This is the Impressions and Appreciation Thread for the TDK BA200. Although plagued by poor distribution and marketing outside of Asia, the BA200 is slowly becoming recognized as a remarkably mature-sounding, high-fidelity offering from recording media veteran TDK, with a smooth but revealing frequency response.
Official Product Page: http://www.tdkperformance.com/en-eu/Headphones/EB900-In-Ear-Headphones/BA200/
- by tomscy2000: http://www.head-fi.org/t/593670/review-tdk-ba200-back-to-black#post_8108890
- by ItsMeHere: http://www.head-fi.org/t/599643/review-tdk-ba200#post_8203427
- by Swimsonny: http://www.head-fi.org/t/610386/review-tdk-ba200-smooth-classy#post_8388488
- by ClieOS: http://www.head-fi.org/t/612728/review-tdk-life-in-records-eb950-ba100-ba200-and-st700-serious-business
- by TechnoKid: http://www.head-fi.org/products/tdk-ba200/reviews/7847
- by luisdent (YouTube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-UDH5ehFEU
- Discussion on Tips for the BA200: http://www.head-fi.org/t/607396/ba200-tips-thread
- Recommendation by ClieOS on InnerFidelity: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/guide-some-great-sounding-ear-monitors-250-500
- Sound + Vision Magazine's Review: http://www.soundandvisionmag.com/blog/2012/02/20/review-tdk-life-record-eb950-ba100-and-ba200-earphones
- Frequency Response Graph by SONOVE (from his Twitter):
TDK's Introductory Video for the BA200:
UNBOXED IMPRESSIONS (Click to show)
Full review to come when the hospital isn't killing me with work...
When I first heard the BA200 a week ago, I wasn't all that impressed. Nevertheless, it intrigued me enough to buy it and try it out for real. Now that I have it in my hands, the more I listen to the BA200, the more I enjoy it. I've been listening to it on my desktop rig, and a more powerful amp helps highlight the BA200's dynamic capabilities. It sounds considerably more bland directly off an iPod. So far, I've found the smaller dual flange tips work well for me, as well as the included Comply Ts-100. I tried using Sony hybrids with Monster spacers, but they seemed to muddy up the sound.
I don't have a lot of time to write up a full review for now, so I've itemized the things I like/dislike most about the BA200:
Design, Build, Ergonomics
- Extremely comfortable, especially with the supplied Comply tips (x2 pair), and easily accomodates very deep fits
- Flat cables take microphonics down to basically nothing, are
- Housings are very light
- Strain reliefs feel solid
- Massive Y-Split seems unnecessarily bulky and over-engineered
- Housings, although light, can feel a little hollow at times (Westones have the same problem)
- Build quality, although very clean and sleek, isn't truly top-tier in terms of solidity
- Short Cable w/Extension combination is hit-or-miss with users
- Modest accessory package
- Very smooth, non-fatiguing and sweet sound with solid presence end-to-end, and enough microdetail to go around
- Well extended treble, but isn't as up front as more analytical IEMs
- Good mid-bass presence, not too thin but not overbearing at all; very well controlled with zero bass bleed
- Non-sibilant, a little more forgiving on source material than other IEMs, not prone to hiss for a BA-type IEM
- Use of a crossover circuit is noticeable in many tracks when transitioning from the warmish, gentle low driver to the more neutral, more etched high driver (effect more noticeable with silicone tips, goes away when Comply tips are used)
- Body and presence still lags (slightly) behind triple driver competitors
- Doesn't have the fastest transients
- Although there is considerable bass presence, it is actually gentle on the ears and impact and slam isn't particularly strong (actually a plus in my book, but bassheads may want to look elsewhere)
Overall, I think the BA200 is excellent if you can find a good price for it. I'm still not sure if $250 is reasonable as an MSRP, but anything under $200 probably makes it a very, very good value product, and an MSRP in the low $200s would make it a very attractive option for people wanting something very high quality right off the shelves of a mainstream electronics store.
Right before buying, I A/B'ed it against the UM3x extensively, and although I believe the UM3x is ultimately a superior product in terms of it being a more focused, deliberate product, the BA200 feels to be very protean in its capabilities. Even though triple driver IEMs still reign supreme in their ability to convey a body and presence not found with dual driver setups, the BA200 comes close, and delivers quality sound from the bottom to the top. I've always had IEMs that were relatively thin in the mid-bass and lower mids, so it took me a while to come around to the sound of the BA200. Even then, I was very impressed by the BA200's vocal clarity. It doesn't have the same vocal lushness as triple driver IEMs, and in that sense it sounds like the dual driver IEM that it is, but everything else pretty much acquits it.
Pre-Buy Impressions, 12-07-2011 (Click to show)
PRE-BUY IMPRESSIONS, 12-07-2011
I thought I'd get the ball rolling for discussion on these IEMs, as several other members have expressed interest in them in another thread, and I suspect the BA200 will be vigorously discussed in the future, especially after the reviews come rolling out.
I was able to gain a brief session with the BA200 tonight, and my characterization of them is that they are very smooth, and very, very polite --- almost to a fault.
Like ClieOS, I also drew parallels with the UM3x when listening to the BA200. I very much appreciated the gentle smoothness of its sound signature, as most of my IEMs have not been smoothest around. However, like the UM3x, it doesn't seem to be very dynamic. The BA200 wins out over the UM3x in this aspect, but is overall still a subdued IEM. Bass impact was less than what I was expecting (the FR graph Sonove made gave the BA200 pretty significant bass levels), but ideal for my tastes and quite well controlled. The UM3x could get 'fluffy' with the bass at times, but it wasn't the case with the BA200. I didn't listen to any fast tracks, since I assumed it'd wouldn't have any trouble keeping up. I detected a bit of midrange forwardness, but I don't think I would characterize it as a mid-centric IEM. Treble seemed well extended, but was never in the forefront for any track. Soundstage felt average to me, but whenever I listen to IEMs with Comply tips on, I can never gain a good feel for the size of its soundstage. I don't think I had enough time with it to get a good feel for the more subtle aspects of its SQ, but for the most part, the BA200 sounded very accurate.
In the long run, I suspect I'll come around to the less-than-dynamic nature of the BA200, but for now, I couldn't say I was very moved by the music it reproduced. If the BA200 is a calm and collected Labrador, then the Triple.Fi is a Mastiff, and the DBA-02 is a yappy Pomeranian.
FR measurement by Sonove (sonove.angry.jp) taken from his Twitter account, courtesy of Inks.
Even though I only tried them out with the included Comply tips, the BA200 doesn't seem nearly as fit dependent with the sound as is the DBA-02. Even with foam tips, I had trouble appreciating the capabilities of the DBA-02, and have only recently discovered a good combination (Sony Hybrids on Monster spacers, pushed to the hilt). However, with the BA200, it's basically just plug and play. The housings fit very comfortably in my ears with zero play whatsoever; it feels like the love child between the Westone and new Shure SEXX5 housings, a definite plus in my book! With regard to build, the housings also feel more solid than those from Westone (they can feel fairly flimsy at times) but are only marginally heavier. The BA200's Beats-like flat cables felt very good to the touch and worked as advertised --- no tangles and lower microphonics (not that it really matters much, as the BA200 is exclusively an over-the-ear design). The Y-split was extremely robust but a bit large (although I think TDK stuck a resistor in there for some reason). The one thing I could live without was the short cable. For most portable purposes, you'll need to use the supplied extension.
My original plan was to sell off the DBA-02 and have these replace them as my dual driver IEMs in my collection, but I've since decided against it. The BA200 has superior build, accessories, fit, and is gentler, but the DBA-02 is a pretty unique entity in the current landscape of IEMs; it possesses the razor sharp clarity of the most analytical of IEMs, and has gained wide acceptance on Head-Fi despite its shortcomings (thinner body, compressed dynamics). Of these items, the BA200 can only claim superiority with respect to the compressed sound space.
So is it worth the MSRP of $250? With the amount of experience I was able to have with it, I'm not sure --- perhaps $200 is reasonable.
Its ergonomics are top notch, and build is close to top quality. The sound is likewise just about top-tier, but as with the case of most monitor-like IEMs, will alienate those looking for more emotionally involving earphones. In the same price category, the GR07 has a similar sound signature (though not the same) and expresses more dynamism.
Granted, these are very elementary impressions from a session of <20 minutes in duration, so my opinions may very well change significantly after extended ownership of them. With the price that I'm able to get them for, it'd almost be silly for me not to buy them, but I'll have to take my time to accrue extra money. Even so, I don't envision them flying off the shelves just yet, so I have some time to save up.
I got to try them with silicone tips tonight, and the sound is, in my opinion, much improved. The excellent treble extension is more pronounced with more sparkle, and overall, the balance reminded me of the EX1000 at low volume, with a little bit less detail and slightly more forward mids. Bass is great; just the right amount of impact and control for my tastes, although it isn't as well textured as I'd hope it to be. Then again, I was listening to it unamped, straight out of an iPod Touch, which doesn't do music quite the same justice as a proper portable or desktop system.
I have to emphasize that the ergonomics are truly excellent. They sit, without a doubt, better in my ears than any Westone or Shure ever have. The slight outward cant of the cable outlet on the housing allows the flat cables to curve perfectly around my ears. I tried them right next to a SE535 Special Edition and while the SE535 also fit very nicely, it didn't feel nearly as comfortable as the BA200 did.
However, and this is a pretty significant 'however', the BA200 still lacks dynamism. I'd like to reiterate that it is only marginally more dynamic sounding that the UM3x, as it is nevertheless tuned more as a professional monitor than as a personal listening device. The SE535 LTD-J I tried on right afterward felt so much more dynamic and involving. I don't want to fault the BA200 for being this way, but stay away if the flat affect of the monitor sound turns you off.
The price of these is just so tempting. Blast my broken ATM card!
Edited by tomscy2000 - 12/24/12 at 10:12am