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The portable segment of headphones is a very interesting one as we get to see different innovative form factors, features and also some of the loudest and bass heavy sound outputs, naturally, to block out external sounds. The product we have is by Koss, who are regular at Tech2 labs, though this is the first of its kind sports headphones. It's called the PortaPro, one of the most popular headphones by Koss. It's about to be subjected to some serious sport…our kind of sport.
Design and Features
The PortaPro has quite a striking appearance, and most of the design attributes are unconventional, some of it even old school. The metallic extendable headband reminds one of the Discman days; it's got a very 'street' feel to it. The style of this headphone is typical on-ear, supra aural headphone, with a special slider switch on the earpieces which can switch from 'firm' to 'light'. This switch, or lever, to be more precise, is a ubiquitous blue in color, and though small in size, is responsible for imparting the sporty look to the unit.
The same color is employed for the visible back side of the driver in the earpiece. The switch actually makes the fit of the earpieces tighter, or looser. Thus while running etc. you might want to use the firm setting, which has a better fit. Even with long hair it is recommended to keep the setting at firm. Off course when not using one can fold the earpieces inwards, that’s one of the main portable features.
Now here is the first caveat: putting the headphones on can be a little trying, or it definitely needs getting used to. Once it's on, it's light and comfortable, no doubt about that. Another thing is the joints of the earpiece to the headband seem flimsy to me. I just have a concern as to how much it will be able to withstand real shock, but honestly I cannot judge it so much as nothing really happened while we were using it. One thing is for sure, the foam on the earpieces is going to come off, and there is not a thing in the world that we can do about it. It's replaceable, and quite inexpensive though, and every supra aural headphone in the mid level segment has this same foam, and they always tear in a year.
As for rated specifications, the frequency response is 15-25,000 Hz, Impedance is 60 ohms, Sensitivity is 101 dB SPL/1mW, Distortion <0.2%, and the cord is about 4 feet long.
I plugged it onto a Philips GoGear SA33X and took it out for a spin. This headphones was capable of delivering enough loudness to cut out external noise to a large extent. The sensitivity at 101 dB is on the higher side, though not the highest we've seen. This notwithstanding, the sound is full bodied and large. Speaking of frequency response, the bass is very good, and is more than most full sized circumaural headphones I heard, by Koss itself to be honest. The bass and low mid frequencies have body, but are not boomy. There is no distortion; the loudest levels also come through very well.
The only small iffy , if it has to be mentioned is a small one: basically the sound has less accuracy in its dynamic range, thus soft parts sound a little louder than they should, but this is hardly a real issue to dampen the performance.
The high frequencies( treble) were also very clear and in perfect proportion to the lows, though overall it is the low bass that takes precedence in the frequency range. The sound is very slamming, a stark opposite from 'laid back', like some other models of Koss. If one listens to some recordings with real hot levels, like modern rap and hip hop, it will be quite an experience with the thump this headphones have.
At Rs.4,000 I would say the price is almost reasonable, as the sound quality is extremely good. There is ample volume, ample bass and enough clarity, plus external noises are hardly an issue. Now the flimsy headband can catch your hair, and as I said, putting it on is not the easiest thing to do. Overall, I would still recommend it as the sound quality easily surpasses the small setbacks in design, plus once it's on, it is quite comfortable.