TDK continues to bring quality headphone options to the world, the latest being the intriguing TDK ST750. Its alluring leather and metallic design houses a unique feature – an internal, battery-driven amplifier that makes the audio performance louder and more bass-heavy when powered up. These £140 headphones also work in passive mode, but in both modes, the audio leans toward a brighter, crisper sound that should appeal to purists more than bass fiends.
The ST750 sports a refined look, with black leather lining the headband and the edges of the earcups. The heavily cushioned black earpads and underside of the headband make for a very comfortable, lightweight fit, even over longer listening sessions. Each side incorporates the TDK logo on a brushed metallic surface. Inside the circumaural (around-the-ear) earcups, 40mm dynamic drivers bring intense audio when the power switch on the right earcup is on. The right side also houses the battery compartment – the ST750 requires two AAA batteries for powered operation.
Unfortunately, the cable is not detachable. Many current competing models now feature removable cables and often come with two (one is usually armed with an inline remote and microphone). It's not a deal-breaker, but at this price, it would've been a smart design addition. The ST750 has no inline remote or mic to speak of, and the cable itself has a tendency to stay wound and rigid, unlike many of the cloth-bound or flat cables we see on high-end headphones. The headphones themselves look and feel great, but the cable is a weak point of the design.
The ST750 ships with two AAA batteries, a shirt clip, and a black cloth drawstring carrying pouch.
It should be noted that while the ST750 has an internal amplifier to boost volume and bass response, these headphones sound pretty solid without the power – they just don't get super loud. In passive mode, their sound signature is close to flat, but spiked a bit with bright, crisp highs. The bass response is steady and clean; nothing booming.
With the batteries in and the power on, however, these headphones get very, very loud. They also do not distort at top volumes, even on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife's "Silent Shout." Some headphones manage to avoid distorting on tracks like this by simply not delivering the very deepest bass frequencies, but the TDK ST750 does indeed deliver deep low-end, it just doesn't boost the lows dramatically.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the star is actually the mid-high and high frequency response – the kick drum loop's attack is crisp and punchy. Sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are robust but not comically intense, while the vocals and other high-mid content take centre stage.
Bill Callahan's vocals on "Drover" are imbued with a nice treble edge that helps them stay in the forefront of the mix. This track can often sound muddy on bass boosted headphones, but here, Callahan's vocals, as well as the guitars, remain bright and clear – and the low frequencies enhance the drums only subtly. Occasionally, however, the vocals sound a bit too sibilant, on both this track and the Jay-Z/Kanye West track.
On classical tracks, like John Adams' "The Chairman Dances," the higher register strings and percussion steal the spotlight, and they can also sound a bit overly bright at times. The lower register strings are graced with a touch of added bass response, but nothing intense. At the end of the piece, large drum hits that can sound unnatural on bass-heavy pairs sound powerful and real here – there’s just enough low-end presence to bring a little thunder, but nothing that sounds unnatural or amplified, as the drums do on heavily bass oriented headphones.
What other options do you have in this price range? The Yamaha PRO 300 also offers a great level of sound quality for the money and a flat response, although as we noted in our review, it’s not great in terms of comfort and aesthetics. The Sennheiser HD 558 is also an affordable gem in this price bracket, with a balanced frequency response and plenty of power.
For the price, the TDK ST750 delivers two different experiences – the quieter, less bass-enhanced passive mode, and the powered up, louder, bass heavy active mode. The ST750 is quite unique in that it's a headphone pair with a powered internal amp but no extra features like Bluetooth streaming or noise cancellation.
Forgetting about this factor and focusing on the audio delivered itself, the ST750 still stands out as a powerful audiophile-friendly pair that errs on the side of brightness, not booming low-end, when it errs at all. It's light on accessories or extra features beyond the internal amp, but it offers a solid, clean sound that you can’t argue with for the money.
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