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TDK MP-200 DJ Headphones

Designed - we're told - for aspiring D.Js, the MP-200s look every inch the flagship models of the TDK range. While they have the sort of features aspiring D.Js apparently look for, like those earphone cups that swivel out of the way and a portable, fold-flat construction, they're also pretty comfortable for everyone else, thanks to an adjustable, padded headband and generously cushioned ear-pads.

The 2.7m cable is nice and thick, the plug is gold plated and the set comes with a 3.5mm mini jack to 6.35mm jack adaptor for the Hi-Fi at home. The plastics still look better than they feel, but on first impressions you wouldn't put these down as a pair of bargain basement headphones. The only off note is the in-line volume control. Sure, one of these adds a little in terms of convenience, but they nearly always have a detrimental effect on sound. There's a good reason why you don't usually see them on proper high-end 'phones.
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Taken in isolation, the sound isn't all that bad. The 50mm neodymium drivers kick out some bass and there's plenty of volume and a lot more detail than with either of the other TDK headphones. All the same, there's something fuzzy and clumsy about the handling of the mid-range and the top-end. Compare the MP-200s to other pairs of headphones and they struggle to cope with anything too densely orchestrated.

In this case I pulled out my own Sennheiser HD-201s - a bargain basement purchase I made a couple of years ago so that I had a cheap pair of headphones for late-night gaming. These aren't audiophile headphones by any means, but they still out-perform the MP-200s. Play the Wagner prelude from Tristan and Isolde and at first the MP-200s seem to have the edge, with a roundness of tone that the slightly dry Sennheisers can't match. But then you notice that this warmth comes at the expense of clarity: the violins don't come through with the same aching, melancholy tone while the surging dynamics of the orchestra are almost lost.

Of course, you don't buy headphones like these to listen to Wagner, but you'll find the same thing with poppier sounds. Again, first impressions of Justin Timberlake's LoveStoned are more positive than you might expect from such cheap headphones - the sound is bright and lively and the different layers of instrumentation all seem to be in place. Yet the mix still sounds mushy where it should be crisp, crowded where it should be lush. Everything is upfront and in your face, but there is no space for the song to breathe.
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There's not enough bottom end definition for the raunchy guitars and bass of Velvet Revolver's Let it Roll or the monumental old-school riffs of Audioslave's Revelations; after a while the second-rate clarity leaves you wondering what you're missing. Of all the tracks I tested, the MP-200s worked best with the madcap beats and smeared vocals of Bjork's single Nattura, where the more precise Sennheisers made for fairly uncomfortable listening. It might be that fans of more beat-heavy dance music and electronica may get a little more from the TDKs, so maybe the DJ angle isn't that misplaced after all.

Given the price you can't really complain, but the TDKs still face stiff competition at this level and in this market from the likes of Sony and Sennheiser. The MP-200s are a decent, value-oriented pair of headphones, but they leak more sound than you'd expect from a pair of closed-back headphones and the quality isn't good enough to stand out from the crowd.

Verdict
Not bad for under £20, particularly if you're more into electronica or drum and bass than other genres. However, the all-round performance isn't good enough for the MP-200s to stand above the competition.

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