Here's my initial review and my first one on Head-Fi. It needs to be read over some more, Accessories have to be added and I'll add those as soon as I get a chance and make some corrections down the road. Take my review with a grain of sale as I'm not an audiophile, not in the music industry, and just a guy that likes good sound.
TDK IE800 VS. BA200
IE800 $40-90 (Discontinued by manufacturer)
BA200 $55-120 (Discontinued by manufacturer)
(on Head-fi, Ebay, and Amazon)
Some have even found these at Ross and TJ Maxx for $10-20.
Pretty much the same packaging for both IEM’s. If both packages were side-by-side, you’d probably have to read the labels pretty carefully to tell the difference. The packaging is black with gold accents in a small, cardboard box with every language known to man on the box. The box is busy, in my opinion, and the only thing that is clear is the TDK label. There is also a clear, plastic cover that you can view the IEM’s inside the box. Another way to keep costs down—make the boxes simple and generic.
Both boxes look identical....
Again, same boxes....
There it is, bottom left corner...
Same place, different model...
To be finished soon. Will also add pics at the same time.
IE800 accessories...not much there...
BA200 accessories...very similar...
tips slightly different...bigger booklet
The IE800 has a very simple and large build. The housings are large, barrel shaped plastic that seemed to be glued together. They really don’t look like they would last very long, but I haven’t had any issues after using them for several months straight. On the rear of the housing is a circular silver metal looking plate. At the base of the housing at the semi-strain relief (I say this because there really isn’t a strain relief but the way the housings taper down appear to act as a strain relief) is an “L” and “R” that are difficult to see and starts to wear off. There is a flat cord that is prone to tangling but works decently. It also seems to be pretty well made although it may not feel that way. The Y-split works well, seems solid, and has a round slider attached that I find doesn’t stay put very well and tends to slide back down the cord. It also has a straight plug that works fairly well and is thin but I do prefer an angled plug. There is very little in the way of strain relief for the plug or the housing but the cord seems to be seated tightly and doesn’t seem to move.
Big barrel housings...
Round silver plates...no strain reliefs?
Closer pic...small "L" is hard to see
Y-split is reasonable and sturdy...
Straight plug....small strain relief
In comparison, the BA200 seems to be made well but is all plastic and doesn’t feel high-quality. The BA200 has a shiny black plastic finish that contrasts the matte black of the IE800. It appears to be two halves glued together in a similar construction to the IE800. There is a gold-colored ring at the base of the BA200 where the cord exits the housing. These rings have started to come loose on my pair and will slide down the cord. They don’t seem to have a practical purpose (maybe covered an exposed seam to add strength, if anything) and are more for looks. You can re-attach the rings with a small dab of glue or adhesive, but I think they will probably become unseated occasionally. The cord and straight plug are exactly the same as the IE800. As for the Y-split, it’s massive on the BA200 because it contains a transducer. I normally don’t mind the large Y-split (and equally matched slider) but, on occasion, it does remind me it’s there and starts banging away at my chest and grabs a table, clothes, or anything else it feels like grabbing. I’ve read that others are trying to find a way to move the transducer inside of the housings on custom molds, but I don’t know that anyone has done it yet (I think there is a Japanese fellow that has tried it). The BA200 also has an “L” and “R” printed on the housings which I also find hard to see. I haven’t experienced them rubbing off or wearing down though.
Smaller housings...velvet bag
Straight tip barrel...."L" on housing...
hard to see at night
Other side of BA200....strain relief
Gold ring coming off...annoying
Huge y-split w/transducer and slider...
Relative size comparison...
Same straight plug...
I believe this is how TDK saves money and keeps costs down. By essentially having the same construction with both IEM’s (and some of the other TDK models), they can spend most of the money on developing, tuning, and selling these at a low cost. TDK might want to consider, in the future, spending some of the money they save on marketing, though. Hardly anyone seems to know about these.
Comparison between the two TDK's
Size comparison to 30 pin Apple plug...
I also noticed considerable driver flex with the IE800’s probably due to the dual-dynamic drivers and large plastic housings. This is also accentuated by the sheer size of the housings as the weight of them can pull down and unseat in your ear. I find these comfortable but annoying as they become dislodged slightly.
The BA200’s, being dual-BA drivers, don’t exhibit driver flex.
The IE800’s can isolate well, depending on how deep you can get a good seal/insertion. With the Comply tips, I get a really good seal with pretty deep insertion and experience good isolation. If someone is speaking to me, without music, while experiencing a good seal, I find the words muffled and I must remove the IEM’s to hear all the words they are speaking.
The BA200’s are very similar in isolation to the IE800’s as they will not seal as deeply. Although the BA200 is a dual-BA that doesn’t need venting like the dual-dynamics, it’s mere design lends itself to a shallower insertion. I also haven’t found tips that seal as well as the IE800, so this could change down the road. From my experience, though, this is what I have found.
I really don’t notice much in the way of microphonics with the IE800’s when the cable is worn down, but I typically don’t use IEM’s moving around. I wouldn’t try to wear the cord over the ear on the IE800’s as they are already large and that would make them even more awkward. By comparison, I have a pair of Vsonic GR02 BE that have considerable more microphonics in their cord, which I like a lot better than the flat cord on the IE800 and BA200.
As for microphonics with the BA200, I haven’t noticed any when worn over the ear. These are designed to be worn over the ear but I’ve found they work fine with the cord straight down. Again, I don’t typically move around a lot with IEM’s and can’t comment on wind or noise from clothing, but it hasn’t been anything I’ve noticed to be a problem.
I would describe the IE800’s as warm, balanced IEM’s. They reproduce instruments in the midrange very clearly and with detail. I like the warm, more mid-focused tuning of the TDK’s in general. I found the BA200’s as more balanced and neutral than the IE800’s but still remained warm sounding, with a focus on the mids.
With the standard silicon tips provided by TDK I was not impressed with the IE800. I felt the bass was very good quality and seemed to be present but something was missing. The bass didn’t seem to extend very deeply, which was strange as these are dual-dynamic headphones. I also noticed the treble to be harsher with these tips to the point of sibilant. The IEM’s seemed to have a completely different sound with these tips. I didn’t mind the sound as much as some might as I found it similar to a Grado sound that I do enjoy. I know that sound is a love or hate thing, though.
I then changed to some Vsonic Hybrid tips I had. These fit much better but the bass still seemed to be missing. I did get more impact from the bass but I was surprised the bass seemed recessed compared to the mids and treble. The treble seemed to settle down compared to the standard silicon tips though.
After the Hybrids, I switched to Comply T-400 tips and there it was—the bass. These IEM’s are, by no means, bass monsters. I do think they have a very full, quality bass that extends pretty deep. What they lack is in the impact area. I have some Vsonic GR02 Bass Edition IEM’s that have much more impact in the bass, although it seems focused on mid-bass with the Vsonics. The IE800’s are much more balanced and extend deeper, in my opinion. I think the bass does blend a little into the midrange, but nothing extensive and it does seem to give a warmer sound. The timbre on these is awesome. I really love the way a bass guitar decays. These sound great with blues and rock, which I love.
As for the BA200’s, the bass is quality but definitely lacks the punch or impact of the IE800’s. The dynamic driver in the IE800’s for bass just reproduce bass better, IMO (I say that from a personal standpoint and not a technical one). I did notice that the dual flange tips kept pushing back out of my ears, indicating a poor fit. I could make them fit, but still didn’t get a good seal as the bass was very light and seemed to be missing. I have since switched to Vsonic Hybrid tips that seem to seal well and have a good compromise. I’m considering trying Westone Star tips as I hear these may work very well.
Where the BA200’s definitely win is in the area of smoothness. There’s no crossover into the mids and the sound is much cleaner but not as warm. That being said, these are still warm sounding. At the same time, for such a balanced IEM (comparatively to the IE800; actually, the BA200’s are still warmer and more mids focused than neutral ‘phones I’ve heard; i.e. AKG Q701) the BA200’s are very warm while remaining clean. I can pull out more details in the bass than the IE800’s but have to say I just LIKE the IE800’s bass better. I do enjoy the timbre and decay more with the IE800’s and find the BA’s sound a lot quicker in the area of decay.
I really love the mids on the IE800’s and love mids in general. There are probably more forward IEM’s when it comes to mids out there, but these just do a great job reproducing male vocals and guitars. I really enjoy the blues and can hear the crunch and nuances in different guitar styles from Buddy Guy to Eric Clapton to Freddie King, etc. I just like the warm sound and I think the mids blend well into the treble. I enjoyed female vocals with these but didn’t think they were done as well as male vocals and I think that may have to do with the treble and upper-mids. If I listen to Adele, I think the vocals sound nice, but women with higher tones not as much.
In comparison to the BA200’s, these seem to reproduce the lower mids better and sound warmer. With the BA200’s, they seem more balanced, overall, and better represented the entire range of mids. Female vocals sound great with the BA200’s but can also do male vocals well. There’s a certain smoothness that probably has a lot to do with the dual BA’s. I just don’t have much to compare to as I don’t have other BA IEM’s. Across the entire range, the BA200’s are great for mids and seem to flow smoothly from the bass to the mids to the treble without as much crossing over into each frequency.
I wouldn’t describe the IE800’s as bright and, compared to the BA200’s, really lack something. The treble on these are much more subtle. The BA200’s are much smoother and have much more detailed highs without being fatiguing. I think my Vsonic GR02BE’s can get fatiguing with the highs, if that helps at all. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still quality, I just don’t think the IE800’s extend very high. Something seems to be missing up top. At the same time, I can listen to these for hours without fatigue and have listened to them for hours (even as I write this). Having said that, tip selection has a lot to do with the treble/bass balance on these. Using the provided silicon tips, I found the treble much brighter and even sibilant and would say these are detailed with good separation of instruments.
As for the BA200, the treble is smooth and buttery with good extension and detail/separation. Very well done. If you enjoy quality mids and treble, these are great IEM’s. These are easy to listen to many different genres, from classical, to rock, to acoustical, etc. I really love vocal harmonies as they give me the chills. For example, I’m not a big country fan but the vocals in “Sweet Annie” from The Zac Brown Band sound awesome as does Allison Krauss and Union Station. “All The Little Lights” from Passenger reveal all the details without being bright while Michael Rosenberg’s voice blends perfectly together. This song, on the IE800’s, sounds either too bright or dull, depending on the tips used. Rosenberg’s voice is nice with the IE800’s but lacks the detail, smoothness, and clarity of the BA200’s. There’s a rawness to the IE800’s that’s nice, but the IE800 really shines with rock and blues. The BA200 doesn’t specialize as much and just sounds good with everything thrown at it.
Both of these IEM’s benefit some from amping. The IE800’s really liked the low gain setting from my BSG 18V Cmoy with AD8620 running through an ELE DAC 02. The bass was much fuller with more impact while the treble blended better. The sound level is also considerably higher with an amp as the IE800’s do take a few extra clicks on the volume to be at the same level as other IEM’s (i.e. Vsonic GR02’s). Overall, the IE800’s didn’t benefit as much from amping as the BA200.
The BA200’s jumped up a notch, to me with amping. The impact on the bass came on and started approaching the dual-dynamics while still maintaining the excellent detail, separation, and clarity of the dual BA’s. Awesome. Also, the mids and treble are still buttery smooth and sound even warmer with the additional bass.
With amping, I much prefer the BA200’s for general listening and find that these are hard to beat. They even produced bass well for rap and R & B but not to a basshead level. I still enjoy the IE800’s for rock and blues and enjoy them even more with amping, but can’t switch genres as effectively, IMO. I do rotate these two IEM’s regularly and enjoy both for different reasons. Both have similar tuning to one another but with a much different presentation.
Both of these IEM’s have been discontinued by TDK, so I’m not sure what kind of supply is still available. I’ve heard that the prices may be going up on the BA200’s as they are fairly popular for those of us who have tried them, but they should still be considerably affordable, even with increased prices. The IE800’s, on the other hand, seem to be relatively unknown and can be found for some amazing prices (I bought a pair, almost new, for $42) while others have even found them at Ross for around $10-20. I don’t see how it’s possible to beat that kind of a deal. If you can find a deal for the BA200’s, jump on them as they are an outstanding IEM.
Both of these IEM’s have similar tuning, with a focus on mids, high levels of detail and separation, with a generic build and packaging. I love the way TDK tunes their headphones and would definitely look at other TDK options such as new designs, full-size, or even speakers. They provide a high quality sound at a low price. These are not fancy headphones—these are headphones that sound good for those of us that can’t afford premium prices. TDK does make me wonder about price markup in the industry and seems to push the envelope on pricing strategies. Bottom line, I think TDK has horrible marketing that combines with cheap, generic packaging that draws few people to the brand. In addition, for those of us old enough, I remember TDK to be a cheap brand that made cheap cassette tapes for making mix tapes off the radio. They may not be aware of how some may view their brand, but they probably need to find out and change it because they have some excellent products worthy of consideration.
Bottom line: do not hesitate to pick up either of these IEM’s. If you love rock/guitars/blues, you can’t go wrong with the IE800’s, especially for the price. If you want an all-arounder and would like to try your hand at a dual-BA sound, the BA200’s do everything well, although they probably won’t ever be number 1 in any specific genre or category. I have yet to see a dual-BA compete in price with the BA200, with the exception maybe being the Sony XBA-2. I haven’t tried the XBA-2 and don’t know what the original Sony BA sounds like, so I can’t comment on the value there. There are some Chinese dual BA’s and hybrids being released that push the price to performance ratio, but I would put the BA200’s against any of them (even though I haven’t personally tried them).
For more information on various IEM’s, check out:
- “ljokerl”—has some outstanding reviews and reviews many IEM’s. I’ve found his reviews to be outstanding and spot-on for the IEM’s I’ve listened to.
- “clieos”—also has some great reviews of IEM’s and other items and has moved them onto his own site. If you look him up on Head-fi, you can see the list of headphones he owns in his profile. Pretty extensive list.