The Koss Portapro: Great Portable Cans

Koss Portapro

Since I started podcasting, one of the things I buy a lot of are headphones. You end up with headphones for all kinds of purposes, depending you need them for casual listening or for monitoring sound in the studio.

And let me tell you, once you start using good ones, you cannot go back to crappy ones anymore. I am currently using a new pair of Koss Portapro portable headphones for leisure listening and they rock.

Koss Portapro 2

These are made in 1988, which explains the retro (ok, some say dorky) look, but dammit they sound great. These are Open headphones, which give me a fuller sound, but they can’t be used in our recording studio for monitoring because the sound leaks. You need Closed headphones for that (and also heaphones that give you an unbiased flat response). However for leisure listening, these Portapros give a punchy bass without sacrificing the mids and highs, and they fold up nicely for carrying around.

The headband does have a tendency of pinching my hair and yanking a few out if I am not careful (when you get to my age, you have to be careful not to lose what hair you have left!). Adjust the band BEFORE wearing, and not while they are on your head, or else sure botak.

I can wear them all day, they are that comfortable. The additional foam pads with adjustable pressure switches (called “Comfort Zone”) that Koss uses on this headphone keeps the pressure off the head, so you get a good fit without the headache.

The unit comes with a quarter-inch plug and leather carrying case. Frequency response is 15-25,000 Hz which means really good reproduction of low and high frequencies. The 103 dB SPL/1mW sensitivity means the Portapro’s are easy to drive on portable music players. Sure the sound is coloured, but in a good way. These would not be accurate for studio monitoring, but great for listening to music. I love the incredible clarity, just-nice bass, and natural sound.

PX100

In the course of auditioning portable headphones, I also tried the Sennheiser PX100 and PX200 portable headphones, as well as the AKG K 24 P. The Sennheiser PX100 is very close to the Portapro in sound quality and amazing clarity, better looking and about $10 cheaper, but the bass seems stronger on the Portapro. It took Sennheiser 10 years to come up with something to match the venerable Portapro in sound though.

PX 200

The PX200, you may think, is a better model because of the higher number, but actually, the sound of the PX100 is way better, I suspect because the PX100 is an open-back while the PX200 is closed-backed. The mids and highs on the PX200 are muddy. If you need a pair of closed headphones that fold, then take the PX200, if you want better sound, stick with the PX100 or Portapro. The leather pads on the PX200 were nice though. And the PX series comes with a hard case for storage, which is good if you want protection, bad if you don’t like bulk.

AKG k24p

The closed-back AKG K24P I tried was a little disappointing too. Cool folding mechanism, but lacked clarity. Bass was good though but I found it a bit lacking in punch.

e2c

In the end, I chose the Koss Portapro over the PX100. They don’t have the isolation of my Shure E2C earplugs but I can wear them for longer comfortably and the sound is way better than the Shures. I find the E2C great for sound isolation, but the sound is so-so. At about $89, the Portapro is the best money I have ever spent on headphones, next to the money I spent on my Sennheiser HD280 studio monitors.

hd280

One of the earliest headphones I picked up for the mrbrown show was the venerable Sennheiser HD280 Silver (which is the same as the black HD 280 Pro). This is a closed-back headphone we use to monitor sound in the studio. It is a great headphone and despite having a flat, uncoloured, unexaggerated response across a wide frequency range, and being meant for monitoring, the sound is so good and accurate, I ended up using it for listening to music too. There are no excessive bass or highs, so if that is what you are looking for, forget it.

hd280 v2

It folds flat or into a ball, and while not very portable, it is quite ok to take along for trips.

ath-m30

Our new studio is also equipped with Audio-Technica ATH-M30 headphones for the cast to listen to themselves. These are also professional studio monitors, but at about $65, are priced much lower than the HD 280’s $230 price tag. The M30s are good value for closed flat-response studio monitors.

hd201

Lastly, we also use a Sennheiser HD201 for the cast. It is not a studio monitor, but are closed-back, and the sound is surprisingly good for a $40 pair of headphones. If you are looking for a good pair of closed headphones for casual listening, the HD201 is excellent value.

48 Responses to “The Koss Portapro: Great Portable Cans”

  1. Matsukaze Says:

    Yo MB…
    Have you checked on the ATH-FC5 headphones from Audio technica before???

    how does it compare to the portapro?

  2. mb Says:

    Wah, you very the lucky, Matsukaze, asking about the ATH-FC5. My office colleague happened to have a pair of white ones on his table and I took a listen.

    Nope. The Koss Portapro still win.

    Compared to the ATH-FC5, the Portapro has a fuller sound. The ATH-FC5 does not have the same clarity in the mids and highs, and the bass is muddy. Overall the sound is thin and cold.

    The only thing the ATH-FC5 wins on is in the looks department. And only if you need to have a closed-back. Even if you need a closed headphone, the PX200 is a better buy.

  3. zhihao Says:

    brown,

    did the barber’s shaver suddenly went berserk whilst trimming the side of your head?

  4. gonococcus Says:

    For headphone fans you gotta check out: http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/

    Some ear/headphones I’ve used:
    Sennheiser HD497 - For about the same price of a PX100, this beast gives better sound at the expense of portability. The sound is a little bright and harsh, but the detail is really incredible.

    Panasonic HJE50 in-canal earphones - Great isolation from outside noise. Vocals are very accurate. But treble is a little harsh. Costs $55.

    Creative EP630 - Good isolating in-canal earphones, with a very extended bass and treble range. Problem is, the bass is a little boomy, leading to inaccurate vocal reproduction.

  5. JanganTension Says:

    The Koss KSC-75 sound excellent as well, and they’re a clip-on design. Not as much to carry around and probably less dorky-looking =P

  6. kiat Says:

    Thanks for recommending my favourite pair of earphone. Now I canwear it out and not have people giving me weird looks when I look like an alien with it on.

    Bought the gem early this year. Love at first sight when I saw it at causeway point, when home to research on it. Then bought it promptly.

  7. kiat Says:

    Creative EP630 can be quite good for songs from linkin park and the likes, but for other songs.. nada.

    I own Koss PortaPro, EP630, AT EM5, Sony EX81.

    The prices are: 89, 69, 49, 89.

    Portapro owned.

  8. yinah Says:

    brown you showing off your new hairy hairstyle? hehe….

  9. lionel Says:

    Tell us about microphones next.

  10. ian Says:

    mb,
    are you also into hi-end audio equipment by chance? You know, home stereo equipment with ultra hi-fidelity.

    Not too common cause they cost a mint, but some people are really into that hobby and those systems sound really clear and incredibly “alive”. Some also look really cool.

    Anyway, just curious if you’re also into that scene since you’re so enthusiastic about your studio equipment.

  11. cky Says:

    mb where do u get ur headphones from?

  12. [hooi] Says:

    yay i have PX100… they rule!! got spoilt once but warrenty covered… and the case is EXTREMELY handy

  13. Matsukaze Says:

    MB, your not happening to be doing free advertising are you?

    Should charge Koss for advert fees ma lol…

  14. Zur Says:

    Forget about the headphones~ Where did you get that Ingram? :D

  15. Matsukaze Says:

    hmmm… a closed-back prevents others from hearing what you’re playing rite?

    other than that open back got any difference anot ar? i heard my friend talking about the trapping the treble or something like that…

    btw i own an ATH-FC5… looks good with so-so sound quality like MB stated… what’s worse is that when it’s brand new it’s super irritating… cuz the spring thingy keeps retracting and pinching your neck if you put it around your neck…

    luckily mine is seasoned and the ‘love bites’ have faded lol…

  16. Sam Toh Says:

    haha yeah product placement ok. macham movies, in pod casts also must product place! then can make money.

    oh yeah MB check out Philips SHE592 in ear headphones. they look kinda weird but the sound is the best i’ve ever heard in normal in-ear headphones. im in toronto studying and so happen my stupid sennheisers spoilt and here they have 90 day return policy so i tried all their in ear headphones (yes i stuck them in my ear then exchanged them a week later for another brand. haha stupid canadian sales policies) noise cancellation in-ear headphones too expensive tho, so didnt try them.

  17. Pazu Says:

    Hehe. I have the Kaiyodo Revoltech Ingram 1 too. Ingram 2 out soon and I believe Optimus Prime is in the pipeline.

    Sorry about the OT. :P

    I personally uses Plantronics headset, cloth ear pads are so much more comfortable!

  18. vance Says:

    looking at the cans u chose, u must be a regular visitor at head-fi.com…bravo!

  19. alex Says:

    Hi!
    I have been looking for some Koss Portapro in Spore for one month!!!
    Please help I can not find any…
    Cheers

  20. alex Says:

    Any idea where to buy a Koss PortaPro in Spore??

  21. acidz Says:

    Where to buy Koss headphones? The popular shops are Hung Brothers on the 3rd storey of Sim Lim Square and Stereo Electronics in Causeway Point.

  22. Mac Web Hosting Says:

    Yo Mr B!

    I would be interested (as I’m sure other listeners would be) in knowing your podcasting setup. You can even fill it full of affiliate links, so it makes it worth your time writing! :)

    Keep up the good work!

    Steve

  23. alex Says:

    Thanks Acidz!!!! you have no idea, how happy you make me feel. Tonight I will listen to some music!!!

  24. Matsukaze Says:

    Hmmm… so MB, you bought your headphones from Sim Lim too???

    Lol i have a lecturer called Jerome Lo (we call him J.Lo) and he’s also a mac-man… hangs around simlim too… =P

  25. Notti Piglet Says:

    Hey Brown… I almost bought those headphones after you recommended them. But decided that money no enuff. Anway, I have already bought a Senns HD 580. Don’t think I should spend any more money for headphones. :P

  26. kwang Says:

    for the headphones you can get it from stereo electronics at causeway point. they have all sorts of headphones and earphones and you can also audition it there. can also check out jaben at aldephi and hung bros at sim lim sq.

    I’ve not tried the portapros. but have hung around forums long enough to hear good comments bout them.

    For open back headphones, i think grados are still the best.

  27. matsukaze Says:

    bro u mean auction? or audition?

  28. Shogun Says:

    Hey Brown

    where do you buy The Koss Portapro cos amazon dun send to singapore…

  29. Topgun Says:

    Hey Mr Brown!

    Loved your podcasts as well..
    Didn’t knew you were into high end audio as well! =)

    Nice short writeup over there, and yes the KOSS sounds really damn good for the price you are paying! Nice Patlabor unit you have there too.. very cool and slick looking.

    Since you are into headphones and In-Ear Monitors (IEMs), why not join our small music loving community? Maybe you could do us some nice podcasts as well.. like “Who zhng my headphones?!” or something similiar.. =D

    Nice having you here(hear as well) on the local scene. Have always enjoyed your satirical take on the Singaporean Gahmen!

    Take care and God Bless!

  30. Notti Piglet Says:

    Hung Bros at Sim Lim sells the Portapro at $89. I just bought a set of Senns PX100 for $70. Thought I should buy a good set for work. :)

  31. Matsukaze Says:

    I bought my Audio-Technicas for $80…
    Looks good… but dammit there’re so many ppl on the streets wearing it nowadays!

    hmmm zhng my headphone??? nah… if want to zhng zhng the body more interesting lol…

    central recently got the documentary rite? the one they show ppl mutilating themselves… NB tat time i saw the episode they purposely scar designs on their body… not tattoo hor is use knife cut one!!!

  32. Notti Piglet Says:

    If you have a good headphone amp, you should try the Sennheiser HD 580 / 600 / 650. But these need a good amp because they are 300 ohms impedence. The Senns PX 100 is just 32 ohms impedence. Meaning, you need close to 10x as much power to drive.

    I use the Creative X-Fi Platinum to drive my headphones. They are cheaper than most good headphone amps and sound quite decent. :)

  33. aaron-xp Says:

    The K701 would make a great studio monitor, though it’s open. Great for listening also. There are local forums on headphones also, other than headfi.

    Just click on Topgun’s name.

  34. Wojtek Says:

    Thanks for the review!

    I already own the HD-280 Pro’s and I agree that they’re great closed headphones for the price.

    Now I had to decide between the Senn PX-100 and the Porta Pro’s as a present for my girlfriend and thanks to your words I choose the Porta’s.

    Thanks again!

  35. matthew Says:

    i love the porta pro’s slightly more than the sennheiser px100/200. although in terms of clarity the sennheisers are better, the bass and overall sound make the koss a better option.

    the 280’s? less said the better really.

  36. thomas Says:

    yes, i have to agree that porta pros are one of the best portable headphones around in terms of value and sound deliverance.

  37. molly mil Says:

    Just got my PortaPros today…Fantastic!!! And don’t forget the lifetime warranty!!! I had a mate smash them in their cycle bag by accident…returned them and got a brand new pair. And now that they can be had for ~ $40, hard to beat.

  38. Bachyeo Says:

    Hey… I’m a newbie here. So when this post in Nov 2006,

    Koss PortaPro, EP630, AT EM5, Sony EX81.

    The prices are: 89, 69, 49, 89.

    It means the prices is even cheaper now. But there will sure be more better and powerful new stuffs taking over these older model as well.

    Thanks for the great posts and info on headphones. Now i have better understandings. Cheers!!! Thanks MB and BROS!!!

  39. Peter Y Says:

    Hi Mr Brown, I bought the Koss Porta Pro last Sunday at SLS. They are really comfortable to wear and I love the design. I am not sure if they are durable or not as they are new. As for the sound performance, the mids, highs were reproduced accurately without overpowering. The lows were strong and tight. The kind of bass I loved! Thank you for recommending this product! PM me where to buy an extra set of foam pads in Singapore? Thanks again!

  40. Weikiat Says:

    they just recently came up with the 25th anniversary limited edition of Koss portapro which comes with stylish case, a coin, history booklet. The portapro metal band is black, the silver ring about the driver portion is chrome silver instead of brushed silver with the words “Koss portapro 25th Anniversary” engraved, and the sticker at the center has inverted cover. The blue parts are in grey or red - 2 different versions. There are only 25000 sets worldwide, I am getting mine tomorrow!

    If you really love portapro, should be good to get this as a collector’s item.

  41. Weikiat Says:

    Just got my limited edition portapro.. whee:)

    Peter Y, u can try using PX200’s pad on Koss portapro. Some have reported improved bass (less muddy due to more distance btw yr ear and the driver). Give it a try. the pads are $18 at stereo.

  42. NexusKaiser Says:

    Jus wanderin, how much do the 25ths cost? Already an avid user of my Alessandro MS-1s at age 15 =) need a portable rig. I’m an impulsive buyer btw =P

  43. Isis O Says:

    Just bought these today and I love them ! Nice thorough review ~

    :)

  44. Jacky Says:

    Hey do you know where the HD280’s are manufactured in?
    Thanks

  45. Daft Says:

    i have a pair of Audio Technica ATH FC-5. the sound quality is nt bad. for the price u pay and the music u listen to (bass/electronic) i’m intending on getting the Grado S60i or S80i. they look really great and sound really great. but Jayben really giving me too many options xD

  46. Ian Hwang Says:

    Porta Pro’s can be found @ Funan Digitalife Mall, retailing at $79. 25th Anniversary Edition is sold at $129. Shop name is The Headphones Gallery if I’m not mistaken. Hope this helped!

  47. Gerry Says:

    Anyone interested to buy the Koss PortaPro Headphones? I have the 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, just bought it on 2nd September 2010. It’s brand new sealed in a box with lifetime warranty! I need to sell it as my friends just bought me the same headphones yesterday. I’ll be selling it below the retail price of S$129.

    You can check out the pictures at this site:
    http://cgi.ebay.com/M57-Koss-PortaPr…#ht_5394wt_897

    Interested buyers, please contact me at gerrychew85@gmail.com

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    This theft of serious information has many people wondering how safe
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