Below is my review of the Smabat ST-10. This review is also available on my blog.
The Smabat ST-10 is an earbud that retails for $99 at the time of this review. I purchased the ST-10 from the Nicehck Audio Store
on AliExpress for $1 with the expectation of a fair and objective review. The ST-10 is also available on Amazon
I have used the Smabat ST-10 with the following sources:
Windows 10 PC > JDS Labs The Element > Smabat ST-10
Pixel 3 > Fiio BTR1K (Bluetooth Apt-X) > Smabat ST-10
Windows 10 PC > Fiio BTR1K (USB-DAC) > Smabat ST-10
Pixel 3 > Apple USB-C to 3.5mm dongle > Smabat ST-10
I have tested these headphones with local FLAC and Spotify Premium.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
The Smabat ST-10 comes in a mid-sized black rectangular package with inlaid silver text. The front panel, top panel, and bottom panel of the lid bear the Smabat logo, and the left and right panels list Smabat’s web address. While the web address is valid, the website is Chinese language and loads very slowly. The back of the package lists specifications for the earbuds and contact information for the manufacturer.
Included with the ST-10 are a pair of full foam covers, a pair of donut foam covers, a pair of full silicone covers, a leather pouch embossed with the Smabat logo, and an owner’s manual. The pouch is small for the ST-10, and the materials used are cheap-looking.
BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN
The Smabat ST-10 has a two-part housing design. The outer housing section is black plastic with a U-shaped brushed aluminum wrap. There is a bass vent with a silver grille on the bottom. The Smabat logo is printed on the outward-facing brushed metal surface, and the model name and “L/R” are printed in line with the MMCX connector. The brushed aluminum seems to be wear-prone. In the few weeks I’ve had the ST-10, the green finish has begun chipping off along the edges.
The saucer-shaped driver enclosure has a black metal back lined with fine concentric grooves and a silver ring about halfway down the sloped surface to the ear-facing grille. Below this ring, there are two circular vents about 100 degrees apart from each other. The rim of the earbud is matte black plastic, and the earbud face grille is polished metal.
According to reports in the Head-Fi earbuds thread, the first batch of ST-10s had issues with loose MMCX connections. It is my understanding that Smabat replaced affected pairs at no cost to buyers and addressed the issue on the second run of ST-10s. My ST-10 is evidently a post-revision pair, as the connection on my pair is tighter than is necessary. It is very difficult to remove the stock cable.
The MMCX cable has a cloth sheath up to the Y-split, after which the cable is enclosed by rubbery plastic. The MMCX connector housings are also rubber and have raised “L/R” indicators. The cable has pre-formed rubber ear guides. The Y-split and 3.5mm jack have metal exteriors. The chin slider is also metal. The chin slider is laser-etched with a barbute, the Y-split housing with the model name, and the 3.5mm housing with the brand name. The top of the 3.5mm jack and the bottom of the Y-split have strain relief.
COMFORT / FIT / ISOLATION
The Smabat ST-10 is intended to be worn cable-up only. The ST-10 is comfortable to wear for extended periods. Isolation is non-existent and keeping a secure fit is difficult, as with any earbud.
The following sound impressions are based on listening without any of the included covers.
The Smabat ST-10 has a slightly bright tuning with exceptional sub-bass extension.
The ST-10 has a wiry, accurate bass response that digs deeper into the sub-bass region than any other earbud I’ve ever heard. Mid-bass is de-emphasized. Bass-heavy tracks generate rumble but do not slam. Bass articulation is fast and precise. There is not enough mid-bass to bleed into the lower midrange.
The midrange emphasizes presence and clarity over warmth and body. Female vocals are slightly more forward than male vocals. Female vocals are vibrant but not shrill. Distorted electric guitars and harsh male vocals are convincingly abrasive.
The treble is elevated and extended, with abundant air and sparkle. Transients are natural sounding.
The ST-10 stands head and shoulders above any other earbud in my collection (QianYun Qian69, VE Monk Espresso, and Nicehck EB2) in terms of technicalities. Detail retrieval is excellent. Instrument separation is very good. Soundstage is expansive. Imaging is above average.
AMPLIFICATION REQUIREMENTS AND SOURCE PAIRING
With a sensitivity of 115dB and an impedance of 45ohms, the Smabat ST-10 can be driven to adequate listening volumes with a smartphone or dongle but will benefit from the additional headroom provided by a dedicated source if one wants to listen at high volumes. I did not notice hiss with any of my sources.
The Smabat ST-10 is a high-water mark for earbuds, displaying technical abilities I didn’t think were possible in the form factor. Recommended.