Glasses, 6-hour comfort, terrific sound - possible?
Apr 16, 2003 (Updated Jan 6, 2005)
Review by oion
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Comfort. Sound. Comfort. Sound. Did I mention, comfort and sound?
Cons:People will give a double take. Weak cord connection to earpieces. Not good on plane.
The Bottom Line: Very customizable comfort - especially if you wear glasses or your ears stick out a little, but good for everyone. Incredible, excellent sound. Lifetime warranty.
The fact that Koss has had the Portapros in their product lineup for well over a decade, without changing, means something.
Recommend this product?
Unlike many reviewers of these types of things, I tried a few headphones here and there, but really spent months looking for the right type of headphones without wanting to spend money on more than one pair simply to compare them; that's just too much work. :) Thus, I can't really directly compare with another specific set. These are the only pair of headphones I own, and I love them to death (I had originally wrote a short blurb about them on Amazon a couple years ago). Retailing between $40-$50, I think the price is very worthwhile (hey, how many things have a real lifetime warranty these days?).
Frequency Response: 15-25,000 Hz
Impedance: 60 ohms
Weight: 2.1 oz.
Sensitivity: 101 dB SPL/1mW
Distortion: less than 0.2%
Anatomy of comfort
Headphones, earphones, plugs, these are devices that people can only subjectively talk about in terms of comfort, since everyone's ears and ear canals are shaped a bit differently. I think it's important to point out that the unique temple-pads (Koss' Comfort Zone) exist only on maybe one or two other types of headphones on the market, and the only other one I found cost a good fortune. The temporal pads, however, were very important to me for my purchase, despite looking very strange.
If you wear glasses, and/or ears stick out just a little than normal, give these a chance. Most supra-aurals I've tried are either painful after a short time or simply wouldn't stay on my head comfortably. I didn't want the in-ear/earplug type, and the circumaural headphones are simply too big to be portable (glossary: supra-aural sit on the ear, circumaural is like a cup with the padding around the ear).
Three issues for comfort with the Portapros: The temple pads, the metal headband, and the swivelling earpieces.
The temple pads really do look strange - I got most of my second-looks for that - but they make a world of difference in easing pressure off the ear and onto the side of your head. It took me a little while to figure out how to adjust the temple pads (firm, medium, light) - you must have the earpieces collapsed, push the blue tab to whatever setting you want, then pull out the earpiece to "set" it. The downside of this design is that you have to reset the temple pad firmness every time you take out the collapsed headphones, but it's not that big a deal. Since I wear glasses, the pads are very good for easing pressure that would make the headphones pinch painfully after an hour or less - it is these temple pads that allow me to wear the Portapros nearly all day without experiencing ear-fatigue.
*Note: people call the pads "temple" pads, but that's a bit of a misnomer given that people associate "temple" with the muscular sides of the head - it's actually quite uncomfortable to put pressure directly on the temples. Koss' temporal pads, however actually sit further behind the temples, right above the ear on the bony cranial plate known as the temporal bone.
The metal headband may not look as cool as some of the other headphones (or, perhaps they do look cooler, depending on your tastes), but one big advantage over other plastic headbands is that you can directly bend and mold the metal to suit the shape of your head, if you don't like that it's too "round." On the downside, the sliding headband has caught in my hair occasionally, but no big deal.
Lastly, the swivelling earpieces aren't that unique, certainly, but do help with staying on your head if your ears aren't perfectly flat.
I don't need to reiterate the many reviews and ratings concerning the Portapro's superb sound. After hearing a theatrical release in theatre, listening to the soundtrack from the Portapros is equally enjoyable (well, considering these are $50 "low-mid"-range headphones). The only adjective I can think of is rich. It helps that "Portapro" can be found near the word audiophile.
The semi-open construction of these headphones means that you will be able to hear your environment, generally, and if you have your music on too loud, others around you will hear as well. The obvious downside is that they won't perform as well in a noisy setting such as inside a plane (Koss does have a noise-reduction pair, QZ-2000, but I haven't tried it).
*Also, please see my little update at the bottom concerning sound.
I find it interesting that other reviews for the Portapros vacillate between "flimsy" and "sturdy." I can see where the flimsy comments come from, however - the connection point of the wire insertion into the earpieces seems weak. I haven't broken my headphones in the few years I've had them, but on occasion I've accidentally snagged the cord, and at the point of the earpiece insertion, the cord felt loose enough to slide in/out slightly. I suppose this may be secured with a dot of superglue. Otherwise, all I can say for the construction is that it's sturdy enough. The length of the cord hasn't been a problem for me - if it's too short, one can likely buy a miniplug extension of some kind (the gold-plated tip would help in preventing too much signal loss). As others have said - Koss' lifetime warranty is a blessing.
These are marketed as collapsible for portability - true, they roll up in a ball, but I often worry about accidentally crushing them, and there isn't a nice way of storing the cord besides just wrapping around the ball. I lost the pouch that came with mine, but it didn't really fit that well anyway.
This has to be obvious. :D I love my Portapros, as do my ears.
(Postscript: Koss makes another model with the temporal pads as well - the Sportapros; I haven't tried these, and they look more like normal headphones, though some users have said the sound isn't as good as the Portapros, oddly.)
*Update 12/04: I really should note that though these may be used for all sorts of music, my hearing is generally too sensitive to jack anything up to a level that promotes external sound leakage. I only use these in quiet settings (e.g. work), and not actually on the street. At very high volume levels, you might damage your hearing precisely because of the enhanced lower frequencies.
*Update 01/05: I ordered replacement pads for my Portapros through the Koss Web site (through the "Customer Service" section). For only $5 total you get two pairs of temporal pads and two pairs of ear cushions shipped in good time. HOWEVER... Koss prints your e-mail address and phone number right on the mailing label, which I don't particularly like. You might be able to avoid that, though.
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