TDK BA200 Review
TDK, a brand that you have more than likely heard of and they are a huge company in rewritable VHS tapes and CDs. However after the VHS days come to a stop they have started a bigger approach into other consumer electronics such as audio in a branch of their company called, TDK Performance (Life on Record). TDK Performance is currently offering their current generation of earphones, some home audio boom boxes, accessories such as cables and they stay with their roots with some CDs and cassettes.
Now looking at their range of headphones/earphones the usual audio enthusiast would more than likely overlook them as consumer targeted. The reasons behind this is simply that their full sized headphones are either wireless or look like a classier Beats by Dre which for some reason works as a bit of a turn off. However when I saw that their new flagship was a dual balanced armature I instantly new something could be on here so when I got the chance to review them, I leapt at it!
Too review I will listen to them driven straight from my Cowon J3 as although they send better with my Objective 2 amplifier people may get false impressions and then be expecting something else. I will not EQ and although you may find people preferring this I do not and that will also give false impressions. Although I do not EQ they do respond really well to it and that is all I will put on the subject. Another thing they respond well too is tip-rolling which I have done a bit myself and found changes in sound so if you have an array of old tips laying around these may add some more fun but for the purpose of the review again I will use stock small tips. All music will be FLAC or 320 KBPS.
These were made to look and good and it shows. Like I said TDK’s full size headphone looks like a classier Beats by Dre, you can see that these are also looking at the beats market here as they using flat cables. These are, like the headphones, very classy and with a matte black cable, shiny jacks housings and earphones housings and a thin gold ring on the strain relief. I think these look amazing and are very pleasing to the eye.
Now as for the build quality I cannot say they are made as good as they look. The housings are all plastic and this is usual with earphones but they do not feel as solid as others. There is also a massive seam down the middle of it that has not been done as tight as I would like. The nozzle is fine all that being said. The strain relief is not good enough and it has the tiniest bit of silicone that is slightly flexible.
The cable is the same width and thickness all over, which is a thin flat silicone. It is rather resistant to tangling which very nice and you will have no problems their but it does not feel strong and with the Beats by Dre, the flat cable has not lasted long at all.
The strain relief for the jack housing is the same sort of design as what the Beats have also but is slightly better and more flexible. However I would not want to tug it with any sort of strength. The jack is gold plated.
These earphones have a Y-Split, which is just huge. It has a monster build and NOTHING will go wrong wt that. There is also the inclusion of a cable cinch, which is small, low profile and does its job.
Now I also thought I would mention that these have a very short cable and make use of one of the accessories included, which is a cable extender. When using this it could protect the earphones as if the not that strong cables get caught some where instead of breaking extender will come off saving the earphones.
With a big company like TDK I expected a huge array of accessories but in fact all they done was enough.
First off I would like to say that the packaging was beautiful and well done, small, sleek and informative. So I opened it up and the first thing I looked at was the case. I personally love the case even though it is probably not ideal for protecting the earphones. It is a soft velvety material, which snaps open and shut at the top. Inside is a softer material that will prevent any scratches for the earphones. It is not small (twice the size of a similar case that comes with the Audiofly AF78) but will fit in your pocket etcetera and remain portable. Inside there is also the extension cable for the earphones, which is necessary for them to be long enough.
Next up is what you get in a little plastic bag inside. First of in there is something you get seemingly with every new earphone and that is a quarter inch jack adapter (gold plated). You also get a shirt clip in their which I do not use personally but I am well aware some people need them. Then there is a wax loop-cleaning tool in which I think is a very handy inclusion. Finally there are some replacement filters, like with Etymotic earphones, which unlike the Phonaks do not change sound but are just for when other get worn out. For the filters they could have included a tool to change them.
Finally there are four tips included and this is the downfall in accessories for me. So two of these are dual flanges in a smaller and larger size. The other two are Comply Foam tips of different varieties. Thumbs up for the Comply’s as if they are what you like to use and also get on with the sound signature they have then they are very valuable. As for the two dual flanges I think this is very limited as well as being an odd choice. I failed to get a proper seal with both and had to fall back on my tip collection to be able to properly listen to these. I recommend that they have some sing flanges in a variety of sizes, keep the dual flanges and maybe even add a triple.
Fit was from the off an issue for me. I continuously went through the provided tips hoping for a seal with a good sound but from the two dual flanges I got nothing with a huge absence of bass. The Comply’s obviously fitted well and were super comfy but I did not like the darker sound that I got from them. So after hours of frustration trying to insert them in all different ways I gave up on them and decided what other tips I had would fit them. I first tried my Etymotic triple flanges and although the seal was better I just think they also were not giving of the best sound, then just minutes before giving up I had an epiphany, and got out my Fischer Audio DBA-02 tips. Perfect fit and a great sound, phew I was relieved.
Comfort wise they are alright. Comfort is of course fairly tip dependent on how they feel in your ears. The dual flanges are quite deep inserting and intrusive which people will not like while the Comply’s are juts beautiful.
As for how the housings sit in your ear I do not think that these are the most ergonomic and parts of the housings can get annoying after a while even though they are very curvy and rounded. As these are worn over the ear I do no think that the flat cable is as nice on this wearing style as normal wires. These will do fine anyway and I’m sure that these will do well enough at longer listening periods.
I think these isolate slightly above average and will cause no problems in busier areas at medium volume.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
As these are worn cable over the ear, as I expected, there is no annoyance from cable noise. The TDK’s are just great in this department.
Soundstage and instrument separation
The soundstage in my opinion is just above average. The width is equal to the height, which is both nice, and the equality compliments each other. They also push back nicely with a really good good depth. What all these factors lead to is a flawless natural presentation. Everything seems like it’s just were it is meant to be and I really mean flawless. As soundstages go in earphones I have heard surely some of the best in the Sennheiser IE8 and the Aurisonics ASG-1 but although being extremely large they are over the top and too far away (IE8). This may lack the size of both for mentioned and in fact quite a few other earphones but none seem to quite get this presentation. In most songs (with a standard band) you will have the vocalist at the front, drummer will be situated behind him, then bassist and guitarist to the left and right of the vocalist and that is just what you get with these and you can really notice that and you get a perfect image in your head.
The instrument separation is also awesome although that being said is not quite the best I have heard. They are all distinctively separated and it will not trouble you but there is not quite the space between them that would perfect it.
The bass on these is very different and unlike what I have heard before. The quantity of mids-bass is pretty large in quantity for BA, not huge like the Ultimate Ears TF10 but by no means tiny like the DBA-02 or Etymotic HF5. In fact for most of you who though the DBA-02 was just a bit to lacking then this will be perfect in that respect as well do nicely for mostly everyone apart from the ‘bassheads’. Now the quality is very different. It is by no means bad and no words like ‘boomy’, ‘loose’ and ‘muddy’ come to mind but then neither does the likes of ‘punchy’. The quality I am going to say is good with nice details but it does not hit hard enough. In fact it does not hit very hard at all and feels like it’s lacking a driving force to it.
The sub-bass is also not what it seems. The extension is great with you being able to HEAR some extremely low frequencies (I could easily hear 30hz with my iPod seal checker). But as I highlighted above I could hear these low frequencies rather than feel them with a rumble. It is not bad but will disappoint some of you.
The mids are very nice. They are fairly transparent and reveal the music with nice details. They do this while remaining liquid smooth and I mean very, very smooth. What I do really like about is that the mids feel fairly laid back and is very passive. What they can do however is however tough the song may get and whatever speed a passage may be played at, these will sacrifice other things such as instrument separation to make sure that you can always here the vocals clearly.
The treble is very laid casual and does not try to be big or aggressive. It lacks energy and sparkle and this gives it a presence that seems a bit behind the other frequencies but not masked. Because of the lack of presence there are times when it can really disappoint you and this is in certain rock songs when the big guitar solo comes in and you do not really hear the genius behind it and in some incidences just does not stand out enough over the other instruments. Other than guitar solos however It does do enough to be noticed clearly and does have a nice tone to it. If your someone who loves über bright earphones such as the DBA-02 with huge amounts of treble sparkle the these may not quite give enough in these area but for everyone else the treble will still be rather appealing.
I have also come across some times of sibilance with it.
The earphones offer a unique sound, which is all very laid back and smooth. It does some things great and others not so but I can still whole-heartedly offer it to someone who wants the sort of sound that you get from a BA but with slightly more bass. However that large depends if you can find a retailer to send it. In the UK I am fine and you guys in Japan will also be but I know for a fact that there is some problems in the US which is in my eyes preventing these from being a major hit. These are a very good earphone at their RRP of $250 and although I think they lack a bit of attack they will be perfectly suited to some people but the poor marketing is preventing them the chance.
I would also like to thank Katie at TDK for letting me review them.
Edited by Swimsonny - 5/16/12 at 12:25pm