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Review - Koss PortaPro (sub 50€)

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 


I recently received some Yaxi pads for the Koss PortaPro and for the KSC75’s, after not getting around to it for over a year and losing track of how many people told me to get them! As I was about to open the Yaxi pads and give them a whirl on the Koss models, I realized that I hadn’t yet done a review of the PortaPro. 

Now, there are a million reviews on the web praising the PortaPro and I don’t think the world would miss mine if I didn’t post it but I am going to anyway. My reasons are that I feel the PortaPro deserves it and also, I would like to leave my impressions on them before swapping out to Yaxi pads, to see if I really do notice a big change or not.

The PortaPro that I have is the Massdrop version which has an included microphone but other than for the mic (and colour scheme), I believe that they are identical to the normal PortaPro sold directly by Koss.

I did review the KSC75, which uses the same drivers coated in titanium but mounts them in a clip on style, and I was very impressed with them, so I will also be making some comparisons to them along the way.

So, let’s get on with it!



Build and aesthetics…

As I said plainly in the KSC75 review, the build is cheap and the PortaPro are no different in this regard. They have a retro look to them, like they are designed to match a 1982 walkman, and although the (Mass)Drop version is all black, they still look like a cheap set of headphones (which they are).

As with the KSC75, the drivers are part of a plastic disc type shape that clips on to a headband. In fact, the only real difference between these and the KSC75 (except for colour and titanium covering) is the headband, which doesn’t exist on the KSC75.

The headband is a rather strange system, it is extendable and allows the drivers to be folded and then clips itself together to form a small round “bundle” (for lack of a better word) that can be stored inside the bag it came with (at least the Drop version came with a drawstring bag).

The headband also has two small cushions that rest above the ears (I suppose these are to stop all of the clamp force being on the drivers) and also has a “comfort setting” which changes the force with which the drivers clamp to your ears. It is a system that is very difficult to explain in words.

The cable, as with the KSC75, is permanently attached to the headphones but is of a bit better quality on the PortaPro, or on the Drop version at least. At the 3.5mm TRRS (due to the mic) connector end of the cable, there is a small spring type strain relief which should help protect the cable from breaking at that end. However, in my personal opinion, I have no issues replacing the connector if the cable were to break at that end but there is no strain relief at the driver end which is where it could be more problematic to replace.

As far as build, I am not sure I can add much more, it does leave a lot to be desired but at the same time I think it is part of its charm.



Comfort…

Yes!

I mean, yes, it is comfortable. In fact, it is extremely comfortable. It is so lightweight and has such a nice clamp force (depending on the setting), that I can just forget I am even wearing it. I spend a lot of time on video & conference calls and I can just wear the PortaPro for hours and hours (even 8 or more) without it bothering me at all. In fact, sometimes I will end a call and not realize that I am still wearing them until a couple of hours later (without music playing). That is something spectacular for a headphone, even more so for an on-ear headphone.

I can say without a doubt that it is the most comfortable headphone I own.



Sound…

Anyone who has been around the hifi headphone world for more than a few weeks will probably have heard praise for the Koss PortaPro, I am not going to detract from the praise but I am going to give my opinion on it in comparison to my personal tastes.

If anyone read (or watched) my KSC75 review, you may recall that I said that I preferred the KSC75 sound signature to the PortaPro, which I still do, although they are very close, so I will explain why I have that slight preference.

As an overall signature, the PortaPro is warmer than the KSC75. They have more presence in the bass department but they are not really bassy as such. The don’t have a ton of bass, they certainly aren’t bass cannons, and the extension down into the sub bass region is not really huge. They don’t give you the rumble that others do with songs like “Bury a Friend” by Billie Eilish but they do give you enough for you to know that there is sub bass there. They do this by presenting the harmonics of that sub bass in a better way that the KSC75, making it so you don’t feel it is missing.

In the remaining bass frequencies, again they are not overly bassy and I wouldn’t say that these headphones are something that will appeal to bass heads or those that like a lot of thump on EDM tracks. Listening to “Sun Is Shining” by Bob Marley and Robin Schulz, there is enough bass there to enjoy the track but they certainly aren’t something that will make you “wow” at the bass.

In the lower mids is where they make up for their slight lack of bass punch and make these a warm sounding headphone. There is a slight elevation in the area where the bass meets the lower mids which gives a nice richness and smoothness to the lower registries, even without a lot of bass. 

These lower mids give a very nice body to acoustic instruments like guitars and basses, making acoustic music (that is my preferred genre) a nice warmth. This doesn’t just work well for acoustic instruments though, it is also an area where the first and second harmonics of many bass notes are found, again, making bass guitars have a nice warmth and body. I find that the portapro has lower mids that are very similar to a lot of my favourite bass guitar amplifiers. This doesn’t work the best for genres that are more clinical though and I find that some tracks like “Killing In The Name Of” can have a little too much warmth to them.

Moving through the mids, there is a bit of a roll of in the center mids before rising again as they reach the top of the mid-range. This adds to that sense of warmth and while it is very smooth, sometimes it can seem too smooth and lack a little bit of mid range in voices, depending on the voice. For example, the song “Tears In Heaven (acoustic)” by Eric Clapton has a beautiful body to the guitar but his voice can seem to be a little distant. In other songs, where the voice is a little too mid-present, such as “Don’t You Worry Child” by Beth, the PortaPro does a great job of smoothing this out.

In the upper area of the mids, there is a rise again as the mids meet the higher regions. However, this rise is not as pronounced as on the KSC75 and doesn’t give as much presence as the titanium covered version.

In the higher regions, the PortaPro does a better job of avoiding sibilance than the KSC75 but the latter have a bit more “air” to them, giving a better sensation of clarity.



Image and Soundstage…

The PortaPro are a little more intimate than the KSC75. The soundstage is not as wide, which is also due to the way that the PortaPro is worn, and imaging is decent but I feel that the KSC75 was slightly better in this regard. I think this is also partly due to the warmer nature of the PortaPro, which doesn’t necessarily perform worse than the KSC75 as far as image placement, but the KSC75 stands out more due to it’s brighter overall presentation.



Conclusions…

I feel that the praise of the PortaPro (which can be found on any headphone related site) is deserved. They are not perfect and in my personal opinion, fall behind the KSC75 when looking for my own preferred signature.

However, they are a headphone that are pleasant to listen to, provide plenty of detail and a warmth that makes them very relaxing.

There are many times when I will hang up on a conference call and just hit play without even thinking about changing headphones or dacs and amps. They actually live on my work desk connected permanently to the headphone/mic port of my docking station and have become my default headset for all calls and other quick media solutions when at my desk. They do improve slightly when connected to better devices than my docking station but actually sound pretty good no matter what I connect them to, my phone, my PC, my DAP, literally anything. 

They are so comfortable that I can literally wear them all day without any discomfort and are the first headphones I pack whenever I travel, basically to have a decent sounding headset that works with anything.

For my personal tastes, I do prefer the sound of the KSC75 but that is because it matches my preferred tonality better than the PortaPro but it is not because they are better or worse, just different. The KSC75 would be my preference for plain music listening but the PortaPro are my go to due to the whole package they offer.

I feel that just like the KSC75, the PortaPro are something that is worth having no matter how often you use them (or not).

And now.. I’m going to unpack the Yaxi pads and see if my opinions change!

SenyorC