The other day we did a review of the SanDisk Sansa Clip MP3 player, which seemed a solid choice for the frugal consumer. A necessary accessory is clearly a pair of headphones or ear-buds or such. So here’s a brief look at one option, namely the Koss PortaPro headphones. They are listed at $50 but at the time of writing sell for $39.99 on Amazon.
They’ve been around a long time and seem to be quite popular. Their advocates maintain that the Koss PortaPros are a nice, affordable and portable alternative to high-end headphones. They are said to have a frequency response of 15 to 25,000 Hz. If that means a lot to you, so be it. I’m not going to belabor the technical issues. Is the sound significantly better than the $10 earphones I was using before, which I picked up somewhere I can’t remember? I cannot really assert that it is, to me. In my experience one tends to hear things pretty darned clearly through headphones or earphones that are working properly, just so long as there is not excessive ambient or background noise. (The Koss PortaPro headphones are not the noise-cancelling variety.) The chief difference I’ve found with the Koss PortaPros is instead in the area of comfort. They are well designed in this regard. I have a very large head (as you might well imagine) but these expand to fit comfortably and easily. A key comfort feature is the small cushion on each side which rests above the ears, thus reducing the pressure of the cushioned ear plates. The ear plates also pivot. So, after putting them on and adjusting them for comfort, they are very unlikely to annoy you at all, as opposed to those ear-bud things which can chafe after a short while. The metal band which goes over your head might be noticeable or might catch your hair when you’re removing it, but I suppose that’s a trade-off for portability.
The headphones fold up and stay closed with a hook, and come with a standard soft carrying bag, into which you can just about stuff them.
The major drawback I see with these Koss PortaPro headphones is that they appear to be pretty fragile. Treat them roughly and wires seem likely to get tugged loose. And it’s difficult not to treat them roughly when you travel. Now, they are said to come with a “lifetime warranty” from Koss, but naturally I question how many people really take advantage of that in the event. (There is the whole bother of it, and then the fact that you have to pay to ship the headphones to them and also pay for the return shipping would nearly cancel out the value of the exercise.)
So, the Koss PortaPro headphones are on balance adequate to their task and quite pleasantly comfortable, but given their fragility they do not earn a rave from me. (If they were significantly cheaper, they might.)
Our little terrier Billie, on the other hand, has never been happier with a pair of headphones. Comfort is all for a dog.
*Addendum: Six months later, after quite a bit of use, the headphones are still in good shape and working well. Therefore I am upgrading my rating!
RATING: Nine out of ten lead pipes.