A Headphones Reviews Blog
Prior to the review, I would like to thank Tren for the review sample.
TDK Life on Record is a huge well known worldwide data storage’ recordable media and electronics company. In the 90s, almost every cassette and VHS Tapes was manufactured by them. In the 2000s, when the DVD had begun to be the most used media, TDK started to disappear. Fast forward to 2007, Imation, an American corporation from Oakdale, Minnesota, had purchased TDK’s brand name, and made a new TDK brand: TDK Performance, which offers mostly portable audio products: Headphones, IEMs, “Digital Boom-boxes”, etc. In late 2011, TDK Performance had announced their flagship IEM: The BA200, a dual balanced armature, which was developed using technology for on-stage live performances, to create high fidelity sound.
Before we start, here are the TDK BA200 technical specifications:
Packaging: The TDK BA200 is packaged in a small black-bronze brown cardboard box, which should be pulled upwards to be opened. On the front, a big picture of the BA200 is printed, next to the transparent plastic window, which the BA200 can be seen through. Some notes containing info about the IEMs are written all over the packaging. Also, specifications in a few languages can be found too. On the packaging’s side, there’s a label that tells that “Comply Tips” are included. Overall, the packaging is quite impressive and appealing to the eye.
Accessories: The following accessories are included in the package – A spring snap soft cloth carrying pouch, a hard case would’ve been better, since the included pouch cannot really protect the IEMs from damages that aren’t scratches, a 75 centimeters extension cable, which is very needed, the cable is only 55 centimeters, too short, so the extension cable is a must, a shirt clip, a tip cleaning tool, 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter plug, replacement nozzle filters and 4 eartip pairs: 2 Bi-Flanged pairs (Small/Large) and 2 Comply Foam tip pairs (Medium TS-100/Large TX-100). I think that the supplied accessories are a bit lacking. In my opinion, a pair of medium sized Bi-Flanged eartips would’ve been nice, along of a hard shell case. The two Comply foam tips pairs are a very nice addition though, as regularly, in this price range, only one pair of Comply tips is the standard. The rating is 7.5/10.
Building Quality and Design: The driver housings are made of pretty classy looking sturdy piano-black plastic; they feel quite well put together, covering the drivers. The strain reliefs are quite short, but they do their job in a great way due to the fact that they’re flexible and strong. The cable which is used is a black flat cable, which feels a bit thin and can get tangled quite easily. The cable is too short – it’s only 55 centimeters. I just don’t get what the designers were thinking when they had chosen the cable’s length, though, fortunately, there’s a 75 centimeters long extension cable included, which when connected, makes the cable to be in the standard 1.2 meters length. The Y-Split is huge and quite weighty –actually, it’s an impedance stabilizer as written on the package; without it, the impedance would’ve been quite unbalanced and high. The cable ends with a sturdy and solid feeling TDK logoed 3.5 mm straight jack, of course gold plated. The rating is 9/10.
The huge Y-split
Comfort/Fit: The shells have a great ergonomic design; they fit the ears’ shape perfectly, without causing any discomfort. The comfort is very good; a few times, I had forgotten that I had them in my ears. The Comply tips offer the best comfort and fit, surpassing the quite uncomfortable supplied Bi-Flanged silicone tips. The nozzle offers a pretty deep insertion, though, I preferred to insert it a bit shallower, to get better comfort. The rating is 9.5/10; the comfort and the fit are just great.
Isolation and Microphonics: With the supplied silicone Bi-Flanges the isolation is a bit above average. However, when using the supplied Comply foam tips, a lot more outside noise is isolated. Microphonics are almost non present, due to two main reasons: The BA200 uses flat cables, which give even less microphonics and also because the BA200 is designed to be worn over the ear, a thing that decreases the microphonics amount immediately with almost every IEM. The rating is 9/10.
Sound Quality: The BA200’s sound signature is smooth, quite realistic, natural, real, which makes the music more “alive”. I would even say that it’s quite easy to love, since my first listening to the BA200 I loved the sound.
The Bass: the bass is present in a pretty big amount, which quite surprised me, since most of the dual balanced armatures are on the lighter side of the bass amount, this one isn’t for sure. It’s quite deep and dynamic, though, it lacks some paunchiness, but not too much, and it’s still quite punchy. The control is great; the bass doesn’t bleed to the other frequencies and it isn’t too attacking, I would even say it’s relaxed and calm. Also, it’s quite textured; it’s not liquid at all. Also, I’ve found them to have a greater bass reproduction ability than they’re tuned to, when I connected them to an amp and EQ’d it to more bass, I was able to get bass in bigger amounts than when unamped, and also, the bass got more body, fullness and more punch, so they do have the ability to be more bass heavy, though, they aren’t tuned to do so .
The Mids: The mids are very clean and clear. They’re somewhat what I would call “sweet”. It’s a bit too thin though, which makes it lack some important weight and makes the presentation to be a bit far and laid back.
The Treble: The treble is very well extended, enough to let it reproduce a lot of micro details from the high frequencies. It’s pretty smooth, lush and well detailed, quite analytical, though, it doesn’t feel cold, or dry. Also, the treble is quite laid back, and as the bass, it’s also quite calm and relaxed, not too aggressive or attacking. No sibilance detected at all.
The Sound-Stage: the sound-stage is wonderful in my opinion – it’s very deep and quite wide too, making it one of the deepest and most realistic sound-stages that I’ve ever heard in an IEM. The imaging is top notch too – quite similar to the one that the Earsonics SM1 provides: When songs with certain effects are played, I get a very good image of what happens in it, I have an image of the scene in my head. The instrument separation is very good, revealing some very small details in every instrument.
The rating is 9.5/10 in ratio to TDK’s BA200 official retail price. In my opinion, the sound that is offered by the TDK BA200 is brilliant, making it a top tier IEM in my opinion.
In Conclusion, At an official price of 150$,The TDK BA200 offers a great bang for the buck value, which makes it one of the best, if not the best, competitor in the 250$-350$ IEM market. Everything in it is great: The comfort, the building quality, the isolation and most important, the sound. The only disadvantage is the quite thrifty accessories set, though, it’s not that bad either. The overall score is 9.510.
Pros: Comfort, Building Quality, Isolation with supplied Comply tips is above average, great sound quality, easy to love sound signature.
Cons: the supplied accessories are below the standard in this price range, Huge Y-Split, Short cable.
Where to buy? After a long time, the BA200s are now available all over the world. They can be purchased for about $150 from large retailers such as Amazon.