TDK BA100 Review
If you have checked out any of my other reviews you will probably have read my review of the TDK BA200. If you have not I can sum it up as being very positive and that I found them both phenomenal for the money and compared to more expensive IEMs. This was quite a shock coming from TDK who are more known for their storage media than hi-fi earphones.
What we have here is the TDK BA200s £40 cheaper sibling coming in at around £120. There are quite a few quick differences between the two starting with that the BA200s have two balanced armature (BA) drivers and the TDK BA100 only has one. The other is that the BA200 is worn over the ear and these are worn cable down.
With these I was hoping for a similar signature at a more affordable price with slightly lower quality so lets see what I got.
I have been listening to these unamped, to a mixture of genres, with both my iPhone 4 and Cowon J3. The file formats are a mixture of MP3 and AAC of all bit rates but mainly 320KBPS and also FLAC.
Tip wise I have tried a few but settled on the medium single flanges that come with the earphones for both the best comfort and sound.
The look of these is pretty glamorous as all you will be able to see of them once they are in your ears is the silver TDK logo on the back end of the housing which is extremely silver. The rest is all fairly low profile and black.
The build quality of the housings is all plastic and it does not feel like the hardest or toughest plastic I have come across. It also has a very think and long nozzle, which looks like it, will need looking after. They also lack a strain release with the cable going straight into the housing. It is all however not terrible.
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.
The y-split on these is a smaller version of what you get on the TDK BA200, which is nicely built, but because of the decrease in size that means this must not have the impedance stabilizer.
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.
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.
Then we move onto the tips. In total you get 5 pairs. The pair that comes on them already is a single flange medium yip and you actually get two pairs of those. Seeing as they fit me it is handy that you get two pairs. You also get a pair of large, a pair of small and then also the awesome inclusion of some Comply foam tips which are of course super comfy.
In terms of getting the correct and optimal fit, I found it quite hard with the BA200s, especially with the stock tips but the case is different here. I got a great seal almost instantly with the stock tips and after spending some time tip rolling I did not really out do it.
As for comfort these nicely and ergonomically fit into your ears curving into your ear canal. The plastic also fairly lightweight so there is no heavy fatigue from them. Another benefit of these is that they do not obstruct any part of the ear.
These also take very nicely to being worn other the ear as well.
The isolation is very dependent on how far you insert these as they can go very deep when wearing over the ear. The deeper the better the isolation but depending on your preference you will get different levels of ambient noise reduction.
At the deepest insertion it is really rather impressive and does a great job. At the minimum insertion while maintaining a seal it is okay and still gets rid of most but just not everything.
Microphonics (Cable Noise)
I am going to start by saying how these are when you are wearing them cable down and the microphonics are actually fairly bad and will likely cause you annoyance and they do for me.
Wear them over the ear and the cable noise is gone…. Completely. So they do suffer but it is easily remedied.
Soundstage and instrument separation
The soundstage, size wise, is larger than average ever so slightly with elements of width and depth present. In terms of size they are sitting as large as their older siblings the BA200 but it is the next part of the soundstage that the BA200s were by far superior in and that was in presentation.
The instrument separation is actually rather disappointing and even more so for a BA IEM as it is usually something that they excel at. These feel like they could be a dynamic driver as they are very slow and hard to distinguish and space or air between instrumets.
The bass is perhaps slightly elevated above the mids and for sure above the highs. It again is surprising that these use a BA driver as the bass has more properties of a dynamic driver. It is not that quick (not slow either) and like the BA200 lacks air when it punches. The bass is the most similar part to the BA200 and it is slightly more in quantity but then the BA200 takes quality. The quantity is above average and just below the quantity of a normal bassy dynamic IEM.
What is rather pleasing is the rumble that they produce is some of the most pounding I have heard from a BA and keeps up with a fair few dynamic drivers.
The bass does fail to not interfere with the mids and they feel very veiled and also rather dark. When I say it is veiled however I do not mean that it is recessed and behind the bass it just feels like something is coating it making it feel unnatural. The vocals are still easy to hear and they are not lost. They do however maintain a good overall smoothness throughout. It’s in the mids these earphones start to start pushing down hill.
The treble is why I cannot enjoy these. The main reason is due to its massive recession falling far behind the other frequencies creating them to hardly be heard. There is no sparkle or shine to them and absolutely no energy.
The other problem is that it rolls of fairly early so when you do hear it. The only benefit from it being like this is there is no worry about sibilance so that will please some people.
There is a chance if you like to EQ you could bring out a bit and the would brighten everything up a bit and these may be a lot more pleasant by i do not like to review with EQ.
Being only £40 less than the BA200 I was expecting a lot more and would not see any reason to get these when for a tad more will get you the much superior BA200. The do have similar signature but the BA200 is much more technical as well as actually having highs.
For a BA earphone it is more dynamic like holding no real properties of a BA, which is also really disappointing and also put it behind any other single BA IEMs that I have heard. For the price I will be honest in saying you can get much better.
Edited by Swimsonny - 6/18/12 at 6:16am