take them off throughout the week without having to adjust the headband every time – and without getting my hair caught in them doing it.
- Double Sided Cable Ties: The cable of the NTH-100 is detachable, which is useful for both repairing and exchanging the length of headphone cables. But something new these offer is having the option to plug the cable into either earbud. I don’t see this very often on mixing headphones, and it’s been helpful when using these headphones in different setups. Rode includes a 2.4 meter / 7.8 foot black cable, but also sells cables in different colors (green, orange, pink and blue) in 7.8 foot or 3.9 foot lengths to match the colored labels on other Rode audio products. Like many wired headphones, the experience of microphony (the noise that travels into your ear from the cable rubbing against itself or your clothes) is typical, and you’ll find it in these headphones. If that kind of thing bothers you, I suggest you test them out before you buy. At first I noticed it a lot while using the NTH-100, but since then I’ve gotten used to it, so much so that I almost forgot to write it here.
- Single model: The NTH-100s are sleek with the ear shape of the ear cups and the subtle curves of the headband. Although these are used a lot behind the scenes Rode making sure they have a visual presence in the headphone space makes sense – when I watch video podcasters on YouTube many use Rode microphones and the audio mixer from Rode, the Rodecaster Pro, but are always wearing headphones from Sony, Audio-Technica or other brands. Rode fills this gap to appeal to creators who already trust the 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 them for a month, but they seem very durable. Rode says its durability tests guarantee “decades of use,” which is an impressive claim, but one that’s hard to test. There’s no squeaking or rattling that I noticed when using them – something that many other headphones in this price range suffer from (I had to send back my own Audio-Technica ATH-M70x for repair several times due to a broken plastic piece). The NTH-100s have a solid headband, and it may be a downside for some that they don’t fold up at all. So, you may need to leave some extra room in your gear bag, 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. These aren’t the ultimate mixing headphones that will make you want to ditch mixing monitors, but they’re great for a lot of production work. There aren’t any sonic elements that jumped out at me or startled me during testing, and that’s kind of the point. Nothing to worry about when relying on them to mix podcasts or videos.
Rode claims the NTH-100s offer “extremely precise frequency response”, but alongside Sony’s MDR-7506 (a headphone renowned for its flat frequency response) and Audio-Technica’s popular ATH-M50x, the Rode’s NTH-100 have a bit more low-mid presence, and end up making other headphones shrill or gritty with more high-frequency presence. As an audio engineer, I’ve learned that every headphone model always requires my ears to adjust and analyze how they color the sound to properly mix and equalize the audio, and this is no different. And after a while, I started to prefer their frequency response to my other editing headphones.
Overall, these stand out more for their comfort and durability than for their sound. Considering the ergonomics, the NHT-100s are a thoughtful contender in 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’re struggling with headphone fatigue in your production, cursed with flimsy headphones, or want a cool look for your video podcast, the Rode NTH-100s can be a great upgrade from your current pair. For now, these are my headphones of choice for editing long-session podcasts.