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Smabat ST-10

Rating:
4.375/5,
  1. subwoof3r
    My new earbuds reference
    Written by subwoof3r
    Published May 19, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - First tier level SQ.
    Great finish and look.
    Excellent price value ratio
    MMCX (so cable swap friendly)
    Cons - Be sure to ask for the revised version to avoid loose MMCX connectors issues (should be OK now, but still fresh at the time I write this review).
    • English is not my native language but I will (as always) trying my best.
    • My review reflects exactly what I really think of the product itself.
    • Note that my pair has been properly burned for about 200 hours before this review (yes! in burn-in: I trust)

    DAC / AMPs used during this review :
    • Fostex HP-A8C (at home)
    • FiiO E10K (at work)

    OFFICIAL TECHNICAL SPECS

    specs.jpg



    PACKAGING

    The earbuds comes in a nice little box which contain 1 set of black middle-thick foams, 1 set of black donut foams, a pair of rubber rings, a MMCX cable (designed to be worn around ears), a little leather bag, notice, and of course earbuds units.

    box.jpg

    Sans titre-1.jpg

    Sans titre-l1.jpg


    BUILD QUALITY

    Build of the shell is just excellent. No scratch of production mistake, great and sturdy MMCX connectors. Nice overall look with its sexy green metal textured finishes.

    earbuds_box.jpg


    The cable is made of basic OFC but overall well made and great finishes. It comes with standard 3.5mm plug (with the white Smabat logo manufacturer on the green plug). The click is firm (ensuring the connection is safe).

    cable.jpg

    If you can, I highly recommend using other quality cables with some kind of 7N pure OCC copper (for exemple) to make the drivers soundc at their best (as I found a difference between stock cable and my usual high quality MMCX cables).


    BUILD ISSUE

    Like some of you already know/had, first batch of the ST-10 was affected by a MMCX connectors issue on stock cable and which affected units. Connection was much loose and rotated easily, resulting some kind of false contacts sometimes, which was ruining listening experience. Personally I wasn’t able to listen to stock cable properly once in ears due to the fact it was rotating so easily. Fortunately, and thanks to both Smabat and NiceHCK excellent support and service, I was able to receive a revised version of the cable and units, and I can confirm it solved this issue prety well. Now the snap is hard and units does not rotate anymore, it needs much force to make them rotate, which is a good thing now.


    FOAMS CHOICE

    Don’t underestimate this step, foams choice is probably the most important thing to do on these ST-10. Personally, I found them excellent with standard full thick foams. This way the bass are going extremely low due to the better fit, without sacrifying details at all and keep a great amount of mids and slightly taming the highs which makes ST-10 sounding close to perfection.

    I experimented donut foams (not bad but still a bit brighty), the silicon rings included in the box (the worst ! definitely not recommended), extreme-thin foams (way too bright althought fine details), and mid-thick foams (my best second choice).


    SOUND QUALITY

    ST10 has probably the most natural and transparent sounding that I ever heard from any earbuds yet.

    Soudstage is extremely deep while keeping good width.

    The timbre and instrument separation is close to perfection too. Drivers are fast enough to let you enjoy all music genres. This is the kind of earbuds I’m looking for (like all my DIY projects) : beeing a great allrounder without the need of using any EQ at all.

    The overall sound signature is slighly from laid-back/cold side. It is designed to have neutral sound signature in mind, but to me it almost not look like neutral but more a « L » sounding.

    They delivers a clear and vivid sound signature, also, they are not very warm and I don’t feel any kind of coloration.

    Bass goes extremely deep and thanks to the transmission line system, there is a great amount of impressive rumble that is rarely achieved on earbuds. To me, is sounds more like a full-size open headphone (there is not much earbuds that have made that feeling to me).

    I feel like there is a massive boost of bass at around 50Hz on my ST-10 (which I like), feeling like a big subwoofer. There is some kind of warmth (but only) in bass area.
    Also, I don't feel any kind of mid-bass bump (unlike we can easily recognize on Willsound MK2, for those who know these earbuds).

    Mids are soft, not too much forwarded, there is no annoying peak to signal (of course if you set the right full thick foams on it). Vocals are great (both male and female).

    Transmission Line system :

    The ST10 has the great idea to integrate a kind of Transmission Line system (that I will call TLS) in an earbuds shell. According to ClieOS, this system is also already present on Svara Pro. While both shares same armature, they uses different drivers. The drivers used on the ST-10 is 45 ohm, which is a bit uncommon for earbuds (from my experience) so I guess the drivers has been home tuned by Smabat.

    That TLS is just impressive, the bass thanks to this are getting so low and you really feel a nice and deep rumble (that is so much addictive).


    CONCLUSIONS

    Sanllls titre-1.jpg
    [ ST-10 equipped with my 7N pure OCC copper MMCX cable ]

    ST-10 is currently my yet best earbuds. They are tuely a reference. The unique system they incorporate (TLS) make them so interesting. To me, they definitely sound first tier level. They will be very hard to beat in term of SQ (especially for the price asked). Everything is here and at a close perfection (soundstage, bass, mids and highs). I’m just amazed by this product. They are a great bargain and they perfoms very well with all kind of music genres (I listen electronics mainly but appreciate listening to all variety too).

    Smabat delivered us a little bomb here with this ST-10. Highly recommended.


    MY SUBJECTIVE RESULTS
    • Overall sound quality and appreciation : 9/10
    • Soundstage/imaging : 8.5/10
    • Details : 9/10
    • Bass : 9.5/10
    • Mids : 8.5/10
    • Highs/treble : 8.5/10
    • Quality/price value ratio : 10/10
  2. assassin10000
    Clean sound with IEM like sub-bass.
    Written by assassin10000
    Published May 19, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Clean sound.
    IEM like bass/sub-bass.
    Build quality.
    Innovative bass port really works.
    Cons - 16.8mm diameter may be too large for some ears, despite 'thin' housing.
    Minimal accessories.
    Disclaimer: None, I paid for these. Also, first review.

    Brief Intro:
    From what I understand Smabat is the new company started by the same person(s) that made the Svara earbuds and IEM's. The ST-10 is their most recent earbud design and includes a rather interesting bass port design that is inspired by transmission line boxes. It does not work like one though, as it is nowhere near long enough. In my opinion it is a tuned bass port design.

    20190519_001853.jpg

    Basic Specs:
    Driver: Dynamic 15.4mm Three-layer Diaphragm (PEEK, PU, PEEK Titanium Diaphragm)
    Frequency Response: 10-22000Hz
    Sensitivity: 115dB/mW
    Impedance: 45Ω

    Unboxing/accessories:

    The Smabat ST-10 comes in a nice black cardboard box with multiple layers of foam cutout to hold the earbuds, covers, cable and soft case. Below all these is the manual with specifications. Unfortunately it is rather light on the accessories as it only comes with one pair each of: full foams, donut foams and silicone covers. The soft case is nice but I'd prefer a harder case design to prevent accidental crushing. Even though the build quality seems good.

    20190421_192331.jpg

    The cable is 3.5mm single ended, cloth covered until the splitter and rubber coated after. It does have a chin cinch and the ear hooks do NOT have memory wire. This style of soft ear hook without memory wire is what I prefer for over ear style cables. I noticed no microphonics but this is probably mostly due to the over ear design.

    20190421_192415.jpg


    I recommend using the foam covers, as typically without them bass is anemic. The foam provides enough seal for the bass frequencies to be directed to your eardrum, without them there may be little to no low end bass. This seems to be true for most earbud designs. I tend to prefer a donut style earbud foam as it provides a seal for a better bass response but at the same time does not affect/muffle the mids/treble.

    I do listen to these using a donut style earbud foam.

    The ST-10 had a metallic resonance or sound that I noticed when trying them without using foam covers. I'm not 100% sure if this is just due to reflections of sound off the screen back into my ear canal but it is not there when using foam covers (either full or donut style). YMMV.

    FYI: A few other listeners have reported the silicone covers muffle the sound. I did not try them as they would make the earbuds too large to comfortably fit my ears.


    20190413_231401.jpg


    I listen to a mixture of EDM (Dance, Trance, Vocal Trance, House), Classical, Acoustic, Rock and 90's to early 00's Rap.

    I am not too savvy with reviewing and the critical listening skills needed to accurately describe sound. So I may not cover some things that may require a more skilled listener to describe.

    Note: I do not have a USB DAC, a separate amp or a DAP. All my listening is typically done through my smartphone or my laptop. I do burn-in for 100+ hours.

    Despite the ST-10's 45Ω rating, the sensitivity is high enough that my phone drives it with no issues.


    The sound:

    Treble: The quality is good and it is not emphasized or lacking. Neutral in quantity, neither forward or recessed. Cymbal crashes are not piercing and the ST-10's are not sibilant to me. It does not seem to roll off too early. It has plenty of 'air'.

    Mids: Are also neutral in quantity being neither forward or recessed. Tonality seems ok, stringed instruments don't sound 'off' to me. Male and female vocals are good with neither lower mids or upper mids being lacking, which can lead to either thin male voices or shrill female voices. Again, quality is good.

    Bass: The lower bass frequencies are quite good and do not bleed into the mids. The bass is quite controlled, it is not boomy. Despite the emphasis on the lower bass, it is not overwhelming.

    Bass wise it is perhaps the most 'IEM' like sounding earbud I've listened too or perhaps another description would be a good pair of speakers setup along with a matching subwoofer (80hz crossover). These play very well with EDM and Rap with their bass and sub-bass. That's not too say they sound bad with classical, rock, etc.; just that these have good synergy with genre's that have low end bass frequencies.

    The bass port works quite well. If you cover it, it completely changes the bass response and becomes very bass light. I ended up using a frequency sweep test while covering and uncovering the ports to get an approximate idea of what frequencies the port effects the most. To my ears it sounds like it affects 30-75hz the most. It does have an effect higher up the bass range but not as large of one and the effect decreases as you climb in frequency from about 75hz up to around 250hz.


    20190521_190030.jpg

    Comparisons:

    Smabat ST-10 vs Nicehck EBX: The ST-10 has a better low frequency bass response. The EBX has a more linear bass response. Both are good, it just depends on what you prefer. The mids and highs on the EBX are a little more forward and the EBX is a little bit brighter than the ST-10. The lower midrange on the EBX sometimes seems a bit lacking, I do use EQ to add a 1.5-2.5db at around 500hz on the EBX. I like both and it's kind of a toss-up. I'd say the EBX may be a slightly better all rounder but if you prefer bass heavy genre's (or are a basshead) the ST-10 would be better for you.

    Smabat ST-10 vs Ourart ACG: The ACG is lacking in low end bass. ST-10 has emphasized low end bass. If you're looking for bass, there is no contest here. The ACG mids and high's are special, despite being quite good the ST-10 can't quite compete here IMO. It's hard to describe with words. It's like comparing an older Plasma TV vs a newer LED TV with 'darker' black's, the contrast is just better. For classical, acoustic, acapella, etc. I would go with the ACG.


    I unfortunately got back into audio just a little too late to get a pair of the last generation Svara-L (32Ω version) so I cannot compare the ST-10 to it. While the design is similar, from what I've read (here on head-fi) the older Svara-L does not have a shaped bass port this new design does.


    Conclusion/Thoughts:

    The Smabat ST-10 is a fairly well rounded earbud with an emphasis on bass and sub-bass. Mid-bass is not emphasized and does not bleed into the mids. It is not forward or bright and neither is it veiled or recessed. Signature wise I'd say it is an 'L' shaped signature where the L is not too 'tall' or overpowering. I would recommend this for EDM, Rap and Pop. It will also work well with any other genre that has low end bass included in it. It does well with other genre's but if you only listen to acoustic, classical or other bass light genre's you will not get the most out of these.
  3. cqtek
    Liquid Sound
    Written by cqtek
    Published May 15, 2019
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sound sensation similar to that offered by some IEMs.
    - Balanced, warm and full profile.
    - Design.
    - Ergonomics.
    Cons - Accessories: Few foams and non-rigid bag.
    - Cable can be improved
    Introduction


    Smabat is a new brand of headphones, but the truth is that the design of the ST-10 is practically the same as the models of Svara. On its website there are only two models: the present ST-10 and some IEMs, the XT-10.

    Nowadays it is practically impossible to find any of the two Svara models and personally I always had them on my wish list... But I never got to buy them. There was a time when I gave up this type of headphones, because I couldn't find a full sound in the whole frequency range. I did a lot of shopping looking for the right earbud, both in form and sound. It is also true that I never spent too much money on a single model, but seeing that most of the more expensive models used capsules I already knew (MX500 or PK), whose ergonomics were not the most suitable for my anatomy, I did not go forward either. Other more original models, exceeded what I was willing to spend for a headset that who knows if I would be able to extract its full potential.

    But recently I got back into the earbuds wheel and luckily I found a better way to enjoy them. It's about turning the earbuds into the ear canal, instead of sticking it against the shell. It's not an easy task with all models, but the change is very big. So it's worth spending a little time on it. The only negative point is that, depending on some models, the fitting is not very firm and only serves me to be at home.

    Now I feel like analyzing this type of headphones again. And within this new round, the ST-10 will be the third to review.

    Smabat ST-10 01_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 02_resize.jpg

    Specifications

    • Drivers: Dynamic 15.4mm Three-layer Diaphragm (PEEK, PU, PEEK Titanium Diaphragm)
    • Frequency Response: 10-22000Hz
    • Sensitivity: 115dB/mW
    • Impedance: 45Ω
    • Distortion Ratio: <0.1% @1kHz
    • Jack connector: 3.5mm
    • Capsule connection type: MMCX
    • Cable size: 1.2m

    Smabat ST-10 03_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 04_resize.jpg

    Packaging


    The Smabat ST-10 comes in a 161x102x39mm box. It is practically black and its surface has a roughy texture formed by dots. It's wrapped in cellophane. In the center, in gold color, is the logo and the brand. On the back, on a sticker attached at the bottom, are written the specifications and data of the brand.

    After opening the box, you can see the capsules embedded in a black foam mold, which protects them and a simile leather bag, with the logo inscribed in its center. After removing the bag and a foam plate, silicone tips, foam tips and cable appear. Once the cable is removed, there is an instruction booklet.

    In short, it contains:
    • 1 pair of plastic tips
    • 2 pairs of foam tips
    • 1 Cable
    • Leather simile bag
    • Instructions

    The packaging is somewhat different from the classic earbuds, the typical is a semi-rigid box with zipper and a bag with foams. However, I prefer this case to the leather bag that comes with the Smabat, basically because it is more practical, as the level of protection is higher. On the other hand, it is strange that there are some silicone tips, the use of which is quite unhelpful.

    Smabat ST-10 05_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 06_resize.jpg

    Construction and Design

    It could be said that the design of the ST-10 is unique, but it is not, the old Svara models were almost the same. The earbuds are formed by two capsules joined by a relatively thick central axis. In the back capsule is the acoustic cavity. In the front capsule is the driver. Smabat points out that they use a titanium diaphragm, a patented labyrinth-shaped aluminium acoustic cavity and an advanced acoustic and ergonomic design. This labyrinth makes the lower zone higher quality and the mids and treble are more comfortable. In this external part, there is a large bass port, protected by a grille. If it covers you, the bass almost disappears. In the capsule there are some holes that help to make the scene more natural and enrich the details. In addition, the ST-10 use MMCX connection. Thus, it seems that the revolution of removable cables has reached the earbuds to stay, as more and more models are using this type of connection.

    Practically all the capsules are made of aluminium and the only visible part of plastic is the outer crown that joins the metal grid through which the sound comes out, with the capsule.

    The rear capsule is covered by a green aluminium plate, folded in a U-shape. On the outside is inscribed "smabat" with white letters and on the back, "ST-10" and a white circle with the letter of each side inside.

    The removable MMXC cable is covered with braided textile up to the divider. It is then covered with thin, flexible black plastic. The connector is a green cylinder with "smabat" inscribed in white. The divider is another cylinder with "ST-10" inscribed in the same way. There is a silver ring for the adjustment under the chin, but its inner hole is very large, so that the cables slide too easily into it. In this way, the pin does not perform its function properly. The cable, in its area close to the MMCX connectors, has a rigid plastic coating that shapes it for use over the ear.

    The construction and the design are remarkable. Every piece itself has a unique but very functional shape. The quality of the finishes and materials used is of the same level. The cable is somewhat simpler, the construction is straightforward, but the use of the MMCX connection allows the use of better cables than the original, so it is very susceptible to being quickly replaced by a superior one.

    On the negative side, there have been cases where the MMCX connector of some capsules has caused problems, since after the disconnection of the cables, the small internal parts that it connects with the central pin, have suffered damage. In my case, to make this review I used the original cable, so once put the cable I did not disconnect it again. But it seems that they were only initial units, which the brand itself has been replacing, creating a good feeling in its after-sales service.

    The driver used is 15.4mm, the impedance is 45Ω and the sensitivity is 115dB. On paper, the impedance is medium, but their high sensitivity makes them move moderately well.

    Smabat ST-10 07_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 08_resize.jpg

    Adjustment and Ergonomics

    The design is ingenious enough for the ST-10 to be used with removable MMCX cable and over the ear, in addition to preserving great comfort, ease of adjustment, support and ergonomics. In this sense, the whole set becomes one of the best earbuds I have ever tried. Nothing more to add in this section.

    Smabat ST-10 09_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 10_resize.jpg

    Sound


    Profile


    The Smabat ST-10 offer a balanced profile, have enough depth, warmth in the voices/mids and a spark point above.

    Smabat ST-10.png

    Bass


    The main virtue of the lower zone is the depth above the presence. Thus, the sub-bass, is perceived more easily, but maintaining the balance with respect to the rest of the low zone and also with the rest of the spectrum, where it does not excel in intensity. The bass hit is quite full and overall, clean and moderately fast, does not muddy the midranges. Its texture is quite flat and smooth, no outstanding humps are appreciated. The result is a very musical, deep, pleasant, unforced, well-executed low zone, with a good dose of precision and a balanced but clearly identifiable overall quantity. But don't expect the ST-10 bass to be prominent, I insist, good extension, good depth, linear and no loss, but balanced in gain.

    Smabat ST-10 11_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 12_resize.jpg

    Mids

    Depending on the source, the ST-10 can offer a midrange with a certain degree of warmth, without clouding the sound more than necessary. The voices are maintained with a good presence, without showing nasal or muddy, but soft and pleasantly modulated towards the sweet side. However, there is a bright spark point in them, as well as in the rest of the mids. An ambivalent look that provides vivacity and depth, detail and amplitude, a flash at half light. The mids don't reproduce completely clean, despite the good level of definition and that's quite common in earbuds. However, the tonality is quite natural, both in voices and in instruments, even with a slight hiss that does not become sibilance.

    Smabat ST-10 13_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 14_resize.jpg

    Treble

    The treble starts climbing towards a peak, that spark typical in many earbuds, which then its particular shape ends up moulding or exalting. In this case, this light flash shakes quite freely. Beyond, everything returns to its course, but even giving a slight upturn in the audible limit for some. The direct translation is clear, these first highs are lively, marked and even vibrant, sharper than soft. Their incidence in the midrange translates, as I said before, into a hissing, rather than a wheezing. But it can be filed using some combination of complete foams. In this case, I'd rather "suffer" the consequences of donut-type foams than lose that point of air and definition that the trebles bring to the whole.

    Smabat ST-10 15_resize.jpg

    Soundstage, Separation

    The ST-10 give off a pleasant feeling of depth, providing an oval scene, somewhat smaller in width, but with a good dose of height. The sensation of three-dimensionality is reinforced with the greater range of the subwoofer backed by its design. The instrumental recreation is detailed, has good separation, but there is a moss patina that coheres the sound, which also gives sufficient elasticity for it to flow without dispersing, guided to the melody, without outbursts, soft but lively in the near extremes. This sensation causes these earbuds to be able to provide a sound with a fullness close to the level provided by the IEMs.

    Smabat ST-10 16_resize.jpg

    Comparisons


    Ourart Ti7

    The Ti7s are as unique in design as the ST-10s and have in common that both have twin brothers in shape. In sound they may have some similarity in the presentation of the same, because both bet on balance, showing more neutral Ti7. Meanwhile, the ST-10 are more compensated and extend more at the ends, offering greater presence of bass and, above all, sub-bass. In treble they also provide more brightness, sparkle and brio, the Ti7 being more restrained. But the Ti7 are unbeatable in the central zone, there is nothing that can obscure them: they have greater clarity, a more detailed sound even, gaining also in micro detail and definition, showing a more analytical profile, in front of the warmth and depth of the ST-10. The scene is wider on the Ti7 but flatter, while the ST-10 show off their greater depth to recreate an oval and diverse scene.

    Smabat ST-10 vs Ourart Ti7.png

    Ty hi-z HP-150s MKII

    The Ty are classic earbuds of MX500 capsule and 150Ω impedance. Of course, they require more energy to be moved. The classic capsule offers more punch in bass and in the case of the HP-150s, it destroys in the presence of the ST-10, even in depth and sub bass. However, Smabat offers a bass response with better texture, color and definition, sounding more dynamic in front of the more bloated and slower sound of their lower Ty zone. In mids, the hi-z are a roller coaster, as can be seen in their graphics, they feel the same way: close sounds alternate with more distant ones, presenting hollows, unequal and sometimes incoherent mids. However, with the ST-10 the opposite happens, the mids continue to be guided by that invisible thread that unifies them with the rest of the frequencies, showing their good tonal balance, without losing that warm face. The high zone of the ST-10 is more shameless and sparkling than in the Ty, offering more brightness, light and air. The HP-150s have trebles that feel limited and smoothed almost in a forced way, contributing to denaturalize the sound even more.

    The scene in the Ty goes accordingly to its sound, some depth thanks to its low area and mid width, but with a reduced stage, narrower and frontal, with a sense of distance in some musical passages, which contribute negatively to build a realistic stage. In the ST-10 none of this happens, being able to enter between the scene and to cross it in depth and in width, distinguishing details and different points of view.

    Smabat ST-10 vs Ty hi-z HP-150s MKII.png

    Conclusion


    The Smabat ST-10, at last! They're earbuds with an IEM soul. I'm sure that's a very personal statement, perhaps inexperienced, because I don't own high-end earbuds. But this gives even more value to the quality/price ratio of the ST-10. These greens have achieved a quite full and immersive musical sensation, conjugating a contained, deep, but very descriptive low zone, a sweet and warm, present and coherent mids, and a sparkling and vivid treble. But the ST-10 are not just a sum of frequency bands, but have a design that, although already seen, reveals a true differential potential with the rest of plastic capsules, which are so abundant in earbuds. And, once again, this boldness in its forms translates into a qualitative leap that contributes to generating a sound full of nuances, shapes and three-dimensionality, which flows like liquid in a realistic and passable scene.

    Smabat ST-10 17_resize.jpg Smabat ST-10 18_resize.jpg

    Sources Used During the Analysis

    • Burson Audio Playmate
    • F.Audio S1
    • QNGEE X2
    • Zishan Z2-Z3

    Smabat ST-10 19_resize.jpg

    Ratings

    • Construction and Design: 90
    • Adjustment/Ergonomics: 90
    • Accessories: 70
    • Bass: 85
    • Mids: 90
    • Treble: 80
    • Separation: 85
    • Soundstage: 90
    • Quality/Price: 85

    Purchase link:

    https://es.aliexpress.com/store/product/Smabat-ST-10-Ear-Hook-Earbud-HIFI-Metal-Earphone-15-4mm-Dynamic-Driver-Smabat-Flagship-Earbud/1825606_32993154088.html


    You can read my full review in spanish here:

    https://hiendportable.com/2019/05/15/smabat-st-10-review/
      hqssui and PlantsmanTX like this.
  4. Wiljen
    Smabat ST-10 - A promising beginning
    Written by Wiljen
    Published May 2, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good neutral sound signature with nothing too far out in front. Very clean sound.
    Cons - mids are a bit thinner than EBX or Lyra.
    smabat-st10-ears1.JPG

    Disclaimer: I purchased the Smabat ST10 from NiceHCK at a drastically reduced price for review. Having reviewed the EB2 and EBX I was interested to see where the ST10 fits in the line of earbuds carried by NiceHCK. If you have an interest in purchasing the Smabat ST10, it can be found here.



    Unboxing / Packaging:

    The ST10 ships in a black slip-cover box with the Smabat name and logo on the front in gold. The rear has a label with model number and basic specs. The box sides are also emblazoned with the smabat web address. Lifting the cover reveals the buds in the top portion of the box embedded in foam and a vinyl soft case with the smabat name and logo in the lower section. Removing the carry case reveals the cable in a recess in the foam behind it along with a hole to lift the entire tray out. Removing the foam surround at the top exposes the sets of tips also embedded in foam below the earpieces. Underneath the foam is the manual which is far more comprehensive than most that come with earbuds.

    smabat-st10-box-front.JPG smabat-st10-box-rear.JPG smabat-st10-box-inside1.JPG smabat-st10-box-inside2.JPG smabat-st10-box-inside3.JPG

    Build/Fit:

    Earpieces are on the large side owing to the 15.4mm driver but taper quickly so provided no fitment issues for me. Those with small ears may wish to audition these before purchase to avoid any issues size may cause. About ½ way up the taper is a small silver band with small vents immediately to the outer portion of the cone. These are spaced to avoid blocking them with the earpieces worn tip up and some adjustment may be needed to prevent blocking them if worn tip down as I found. Most of what changes by blocking the vents is the lower mid-range so if you suddenly have clouded mids, check your vents.

    The outer housing has a transmission line style vent for the dynamic driver to increase bass punch since this is a classic issue for earbuds (even with it sub-bass is still pretty limited but hey! at least it is present). The housings have a gray/green outer shell with black internals. Fit is good here but not stellar as seams are easily visible around the mmcx connector and the metal outer shell is slightly raised above the inner on the bottom where the main vent for the transmission line sits.

    MMCX connectors felt a bit loose but I had no issues with cut-outs or other problems so this may be an unfounded concern. time will tell on that one and if most people don’t regularly change cables, I suspect it will hold up fine. If you have a habit of cable rolling, this may be something to watch.

    smabat-st10-connector.JPG smabat-st10-feature.JPG smabat-st10-grill.JPG smabat-st10-left.JPG smabat-st10-pair1.JPG smabat-st10-pair2.JPG

    Internals:

    The Driver used in the st10 is a 15.4 mm dynamic driver with a titanium coated peek diaphragm. Nominal impedance is listed at 45Ω with a sensitivity of 115dB/mW. While the numbers suggest that the St10 can be used from a phone or tablet, I did find that it performed considerably better, particularly with regard to bass when properly amplified. The design is a classic of speaker building but not seen nearly as commonly in headphones and earphones and can be thought of as a hybrid between a vented box style and a transmission line speaker as it has an extended rear vent channel. While the snail drum shape probably does little to impact the sound, the length and diameter of the channel certainly do so tuning can be adjusted by changing the volume of the channel.


    smabat-st10-chamber.jpg


    Cable:

    The cable provided with the ST10 is a bit different than most as it is cloth covered from the jack to the splitter and rubber coated from the splitter to the mmcx connectors at the earpieces. The Jack is a 3.5mm straight design with a metal housing in the same dark gray/green as the shells with a good strain relief. The splitter also matches the color of the jack and earpieces but oddly the chin slider is left natural metal and produces an odd look. Cables terminate with preformed ear-hooks so the ST10 must be worn tip-up with the provided cable although I did find tip-down wear comfortable with an ALO Tinsel cable attached. I also preferred the tinsel cable as it was less tangle prone especially when stored in the provided case.

    smabat-st10-jack.JPG smabat-st10-cable.JPG smabat-st10-splitter.JPG smabat-st10-mmcx.JPG


    Tips:

    The ST10 provides, foams, donut foams, and a vented rubber tips. I found that the rubber tips did help with keeping the ST10 from migrating during activity but found it to be the most signature changing of the three and decided for sake of this review I would conduct all sound notes with none of the tips installed. Understand that your impressions will vary if you install tips and especially the rubber tips.

    smabat-st10-tips.JPG

    Sound:


    Bass:

    Sub-bass is present in larger quantity than expected for an earbud design,but while bass depth is quite good, bass volume is very linear and not nearly as forward as one might expect. (This is a good thing) Mid-bass shows good control and remains in direct proportion to the rest of the signature. Bass texture is good but can be slightly artificial sounding.

    Mids:

    Mids have good detail in the lower mids but do show some mid-bass bleed and contribute a bit of warmth in what might otherwise be considered a fairly bright earbud. Lower mids are fuller and a bit more foward than upper mids which make male vocals sound rich and full. Vocal harmonies with tracks like the Eagles, or Poco do particularly well on the ST-10 as a result. Female vocals are a little thinner as the mids seem to move backward as you climb toward the treble. Having said that, while not quite as full as something like the EBx, to my ear, they sound a bit more natural and lifelike.

    Treble:

    Lower treble follows linearly from upper mids and then falls back in the true treble range to give a polite treble with some air and sparkle added back by a bit of a spike in the 7-8kHz range and then a fairly rapid roll-off above that point. Snares have a good solid attack to them which is nice but cymbals lack the energy needed to sound full and natural and come across a bit thin and tinny. Overall, the spike is mitigated by the non-sealing design to a degree and treble comes across as forward without being harsh. Sibilance was only present when mastered into the track and even then was more polite than on some others in this test (bk2/Tomahawk).



    Soundstage / Imaging:

    Soundstage is one of the big highlights on the ST-10. This is generally true of the class but the ST-10 ranks with the best of breed for stage size and dimensions. I found the stage to be nearly as deep as it is wide and with a good sense of height. This made listening to things like “Runnin too deep” (Keith Richards) particularly enjoyable as the stage depth really adds to the track. Attack and decay are also very good for this style driver and help with instrument separation and imaging both of which are above average. Seating the orchestra on the stage is fairly easy to do while listening and due to the size of the stage very rarely do you get things behind instead of beside each other. Layering is better than expected as well and complex tracks showed no tendency to get clogged up or muddy.



    Comparisons:

    NiceHCK EBX

    Build Quality – the earbuds are about equal but the cable is better on the EBX than on the ST-10 and the case as well.

    Sound – EBX has more mid-bass presence than the ST-10 which was kind of a surprise considering the selling point of the ST-10. The ST-10 fires back by digging deeper in sub-bass than the EBX. Mids are thicker on the EBX but a little cleaner on the ST-10 with male vocals sounding more natural on the EBX while female vocals are a bit more lifelike on the ST-10.

    Also worth noting, the ST-10 took considerably more power than the EBX to reach comfortable listening levels so for those running from a low power source, the EBX may be a better option while those with high power sources that get hiss with the EBX may appreciate the ST-10 more.



    LYRA Classic

    Build Quality – Both are solid offerings as far as the bud itself but the ST-10 with its removable cable gets a few points for that while the Lyra classic looks a bit more polished. Kit is better on the Lyra.

    Sound – The tonality of the Lyra is a bit more natural than the ST-10 which has some definite elevations to certain ranges. St-10 has better extension on both ends than Lyra that rolls off a bit earlier in the treble and a lot earlier in the sub-bass. Detail retrieval, especially in the upper mids and lower treble is better on the Lyra classic while details in the lower mids and bass are better on the ST-10.

    I also found Lyra was easier to drive by a considerable amount than the ST-10.



    MrZ Tomahawk

    Build Quality – Both are solid builds, but the ST-10 with its removable cable and tip-up wear was more comfortable to me and tended to stay in place better than the Tomahawk. The kit on the tomahawk with multiple sets of tips, a better case, and a shirt clip, makes this a split decision.

    Sound – Tomahawk sounds a bit sloppy compared to ST-10 which has better control throughout its signature. Tomahawk is more treble forward than the ST-10 and lacks some of the bass dig as well. Layering and imaging is enough better on the ST-10 to separate the two easily.

    Perhaps oddly with the difference in impedance ratings, the ST-10 and Tomahawk required roughly the same power to deliver a good listening experience.



    Yinyoo BK2

    Build Quality – The ST-10 shows better build quality than the BK2 but at twice the price tag, it should. Kit is better on the BK2 which goes to really drive home the point that the kit should be improved on the ST-10 as both the $50 offerings in this list offer more solid kits.

    Sound: The ST-10 has better low end and detail retrieval than the BK2 while the top end extension on the BK2 is a bit better. The trade-off here is the BK2 can sound a bit splashy and harsh at times while the ST-10 retains better control at the expense of extension at the top end.

    BK2 is easier to drive than ST-10 but the trade off is the BK2 doesn’t scale nearly as well as the ST-10.



    Thoughts / Conclusion:

    We have seen a resurgence in earbuds in recent months with several companies releasing new models and several more on the horizon. This is great news for those of us who enjoy the stage provided by a non-sealing design and also for those that need to hear the outside world while listening. The ST-10 aims to tackle a classic problem with open designs and that is: “how do you get bass presence without a seal?” The classic answer has been use a bigger driver, or dump more power to it. We see this all the time with 18″ subwoofers and 4000 Watt amps in car audio. Neither of these solutions produce particularly accurate sound, nor do they fit well for an in-ear design. Instead, Smabat has adapted the transmission line style case what provides more volume behind the driver and allows for precision tuning by adjusting the length or width of the tunnel to achieve the desired result. We see this technique quite often in floor standing speakers to try and get more bass depth out of a small driver. Those generally vent into the listening area while the ST-10 vents to the bottom side rather than internally so while we get some of the benefit, it is not as pronounced as a true transmission line design.

    What the ST-1o brings to the table is an option with good bass depth without bloat, engaging vocals, and a polite treble without being too enclosed. Overall, with the other good options currently on the market, it will come down to personal preference as to which each person likes. I recommend you audition the ST-10 if you are a fan of the earbud style as it does a lot well and isn’t simply a gimmick with its snail drum.

    Oh, and you have to give props to any company with a good enough sense of humor to suggest alternate uses for the product if you don’t love it.

    smabat-st10-dontlike.JPG

    images

    1. smabat-st10-box-side.JPG
    2. smabat-st10-pair3.JPG
      DatBlueDatsun240 and trellus like this.
    1. vishal2410
      Found these earbuds to be quite shrill... Piercing upper mids and treble... Bass was good... But the fit for me was the worse... My ear would start hurting anything above 15 min
      vishal2410, May 5, 2019
    2. Wiljen
      Interesting that we heard so much difference, sounds like fit may play a pretty significant role in whether these are usable or not as I didnt find the treble to be elevated but bass was less than expected.
      Wiljen, May 5, 2019
    3. udesign48
      I want to try this one out... I've never heard about this company 'Smabat'...
      udesign48, May 20, 2019 at 1:29 PM