Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Portable aural joy

The last part of my holiday haul finally arrived on Monday: a set of Koss PortaPro headphones. If they look like something out of the '80s, that's because they are; they were introduced in 1984 and as I understand it have not been changed since. (Well, my pair actually come with a ridiculously small plug thanks to Apple's infamous flouting of the headphone jack standard, but that's really not here nor there.)

The PortaPro has long been pretty high on, if not atop, the list of under-$50 headphones when it came to sound quality. These days, and perhaps at least in part due to the PortaPro's severely old-school looks, most people opt for the Sennheiser PX100 or something else, but since I am, after all, a child of those infamous '80s as well as notoriously unconcerned about being cool, I was in an ideal position to let two things swing my decision to the PortaPro: the into-a-ball folding design (perfect for my laptop bag) and most importantly, the Koss no-questions-asked lifetime warranty. When you've worn out as many headphone cords as I have, the notion of tossing these into an envelope and sending them off for a repair/replace is very attractive.

I've been 99% happy with these things since I got them Monday. They're a lot smaller than I expected; I have the headband set to almost full-open in order to get them on my large noggin—and that's without hair. The sound quality is an epiphany; hooked up to my Fuze and now going anywhere, I'm gaining new appreciation for stuff I grabbed from eMusic long ago and left off to the side because running it through inferior sound setups stripped it of the joy I am now feeling.

The "comfortZone" feature is where I have mixed feelings, though. The PortaPro has pads that sit on your temples, relieving ear pressure. I'd seen the little blue switch near those pads and figured it made the pads firmer or softer, somehow. But that's not exactly how they work; what they do is let the earpieces swing out to one of three angles. The switches aren't really so much switches as little spring-loaded tabs that permit the earpieces to swing out more if they're set all the way to "light", and if the earpiece isn't swung out, they'll snap right back to "firm". This means that if I'm not happy with "firm", I have to re-set the switches every time I unfold the headphones... and, annoyingly, if the earpieces are swung inward even slightly, the switches snap right back to "firm" again. If I'm wearing the things, this doesn't happen, but if I take them off, it can.

Despite that little annoyance, I can heartily recommend these babies, though. I just wore them tonight as I was scraping the day's snow off the driveway (in preparation for doing it again tomorrow morning, of course) and just basked in knowing how, for the first time, I was really appreciating The Rainmaker—which I downloaded so very, very many months ago.

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posted by zigg 8:47 PM


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