TDK ST700 Review
TDK are brand that I never knew I would grow to love in the audio industry but have quite a bit and mainly because of their dual BA IEM the BA200 which was great. However until now, I have only heard IEMs from TDK but now I will be reviewing a headphone of there’s, it is there most expensive on ear headphones. It has a RRP of £120 but these days can be had for as little as £50, which could work out a real good deal, so lets see how it sounds.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier.
The design is heavily influenced by the beats by dre headphones, which are proving to be quite popular. Although it’s a design close to the beats by dre headphones I think these are slightly classier looking because of the way the gold ring is around the TDK logo, they do look like and intimidation but it still looks good. So if you want a similar styling to beats for a cheaper price then this is probably your best bet.
The design is also really portable with the way that it folds up into itself. The folding mechanism is really handy when you’re on the go.
The build of the cable is pretty nice. It has a small low profile jack that is terminated with a gold plating and rubber strain relief. The cable has a rubbery feel to it and although it is not very flexible it does feel really strong. The y-split is just a real hard piece of plastic and the strain reliefs into the cups are quite nice and not worrying in the slightest.
The headphones them selves are also pretty sturdy. The main construction of them is a rubbery plastic, like what is used in the AiAiAi TMA-1. The headband is on metal so that is also strong and the logo on the cup is also on a metal/plastic chassis.
This does come with accessories although it is not all the excitement Beats headphones are and the V-moda headphones are which come with loads. You get a 75cm extension cable but this is needed as the standard cable is tiny and unusable without the extension.
You also get a velvet like pouch to hold the headphones. However it will not be doing a lot of protecting and is more there to stop scratches and give it a nice home.
You also get a ¼ inch adapter.
Getting a fit with these is very hard as they quite quickly loosen the clamping force that they have and is also need to get a perfect seal. Without the clamping force you have to really spend some time angling the cups to get a seal so that you can achieve the bass you should be hearing.
Comfort wise they are not too bad. Being mainly plastic with a tiny bit of metal they are quite light and do not weigh your head down. The headband has a foam like padding that is not the softest but is actually quite nice and is comfy enough. Clamping force is not very present which is a shame as it makes getting a seal very hard but does improve comfort. The ear pads are really soft but not too thick but without the clamping pressure they are comfy.
Being on ears, the isolation is naturally not that great. Even though this is not vented or anything, you can still hear a rough bit of what’s going on around you, not clear but muffled and present. However, this does not differ too much from most on ears so it is not a major downside to this.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
Microphonics are none existent. The cable makes no horrible noises that I reckon is due to the rubbery coating of the cables. Whatever it is, it works.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so don’t make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The overall sound is quite pleasant, smooth; a slight mid/bass emphasis while the treble sits behind the other frequencies. It is really pleasant and easy to listen too with not fatigue due to lack large spikes and its utter smoothness.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
The soundstage is rather on the small side but I would not say below average for a closed on ear headphone. On perhaps the same level as the M-80 in terms of size but with a tad more depth (the m-80 has none) meaning it has the slightest amount. What is far from doing though is offering a jaw dropping experience with the size of it and although it does not feel closed in, there is nothing special here.
I did not have the easiest of times locating instruments apart from each other and these headphones were easily overwhelmed by the speed of things and the vocals sort of sat in front of a swirl of instruments coming from an assortment of random positions of from quite literally on top of each other.
The bass is really strong and powerful when it needs to be but other than it is rather controlled and does not really exert itself with a slight lack of impact. It does become boomy every now and again but as I have said, most of the time it is controlled. What it does lack most though is a texture and it sounds so thin. Although the quantity is there and so is the presence, the texture is not. For the price you can pick it up for this is still good, for the RRP it is not.
The extension is there and to achieve the slight rumble this has you really need to find the perfect seal. What we have is nothing bone shattering in rumble but just that slight bit of sub-bass that you can appreciate is there.
The sound signature of these is nearly balanced and if the highs were less recessed it would probably be quite nicely neutral, so by that I am saying the mids sit in line with the bass. However, the mid are in a down hill slant so while the low mids and deeper sound like male vocals sit nicely with the bass as we get to the high mids things start to sound a little more muffled and struggle to shine through at times. These sounds include more zingy guitar riff sand chords and female vocals mainly while drums do nicely and have little problems.
The overall down of it could be said to be on the warm side and can all have a bit too little decay. There are a few micro details present but it is not quite the feast of them that would be just great. What they are though is really smooth and that leaves them easy to listen to and rather enjoyable too.
The treble is recessed and really laid back. Because of these factors I was left wanting more treble and especially even the slightest bit if shimmer or sparkle, which this lacks. It also has a fairly obvious roll of leaving the treble seeming rather empty. What it is though is fatigue-less, smooth and not sibilant and this is great for those who are sensitive to treble.
What we have here is something that at its RRP would be nothing special. Yes it sounds better by a nice amount than the Beats Solo and Solo HD that it is directly up against which is of course, always a good thing. However, at the prices you can now find it for I will actually recommend it. Maybe you can find better for £50 but for the overall package and good looking design, you can not go wrong with these for £50.