I’ve always been one of those weirdos who likes a good narrative and good audio in my videogames. I’m also an audio fiend when it comes to movies and music. Not in the extreme decibel data-crunching sense, mind you, but in the “if this sounds garbled or less than immersive, I’m not going to be a happy man.” By and large I’ve felt solid in my surround-sound purchases, and my headphones have largely been the same. Then I tested the TDK EB900 in-ear headphones. These headphones let me know, loud and clear, what I’ve been missing all these years.
I’ve tested and enjoyed Skullcandy headphones in the past, but in several cases the overall audio fidelity of those has been overpowered by gimmicks such as inline bass controls that artificially amplify the bassline but don’t really have an impact on the clarity or crispness of the overall soundtrack. I was OK with that – until TDK’s EB900 in-ear headphones.
In recent years, TDK has seemingly been best known for its blank CDs, DVDs and storage devices rather than its listening devices, so I was quite curious when I first heard about the company’s EB900 earbuds. With the company’s longstanding accessory-like relationship with music, I expected a solid first entry into the listening-device arena, but I was in no way prepared to use the EB900 for a week and decide to ditch all other in-ear headphones entirely.
The box of TDK’s EB900s are highlighted as delivering an audio quality for “audio enthusiasts,” which (on TDK’s scale) represents one step above your general Joe Q. Public needs. But compared to what I’ve been using with my iPod Touch and portable gaming devices, the EB900 are at least four steps above the norm. The overall fidelity of the audio on the EB900s is not only crystal clear but also suffers no distortion whatsoever, even at volumes that far exceed safety (yes, I cranked it up until I actually winced). More impressive, though, is that the in-ear headphones manage to pick up the entire range of audio, from the grittiest basslines to the most genteel high notes. Lesser headphones seem to focus on one or the other, sacrificing one part of the scale in the process. Not so with TDK’s EB900 earbuds.
This ability to capture the full audio scale is complemented by the use of Comply foam tips that form to the contours of your ear to block almost all outside noises. Even taking these earbuds to the local gym, I heard no whirring from the four-dozen cardio machines or any clanging of free weights as I listened to everything from Nickelback to Telemann Tafelmusik. The EB900 may not officially be noise-canceling headphones, but for all intents and purposes they function just like it, only with a smaller form factor and some great speakers to boot. Needless to say, using these in the quiet comfort of your own home with a portable gaming device really immerses you in the world the game developers were trying to create as well, since none of the literal hubbub of home life ever seeps into your ears.
From a visual standpoint, the EB900 headphones are smaller than your standard iPod earbuds, and they have a more ergonomical fit than Apple’s defaults as well. Some of this is aided by the Comply tips, but the plastic cases also just feel more natural and slip-in much more easily. The cord, too, is worth noting, as it resembles more of a tightly wound twine than your traditional plastic headphone cable, even though it’s about the same diameter. This literally has a different feel and looks unique, but the material has the advantage of being tangle free. To be completely honest, I doubted TDK’s claims of a tangle-free cable until I purposefully tried for a week to get it to snare up and never made any headway. Sure, the left and right earbuds at times wound around one another, but they never became unmanageable like the standard iPod headphones, and they never got unwieldy as can be the case with Skullcandy or other cords.
The only minor disappointment with TDK’s EB900 in-ear headphones is their performance when used on any cardio equipment in the gym. For some reason, perhaps the unique material of the cords or the way the material connects to the earbuds themselves, every jarring or heavy step has a subtle “pulling” or “echo” sound associated with it. It’s obviously not part of the audio track itself, and in my tests it didn’t appear to be a loose cord. It’s almost like an unintended side effect of the awesome Comply tips, which cancel out ambient noise but generate a little thud or “un-suctioning” sound if their contours change even the slightest bit due to miniscule alterations in your ear shape as you take heavy steps on a treadmill. Much like the exit signs in a theater, you eventually get a bit numb to this effect after the first five minutes and don’t really notice it, but during the silence between audio tracks you do tend to hear it. Again, though, this is only an issue during workouts. For gaming and general use, this issue doesn’t even crop up.
So if you’re in the market for some new in-ear headphones and If you like what you’ve heard here, you’ll absolutely love what you’ll hear once you pop the TDK EB900 headphones into your eager little ears. You can (and should) click the following link to buy them from Amazon.com: EB900 In-Ear Headphones.
- Score: 9
— Jonas Allen