The TDK BA200 is TDK's flagiship IEM, Developed and fine-tuned by their Audio Research Lab.
It utilizes Dual-Balanced-Armature drivers for Pristine vocals and rich bass, for a superb listening experience for all types of music.
Good sound, terrible build quality
cable broke in 3 months; do not buy used or from a shady vendor
shure se215 better alternative for long lasting iem at 100$ or re400 if you want to risk cheap build for better sound
typical ba sound anemic bass but present with fast and detailed treble
mids sound okay... Female vocals sound good on this
responds to eq really good (boosting bass does not seem to ruin the entire fq range that much)
Cons - BA200. Y-split is huge and snags easy...flat cable...straight plug...accessories...
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.
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.
Pros - good soundstage very nice good fitting iem.
Cons - build quality decent
Own them for a while now really love them!
bought a couple comply foam tips which are more comfortable then the stock ones.
the stock ones are decent i liked the triple flang ones but comply foam tips are simply better.
their soundstage amazes me still a benchmark for me when comparing to other iem/ciems.
they are very neutral warm sounding iem's bass is off course less powerful then dynamic driven iem.
flat cable do reduce tangling which is really good.
afther a while the golding rings just popped off and couldn't be popped back so I cut them out.
the extension cable broke after a while, i contacted TKD and they wouldn't provide any help and they said i had to contact my reseller.
but since i lost my receipt my local reseller didn't want to help me.
great sound quality : warm , good sound stage missing bass.
The BA200 is an exceptional value. The basic sound signature is relatively flat and a slightly recessed high end. The bass is very capable for a BA headphone. While not 'loud' bass, it is fairly neutral and extends decently low. The mids are very even and smooth in the frequency spectrum. The highs are very accurate as well, albeit a little recessed in the highest regions.
Details and clarity are very good for the price. Although they lack really good airy-ness, they still preset details very clearly and distinctly. The stereo width and soundstage are very good for the price as well. Instrument separation is great and everything is easy to hear in all styles of music. For me personally, the lack of the highest treble can make certain music sound like it is missing its high "edge" or crispness, but compared to other sets this is fairly minimal.
Some people call them warm, but I would describe them as fairly well balanced with slightly recessed highs at the highest end. For the price I'm not sure you can do much better. These outperformed most sets in the fact that they have no major flaws like some others. They have no large troughs or boughs in the frequency response, no sibilance and issues to really complain about.
Build quality is very good. Flat cables still tangle a decent amount, but seem relatively durable. Armatures are comfortable in the ear as well. The cables seem a bit heavy with the extension and circuit in the middle, but once used to this it doesn't really pose any problems.
Check out my video review for a more visual look at them as well:
The build quality of the BA200 is very nice. It has the first flat cable that I like and the cable feels nice and strong. You get an extension cable because for some reason they made the cable very short and I have no clue why because its unusable but with the extension its the perfect length imo. The driver housing is plastic and feel strong and the Y-splitter is a tank and even though its big (because it has circuitry in it that helps the BA200 sound good with different sources) doesn't bother me at all. They use a straight plug which I like more than the L shaped now because when in my pocket it doesn't bend. So all in all I feel the BA200 is a very well built IEM.
As for the fit there's no problem in that department either. At first the cable over the ears wasn't staying put but after you wear them for awhile they form to the ear much better and I have no problems now. With any of the tips they feel comfortable but with the Comply they're really comfortable and isolation is very good. Like the build quality fit is also good.
Bass - Before I got them there was mixed reviews I read about the bass, some said they had plenty while others said a little bass light. Now there not going to wow a basshead but I think they do have plenty of bass with really good impact for a BA and nice depth as well. I like the texture and detail of the bass also and for me at least there's plenty for music like hip hop and edm. When amp with something like the E11 on EQ1 or 2 the bass has very good impact and it bring out more depth as well and over all they respond well to amp'ing.
Mids - This is the sweet spot of the sound signature with lush smooth sounding mids. I don't know if I'd call them mid-centric because they don't sound as forward as even the e-Q5 but vocals present very nicely as well do all the other midrange sounds. They portray some distance but it also isolates vocals very well so they can sound mid-centric at times but other times they sound more like a nicely balanced monitor. I really like the mids on the BA200 and they're one of my favorite midranges I've heard.
Highs - Going along with the over all smooth signature of the IEM the highs are also very some but they still sound crisp with good sparkle more so than the RE262. Cymbals and high hats sound good and female vocals never sound sibilant or harsh. These are one of the first IEM's that I can listen to at a lower volume and still get nice sounding treble without have to go up high on the volume like with some other warmer IEM's.
Soundstage - Another strong point of the signature is the soundstage with good width and depth along with a good portrayal of height. The soundstage is a lot like the one on the e-Q5 which is also very spacious sounding. The separation is very good and you can pick out every instrument and sound in a track easily. Imaging is also very good, well really its one of the best I've heard out of the over 30 IEM's I've had so far. I love the presentation of the BA200 because its a mixture of the e-Q5 and RE262's soundstage which are 2 of my favorites.
Conclusion - The TDK BA200 is easily one of the best IEM's under $300 because of its smooth detailed sound and spacious presentation and anyone looking for that type of sound should have the BA200 on their short list for sure. At around $150 now and available in the US its one of the best bang-for-buck IEM's you can get and is one of my top 2 or 3 that I've heard.
Pros - Good Bass for BAs, Large Soundstage, Very Laid Casual Treble, Lots of Accessories
Cons - Flat Cable can get annoying at times, Cable either to long or too short
Overall the sound is great! The only problem I have is the bulid design.... The flat cable seems to coil around while even just walking. Another problem I have is the cable length, you would have a choice of having the cable either awkwardly long or awkwardly short.Other than that, these are my favourite iem out there now!!
Pros - Monitor-esque sound, but with enough dynamism to get you off your feet ; Deep, enveloping, three-dimensional soundstage; Smooth, relaxing
Cons - Slightly laid back treble may not be suitable for some; YMMV with flat cables and cord extension; Availability (or lack thereof)
For those into photography, all my photos are taken with an ancient (by digital camera standards) c. 2006 Canon PowerShot S3 IS. It only has a 1/2.4” CCD sensor and has an 36-432mm (35mm equivalent) lens, so dynamic range isn’t great and high contrast edges are very prone to color fringing, but it does have a 0 cm Super Macro mode, so that’s why I shoot with it. Unfortunately, I do not have a macro lens for my 40D, nor do I have any desire to purchase one.
BACK TO BLACK
It seems like every manufacturer wants a piece of the headphone market these days. Blame the iPod perhaps, for putting a digital music player in the hands of every man, woman, and child. Then blame Dr. Dre, whose Monster (well, no longer) marketing machine altered the status of the premium headphone --- from audiophile plaything to trendy status symbol. No longer are in-ear monitors merely analytical tools for recording engineers; they’re now tuned with every type of ear in mind, and originate from more manufacturers than you can shake your DAP at. Whatever the culprit, there’s no denying that headphones and earphones these days come in every color imaginable – grapity purple, wildberry blue, orangey orange, lemony yellow, and even raspberry red. (Let me know if you got that reference)
However, I want to concentrate on only one color: BLACK. It is the most definite of all colors --- an opaque consolidation of all the others. It pulls absolutely no punches, and this is the color TDK chose to go with when introducing its newest line of high-end portable audio products. While TDK isn’t exactly new to the in-ear world, it really isn’t a big player either. Rather, it is well-known as a major manufacturer of recording media, with no real business meddling in the world of headphones. Last summer, with nary the splash of a swan dive, TDK jumped head first into the pool of high-end in-ears by launching the BA200.
Whereas previous offerings from the physical recording media company were met with ho-hum reviews, their new flagship, the BA200, would show that it was a serious contender in the business by winning a bronze medal in the 10000-20000 yen earphone category for VGP 2012. (Take these results with a grain of salt, however, as Visual Grand Prix tends to be a more consumer-oriented review board, as the Bose IE2 won the same category with the Sony XBA-2SL trailing in silver). The BA200 was also completely tuned in-house by TDK's audio research lab to achieve a flat response, artificial dummy ears and all. With these promising results, TDK believed it was poised to take on the global market with their new products. Of course, however, good sound cannot simply be certified without being passed through the gauntlet that is Head-Fi!
So let's get right to it and see how the BA200 fare...
Accessories & Packaging
The BA200 comes in a fairly spartan, but durable package. Once you get around some very small bits of over-engineered precautions, you'll find that two double flange silicone tips (of different sizes) and Ts-100 and Tx-100 Comply[sup]®[/sup] foam tips are included. Replacement filters are also included, along with a cleaning tool, 6.3mm adapter, and a soft pouch. They're certainly not luxurious appointments, but fairly standard-fare for the price range and in keeping with the professional theme of the BA200.
Design, Build, Ergonomics
I will go ahead and say right off the bat that the shape of the BA200 is one of the best conceived for over-the-ear style in-ear monitors around. With respect to styling cues, the BA200 obviously takes after the Westone consumer line, but has far superior ergonomics. I always liked Westone housings and believe them to be very comfortable --- you could say the TDK BA200 has advanced to the next stage of evolution for those housings. With Ts-100 tips, I can insert the BA200 quite deeply and still feel as though I’m not wearing anything at all. Overall, with a deep fit, it is even more comfortable than my previous comfort king, the GR07, because of its well-rounded edges. With a shallower fit, it is just as comfortable as the GR07. Basically, if you don’t mind the over-ear fit, the BA200 are about as comfortable as they can possibly get.
The BA200 cord design is of the flat cable persuasion; it works fine and has less microphonics than other cords, but does feel a little thin from time to time, is prone to some warping, and has a tendency to feel rubbery. Personally, I felt that the flat cords worked well in looping around the ear without the need for ear guides, but thought they were unnecessary below the Y-split. However, the flat cable motif was extended all the way, presumably for design consistency. The Y-split is of particular interest, as it is one of the largest I've ever encountered in any audio product to date. According to the folks at Phileweb in Japan, it houses some patent-pending circuits that help stabilize impedance across different sources (more on this later in the Sound section).
As for overall design, the TDK is not exactly flashy, but classically handsome with its laquered piano black plastic finish and and gold trimmings. No one should have any real issues with its design, as it is almost intentionally made to minimize controversy, but still provides a touch of class with proprietary, non-generic housings.
Aside from the slightly weak-looking cable, the BA200 is solidly built, but not without minor concerns. First, the lightweight plastic shells don't quite have the solidity of metal housings from the offerings of competitors. The same problem is evident with some Westone products as well. The second problem, and this might just be splitting hairs, is that I was not impressed with the quality of the logo and text on the housings and the plugs. The TDK tape spool symbol and the words 'Life on Record' were clearly lacking resolution. The strain reliefs at the housings are also not as robust as those found in similar products from Westone, but seem to be sufficient for the job.
What is up with the MASSIVE Y-split? Well, an impedance stabilizer.
Sound & Frequency Response All portable sound assessment is performed unamped, with a 2nd generation Apple iPod Touch, while all desktop sound assessment is performed with a DA&T U2 USB DAC/Amplifier (Tenor TE7022 USB receiver, Cirrus CS8416 receiver, Cirrus CS4398 D/A converter, class A-biasing, AB analog stage) (http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/trueharmonix3/1.html)
Honestly, I wasn't all that impressed the first time put on the BA200. I was standing in the middle of a huge, raucous computer mall and only had my iPod as a DAP. Coming from IEMs that almost have a dip in the mid-bass, I noticed a much rounder presence to each note and a very smooth tuning, but other than that, I didn't think it behaved beyond that of a decent, but not world-beating dual-BA IEM. However, the BA200 is an earphone seems to shine with increased scrutiny. I can now say that the BA200 has one of the most pleasant presentations I've ever encountered in an IEM. I have others that possess more clarity and detail, but none are able to present music quite as well.
So how would I describe the overall signature of the BA200 with respect to other IEMs? Well, think of it as the UM3x's and W4's little brother from another mother (the SM3v2, perhaps?). Starting with the midrange, it is very much like the UM3x in its ability to 'isolate' voices, with an uncanny way of 'lifting' them away from the mix, thus keeping center focus very well. In this sense, the BA200 isn't really tuned to be a mid-centric IEM by design, but is tuned akin to a stage monitor that enables the listener/musician to hear vocals more clearly. Ultimately, the effect is not as exaggerated as that of the UM3x's and feels quite a bit more realistic, mitigating that artificial feel the UM3x tends to have. The SM3v2 I recently auditioned also had the same type of property. While the midrange isn't as lush as those from its triple-driver counterparts, vocals still possess the proper weight and give the perception of better clarity. The reason for this is that the crossover point from the low to the high driver is found in the midrange, and the crisper edges of the high driver help give vocals better definition. At the end of the day, the three-way, triple-driver stalwarts still possess their own, special qualities, but the BA200 holds its own, despite only having dual drivers.
At the low end, the BA200 contains plentiful bass that extends ruler flat down to the deepest of depths (I can hear stuff going on starting at ~25 Hz), but doesn’t seem to move the air well and thus lacks a bit of impact. Personally, I am okay with this type of feel, but stay away if you require that hard hitting, slammy bass that other products might offer. Even without that slam, the bass is nonetheless well-textured, and mid-bass presence is always well-controlled and never intrusive. At the same time, it is this very mid-bass that gives the BA200 the sense of dynamic fullness not found in more analytical IEMs like the DBA-02 or GR07. It enhances the feel of modern-day pop music recordings, but doesn't become a hinderance in 'audiophile' tracks either. In fact, the mid-bass contributes to the sense of soundstage (more in the Soundstage & Presentation section) and is one of the best strengths of the BA200.
The highs of the BA200 are relaxed and laid back, but never lacking and never veiled; roll-off doesn’t come at the detriment of musical enjoyment like it can in other earphones. I would even argue that, in fact, the treble roll-off helps the three-dimensional presentation of the sound to a certain extent. So, by 'laid back', I mostly mean that the treble is tuned further in sound space than both the midrange and the bass, an effect most apparent when using Comply foam tips and Shure flex tips. It is most apparent when A/Bing between the treble-forward DBA-02. The Fischers make the BA200's highs sound distant and muted in comparison. The GR07’s treble is also more forward, but sounds less refined under scrutiny. The treble 'problem' can be mitigated, however, by changing out the tips to the included double flanges. To my ears, the tips help bring the BA200 to the most perceivably neutral state it can be in. Yet, I’m not inclined to dogmatically defend the treble, so if you’re a self-processed treble lover, the BA200’s highs may not be for you; they are certainly laid back and will not shove the highs in your face, unlike other treble-happy earphones.
Detail, Soundstage & Presentation
Whether it is in the highs, mids, or lows, the BA200 is wonderfully smooth. I could not detect any frequency spikes over the entire range of my hearing. Yet, the smoothness of the BA200 should not be mistaken for a lack of detail. While Comply foam tips can certainly gloss over some details, when the BA200 is paired with the accompanying biflange silicone tips, it is most certainly more resolving than an SE535, and about on par with the UM3x.
The BA200 is noticeably less hard edged than the DBA-02 and less prone to sibilance than the GR07. In fact, sibilance is virtually nonexistent, especially when the Comply foam tips are used. It’s also by far the most forgiving IEM in my collection. I never minded the unforgiving nature of my IEMs, but it certainly is pleasant to listen to a more forgiving, but still highly resolving IEM. It is also not very hiss-prone. My desktop amplifier is fairly high-powered and, with most IEMs, will produce a fair amount of hiss through its high damping factor output. Both my DBA-02 and GR07 pick up the hiss with high fidelity. The BA200 manages to reduce that hiss into a low level slushing sound that isn't bothersome at all. One of the factors that might go into lowered pickup of hiss is the 'impedance stabilizer' incorporated into that huge Y-split mentioned before. According to TDK, it is design such that the BA200 will sound similar regardless of source, be it from an iPod or a $2000 amplifier. I have reason to believe that the effects of the 'stabilizer' are still limited, however, as the sound does change when I switch the BA200 to the low damping factor output of my amplifier.
For many IEMs, soundstage depth is one of the most lacking features when it comes to soundstage representation, and the lack of depth can even cause left-to-right stereo transitions to sound unconvincing. Luckily, the BA200 has been tuned to have an incredibly deep soundstage, possessing perhaps the most three-dimensional sound I’ve ever had the pleasure to own. This marked dimensionality was what drew me to the UM3x when it first came out, and in this aspect the BA200 is every bit its equal. If we imagine the sound space a typical IEM creates to be an ellipsoid of high eccentricity, the BA200 then possesses a space approximately that of an ellipsoid of low eccentricity --- not quite completely spheroid, but very round indeed.
I tested my BA200 against the DBA-02 with a Dolby Headphone Demo track. While the DBA-02 was no slouch at recreating the binaural recording of a man shaking a box of matches around a dummy head, the BA200 was just that much more convincing, particularly in its ability to convey the difference between near and far. I could also hear top-down transitions much better. Never had I felt more spine tingling sensations listening to a binaural track. Without question, the BA200 possess top-tier level soundstage realism. It's almost as though the entire frequency response was tuned to help the BA200 impart a world-class soundstage. When comparing to other IEMs, to my ears, while an SM3v2 possesses superior instrumental separation, the BA200 matches or betters it with respect to imaging.
The BA200s also excel as a low-volume monitor. Most IEMs that I've encountered thus far tend to lose their soundstage definition once the listening volume drops below a certain extent. Even at low volumes I can still hear critical elements of the stereo mix 'curve' around my head. Spatially, it loses a little bit of the ability to throw sonic cues quite where they should go, but it's still a pleasant listen.
The BA200 poses with its current earmates.
Simply put, the TDK BA200 is an absolutely excellent earphone that performs on par with products from some of the best regarded brands in the market. Considering that it is the first effort from TDK in the high-fidelity segment, the BA200 is a remarkably mature product that caters well to both professionals and audiophiles alike, while not completely ignoring the average consumer. It possesses monitor-like qualities with its superb dimensionality of soundstage and forward but gentle vocals, and still manages to present things enjoyably. It is both comfortable and attractive, with a well-selected set of eartips to choose from. Ultimately, I believe the UM3x --- its closest counterpart --- will still last longer in the ears of a stage musician or sound engineer without strain, as it is softer and even more rounded in its edges. However, to a music listener, the BA200 is arguably the better choice.
Before ending, I want to make sure that the BA200 does not get labeled as 'the poor man's UM3x/SM3'. Giving it such a label would be selling it short in so many ways. Yes, it shares many of the same sonic properties as the two aforementioned IEMs, but it is so much more than a mere facsimile of them. It's slightly thinner presentation gives it a better feel of midrange clarity, and gives it an edgier response that is ultimately just as enjoyable to listen to in its own right.
Unfortunately, TDK seems to be unable to distribute this product effectively outside of Asia. The only places that I can see with readily available supplies of the BA200 are in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea. TDK's inability to mobilize its distribution chain will undoubtedly hurt the success of the BA200, and perhaps discourage the company from venturing further upmarket into the world of in-ears. It is my hope that the BA200 reaches American and European shores in the near future. However, if you do live in one of the aforementioned countries (or one that does retail the BA200) please do NOT ignore this IEM. It is simply too good to be overlooked.
- Monitor-esque sound, but with enough dynamism to get you off your feet
- Deep, enveloping, and three-dimensional soundstage
- Smooth, relaxing presentation
- Very comfortable in the ears
- Slightly laid back treble may not be suitable for some
- YMMV with flat cables and cord extension
- The best sounding ear tips (biflange) are also the most uncomfortable
- Availability (or lack thereof)
Technical Information and Specifications
Driver Type: Dual Balanced Armature
Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
Sensitivity at 1 kHz: 121 dB SPL/V
Noise Isolation: 26 dB
Input Impedance: 35 ohms@1kHz
Cord Length: 52 cm (+75 cm extension cord)
Plug Type: 3.5mm gold plated stereo
Weight: 12 gm (0.02 lbs)
In the Box: Headphones, 75cm extension cord, 4 ear tips sets (S, L double flange silicon and M, L Comply™ foam), shirt clip, cleaning tool, 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter plug, storage pouch, replacement filters
Elevate the personal listening experience The TDK Life on Record Dual Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphones elevate the personal listening experience for professionals and aficionados, providing sound, comfort and craftsmanship like no other. Integrating technology developed for on-stage performances, the TDK BA200 Dual Balanced Armature In-Ear Headphones were designed for those demanding the ultimate in high fidelity sound. While other balanced armature headphones will sound different based on the amplifier quality and strength, the BA200 headphones deliver an optimized uniform sound across all devices, peripherals, and amplifiers through a proprietary stabilizing technology. The BA200’s lightweight over the ear cable design provides a comfortable experience and firm in-ear seal, perfect for long sessions. Variable cable lengths and multiple ear tip options allow for customization and convenience. The TDK BA200 headphones are visually stunning, boasting a sleek, stylish look, without compromising either sound quality or comfort.
Developed and fine-tuned by our Audio Research Lab
Pristine vocals and rich bass for a superb listening experience for all types of music
Includes 1 set of Comply™ foam ear tips plus 3 sizes of silicon ear tips to ensure a perfect match to your ear
Cable can be worn straight down or up and over your ear to ensure a comfortable fit
A storage case is included for added security and protection while on the go
HIGH FIDELITY With one driver dedicated to bass and the other to mid/high frequencies, the BA200s produce optimally mastered bass, mid-range and treble for any genre at any volume.
VISUALLY STUNNING With comfortable ergonomic over the ear cable routing, plus noise/sound isolation the BA200s are perfect for relaxed listening or on the go.
Full review to come when the hospital isn't killing me with work...
UNBOXED IMPRESSIONS, 12/20/2011
When I first heard the BA200 a week ago, I wasn't all that impressed. Nevertheless, it intrigued me enough to buy it and try it out for real. Now that I have it in my hands, the more I listen to the BA200, the more I enjoy it. I've been listening to it on my desktop rig, and a more powerful amp helps highlight the BA200's dynamic capabilities. It sounds considerably more bland directly off an iPod. So far, I've found the smaller dual flange tips work well for me, as well as the included Comply Ts-100. I tried using Sony hybrids with Monster spacers, but they seemed to muddy up the sound.
I don't have a lot of time to write up a full review for now, so I've itemized the things I like/dislike most about the BA200:
Design, Build, Ergonomics
Extremely comfortable, especially with the supplied Comply tips (x2 pair), and easily accomodates very deep fits
Flat cables take microphonics down to basically nothing, are
Housings are very light
Strain reliefs feel solid
Massive Y-Split seems unnecessarily bulky and over-engineered
Housings, although light, can feel a little hollow at times (Westones have the same problem)
Build quality, although very clean and sleek, isn't truly top-tier in terms of solidity
Short Cable w/Extension combination is hit-or-miss with users
Modest accessory package
Very smooth, non-fatiguing and sweet sound with solid presence end-to-end, and enough microdetail to go around
Well extended treble, but isn't as up front as more analytical IEMs
Good mid-bass presence, not too thin but not overbearing at all; very well controlled with zero bass bleed
Non-sibilant, a little more forgiving on source material than other IEMs, not prone to hiss for a BA-type IEM
Use of a crossover circuit is noticeable in many tracks when transitioning from the warmish, gentle low driver to the more neutral, more etched high driver (effect more noticeable with silicone tips, goes away when Comply tips are used)
Body and presence still lags (slightly) behind triple driver competitors
Doesn't have the fastest transients
Although there is considerable bass presence, it is actually gentle on the ears and impact and slam isn't particularly strong (actually a plus in my book, but bassheads may want to look elsewhere)
Overall, I think the BA200 is excellent if you can find a good price for it. I'm still not sure if $250 is reasonable as an MSRP, but anything under $200 probably makes it a very, very good value product, and an MSRP in the low $200s would make it a very attractive option for people wanting something very high quality right off the shelves of a mainstream electronics store.
Right before buying, I A/B'ed it against the UM3x extensively, and although I believe the UM3x is ultimately a superior product in terms of it being a more focused, deliberate product, the BA200 feels to be very protean in its capabilities. Even though triple driver IEMs still reign supreme in their ability to convey a body and presence not found with dual driver setups, the BA200 comes close, and delivers quality sound from the bottom to the top. I've always had IEMs that were relatively thin in the mid-bass and lower mids, so it took me a while to come around to the sound of the BA200. Even then, I was very impressed by the BA200's vocal clarity. It doesn't have the same vocal lushness as triple driver IEMs, and in that sense it sounds like the dual driver IEM that it is, but everything else pretty much acquits it.
PRE-BUY IMPRESSIONS, 12/07/2011
I thought I'd get the ball rolling for discussion on these IEMs, as several other members have expressed interest in them in another thread, and I suspect the BA200 will be vigorously discussed in the future, especially after the reviews come rolling out.
I was able to gain a brief session with the BA200 tonight, and my characterization of them is that they are very smooth, and very, very polite --- almost to a fault.
Like ClieOS, I also drew parallels with the UM3x when listening to the BA200. I very much appreciated the gentle smoothness of its sound signature, as most of my IEMs have not been smoothest around. However, like the UM3x, it doesn't seem to be very dynamic. The BA200 wins out over the UM3x in this aspect, but is overall still a subdued IEM. Bass impact was less than what I was expecting (the FR graph Sonove made gave the BA200 pretty significant bass levels), but ideal for my tastes and quite well controlled. The UM3x could get 'fluffy' with the bass at times, but it wasn't the case with the BA200. I didn't listen to any fast tracks, since I assumed it'd wouldn't have any trouble keeping up. I detected a bit of midrange forwardness, but I don't think I would characterize it as a mid-centric IEM. Treble seemed well extended, but was never in the forefront for any track. Soundstage felt average to me, but whenever I listen to IEMs with Comply tips on, I can never gain a good feel for the size of its soundstage. I don't think I had enough time with it to get a good feel for the more subtle aspects of its SQ, but for the most part, the BA200 sounded very accurate.
In the long run, I suspect I'll come around to the less-than-dynamic nature of the BA200, but for now, I couldn't say I was very moved by the music it reproduced. If the BA200 is a calm and collected Labrador, then the Triple.Fi is a Mastiff, and the DBA-02 is a yappy Pomeranian.
FR measurement by Sonove (sonove.angry.jp) taken from his Twitter account, courtesy of Inks.
Even though I only tried them out with the included Comply tips, the BA200 doesn't seem nearly as fit dependent with the sound as is the DBA-02. Even with foam tips, I had trouble appreciating the capabilities of the DBA-02, and have only recently discovered a good combination (Sony Hybrids on Monster spacers, pushed to the hilt). However, with the BA200, it's basically just plug and play. The housings fit very comfortably in my ears with zero play whatsoever; it feels like the love child between the Westone and new Shure SEXX5 housings, a definite plus in my book! With regard to build, the housings also feel more solid than those from Westone (they can feel fairly flimsy at times) but are only marginally heavier. The BA200's Beats-like flat cables felt very good to the touch and worked as advertised --- no tangles and lower microphonics (not that it really matters much, as the BA200 is exclusively an over-the-ear design). The Y-split was extremely robust but a bit large (although I think TDK stuck a resistor in there for some reason). The one thing I could live without was the short cable. For most portable purposes, you'll need to use the supplied extension.
My original plan was to sell off the DBA-02 and have these replace them as my dual driver IEMs in my collection, but I've since decided against it. The BA200 has superior build, accessories, fit, and is gentler, but the DBA-02 is a pretty unique entity in the current landscape of IEMs; it possesses the razor sharp clarity of the most analytical of IEMs, and has gained wide acceptance on Head-Fi despite its shortcomings (thinner body, compressed dynamics). Of these items, the BA200 can only claim superiority with respect to the compressed sound space.
So is it worth the MSRP of $250? With the amount of experience I was able to have with it, I'm not sure --- perhaps $200 is reasonable.
Its ergonomics are top notch, and build is close to top quality. The sound is likewise just about top-tier, but as with the case of most monitor-like IEMs, will alienate those looking for more emotionally involving earphones. In the same price category, the GR07 has a similar sound signature (though not the same) and expresses more dynamism.
Granted, these are very elementary impressions from a session of <20 minutes in duration, so my opinions may very well change significantly after extended ownership of them. With the price that I'm able to get them for, it'd almost be silly for me not to buy them, but I'll have to take my time to accrue extra money. Even so, I don't envision them flying off the shelves just yet, so I have some time to save up.
I got to try them with silicone tips tonight, and the sound is, in my opinion, much improved. The excellent treble extension is more pronounced with more sparkle, and overall, the balance reminded me of the EX1000 at low volume, with a little bit less detail and slightly more forward mids. Bass is great; just the right amount of impact and control for my tastes, although it isn't as well textured as I'd hope it to be. Then again, I was listening to it unamped, straight out of an iPod Touch, which doesn't do music quite the same justice as a proper portable or desktop system.
I have to emphasize that the ergonomics are truly excellent. They sit, without a doubt, better in my ears than any Westone or Shure ever have. The slight outward cant of the cable outlet on the housing allows the flat cables to curve perfectly around my ears. I tried them right next to a SE535 Special Edition and while the SE535 also fit very nicely, it didn't feel nearly as comfortable as the BA200 did.
However, and this is a pretty significant 'however', the BA200 still lacks dynamism. I'd like to reiterate that it is only marginally more dynamic sounding that the UM3x, as it is nevertheless tuned more as a professional monitor than as a personal listening device. The SE535 LTD-J I tried on right afterward felt so much more dynamic and involving. I don't want to fault the BA200 for being this way, but stay away if the flat affect of the monitor sound turns you off.
The price of these is just so tempting. Blast my broken ATM card!