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TDK BA200

TDK BA200 Review

TDK BA200
Reviewed April 2014

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.

Select Comparisons

HiFiMan RE-400 ($99)

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.

VSonic VC1000 ($125)

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.

THL Recommended Badge 2014Value (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
Cons: N/A

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ABOUT AUTHOR

ljokerl

ljokerl

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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63 Responses

  1. I wouldn’t consider the RE-400 to be a great BA200 replacement, BA200 is more of an RE-400 upgrade. If the HiFiMan were in limited supply at the current ~$80 price I’d say grab one because they are a good value, but I doubt they’re going to disappear any time soon.

    I don’t know what it is about this type of earphone, but my most recent recommendation for this type of sound – the Aurisonics Rockets – is also nearly impossible to find now (though if you do find one for close to the original $250 price, I’d grab it). It’s like a curse.

    The Rockets replaced a Fischer Audio set (also discontinued) which replaced the BA200 and VC1000 as my recommendation in this category when those disappeared from the market.

    When I next revise my buyer’s guides the Audio-Technica ATH-IM02 will take this slot, but I hesitate to recommend it while your BA200 is functional because while it has a really strong value proposition with the nice build and detachable cables and good sound, I’d still choose the BA200 over it given the choice.

  2. FLC8 and BA200 sound quite different from each other, I wouldn’t call the FLC8 a direct upgrade. If you’re instead looking for a good contrast to the BA200, with more v-shaped sound and also very good performance, then choosing the FLC8 makes sense.

  3. Hello, I just found out that this gem had been discontinued and I’m utterly regretted that I had not stock it up when I had the opportunity to do so. My TDK BA200 is still doing fine, surprisingly fine to be honest, considering the fact that I noticed great deterioration from Sony’s first XBA-1 just after one year of usage and this had been used for years and it is still kicking. It is like the perfect IEM that I had ever owned, and I have to thank you for that since your review was that little motivation which was needed to push me off the fence to grab a set of it. I guess it’s just true that one can only understand something’s value once they lost it.

    Anyway, now that I realized that fact, I’m wondering if there’s any other model that I should look up for as a replacement just in case the TDK BA200 somehow breaks (-touchwood, 2 times-). I’ve took note of the other possible replacements you mentioned and only HiFiMan RE-400 is up to grab around my region while Sony MDR-7550’s price had been doubled for whatever reason it might have, at least in my area. VSonic VC1000 is not available around in my country so that’s out of question. So, is HiFiMan RE-400 comparable to TDK BA200? I can’t really describe in detail but I really wish that I can find an IEM that is highly similar to TDK BA200, whether if it’s its soundstage, its “lack” of bass which just fit my taste, or its music separation that had been worked great, or its great handling on the treble department. While the price isn’t really a huge issue as TDK BA200 had grown its root in my life, I’ll still keep it as economic as possible if I’m to consider the reality.

    Thank you for reading this and I’m forward for your reply.

  4. hi Joker,
    I’m currently use TDK BA 200 and interesting about your positive review about FLC8.
    In your opinion whether the FLC8 could be an upgrade for BA200?
    Thank’s

  5. GR07 is always a great choice as long as it’s a well-informed decision. I feel like the small number of people who haven’t had a positive experience with it were just expecting something completely different, so I try to be as upfront as possible about it.

  6. Thank you very much joker. I don’t think I have sufficient experience with the energetic sound signature you described regarding the VSD5/GR07 but I might just buy one of those to test it anyway. The IM02 look quite nice indeed but it’s even harder to import them here in Germany. The RE-400 is available though so that might be an option if I’m not too happy with the GR07.

    Thanks again 🙂

  7. I’m afraid the GR07 and VSD5 are no good if you enjoyed the smoothness of the BA200, which is one of its best and most addictive qualities in my opinion. VSonics IEMs tend to be both more energetic and significantly less smooth in the upper midrange and lower treble. Doesn’t make them bad earphones, just a risky choice coming from the BA200 unless you already know that that style of treble presentation still works for you.

    Keeping in mind that it is a slight step down overall, the RE-400 is a good alternative at $80. You give up some of the BA200’s clarity and soundstage width/airniess but you keep the near-neutral/slightly warm tone, the smoothness, and a similar overall note presentation.

    You can also see if you can find a good deal on the Phiaton MS100BA. While these are no BA200 either, they do share a lot of similarities (warmer, smoother approach to balanced armature sound). The biggest downside of these compared to the BA200 is the more bloated bass, which affects clarity somewhat, but at the $50 they currently cost here in the US (http://amzn.to/1RNfm3c) it’s still a pretty killer deal.

    And lastly if you are willing spend in the BA200 range again, you can actually get something comparable (albeit a little darker-sounding) and with detachable cables in the Audio-Technica IM02 (http://amzn.to/1WburRn). While not the perfect BA200 replacement, they are technically close and the only dual-driver I’ve tried lately that can compete in value with the TDKs.

  8. Hi Joker,

    thank you very much for your website and your insight, it’s been a good starting point for many of my headphone testing endavours.

    I also bought the TDK BA200 based on your recommendations and have been very satisfied with it. Unfortunately the cable recently broke and now I’m on the lookout for a replacement. Although I was initially hoping on finding something with a replaceable cable after this experience it seems they are a bit out of my price range. Instead I’ve been looking at some of the usual suspects including

    – Hifiman RE-400
    – VSonic GR07 (Bass Edition)
    – VSonic VSD5

    May I kindly ask about your take on replacing a BA200? I mostly listen to a broader variety of music styles but rock and metal probably get the most playtime.

    Thanks in advance

  9. Re-posting my response to this question from Head-Fi for posterity:

    “I wouldn’t buy someone else’s experiment unless it can be reverted to stock.

    The R-50 has an unusually wide soundstage but the BA200 is hardly a slouch – in stock form you may lose a little width compared to the R-50, but gain in imaging. I’d say it’s a fair trade.”

  10. J, I got this used unit about usd 93 but Modded with 1500ohm filter. How do you think this gonna affect the sound? Also, is ba200 soundstage like lesser than r50’s? super thank J.

  11. Definitely not the worst rare earphone to have in your collection. I’m keeping a few of those myself including the RE272.

  12. Ah gotcha. I ran into a 262 at a good price and pulled the plug. Partly because I had to hear what all the fuss was about on how good they are with vocals and partly because it fulfilled my need for finding a rare earphone *cough* ck10 :p

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