Pros: Great seal, stunning clarity, build quality, cost to performance ratio, musicality and instrument separation.
Cons: Highs roll off, very short cable which requires included cable extension, lack of variety in tips, and an amp is recommended.
Style: Over-Ear IEMs
Tonal Balance: Warm with forward mids.
Preferred Genres: Trip-Hop, jazz, hip-hop, pop, most electronic, etc. Essentially any music with punchy bass, clean vocals, or music without a strong focus on highs.
Amp: Recommended. These sound great through my iPod Classic, but from my Schiit stack these sing.
Listening Set-Up: Musicbee -> Schiit Modi/Magni
TDK has gone with a, mostly, black and bronze color scheme that I find myself quite fond of. The box features pictures of the IEMs themselves along with detailed information about the BA200 in three languages. The packaging looks sleek and minimal on the front, but a quick turn-around and I find it to be a bit busy, this is because TDK has chosen to brand to multiple countries on one package. The inside box, with the outside shell removed, is identical to the outside. This is redundant and odd, they should have gone with a minimalistic design on the inner section.
Opening the BA200 box was a breeze. The outside cardboard shell slides upwards and the BA200 and accessories slide upwards in a clear plastic sleeve in which the accessories are easily removed.
TDK includes a user guide booklet, a small black carrying pouch, a ¼’’ adaptor, a cable extension, and 4 pairs of tips; two sizes of double flanged tips and medium and large Comply tips. The included cable extension is necessary for use for most as the attached cable is very short. The Comply tips are a nice addition, but where are the other tips? Thankfully I prefer double flanged tips and Comply’s are popular, but for $300 MSRP IEMs they should have a larger variety of tips. Other than that, the BA200 accessory list including a ¼’’ adaptor is a welcome addition.
Build Quality and Design
The BA200 follow the same sleek color scheme as the box, with a minimalist approach in design of the IEMs. The logos are small, shown on the outside, while the inside of the IEM indicates whether it’s for the left or right ear. The IEM is sharply angled with a bronze colored accent where the cable meets the housing. These look nice and built well.
The build quality matches the appearance from what I can tell during my time with these. The IEMs are light and appear to be made from a high quality plastic. The nozzle protrudes rather far and ends mesh covered, unfortunately it doesn’t seem replaceable so be sure to keep your ears and tips clean. The cable meets the plastic with a very short stress relief, but the way the BA200 fit I see very little stress on the cable. The cable itself seems as good as any, though I prefer a round cable to the flat one, I find flat cables tangle easier. The cable is also laughably short. Without the extender, the IEMs appear to be about 2 foot from start to finish, which is too short for anything except perhaps if you were running with an iPod attached to your shoulder, but these don’t appear to be marketed towards athletes. The rest of us will need to use the extender. Another weird choice in the cable is the laughably huge y-split. These feel like they will hold up to a lot of use though, so I can’t complain about that.
The BA200 fit over ear and sit low-profile, making them a potential choice for those who want to want to sleep with these in. With the double flanged tips I get a great seal while comfort is about average. I notice these in, but it’s not unbearable. These are easy to put in though, so taking them out and putting them in isn’t much of a problem.
Amping and Burn-in
The BA200 sound good through my iPod Classic, but I find that they reach their full potential with my Schiit Modi and Magni stack. The sound quality is about 80% unamped of what it is amped in my experiences. As for burn-in, I noticed no signs of it. These sound great out of the box.
The lows are a surprise in an IEM that is found for around $100 on Amazon. Unlike many of the IEMs I’ve reviewed that have bloated or sloppy bass, the BA200 has its act together. Quick and punchy best describes the bass in short, but this is a detailed review let’s go in-depth.
The sub-bass extends nicely, though this is the weakest aspect of the IEM in my opinion. I find that the sub-bass is a bit slow during quick fluctuations and I find that it is also a bit loose. The sub-bass has no true rumble feel to it either, but I haven’t heard an IEM that can produce that and I doubt I will due to how bass works. When the sub-bass moves slowly I find the BA200 handles it suitably, but on quick tracks like James Blake’s Limit to Your Love, I am left unsatisfied.
The mid-bass, on the other hand, is lively, punchy and quick with a natural sound to them. From the kick drum to toms, drums sound excellent. This gives indie rock energy that I find lacking in most IEMs in this price range. The drums carry huge energy. The bass guitar falls into this frequency range also and I find that the BA200 perfectly fits the bass guitar into the mix. Bass guitars are never pushy, nor are they shy. I find that bass guitars are slightly less forward than the drums, but easily heard when properly amped. Drums and bass guitars are clean with a natural sound to them, I find these two instruments to be a joy to listen to with the BA200.
Mids and Highs
The mids are the focus of the BA200 in my opinion. Vocals sound excellent, male and female, and in every genre I’ve heard. Vocals are the standout instrument for the BA200 in my opinion, clean and forward without being pushy. I can not stress enough how great vocals sound through these, warm and full with a very life-like tonation to them. Guitars, synths, and pianos, among other instruments, all sound lovely as well. The mids are best summed up as clean, natural, forward, warm, full and detailed.
The highs are the second weakest point here, the BA200 rolls off enough to lose out on some of the details occurring in the highs to the forwardness of the mids. The highs extend well enough that when a saxophone solo is occurring that it is cleanly heard, but if there are other instruments playing at the same time, the BA200 pushes the highs a bit behind them. At times I am grateful for this as it cuts back on sibilance and the harsh edge of some poorly mastered songs, but at other times I feel that I’m missing out on some details.
The BA200 are interesting, they are laid-back and forward at the same time. They are laid back due to the rolled off highs, the sound is nowhere near fatiguing. The mids and mid-bass are forward and lively though, Pendulum is absolutely phenomenal right now, for instance, and I want to dance.
The soundstage is acceptable for an IEM in this price range, I would even go as far as to say that the width is a cut above those I’ve heard in this price range. The depth is average, I find that the BA200 do a good job with spatial qualities of how far away things are, to which side they are, and giving instruments a sense of space. Instrument separation is key though in budget IEMs and the BA200 do a good job with the separation. The soundstage is best described as intimate with good spacing.
The BA200 are warm and lively, when properly amped they bring music to life. The sound is natural and spacious with a warm leaning tonal balance. Laid back, but forward in the mids, these IEMs are one of the most musical I’ve ever heard.
It may be easy to tell, but I am enamored with these IEMs. From the fit to the sound, I find that these are the most satisfying IEMs I’ve ever heard, possibly even the most satisfying headphone I’ve ever heard after my Ad2000. The pros of these far outweigh the cons, the sound of these, when properly amped, are unrivaled in my experiences with IEMs under $200. The lack of tips shouldn’t dissuade you from purchasing these, nor should the requirement of an amp. These are IEMs I will keep regardless of what else comes along, these are special IEMs that wedge a niche into market as being one of the few to get the warm sound right at this price range. From everything I’ve read about the Sennheiser HD650, I feel that these share many qualities that the HD650 are praised for.