Koss Porta Pro

FOR De­cent punch and de­tail; light­weight and por­ta­ble AGAINST Con­sid­er­ing the price, no real com­plaints

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Yeah, we thought the same thing. The Koss Porta Pros surely aren’t meant for peo­ple who care about sound qual­ity?

No, these are for Quentin, self-pro­fessed 21st-cen­tury Ker­ouac, lis­ten­ing to his own bed­room techno remixes on a Walk­man, glee­fully obliv­i­ous to how aw­ful they sound be­cause at least the head­phones are quirky as he is. For only £25, he can af­ford a pair us­ing the travel al­lowance from his games de­sign in­tern­ship.

But Quentin doesn’t de­serve these head­phones. Nor does any­one buy­ing them merely as a retro trin­ket. Those peo­ple frankly don’t merit the amount of fun they’ll have lis­ten­ing to the Koss Porta Pros.

Retro look

The fact they look like they are from the 1980s is pre­cisely be­cause they are. Koss in­tro­duced the de­sign in 1984, and that longevity is tes­ta­ment to their sonic per­for­mance – this wasn’t al­ways the trendi­est of looks. The de­sign keeps them light­weight, ideal for com­mut­ing or us­ing while you ex­er­cise. You can tog­gle be­tween a light or firm fit – though here, firm doesn't mean clamped to your head – as well as col­lapse them down to fit tidily in your bag. The only po­ten­tial con­cern re­gard­ing the Porta Pros’ de­sign is that they’re pretty much open backed, mean­ing you may have to dial down the Europop if you don’t want your em­bar­rass­ing tunes to be heard by the whole room.

Fine sound per pound

Ev­ery­thing per­ti­nent to build and de­sign you could es­sen­tially glean from look­ing at the pic­ture, though. What we’re re­ally here to tell you is how great these head­phones sound for such a tiny sum of money. At less than half the cost of our cheap­est Award win­ners, the AKG Y50s, there are in­evitably go­ing to be com­pro­mises made in cer­tain ar­eas. As far as we’re con­cerned, Koss has cho­sen cor­rectly in that re­gard. There isn’t the ab­so­lute de­tail of the sub-£100 class leader, but why would there be? Koss has put its en­ergy into… en­ergy. Con­sid­er­ing just how many prod­ucts we hear get­ting it wrong at all price lev­els, this would ap­pear to be the most dif­fi­cult as­pect of a pre­sen­ta­tion to get right. How­ever, tim­ing is ab­so­lutely these Porta Pros’ forte, and the rhythms they deal are done so with an in­fec­tious vi­vac­ity.

There’s also a sur­pris­ing amount of bass weight, with­out skew­ing or mud­dy­ing the bal­ance. And, while their tre­ble is per­haps not the sweet­est we’ve ever heard, it is far from coarse or dis­tract­ing.

That isn’t to say these head­phones shine only when pre­sent­ing up­beat tracks. Dy­namic range is eter­nally en­twined with rhyth­mic sen­si­bil­ity, and the Porta Pros are just as able to de­tail ex­pres­sion as they are to drive a beat.

Built for run­ning around

It’s the kind of sen­si­tiv­ity that, while not per­haps hi-fi ready, el­e­vates them be­yond the realm of ‘they’ll do’ and into that in which they could hap­pily be our main head­phones for on-the-go lis­ten­ing.

If your bud­get stretches fur­ther, we’d still sug­gest opt­ing for the AKGS. They’re a more se­ri­ous-sound­ing prod­uct that im­prove on each el­e­ment of per­for­mance – as head­phones cost­ing more than dou­ble the price of the Porta Pros should.

But we could eas­ily fore­see many cur­rent Y50 own­ers rustling up £25 to own a pair of both. The Porta Pros are eas­ily more por­ta­ble, as the name sug­gests, and are of a prefer­able build for run­ning around.

We don’t dish out five-star re­views sim­ply be­cause the mar­ket hap­pens to be bereft of com­peti­tors, nor be­cause some­thing is de­cent ‘for the money’. But if you want a cheap pair of frill-free head­phones that get to the nub of a per­for­mance, the Koss Porta Pros are a prod­uct we can fully get be­hind, and have a lot of fun while do­ing so.

They're great out and about – but they do leak sound

Quirky de­sign looks ’80s – be­cause it is ’80s

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