The Rode NTH-100 are the first ever headphones from a company that's been a big noise in the pro audio world for quite some time – its microphones are approaching a default choice for anyone who takes this kind of technology seriously.
In this Rode NTH-100 review, we're looking at a product that's pushing a little more towards the consumer market – microphones are obviously an inherent niche product, but the best wired headphones are enjoyed by a broader range of people.
Røde is nowhere near forgetting its pro roots, though. The NTH-100 packaging calls them ‘professional’ over-ear headphones, and certainly, there’s not much here that panders to the newer features – touch controls, app, noise-cancelling, all that stuff – you find in many of the best wireless headphones at this kind of price. These are hard-wired headphones, made to offer total clarity from whatever you're listening to, and that's it.
Even more than usual, then, the NTH-100 live or die by the quality of their sound. And let me tell you, these things are alive.
Rode NTH-100 review: price & release date
The Rode NTH-100 were released in March 2022 and is very keenly priced at £149 / $149 / AU$249. The world’s not short of over-ear headphones selling for this sort of money – but because, frankly speaking, they’re profoundly unfashionable, the world is quite a bit shorter of wired, closed-back over-ear headphones with specifications as austere as this. The NTH-100, safe to say, are waiting for a very specific customer.
Rode NTH-100 review: features and what's new
At the risk of labouring the point where ‘features’ are concerned, the Rode NTH-100 don’t exactly lay them on with a trowel. Inside each earcup is a 40mm full-range dynamic transducer with a claimed frequency response of 5Hz - 35kHz. There’s a screw-on 3.5mm-to-6.3mm jack adapter included in the box, along with a soft carry case. And to keep the headband in the perfect position for your skull size, Røde’s ‘FitLock’ feature is elegant in its simplicity.
Really, that’s your lot. These are closed-back headphones (meaning they will block outside sounds better than open-backed headphones) that need hard-wiring to your source of music. They have one job and consequently need to do it very well.
Rode NTH-100 review: performance
One job, you say? Well, here’s the headline: the Rode NTH-100 do their one job in terrific style.
What’s initially most striking about the way the NTH-100 deliver music is just how open they sound. This is a closed-back design, of course, which means other people will be able to tolerate being around you while you’re wearing them – but the sound they offer is so big and spacious that it’s reminiscent more of what a pair of open-backed headphones would deliver. And open-backed headphones that can create a large, well-defined and properly controlled soundstage, what’s more.
Once you’ve assimilated the sheer generosity of the NTH-100 presentation, it’s their devoted attention to detail that impresses. No matter if it’s voice-and-piano or symphony-orchestra-with-its-dander-up material, the Rode locate and incorporates even the finest, most transient details of harmonics, of dynamic variation, even of recording studio processing.
They’re not in any way fanatical or analytical, but equally, they never gloss over any aspect of recording or decide it’s too minor to be bothered with. Even if the sound in question is the electronic gate on a microphone opening as a singer begins to do their thing, the NTH-100 will let you know about it - and will give it exactly as much weight as it deserves.
Frequency response and tonality are similarly well-judged. Some listeners may have been primed for unrealistic bass presence – we all know there are enough headphones around that pile on the low frequencies in the name of ‘excitement’ – but the NTH-100 aren’t about to pander to those expectations. Instead, they provide deep, rapid and notably straight-edged low-end attack that keeps tempos on the front foot and rhythms expressive.
This lack of drag or drone allows the midrange to communicate in torrents without any interference from below, so singers sound as immediate and as individual as their performance dictates. The top of the frequency range has the same sort of confidence, too – treble sounds are substantial and bright but always well short of hardness. And, like the rest of the frequency range, they stick to their lane.
Really, there’s next-to-nothing to complain about where the sound of these headphones is concerned. They have the dynamic headroom to deal with the crash-bang-wallop just as readily as the barely-there harmonic discrepancies, and they have real positivity where rhythms are concerned. Their forensic nature makes them an ideal tool for monitoring or mastering, but unlike a lot of alternatives built for this express purpose, the Røde don’t bore your arse off while they dish the details.
The only fairly mild negatives to report have nothing to do with the way the NTH-100 sound. The Alcantara-covered memory-foam earpads feature ‘CoolTech’ gel – it’s effective at keeping your ears from heating up right until the moment it isn’t, and then they get just as warm as when they’re under any other mildly heat-absorbent material.
And the long, long cable transmits more noise than is ideal – and, of course, there’s more of it to knock against things than there would be if it was of a more workable length. That’s all we’ve got, though. Because the Rode NTH-100 are very, very capable headphones at the money.
Rode NTH-100 review: design and usability
Unlike Henry Ford, who (possibly apocryphally) promised any colour you like “as long as it’s black”, Rode sells the NTH-100 in a default black finish unless you want to spend more money on the differently coloured headband, cable and earcups. We’re all for a bit of bling around here, as you know, but there’s something about the standard black-on-black finish of the headphones that manages to be both classy and businesslike. And anyway, there’s the customary Røde gold dot on each earcup as a little light relief.
The design here is, broadly speaking, predictable – these are over-ear headphones, after all. But there are a couple of minor yet very welcome design flourishes here. The earpads, for example, are triangular and so are more ear-shaped than most, which helps with both fit and comfort. The Alcantara that covers the earpads and the contact area of the headband is soft, tactile and comfortable.
And Rode’s ‘FitLock’ system of locking the headband into position is one of those ‘so simple and obvious that it’s genius’ features I expect will be adopted/ripped off by any number of rival brands sooner rather than later.
As far as usability is concerned, there’s really very little that can go wrong with a product like this. At 350g, the NTH-100 aren’t especially light, but the carefully ergonomic headband/hanger arrangement – in conjunction with the nicely designed earcups and pads – mean they’ll stay comfortable for hour after hour. The 2.4m cable (a length that’s both practical and inconvenient all at once; a 1.2m alternative is a cost option) clicks and locks into either earcup, which is a useful touch.
Rode NTH-100 review: verdict
Maybe you want a device to help with mixing or monitoring. Or maybe you just want a thrillingly complete sound from a pair of headphones that don’t break the bank. Either way, you’ll have to endure a comprehensive lack of modern tech if you fancy a pair of NTH-100 – but, if you ask us, it’s a sacrifice well worth making.
Rode NTH-100 review: also consider
They’re not quite as meticulous as the Rode NTH-100, but Sennheiser’s wired, over-ear HD599 are no less enjoyable for that. Well, not if you’re inside them, anyway: they’re remarkably smooth and convincing to listen to at any volume and with any genre of music. If you’re on the outside, though, then it’s a different story: the open-backed configuration means the HD599 leak sound like a sonic colander. Somehow, the Røde manage to sound just as big and spacious without letting everyone else know about it.