Pros: Looks, design, functions, accessories, highs
Cons: Lows, mids, comfort, size for protability
Packaging & Accessories: 10/10
Build Quality: 9/10
Design & Look: 9/10
Audio Quality: 6/10
My final Rating: 6/10
Purchase Date: September 2012
Purchase Price: £110
First of all, I would like to thank TDK for sending me these out for review. The ST800, is one of the top model headphones provided by TDK, and comes at around £110 on Amazon UK & AmazonUSA. Thus meaning the ST800 sits in the affordable range for the average customers.
Packaging, accessories, box content, overall first impressions (look wise)
My initial impressions and unboxing video can be found here – Click here
The packaging, just like the earphones (such as the BA100 and BA200) that TDK offer, is beautifully done. Very professional looking box, and very pleasant to have.
The accessories provided are perfect for the headphones. There’s just the right amount of accessories one would want. I especially like the little pouch that’s provided.
Here’s a list of things provided:
-Set of AAA batteries
Overall first impressions:
Overall my first impressions were positive, with the packaging, the accessories and everything included impressed me.
Build Quality & Functionalities
The build quality of the TDK ST800’s is very good. This stands for the headband assembly, the padding at the top of the headband, the ear pads, the control wheel on the right, the battery cover on the left, the wire and finally the control pad – everything is top notch. The headphones themselves have a leather finish to them, which means that it looks very beautiful, but concentrating on the build quality the ST800’s build quality, stitching and finish is spot-on.
Elaborating a bit more on the battery cover and the control wheel – I find both of them to be very well done, and sturdy. At no point during testing did I feel that they were flimsy or would get loose. Especially the battery cover, it has a nice locking system.
There are a few minor points that I felt meant that the ST800’s missed out on the full 10/10 rating. First of all, I felt that the wire, although very nice and sturdy, also meant that it often got tangled, and more so could easily get some kinks on them.
My second and only other complaint is the lack of an indicator on the headband extension. Thus not being able to tell how much I’ve extended the left side driver in comparison to the right side driver.
I should also outline the features, especially the EQ controller, or as I like to see it as the control pad:
The volume wheel, and furthermore the mute functionality, which is activated by pressing on the TDK logo, where the volume wheel is – are both only in function, when the control pad is turned ON.
Whilst the control pad is turned off, the volume wheel, and mute functionalities will be rendered useless.
Now unto the actual EQ functionalities, once turned on, the two above features come into play, but not only that, you are also able to fine-tune your music via the internal amp that the ST800’s have. I found adding two click to the bass and trebled, to have the nicest sound to my ears. I should however say, that the EQ functionalities did tame the music a little bit, and thus for actual listening, I chose to have the EQ function OFF, and thus not using the other features that are associated with it.
Thus, the control pad, serves as a useful tool, for the average customer, and more so, in my opinion is something that everyone has to use, if they do not have an amp. I will follow this up in the sound quality section of this review.
Overall the build quality and functionalities are quite a nice novelty.
Now the overall look, comfort and isolation
The look of the headphones, as you can imagine from my explanation just above, is in my opinion extremely elegant and beautiful. The look of the headphones denotes style, fashion, professionalism, and elegance. I find the gold finish on the headphones extremely well done too. It isn’t a bright gold, nor a dull looking golden colour – I find the golden colour to blend well with the stitching around the headphones.
The only downfall of the looks, is once the headphones are on your ears. They do look rather big, and thus, for portability would be a little hard to carry around, as they stick out quite a bit from your head.
The isolation of these, isn’t the best, as they did fit like on-ear headphones. Thus there was music being leaked from the headphones, and more so, meant that isolation with these headphones wasn’t great. If you are looking for isolating headphones, the ST800’s won’t do a good job in isolating music.
Finally the comfort:
The comfort of the ST800’s is like most on-ear headphones, in that they sit on your ears, rather than around them. They usually means that over longer periods of time, the headphones start to become uncomfortable.
Another point to make on the headphones, is that with the AAA batteries in them, there is extra weight, meaning the headphones can feel slightly heavy on ones head.
Finally, the control pad, although might prove to be useful for some users, for me personally means that it is uncomfortable to wear the headphones and move about, as the control pad is quite chunky, and thus isn’t that comfortable to have on you.
The sound quality of the headphones has a typical TDK sound signature. In that respect, it means that it has a warm sounding signature, which might sound veiled in the mids to some people.
The actual sound characteristics of the headphones aren’t terrible, but for the price range, one could have expected getting a more premium sound quality. In my opinion, the premium that you are paying for the headphones, is more for the features, rather than where it counts, the sound quality. For the sound quality ratings, and analysis, I did them all without the use of the EQ functionalities, simply because I didn’t want anything interfering with my analysis of them.
I felt that overall, the sound quality of the ST800’s had quite a few flaws with them, especially at this price range. If these headphones were priced cheaper, and without all the extra functionalities, I feel that these headphones would be getting much better ratings, overall.
I should also mention that these headphones have an Impedance 200 Ohms – which is absolutely huge. This meant that I had to use an amp, or indeed the EQ function (internal amp) for the headphones to be loud enough for my personal taste. Without the EQ/internal amp function, these headphones needed HIGH gain @ around 35% on my EPH-O2D, whereas my Denon’s and Sony’s only needed 35% on LOW gain.
The lows of the ST800’s, although something that impressed me at first listen, I felt that after testing it, and putting it through its paces, didn’t match my expectations. The bass was quite rolled off, and thus meant that there was no extension to the bass response. When comparing it to the mega-bass monsters, the XB700’s, had a long-lasting bass extension, with a nice punch. However when compared to my favourite Denon AH-D2000’s, I could tell straight away that the quality, and not just the quantity of bass was completely lost. The ST800’s had a rolled off bass response, and almost distorted type playback to my ears – especially at loud volumes.
The highs I found, the best aspect of these headphones, as they were not really rolled off that much, were pleasant to the ears, which all lead to a nice soft sounding headphone.
The mids on the other hand, were dipped, and thus meant that, a lot of detail was lost in the process. I found this the case when comparing my Denon’s and the TDK’s side by side. That said the mids weren’t terrible, unlike the XB700’s which had a huge dip in the mids, but that said, the XB700’s were bass designed headphones, and more so, were also cheaper to purchase.
The soundstage of the ST800’s is decent, although with the lack of over-the-ear design, it meant that the soundstage also felt a little closed in. There wasn’t that much depth to the music, nor space, however again, put into perspective that these headphones are on-ear headphones, they did a relatively good job.
Sound Quality Ratings
Conclusions and final thoughts
Overall, the ST800’s are a decent set of headphones, however I feel that these headphones, would have benefited more from being headphones without all these extra little “toys” that it comes with. this would have been reflected in both the price but also the size and weight of them.
I also find the fact that these are 200 Ohms headphones, means that they aren’t accessible to everyone, unless they specifically use an amp, be it the internal amp, or an external amp.
The overall package, is quite nice and is arguably worth the money spent on them, I however don’t feel that these headphones are truly “high fidelity” as TDK have put it, and could have done without the extra functionalities.
Hope you enjoyed my review!