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TDK SP-200 Sport Headphones

The SP-200s stem from the breed of neckband headphones that was briefly fashionable around the turn of the century. There are two schools of thought on this style. If you hate earbuds and canalphones but don't want to mess up your hair on the way to work, then you tend to like them. Otherwise, you find the neckband or the bits that rest on your ears uncomfortable, in which case you don't.

The good news is that the SP-200s aren't a particularly torturous example of the breed. The neckband is tight enough to hold the phones in place, but not so tight that your head feels like it's being crushed into submission by the knees of a diminutive wrestler. The plastic bits aren't thin or sharp enough to start slicing through your ear like a razor blade and the overall feel is solid and secure.

As with the EP-200s the plastics feel a little cheap, but the TDKs are a definite step up from some of the cheaper variants of this design that you'll find at, say, your local Poundland. Just one word of warning: these things leak sound like nothing on Earth, so if you're sitting next to a diminutive wrestler armed with a razor blade on the train to work and he doesn't like your taste in music, you're not out of the woods quite yet.

The good news is that the audio quality is much better than with the EP-200s. There's still too much mid-range and not enough bass, but at least you can hear most of the instruments in the mix and dense passages don't descend into a horrific mess. There's enough power to punch through the crunchy riffs on Revelations while the low-slung guitars and throbbing bass of Let it Roll are bursting with fizz and energy.

Meanwhile, the sharp beats, orchestral flourishes and smooth vocals of Mr Timberlake's LoveStoned are also handled well, though the sound is perhaps a little bit too bright for comfort. Needless to say, though, classical and jazz are still a no-no. There's not enough power or finesse for the Wagner prelude, with the SP-200s struggling to resolve the high violins, and the thick chords and delicate runs of Bill Evans' piano in Waltz for Debby lack the warmth and tone that you'd get from a decent pair of headphones.

If the SP-200s have a weakness, it's this: the sound is just too brittle to make for comfortable listening over any period of time. They're not an awful pair of headphones, but again there's a sense that a little extra dosh could get you a much more enjoyable sound.


A reasonable pair of neckband headphones let down by the output's lack of body and an uncomfortably bright tone.

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