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Smabat ST-10

Rating:
4.33333/5,
  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.