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KOSS Porta Pro Review (On-ear Headphone)

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 14 8.5%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 47 28.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 83 50.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 21 12.7%

  • Total voters
    165

wwenze

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These were recommended to me by a friend some 15-20 years ago. Proof that even without measurements or an audiophile label, the majority of human ears can agree on what sounds good.
 

musicforcities

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These were recommended to me by a friend some 15-20 years ago. Proof that even without measurements or an audiophile label, the majority of human ears can agree on what sounds good.
Umm…dude…sample size of one is not proof of anything, except perhaps confirmation bias.

And 20 years ago was an entirely different context relative to todays technology and quality. Unless one is looking for a very specific form factor (small, light, open back, on ear, low impedance, goofy looking headphones) there is no reason to consider the Porta Pros today (IMAO). Even then, koss itself makes better options (the ksc75 for example or other models with its driver…surpasses the muddled porta pro).
 

norcalscott

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Thanks for the review, Amir, I have always wondered how these would measure. I've got a couple of pairs of these - one is a classic pair purchased about 8 years ago and one is the Drop Black version with a microphone. Both sound about the same and they are surprisingly good for the money. Since I have much better headphones I don't listen to them very much these days.

For pads, on my classic version I am using a larger Grado pad that goes around the stock pad, which makes it sit a little further from the ear and more on top of the whole ear. I have Yaxi pads on the other one. Surprisingly, the classic with the Grado Frakenpads sounds the best to me, especially in the lower frequency region. One warning about Yaxi pads - I purchased the blue pads and after about 3 months they faded into a sickly grey color, which is apparently a common issue only with the blue pads...

One advantage of shaving my head is that I have never had any issues with the band grabbing hair :)
 

A.West

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These were my first headphones ever, bought around 1983 or 84 alongside a Koss portable cassette deck with Dolby B NR. With it I listened to Devo, Duran Duran, and The Police, while studying Dungeons & Dragons manuals. Very nerdy for a 13 y o.
 

dr0ss

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When this thread appeared I was waiting delivery of a pair of the Yaxi pads to replace disintegrating Koss brand. I now have them on. I wouldn't say the sound is better or worse, but it certainly seems different to me, and they're substantially more comfortable. I wonder though if the sound leakage is worse? Maybe @amirm can test this if/when he tests these headphones with the Yaxis?

(I don't use these much for listening to music, except when traveling; mainly for Zoom and podcasts while exercising. With the new comfort level I might start using them more.)
 

ishouldbeking

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I own plenty of other, much "better" headphones, but I still reach for my assorted Koss cans by an order of magnitude more often. They're comfy, lightweight, barely mess up my hair, sound perfectly satisfying with EQ, sound passably fine (and rather exciting for certain tracks) without EQ. Add in a killer price point and a lifetime warranty, and they're just a fantastically usable set of cans and a killer value. I struggle to get a good seal or comfortable fit with IEMs, so these get use in every context imaginable; in the gym, on the peloton, at the library (leakage isn't that bad if you keep the volume at sane levels), on the subway (isolation is of course non existent, but they work fine if you turn them up a bit), around town, washing dishes, at my desk... About the only place I don't like using them is on an airplane, where the persistent rumble is just too much and you'd have to crank them to uncomfortable listening levels that probably would annoy your neighbors.

Some fun facts:
  • If you don't like the stock pads, the Yaxi pads are a fantastic comfort upgrade for about $10-12. Some folks insist they aid more air to the sound; I don't hear it. I find yaxis make them just a hair darker, but it's a minimal change and worth the comfort increase.
  • These often go on sale for $20-30 around the holidays, and you should never pay $50 unless you're desperate. Available in two common colorways: steel/blue and black with red/blue accents (steel blue is the classic); you can also find all sorts of insane color variants from around the world, but you have to be careful as the weird colors sold on amazon and ebay are occasionally fakes.
  • Drop.com sells a very nice version with a different cable and colorway called the PortaPro X, which includes a perfectly usable in-line mic and barebones remote for $38, but I've bought these multiple times on sale for $20 over the years.
  • If you don't like the headband (some people find they pull out hair), there are lots of options. For one, the Sporta Pro is the exact same driver on a slightly different headband; this one converts to go behind the head (the "sport" configuration), which is actually ideal if you don't want to mess up your hair during work, or it can be flipped up into normal overhead mode; comfort is very similar to Porta Pros and the sound is almost identical, with some mild variation due to the slightly different enclosure construction and clamping force. (These sell for $20-25 by default and are an excellent value; they look dorky but the behind the head functionality is really excellent; this is my preferred version, to be honest.)
  • The same drivers are also available on ear-clips on a model called the KSC35; they're oddly expensive and for whatever reason use crappier ear clips than those used on the KSC75 (which are similar but use a brighter, titanium-coated driver and actually sound quite a bit different). The KSC35 is great, but another option is to buy a PortaPro and just swap the drivers onto the KSC75 clips, which are better than the rubbery plastic of the KSC35 and can be bent to fit your head (it takes 2 mins to swap them from one band to another).
  • ANOTHER option is to use the legendary Parts Express headband, which sells for ~6 and strikes the perfect balance of light clamping force, no hair-pulling, and dorky style. All of these 60 ohm Koss drivers are incredibly sensitive to clamping force, and they actually sound quite a bit different depending on which headband or ear clips you use. Before EQ usage was widespread, folks would often experiment to get the best sonic response by altering the headband. The Parts Express headband is famous for having a slightly higher clamp than the KSC75 clips (so they increase bass response for the bass-shy KSC75) and a slightly looser fit than the PortaPro and SportaPro bands (so slightly less exaggerated upper bass response). Worth trying if you get the Koss bug, though I just use stock Portas and Sportas with EQ these days, since I don't mind the headbands at all.
  • And if these are all just too bass heavy and lacking in treble detail for you, definitely try the KSC75, which is much brighter (slightly brittle sounding), and much lighter on bass. The earclips are easily adjustable, and you can of course switch out the titanium drivers to go on any of the other Porta compatible headbands.
  • The lifetime warranty is incredibly useful but not perfect. You have to ship them in (so roughly $7 in one-way shipping costs) and you send in a $9 processing fee which covers return shipping. So you basically get infinite replacements for $16 each, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. I've used the warrant program many times for Portas, though it's not really worth it for the KSC75 (which is unfortunately very prone to cable failure).
  • Build quality on these is adequate for the price, but the solder points in the cups will eventually fail. If you're handy it's a simple fix; I'm not, so I use the warranty. Sportas typically last me 2-5 years; Portas about the same; KSC75's always die fast, anywhere between 6 months to 2 years, and I've learned to baby them. It is what it is. You also have to be careful not to sit on the headphones, as the plastic can break and it's not hard to bend the headband. Still, at this price, it's not an issue for me.
 

Herbert

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Time to show my Koss Porta Pro mod!
I developed this while recording the sound of my documentaries
Boom poles can be very prone to structure borne noise and the headphones
normally provided lack bass to notice it. The Porta Pro does but you can't use it
on a set as they do not shield enough from environmental noise.
By chance I found hearing protectors that fit the drivers like they were made
for them. Just two small foam pieces above and below the driver
(taken from a customizable camera case) and light cotton cloth to protect
the drivers from dirt. When new, the protectors damp about 26dB.
I soldered the cables ob some Iphone earbuds to the drivers.
Doing so I found out that apple uses the microphone's circuitry also
for EQing the frequency response of the Iphones output according
to the earbuds. This started with the iphone 4s and the Porta Pros suddenly sounded muffled.
Bridging the IC brought the EQ back to normal.
In the Porta Pros 37 years of history somebody came up with the idea
of drilling extra holes into the grill to enhance treble - AFAIK it bettered the sound.
But audiosciencereview is the best place to learn about how easily your brain can trick itself.
 

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oversky

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  • If you don't like the stock pads, the Yaxi pads are a fantastic comfort upgrade for about $10-12. Some folks insist they aid more air to the sound; I don't hear it. I find yaxis make them just a hair darker, but it's a minimal change and worth the comfort increase.
I am interested in the Yaxi pad.
How long does it last?
Thank you.
 

Vict0r

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I think I've worn a pair of Portapro's more often in my life than I did a pair of socks. :D Absolute icons. I think I have five pair lying around the house. They're cheap as chips and, with a little EQ, they just make you forget you have them on.

If you voted "poor" on this $30 classic, you're a heartless bastard. :p

EDIT: The community mods on the Portapro and KSC75 are just amazing.

PPB2-1100x825.jpg


1579760.jpg
 
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ishouldbeking

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I am interested in the Yaxi pad.
How long does it last?
Thank you.
Like the stock pads, they're still just basic foam pads so they will deteriorate over time. I find they last a bit longer than the originals. But because they're thicker and more cushioned, they seem to show indentations from wear more than the originals. My current yaxis have been on for about 18 months and are perfectly usable, but they've developed a few permanent indentations and the foam is starting to wear. I'll probably grab a new pair at some point in the next few months.

$12 pads every 12-24 months for a $30 headphone might seem like a lot, but compared to the $50 pads for Sennheisers that disintegrate even faster, it's pretty reasonable. You can also save a bit if you order a few sets at once.

The other perk is that yaxis come in any color you want. I stick with black so I can wear them in a stuffy office setting, but the brighter options are great fun.
 

somebodyelse

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If you voted "poor" on this $30 classic, you're a heartless bastard.
I thought they were poor ~25 years ago and relegated them to 'disposable headphone for testing stuff' duty. That upper bass hump is the main problem. Now arbitrary EQ is easy they're easy to make more acceptable, but you can say that about a lot of headphones.
 

bravomail

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Without EQ, the KOSS Porta Pro doesn't get a recommendation from me. But add EQ, and it becomes recommended with a smile. :)
Thx for review, Amir! I had Porta Pro back about 10 years ago, bought based on hype. They were atrocious! Hard to drive from mobile and sounded muffled.
 

ishouldbeking

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8CD42C25-A7B1-4BAD-A247-6FB6438F7278.jpeg
In case it’s helpful, here’s the EQ settings I use on mine with Yaxi pads. This is based off Oratory’s measurements with yaxi pads (which I believe he found slightly decreased the upper bass as well as the treble peak, but I forget). I probably made a few minor tweaks to taste, but I’ve been using this profile for about a year. I tested Amir’s and Maiky’s last night for fun - Maiky’s sounded quite a bit off in the treble, as if the treble peaks on my headphones don’t line up with the measured sample here, but I thought Amir’s EQ sounded pretty excellent. Perhaps clearer and slightly brighter than the profile I usually use, but with a touch less bass impact. For my music (especially extreme metal), and on my sample using yaxi pads, I think I prefer my starting EQ, but I’ll definitely experiment with Amir’s profile going forward.

Note that this EQ profile is actually -6.0 db pre-gain (which is the default for Qudelix) even though it shows as 0.0.

EDIT: oof, no idea why a tiny screenshot came up so colossally huge, but I'm not sure how to change it.
 
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dr0ss

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Like the stock pads, they're still just basic foam pads so they will deteriorate over time.
The stock pads have an irritating failure mode, where they disintegrate along the ridge of the speaker. I think this is because the pad is (unnecessarily) as thin at the edges as over the driver, and when you put it on and off (and just wear it) lateral pressures stress that part of the pad. I've only had my Yaxis 2 days, but they are much thicker at this critical area. I expect them to disintegrate more the way the pads wear on Grados and Sennheisers, which is much less localized.
 

ishouldbeking

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The stock pads have an irritating failure mode, where they disintegrate along the ridge of the speaker. I think this is because the pad is (unnecessarily) as thin at the edges as over the driver, and when you put it on and off (and just wear it) lateral pressures stress that part of the pad. I've only had my Yaxis 2 days, but they are much thicker at this critical area. I expect them to disintegrate more the way the pads wear on Grados and Sennheisers, which is much less localized.
That's probably true. I haven't used the stock pads in a while, but I found they lasted about what I'd expect - usually a little over a year despite very heavy use (including for gym/cardio). The foam eventually gets pretty gross and starts to deteriorate. Fortunately, I probably have a dozen spare stock pads since they used to sell 6-packs of replacements for $6. (Though I'll happily stick with yaxis from here on out anyway.)
 

dougi

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I recently bought the "wireless" version for un-tethered work meetings (they have a mic as well) and music on the go. They are a bit ungainly compared with the wired due to one capsule below each ear and a cable between them. I assume they sound similar and with EQ on my phone via Wavelet perfectly OK for casual music listening. Unfortunately, with my work PC, there is horrible noise into the BT section so that gets annoying with meetings.
 

PeteL

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These were recommended to me by a friend some 15-20 years ago. Proof that even without measurements or an audiophile label, the majority of human ears can agree on what sounds good.
Well this review states that it can’t be recommended unless youhave EQ. That makes at least one influencial audiophile set of human ears that don’t agree with this, well make it two.
 

ishouldbeking

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Well this review states that it can’t be recommended unless youhave EQ. That makes at least one influencial audiophile set of human ears that don’t agree with this, well make it two.
If the goal is total fidelity and neutrality, of course this cheap pair of consumer-oriented, portable on-ears are not going to get an audiophile's recommendation. But in stock form, these are immensely satisfying and perfectly listenable if you just want something in a usable form factor with a fun sound signature. Which explains why they've been available (and popular) for almost 40 years running.

For such a lightweight set of headphones, these things have some serious upper-bass slam, and the overall tuning makes them extremely versatile. Sure, they're too dark by default, and that upper-bass bump bleeds into the mids, but that actually works quite well for a lot of genres. Extreme metal, hip hop, electronic music, all perfectly satisfying if you go in with realistic expectations. Add some EQ and they sound fantastic. I use mine every day because I enjoy the form factor so much, and they happen to sound quite nice to boot.
 

pavuol

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A bit entertainment, I accidentally found these lovely headphones in an old 1986 Hitachi audio catalogue (beautiful btw., see attachment), they look a bit like japanese clone of Portas', don't they? :)
2022-02-14 06_48_36-Hitachi-1986-Catalog.pdf - SumatraPDF.jpg
 

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