Feature Smabat nco
Drive unit: 14mm fiber diaphragm Smabat nco
Type: in-ear interchangeable wire mmcx gold-plated interface
Plug type: 3.5mm
Unit impedance: 32Ω
Unit frequency response range: 8Hz-30KHz
Unit sensitivity: 110 ± 3dB
Plug type: 3.5mm
Overall length: 1.2m
Smabat ST-10 Flagship Earbud
15.4mm Dynamic Driver
Earbud With Detachable MMCX Cable
The Smabat nco is the flagship model from the company and sits above the new M1Pro. It is a high-end earbud featuring a large 15.4 mm diameter dynamic driver with a triple sandwich diaphragm and titanium coating. Like its sister model, it features MMCX removable cables and the same unique Maze bass enhancement system inspired by transmission line speakers.
The packaging is simple and sophisticated. The box is black with an embossed shiny Smabat logo also in black. Opening the box there is a cover over the foam insert containing the earbuds with the cable already attached. Below this there is one pair of foam covers, one pair of donut foams and one set of perforated rubber covers. Under the foam insert you will find a faux leather storage pouch and an instruction manual. The presentation is very nice.
The earpieces are constructed from CNC machined aluminium and are finished in an attractive sage green color with a grained effect and emblazoned with a white Smabat logo. There is clear channel identification and on the top edge there is a silver-coloured output vent for the Maze system. This channels the bass output of the driver along an extended path in order to supplement the bass response..
The supplied MMCX cable is of high quality silver-plated copper with a straight 3.5mm brushed aluminium plug and a matching Y-split barrel. The portion Smabat nco closest to the MMCX plug is reinforced and intended to be worn over the ear. There is also a clear plastic chin slider. The build quality is excellent.
As with the M1 Pro, getting a good seal was essential in order to unlock the potential of the ST-10. I found it impossible to obtain an effective fit wearing them over the ear. This was partly due to the springy nature of the cable, but also to the large diameter of the earpieces. I therefore followed the procedure I used with the M1 Pro and fitted earhooks and the supplied standard foams, wearing them cable down using the cable from the earlier model.
The ST-10 was used with a Hifi Walker H2 DAP via line out with a Topping NX1a amplifier for evaluation with a wide range of music across various genres, and auditioning was carried out after a burn in period of 100 hours. Similarly to the M1 Pro, I found the ST-10 power-hungry and found that I had to increase the volume by around 25% compared to my regular IEMs. This was partly necessary to offset the poorer isolation common in earbuds.
The immediate impression was one of “speed”, with the snappy transient response making music exciting and portraying rhythmic elements very well indeed. Like its stablemate the M1Pro, the ST-10 displayed a largely neutral sound signature with a good deal of air and space and brimming with detail.
However, where the M1 Pro was somewhat brighter than neutral, the ST-10 possessed greater warmth in the lower registers, not enough to make the overall sound V-shaped, but with greater bass extension and mid-bass output. The detail retrieval was similar with excellent layering and separation. The tonality more resembled that of an all-BA earphone rather than a dynamic driver model, and the presentation was also reminiscent of listening to speakers or full-sized headphones.
The larger 15.4mm driver, coupled with the Maze system, delivered a bass response which could best be described as “effortless”. Extension was good, but did not achieve that “rumble” often delivered by a good DD unit, rather it remained accurate, clean, well-defined and musical in nature. “The Flow of Time’s Arrow” from the album “Thousand Star” by spacemusic maestro Jonn Serrie was a good example of this.
This track contains some deep bass tones and the Smabat nco delivered a very well-balanced performance here, enabling the atmosphere of the piece to be appreciated. The bass extension was also showcased well in Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular World”, from the album “The Songs of Distant Earth”. The synthesised low frequency percussion elements in this piece displayed excellent impact and remained clean and precise. The timbre of classical instruments was particularly lifelike.
In the second movement of the “Moorside Suite” by Holst, in a string arrangement conducted by David Lloyd-Jones, the warmth and character of the basses towards the end of the piece came over very authentically with the natural ambience of the recording venue reproduced very well. The prominent organ part in Saint-Saens’s Symphony No.3 in a recording conducted by Louis Fremaux and the CBSO came over with a lifelike breathy quality, providing a solid foundation and underpinning the dramatic orchestral writing in a most attractive way.
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