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Possibly the most used and abused piece of audio gear in any studio, venue, content creation space, film shoot, or front-of-house setup are headphones. We drop them, run them over with our chairs, accidentally pull them out of patch-panels and mixing consoles forgetting we still have them on our head, step on them repeatedly, and then drop them again. Headphones live a hard life. Very hard in some cases. I’ve seen people throw them to the ground in excitement after recording a fantastic take and throw them across the room after a bad one! Headphones are often shown very little respect. If people treated my favourite condenser mics like they often treat my headphones they’d be shown the door, tout de suite.
Headphones need to be several things at once, unlike any other pro audio device: durable, comfortable, brilliant sounding and cheap.
Admittedly, there are people out there for whom $1,000+ for a single pair of high-end headphones isn’t beyond their budget, but if you’re not quite so flushed, or if you need five or 20 pairs, at that point you’re presumably focussed primarily on price, whereupon expensive headphones are the first off your list. Headphones must also look half decent (sometimes they’re in public, don’t forget) and be worn by anyone and everyone whether they’re 65 pounds wringing wet or 400. And they need to fit every one of these individuals comfortably!
As far as I can tell the new Rode NTH-100 headphones, the company’s first foray into the hopelessly overcrowded headphone market, fit all these criteria like a glove. They’re comfortable, even if you’re working with them all day, which I’ve done several times now, incredibly well priced given their quality ($249.00 RRP), they seem well built (though I’m yet to have a tantrum and throw them across the room to test them out) and they sound… well, they sound superb, quite frankly. In this last, most critical respect, I have been quite shocked.
I’ve used dozens of different headphones over the years, many of them excellent, and like so many of my colleagues, I have purchased (not just used – there’s a difference) literally hundreds of pairs. For reasons that are self- evident, again, this is their first ever headphone release, Rode has not been among them, and so with this bias in mind I was expecting the NTH-100s to be good, but not amazing.
But they are. They’re all cliched adjectives: detailed, low in distortion, clear, big-sounding and accurate in their frequency response. But reading this sort of stuff about any piece of gear, you’d be well within your rights to sceptically roll your eyes or glaze over with boredom.
So, what I’d add is this: the way the Rode headphones are constructed (in Sydney, I might add), and by virtue of their key elements: the custom-matched 40mm dynamic drivers that are embedded in non-spherical, contoured earcups, the Alcantara lining, and the steel headband with its lockable adjustment, the NTH-100s put you in another space. While some headphones simply sit on your head (sometimes in relative comfort, sometimes not), the NTH-100s seem to gently isolate you from your surroundings and set you up for a private listening experience. They don’t have any noise-cancelling technology on board, but they seal well (around my ears at least, courtesy of memory foam), and establish an amazing soundstage that mixes far less with the real world around them.
I have heard things in these headphones I’ve not noticed before, and that’s saying a lot. The left/right balance is superb, the the depth perception of reverbs and distant audio components is accurate and revealing, panning is precise, and the low-end response is just the right balance of deep and extended without becoming gratuitous or try-hard. The cans also allow you to connect the cable to either the left or right ear-cup, which is perfect for things like overdubs when the lead seems almost invariably to be coming from the wrong side of the instrument!
Where you wouldn’t use these closed-back headphones is anyone’s guess. The list of places where they’d do a great job is beyond the scope of this article; everywhere basically. It might sound throwaway to say this, but if you can’t work with the NTH-100s, you probably shouldn’t be working in headphones in the first place.
One last thing: I like these headphones for two additional reasons: the packaging contains almost no plastic at all (good work Rode) and they’re built from the ground up in Silverwater, Sydney. Not much else in the Australian audio industry can boast these two facts.
Distributor Australia and New Zealand: rode.com or +61 (0) 2 9648 5855
Rode NTH-100 Specs:
- Transducer Size: 40mm
- Operating Principle: Dynamic
- Frequency Response: 5Hz – 35Khz
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Sensitivity: 110dB/V
- Maximum Input Power: 1700mW, 1% THD @ 1kHz
- Ear Coupling: Circumaural
- Ambient Noise Attenuation: 20dBA
- Connection Type: Dual TRRS Cable Attachments
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