Updated on September 29th, 2011
TDK recently launched a slew of audio products including the Boombox and the WR700 and ST-800 headphones. What I have on review is the ST-800, a stylish looking headphone that reminds me of the 80’s. Read on and find out if the ST-800 deserves your hard earned money.
TDK ST-800 Headphone Technical Specifications
- Power Source: 2 AAA batteries (included)
- Drivers: 50mm
- Sensitivity (IEC): 104 ± 3dB
- Frequency Response: 20 – 20,000 Hz
- Cord Length: 1.22m (4ft)
- Plug Type: 3.5mm
Hit the break for the full hands-on review.
Packaging and Unboxing
The TDK ST-800 tries to grab your attention through its packaging. The headphone is housed in a big dark box that looks and feels premium. The half part pulls out to reveal the ST-800 nestled in velvet. Under the suede holder you will find an extension cord and an adaptor plug. The other half contains the instructional manuals.
Here’s a short unboxing video.
Design and Build Quality
The ST-800 tries to achieve a retro look while still looking modern and hip. It uses black and gold as primary colors, and what gives it the retro look is the textured leather material used on the band stretching over the cups. Covering the cups are gold colored plastic material that feels cheap, belying the appeal it gives out when combined with the leather finish. The ear cups themselves are cushioned by soft leather that houses a sufficiently thick foam underneath. What holds the leather cushions are black plastic that attach to the golden covers. The ear cups move but not by much. The band can be expanded by pulling it down, revealing a thin silver metal.
The cable on the ST-800 is the braided cloth type. It’s a plus for durability but in terms of comfort, it doesn’t really help. It’s unruly when tangled and quite heavy compared to the rubber type. But in terms of aesthetics, it complements the retro design of the ST-800. The cable is only 3 feet long but TDK thankfully provided a free cable extension.
The size of the ST-800 is something that’s worth mentioning here. The cups are thick and huge and look quite comical when worn. They are also heavy on the ears and could cause some stress over time, although they are comfortable on the ears though and don’t have unwanted pressure points. With the size of the ST-800 headphone, I don’t recommend it if you are looking for something that’s easy to lug around.
The TDK ST-800 has two nifty features I like — an equalizer (EQ) control on the cord and a volume knob on the right ear cup.
The EQ control has a small display that let’s you control and customize the bass and treble levels up to 5 steps. This, I believe is the selling point of the ST-800. The EQ remote gives the user the convenience of adjusting the bass and treble and finding the right mix for the music playing. There’s no need to reach out for the player and look for the perfect EQ preset. It works on two AAA batteries though, so you might need rechargeables if you intend to use the EQ control frequently.
The volume knob on the right earcup also offers added convenience. Instead of getting your player out to adjust the volume, you can control the volume through the rotating ear cup. This feature however depends on the EQ control so when it’s off, the volume knob will not work. The ear cup on the left, on the other hand, hosts the two AAA batteries that run the EQ control.
Sound Quality and Performance
What I love about the TDK ST-800 is the sound isolation. With cups as big as this headphone’s, I expected nothing less than near total isolation. Under average sound volume, external sound is perfectly muted, allowing the listener to focus on the track playing.
With the EQ off, the sound quality of the ST-800 is already quite capable. These cans excel on bass-heavy tracks, pumping out deep, thumping base that’s a pleasure to listen to. I therefore encourage you to turn up the volume when playing R&B and rap tracks. On details-heavy tracks though, the ST-800 doesn’t deliver as well. Although the sound is decent when the volume is just right, turning it up a notch reveals quite distorted details or broken elements.
Using the EQ control improves your listening experience on the TDK ST-800. If you need more bass power on that Black Eyed Peas track, hit the EQ button and you’ll get the bass you want. Don’t overdo it though as full bass power on the ST-800 tends to drown out the rest of the sounds. The treble booster on the EQ does not deliver the same power as the bass. Even on full, the treble doesn’t have the piercing sharpness you would expect from a headphone this big. Just adjust the bass and treble until you get the perfect levels. On most tracks, I was comfortable raising the bass up two levels and the treble about three levels.
The EQ control has one irritating flaw. It does not power up fast. I you turn it on while a track is playing, you get a delay before the screen comes alive.
The TDK ST-800 is a nice-looking headphone with a design that brings you back to the 80’s. The overall appeal is premium and I like the leather finish on the band. The golden accents complements the textured leather, completing that retro look it tries to achieve. The quality is not well-balanced though. While the leather finish and the leather-covered ear cups feel solid, the gold covers that act as volume rocker and battery cover feel cheap.
In terms of performance, the TDK ST-800 delivers good sound, although it is not consistent. It delivers strong, powerful bass even with the EQ control off making it perfect for bass-heavy tracks. It’s not as good in handling other types of music though. Rock and alternative music still sound decent on the ST-800 but you get the feeling that some details are lost or broken especially when volume is increased.
But I take my hat off to TDK for the two unique special features of the ST-800. The EQ control is a welcome feature and I’m sure the volume rocker on the ear cup will also gain some fans.
Overall, the TDK ST-800 is a well-designed headphone that delivers good sound. In my opinion, the price of Php6,500 (about US$150) is just right for this headset.