Published on November 5th, 2009 | by Greg0
Koss: Still Around, Still Good Sound
You might not know it from their website, but Koss is still around. Despite a copyright info notice dating from 2006 and the latest press release showing from 2007, Koss continues to make pretty good audio equipment.One of the only manufacturers that we’ve seen with a Museum link on their front page, it’s easy to tell that Koss is old school.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that- if the equipment is good. Luckily, Koss has some pretty neat technology to go along with the reputation and lifetime limited warranty, and we’ve been trying out the CC_01 Precision In-Ear Monitors and the KDE/250 Dual Element Monitors. We ran the usual battery of tests- a variety of low- and mid-quality MP3 files from an iPod, along with higher-quality analog sources- and pitched them against some of our previously-reviewed units that ranged in price from $30 to $70 $2000. And since we’re approaching the holidays, we admit to playing a bit of Bing Crosby.
The CC_01 Precision In-Ear Monitors offer one really cool feature that makes them stand out among the crowd- a slightly gimmicky but also useful dial, that allows you to choose a custom fit. Don’t be scared by the use of the word monitor- these are basically earbuds, albeit really nice ones, with high-quality foam cushions and a truly excellent fabric padded cord that looks nice, wraps well, and feels durable. Thanks to the dial-in feature, you don’t need to worry about changing or swapping earbud styles, though two additional sets are included. We didn’t find the fit to be quite as variable as we might have liked- those who prefer or need truly small buds will be out of luck- but they work quite well for those who require a mid- to large-size earbud. Audio was pretty uniformly excellent, with good separation, and passive isolation that blocked out most external sound once we had set the fit appropriately. And there are even two included cases- one leather, one tin- though that might be a bit of overkill! Unfortunately, they are only available in one color, red, and are quite a bit larger than most other earbuds. But they are quite good, especially for the price, and are available for about $80 on Amazon.
If you want something even stranger, try the KDE/250 Stereophones. These are sort of a hybrid, combining an almost-earbud piece for mids and highs, and an outside the air element that handles bass. It’s definitely a unique arrangement and style, but works, offering surprising levels of bass and precise sound. They feel a little less organic than a couple testers liked but this worked in their favor for some music types- electronic, for instance- that sounded cleaner and sharper through these than any other open-air, over-the-ear or earbud-style headphones. A balance of portability and size, they are pretty easy to travel with but definitely not quite as pocketable as the earbuds discussed above. Included are three clip sizes, to allow you to properly fit the unit over the ear and an adjustable knob for heighth adjustment, though we weren’t big fans of the clips themselves. The phones look good though, and grab attention, and even at high volumes handle music without distortion. At $140 online, they are definitely a bit of a tougher sell than their excellent earbuds, but audiophiles and gadget lovers should be able to unite behind this interesting, powerful, adjustable set.