Pros: Design, package, soundstage
Cons: Lack of strain relief, mids, extension cable
Packaging & Accessories: 8/10
Build Quality: 6.5/10
Design & Look: 8/10
Microphonics (higher ratings means lower cable noise): 9/10 (cable over-the-ear) & 6/10 (straight down)
Audio Quality: 8/10
My final Rating: 8/10
Purchase Date: June 2012
Purchase Price: £120
First and foremost, I would like to thank Katie at TDK, for sending me the TDK BA100’s for review!
I initially received & reviewed the BA200’s, and found them absolutely excellent for their price. I thus wondered how other TDK products would sound, and the BA100’s were the model below the BA200’s, as the BA100’s have a single balanced armature driver in each ear, as opposed to the dual BA drivers the BA200’s have. That said, the price difference between the two isn’t significant (June 2012) – as the price of the BA200 is around £160 and the BA100’s is around £120. Normally with other manufacturers, a single driver increase, adds a huge step in the price.
Before getting into the review, I would like to say that a lot of the initial review will be identical to the BA200’s review, as the packaging for example is identical and so on.
Let’s see if the BA100’s are like their brothers and are diamonds waiting to be discovered.
Packaging, accessories, box content, overall first impressions (look wise)
For my initial impressions & unboxing video – Click Here
The packaging of the earphones is relatively simple, yet very much elegant! It is a relatively small black rectangular box, which contains all the goodies inside. I feel the packaging is just right. it isn’t excessively over-the-top, nor simplistic, unlike other earphones out there.
The accessories, are what I felt let the TDK BA100’s a little down, especially in the tip selection area – you only have 4 sets of tips provided. A good example of what I would have expected extra would have been some normal silicone tips, seeing as the dual flange tips irritate my ears quite a bit. That said, there is a set of Comply T-100’s that were provided; On that note, it was nice to see some Comply Foam ear tips included in the package.
Apart from the tips, you get a nice pouch, which is very handy, to put in your pocket (and here is where most of the other manufacturers fail) – it is great to see a company, like TDK take portability into consideration. Instead of provided a big leather pouch that would only fit in a handbag of some sorts, TDK went for the un-protected, yet better route, of providing just a standard pouch.
Additionally, there is a cleaning tool, a shirt clip, a 1/4″ adapter and finally a set of 3 replacement filters.
Overall first impressions:
Overall, I was very much satisfied and content with the packaging, accessories that TDK provided with their BA100 model. I would have expected a little more of a selection of tips, but that is easily forgiven, as tips aren’t too expensive to buy.
Now unto the build quality. I personally like the build quality, but can see it being a little troublesome as time goes by. The problem I have with the build quality is one of few things.
First of all, I found the flat cable to actually be quite bad for the strain relief’s sake, and in fact with the BA100’s there is literally no sign of a strain relief by the earphones’ housing – meaning some tugging and pulling left and right, and the cable might be giving way quite soon. This is also apparent by the jack, which is terminated by a 3.5mm gold plated straight cable jack. The straight cable isn’t very handy with on-the-go portability and more so due to the lack of a real strain relief with its flat wire, it means that I fear breaking the earphones by snapping their wire off their jack.
Finally a final word on the jack, is that it’s nicely coated in a glossy-esk material. It does look great, especially with the logo, but the problem with it, is that if your hands are ever so slightly sweaty, it is very hard to pull out the small 3.5mm jack without tugging on the flat cable with a lack of a strain relief.
Moving on from the jack a little up the wire, you will find the wire is split into 2 parts, simply because one wire is short, and the other, makes it a little too long. I feel the build quality is good, but the designing of having a too-long or too-short wire is beyond me. A little like the Denon AH-C751’s flaw of having a bulky extension connection, the TDK’s have a similar “problem” – although not as bad as the BA200’s over-sized splitter, the fact that there is an extension cord means that there is quite a bit of microphonics when wearing these with the cable straight down.
The housing of the earphones unlike the BA200’s don’t really feel sturdy. Due to the lack of the strain relief, the housing is almost ready to fall apart. This is a little bit of an extreme statement, however I felt that the lack of a proper strain relief by the housing of the earphones, meant that the earphones are prone in breaking very easily. I should also mention the wire is flat, meaning it is supposed to stop tangling, like on the Sony MDR-XB700 headphones. However I found that they did get tangled a little every now and then.
Finally unto microphonics – I found these had microphonics, when worn cable straight down. That said the microphonics weren’t that bad, but still present. I thus decided to wear these over-the-ear instead, and found these to be great for over-the-ear, as the microphonics were almost non-existent, like on the BA200’s. I thus have two ratings, because of this – for their microphonics.
Now the overall look, comfort and isolation
The look of these, like the BA200’s, makes me think of a professional executive, sitting at his test, especially with the silver-esk finish applied to the housing of the BA100’s. I felt the look was elegant, discrete, but yet beautiful.
The only thing I wasn’t too sure about was the nozzle length – but I quickly found out that the nozzle length wasn’t an “ugly” feature of these earphones, especially once in-ear.
Due to the set of Comply Foam tips provided, I found the isolation to be very good – although not as good as the BA200’s isolation (due to their housing), to the point of not hearing everything in the outside world, whilst plugged in, the isolation that the TDK BA100’s provides, is good. I personally use them with (un-approved) P-series tips, which provide me with great isolation and comfort.
Finally the comfort:
The comfort is great on these, despite their long nozzle. I feel very much at ease with them, apart from one factor, the wire. Due to the wire being a flat wire, which could be seen as a positive and yet negative aspect of these earphones’ build quality; I feel that after a certain amount of hours, after wearing the earphones (over-the-ear, to avoid microphonics) the flat fable which goes over-the-ear, feels like it digs into your ear. As you cannot have it “flat” laying over your ear, as that digs into your ear and your head (what usually happens) nor have it laying vertically, as it is for one, almost impossible to do, and secondly would dig into your ear nevertheless. Thus the comfort is fine, although, I felt that it should be noted for people who wear the earphones for long periods of time, might realise that this issue might crop up, and you will be finding yourself with a headache, quite literally. Although that said, if anything, you can just wear them straight down, but remember that note on the microphonics.
Now unto the most important factor, the sound quality – the BA100’s in all honesty didn’t really impress me as much as the BA200’s did. I felt the BA100’s had something missing, and that was mainly their mids – they felt extremely warm, and veiled, as some would put it.
I felt the BA100’s were almost missing something, and that was the extra driver the BA200’s brought. I felt without that extra driver, the BA100’s are just an ordinary-esk sounding dynamic driver. It’s extra ordinary how that extra driver makes all the difference on the BA200’s, but on the BA100’s I felt the overall sound was still good, but not exquisite. The mids were the biggest “talking point” of these earphones – they lacked mids, and had that similar veiled sound as the BA200’s had.
The lows, over the BA200’s were more pronounced, especially the mid-bass. That said the sub-bass was still almost non-existent. I felt these were more warm sounding earphones over the BA200’s and thus had a V shaped sound signature, a little like the TF10’s to some extent, but without that pounding deep bass.
The mids and highs were intriguing. I felt the highs were slightly rolled off, especially in comparison to the PFE232’s. In comparison to the BA200’s, their bigger brothers, the BA100’s felt like there was a gap between the lows and mids, making the sound signature, as said before, quite V shaped. It’s very easy to note that the mids have something missing when coming from earphones like the BA200’s, however when upgrading from the EX510’s, I feel the mids do a reasonably good job. Again, it really depends on your taste, as some people really like accentuated mids, whereas other prefer a little more chilled back affair. For me, the mids on the BA100’s were its biggest let down.
The highs on the other hand were exceptionally good – I still did feel that the highs were a little rolled off, but for earphones priced at around £120, they do a very good job, just like their brothers the BA200’s.
The soundstage I felt was a little deeper than the BA200’s, but yet also lacked that “surround” effect the BA200’s had on me. I felt the soundstage was good, although not phenomenal like the ASG-1’s, or IE8’s, the BA100’s did a very good job, in separating the different instruments, and still keeping you engaged in your music. One could have imagined how the soundstage would have been on the BA100’s before even laying their hands on them; this is due to the long nozzle and nicely formed housing.
Sound Quality Ratings
Conclusions and final thoughts
Overall, I liked the BA100, but didn’t feel the price tag really reflected the earphones, especially considering the BA200’s were “only” £40 more. It felt that the BA100’s were better priced at around £100, where it would better the Denon C710’s for example, and yet provide a different, and sometimes better sound. In my honest opinion, I would say spend that little extra to buy the BA200’s, and you will have the good quality traits of the BA100’s, but have a sound that is far more superior. At the end of the day, the BA100’s were great earphones, and again, TDK impressed me with their overall package.
Hope you enjoyed my review!