RØDE NTH-100 Over-ear Headphones Review
Rafael Todes is rather taken by this affordable pair of closed-back headphones from a famous Australian pro-audio name…
NTH-100 Over-ear Headphones
AUD $239 RRP
RØDE is well known on the pro-audio scene but less so to us here in the specialist audio fraternity. Based in Australia, the company makes a vast range of microphones, from entry-level to high-quality studio cardioid and ribbon types. The quality is always high, the products well designed and – in my experience – reliability is excellent.
The NTH-100 is the first attempt by RØDE at producing a headphone, after many years of research. To my eyes, it’s a visually striking product – indeed, you could even say beautiful. The removable ear pads are cup-shaped, forming a seal around the ear. It’s a closed-back design, as I’m sure it was conceived for use in a studio, where sound leakage may be a problem. The consumer market tends to prefer open-backs, but they have their own issues, and a properly designed closed-back is quite a thing to experience. Closed-back headphones are arguably the more difficult of the two types to get right, as far as designers are concerned.
The sleek, removable ear cups of the NTH-100 are made from memory foam, so they adapt to the shape of your head – and interestingly, RØDE has specified some CoolTech material around the innards of the pads, which keeps the temperature down. My experience confirmed this, with no sweaty ears even after extended, mid-summer listening. The cups themselves are mounted on an arm that has some swivel ability, so they tend to lodge themselves in a comfortable place. These are adjustable, so those with larger heads can relax too. Another nice touch is that the cups are labelled L and R, so you won’t get them mixed up. The 350g weight is pretty much par for the course for this sort of product.
The supplied cable is 2.4m long and has mini-jacks at either end. In the event of you stepping on the cable – frequently in my case – the jack just comes out. You also have a choice of the jack going into the left cup or the right one. This is useful, depending on how you listen, and such flexibility is appreciated. I also like the packaging; the NTH-100 comes in a decent box, with a silky bag for storage, and has the look and feel of a premium product, despite its modest retail price. The company claims a frequency response of 5 to 35kHz; a nominal impedance of 32 ohms shouldn’t be too much trouble for a good headphone amp.
My dCS Network Bridge going through a Chord Dave and M-Scaler DAC combination provided an excellent basis for hearing what these headphones can do. The answer is - quite a lot for the money. Listening to a new recording of the Schumann Symphonies with the Munich Philharmonic under Pablo Heras, it was soon clear that these headphones are no slouch in terms of bandwidth, tonality and musical timing.
In fact, this product has a really taut presentation that is strong and stable, with fast, tight and lithe bass. Treble is silky but a little shut-in at the other end of the frequency scale. Compared to my reference Sennheiser HD800s, there’s less sense of the room in which the recording is made; things are more near-field and intimate – although that’s to be expected with a closed-back headphone. The Sennheisers are roughly ten times the price, but in some respects, you wouldn’t know it!
Classic electronic rock courtesy of Kraftwerk showed me that these RØDE cans have a fairly flat response. Man Machine was open and even sounding, with a fairly flat response – which is very important in pro-audio circles. I certainly find them a really useful tool when I’m recording and leakage is a problem; this is where the open-backed Sennheisers would cause offence! Interestingly though, you can get a slightly better sense of air and space if you pull them back about a millimetre from your ear, and the cup seal is broken.
Overall, I found RØDE’s NTH-100 to be a beautifully designed and surprisingly well-built pair of headphones. It’s both elegant and rugged, with entirely replaceable parts. In particular, the cable is relatively cheap and easy to change. Sound quality is excellent at the price – good enough to shake up the market for affordable closed-back headphones. Hear this headphone bargain if you can.
Gifted violinist Rafael is one quarter of the Allegri String Quartet, playing second fiddle. Once a member of the CBSO under Sir Simon Rattle, he now teaches at London’s Junior Royal Academy. A long-time audiophile, he’s still on a quest for the perfect sound.