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What we bought: A song in praise of the Koss KSC75, still the weirdest and best-sounding headphones $20 can buy


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I’ve been looking at consumer engineering professionally for over a decade now, and in that time, I’ve worn hundreds of headphones. I tested reference pair cost up to $4,000, play with tons gaming headsetand to witness firsthand (headphones?) as the industry has moved in the direction wireless model with increasingly computer-like functionality.

And yet, for those who really care about the sound of music, the easiest advice I can give is still a pair of wired “plug-in” headphones for 17-year-olds for $20. la and looks like something you got for free on a flight back in the ’90s. I bought my first pair of Koss KSC75s years ago, but for my money, they’re still sound thing you can buy it for 20 bucks. In a market that regularly uses the power of #brands to make you pay more for basic functions, the KSC75 is an honest anomaly. They promise quality sound at a consumer-friendly price and nothing more, and they deliver.

A brief history lesson: The KSC75 emerged in 2005 as a more affordable follow-up to the Koss KSC35, a similar set of earplugs released in 1995 and price $45. Wisconsin-based Koss has long been known to audiophiles for good-value plays, namely with a range of headphones all based on the same 60 ohm driver that the company has built. production for decades. The most famous of these is probably the one close to 40 years old Koss Porta Pro – retains its own merits, but is more expensive and a bit more flimsy in design – though other retro-styled pairs like Sporta Pro and KPH30i well built around it. However, the KSC75 (and some others) use a titanium-coated version of the driver; this, combined with the loose and fit design, gives the KSC75 their own kind of sound by comparison.

And that sound is great. The emphasis here is on the midrange, which is mostly balanced and natural. There’s a bit of extra brightness to the treble, but not so much that the higher frequency sounds are too sharp. The open nature of the design gives everything a pleasant sense of space, and the various elements of a given track generally always seem to be in the right place. The design means there’s practically no sub-bass, so you won’t get any of that. feel it in your chest thumping from a variety of hip-hop or dance tracks, but the bass range To be There’s enough water now to keep most songs from sounding too thin.

Koss KSC75 on-ear headphones.

Jeff Dunn / Engadget

All told, this is a pleasant sound, one ideal for those who want to hear more deeply. The KSC75 isn’t as bass-focused as many headphones are today, and while it’s a pleasure with all types of music, it plays especially well with folksy rock or richer recordings. Additionally, its light weight and emphasis on vocal range make it a natural choice for podcasts and audiobooks. When I’m not chatting at a party, it’s also a good choice for gaming, as the balance adjustment and wide soundstage are ideal for accurately positioning other players in FPS like Overwatch or Halo.

Now, I don’t want to sound naive. There’s a perfectly decent amount of detail here, but a higher-end, modern set of headphones will still show more nuances of the track. And again, the utter lack of sub-bass will make it a must for bassheads.

Plus, since the design was something out of the ordinary even in 2005, it essentially stripped away all the conveniences of a modern headset. There’s no microphone, no built-in controls, and no sweat-resistance rating. Because of the open design, it prevents outside noise and everyone around you from hearing whatever you’re listening to if you turn everything up to a moderate volume. None of these are ideal for traveling or exercising.

The KSC75’s clip-on shape is light and comfortable for my ears, but it won’t be for everyone. (A lot of people buy these earpads from the Japanese company Yaxi to enhance comfort, but I wouldn’t say they’re necessary for most.) The construction is mainly composed of cheap silver plastic and there are plenty of stories about the cable being non-removable. its detachment is broken over time. (Although Koss’ Lifetime limited warranty These are also wired headphones in a world that is actively phasing out the headphone jack, so if you want to use them on the go, you’ll most likely need a course.

But that $20 price tag goes a long way. Saying the KSC75 is a great value is in fact a meme for audiophiles at this point – not in the “funny photo” sense, but “symbolic”. ideas spread and immersing in a culture” in a way. However, it’s true: the KSC75’s sound quality is practically unmatched in its price range and rivals many headphones that cost $100 and up. They helped me get through many hours working from home. If all you want is an affordable headset that helps you enjoy your music better, I bet you’ll love them too.

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