Details: TDK’s recently-discontinued dual-armature flagship
MSRP: $299.95 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $203 from ebay.com; $200 from amazon.com (when available)
Specs: Driver: Dual BA | Imp: 35Ω | Sens: 99 dB | Freq: 20-20k Hz | Cable: 3.9′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 2.5mm | Preferred tips: Westone STAR tips, Stock bi-flanges, EarSonics bi-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Bi-flange silicone tips (2 sizes), foam tips (2 sizes), replacement filters, shirt clip, and soft carrying pouch (note: exact accessories seem to differ between versions)
Build Quality (4/5) – The BA200 is made mostly of plastic, but the construction is pretty solid. The nozzle screens are replaceable and spares are included – a rarity these days. The flat cable is soft and inoffensive but the massive y-split, which houses an impedance stabilizer, has a tendency to get caught on things
Isolation (4/5) – Good thanks to the ergonomic housings and long nozzles
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Very low in the flat cable
Comfort (5/5) – The ergonomically-shaped housings of the BA200 are very comfortable, thanks in part to the light weight of the earphones, though those with very small outer ears may have trouble fitting them properly. Despite the manufacturer’s claims, however, the BA200 is not well-suited for cable-down wear
Sound (9.1/10) – I’ve long wanted to try TDK’s dual-BA flagship earphone but the opportunity has always gotten away from me, until now. Big thanks to fellow Head-Fier ericr for finally making it happen, even if the BA200 model is on its way out as far as TDK is concerned.
On the whole, the sound of the BA200 is as comfortable as the fit. It’s a punchy earphone with good clarity and a tonal character on the warm side of neutral. The bass is slightly enhanced – for a balanced armature set it’s quite impactful, though it won’t win any awards from proper bassheads. In terms of bass quantity the BA200 is just a touch short of the VSonic GR07 and StageDiver SD-2, and significantly short of the Westone W40.
Despite its slight bass enhancement, the BA200 has excellent midrange clarity – about on-par with the GR07, though it is also more forward in the midrange than the VSonic unit. All in all, the mids are similar to those of the $450 StageDiver SD-2 and clearer compared to the Westone W40, likely due to the BA200’s flatter response through the upper midrange. The BA200 also has pretty good note thickness – it may miss out on some of the crispness of a TWFK-based set as a result, but for a BA earphone the note weight is very impressive.
The upper midrange and lower treble of the BA200 are very smooth, but despite this the earphones still sound crisp and resolving, likely due to a mid-upper treble lift. The BA200 is on the whole less bright than the VSonic GR07 and a little more tolerant of sibilant vocals, partly by virtue of its treble emphasis being higher up, but there are still some tracks on which it exaggerates sibilance. It is brighter than the Westone W40, for instance, and a little more sibilance-prone. The StageDiver SD-2 is also less revealing of sibilance than the BA200, and, though it also a dual-driver earphone, seems to have better extension and slightly more energy at the top than the TDKs.
The BA200 is a little less spacious than the SD-2, with a less out-of-the-head presentation, but otherwise the less expensive TDK unit more than holds its own. Imaging is good and the soundstage has enough depth to prevent the earphone from sounding intimate despite its warm tone and prominent mids.
In many ways the BA200 and RE-400 are similar – both are balanced earphones with a tonal character a touch warmer than neutral. The BA-200 is less mid-centric and a little warmer due to a marginally greater amount of bass boost. The RE-400 boasts more focus on the midrange. Up top, the RE-400 remains extremely smooth while the BA200 has a treble peak that makes it more revealing of sibilance, which the HiFiMan earphone tends to downplay. This makes the BA200 appear more crisp and also contributes to it sounding less mid-centric than the RE-400. The BA200 is also a touch more spacious.
The VC1000 and BA200 both utilize dual balanced armature driver configurations, albeit with different drivers. The Sonion AcuPass drivers in the BA200 endow it with a more impactful sound and warmer tonal character. The Knowles TWFK drivers in the VC1000, on the other hand, provide less impactful but tighter bass, making the BA200 sound a bit boomy in comparison. The midrange of the VC1000 is clearer, but also thinner. The VSonic unit has more upper midrange presence overall, though not by much, whereas the BA200 dips down a bit akin to the RE-400. I personally prefer the balance and clarity of the VC1000, but the thicker note presentation of the BA200.
The VSonic set is brighter overall but emphasizes sibilance less than the BA200. However, like all TWFKs, its treble has a slightly metallic/shimmery character which the BA200, despite its treble peak, lacks. The presentation of the VC1000 seems just a touch more airy and uncongested thanks to its tighter bass and brighter sound.
Sony MDR-7550 ($230)
The smooth, clear, and warm-sounding MDR-7550 makes for a logical competitor to the BA200. Indeed the earphones sound very similar despite the Sonys using a large dynamic driver to the TDKs’ dual armature setup. Surprisingly, the BA200 is a little more emphasized at the bottom end while the MDR-7550 is slightly clearer through the midrange. The MDR-7550 is also smoother in the treble region, with no sibilance-inducing peaks, and has a wider, airier presentation. The BA200, with its extra touch of bass emphasis, sounds a bit congested in comparison.
Value (9/10) – With sound that is reminiscent of well-regarded high-end earphones from the likes of HiFiMan and Shure, an ergonomic form factor, and good noise isolation, the TDK BA200 is a solid all-rounder with plenty of mass appeal. TDK has done an excellent job with these earphones, and while prices have been going up steadily since the BA200 was discontinued, those who run across one at a good price should grab it before they’re all gone.
Pros: Excellent all-round sound quality; great ergonomics