I've been wearing the Koss Porta Pros since I was 14. They were the first pair of "audiophile" headphones I could afford after starting to research how to get better sound out of my summer-job paycheck.

Everyone agreed, even way back in 1999, that the Porta Pro headphones were an anomaly, a confluence of retro design and excellent engineering.

Koss Porta Pro Wireless

Price: $79.99

Bottom line: Koss's Porta Pro Wireless recycles a 1984 design for 2018, and it mostly works. That's thanks to amazing sound, a comfortable fit, and ultra-portable design.

The Good

  • The same amazing sound quality
  • Preserves interesting retro design
  • Folds up nicely for easy travel
  • Excellent battery life
  • Qualcomm aptX codec support

The Bad

  • Poor Bluetooth range
  • Wire design dangles and distracts
  • Blue light constantly blinks when connected

Koss Porta Pro An institution

For a pair of headphones that's been around since 1984, Koss's original Porta Pros are among the most popular modern wired headphones on the market. Most of that popularity comes from its great sound and simple design, but a significant part is its price. Koss has kept its price under $40 for the good part of the decade, which, through Amazon promotion, word of mouth, and good reviews, has kept it among the highest-selling on-ear wired headphones out there.

Despite its goofy, retro design, people buy and use the Porta Pro today because of its fundamentals: a warm, rich round, with plenty of bass and a decided lack of sibilance in the highs; a lightweight, comfortable body that can be worn for hours without fatigue; and tremendous portability in its loop-and-lock design.

In 2012, Koss introduced a wired version of the Porta Pros with an in-line remote for smartphones, but it never quite took off. Now with a wireless version, the Porta Pro is back in the spotlight — and at $80, still among the best deals in headphones.

Koss Porta Pro Wireless What's to like

When you think of Porta Pro, you think of warmth: most of the positive reviews over the years have stressed this aspect of the headphone's sonic signature. The soft foam earpads sit on top of the ear, giving the relatively large drivers a direct line of site into the ear canal. Given that these were designed in 1984, you'd be surprised not just by the bass response but its complexity; you're getting a lot of bass, but it's also accurate and not overwhelming.

The headphone's open nature allows for a relatively wide soundstage, though I must say that you can find many modern closed-back options with superior positioning. And the mids are just buttery: from vocals to instruments like guitars and violins, the reproduction is anything but neutral but it's incredibly lush and rich. There's no sibilance, either, with recessed highs that ensure you won't be turning down the volume when the treble picks up.

The Koss Porta Pro Wireless (left) next to the original Porta Pro headphones (right)

That Koss hasn't attempted to alter the sound from the Porta Pros going wireless has its pros and cons. There are plenty of decent $80 on-ear wireless headphones to choose from these days, and the question is whether, at double the cost of the wired versions, the Porta Pro Wireless are worth the cash. I'd say yes, mainly because they're far more portable than other options that emit this type of sound. Better still, these have a balanced sound, whereas most on- or over-ear headphones in this price range suffer from too much bass.

The transition to wireless isn't perfect, but the Porta Pro Wireless retains the great sound of the original.

Going wireless, then, is really just the next logical step for these headphones. Instead of terminating at a 3.5mm jack, the cable wraps around and connects back to the other earpiece; on one side, a fairly large protrusion holds the battery and wireless gadgetry, and on the other is a three-button remote with play/pause, volume up and down buttons, microphone, and a Bluetooth connection LED. It may not be the most intuitve implementation, but it's fine, and provides ample battery life and portability.

Koss ensured that the Porta Pros stayed true to their name by giving the headphones 12-hour uptime per charge, with easy recharging via Micro-USB, protected by a flap. Sure, I'd have liked USB-C, but that would have added to the cost.

That the Porta Pro fold up so delightfully small makes them easy to recommend; their modest size belies an outsized and warm sound that everyone will appreciate.

Koss Porta Pro Wireless What's not to like

Not all is well in the transition from wired to wireless in the Porta Pro line. First, the wireless hardware feels tacked on. The wires hang low like a necklace, flopping around when you walk and making the cans a bit bottom-heavy. And they're just not elegant or attractive.

Worse is the constant blue flashing of the LED when the headphones are connected to a phone or laptop via Bluetooth. It's distracting in dark environments and not user-configurable. In other words, there's no way to disable the incessant flashing. Chalk it up to Koss's relative inexperience in the wireless headphone market, maybe, but the company isn't brand new at this. There's no excuse for such an oversight.

At the same time, while I love the Porta Pro Wireless sound, it has that typical open-back problem of leaking sound: this is not the headphone to use in a quiet cafe, nor on a plane.

It's great for a walk, or to enjoy while sitting at home, but despite its ultra-portable nature, its design limits the Porta Pro's potential. It's also unfortunate that the headphones don't have great Bluetooth range; despite supporting the aptX codec and Bluetooth 4.1, you're going to notice dropoff walking 10-15 feet away from your source.

Koss Porta Pro Wireless Should you buy them?

There's a lot of headphone competition out there right now, but the Porta Pro Wireless, despite its flaws, fills an important niche. If you're concerned with sound quality above all else, these are among the best Bluetooth headphones under $100.

At the same time, they're not great for working out or even working at a coffee shop. Their open design bleeds considerable sound at high volumes while letting in a lot of the outside world.

4 out of 5

For those yearning for the Porta Pro sound signature without needing a headphone jack or dongle, these are great, and I've been using them a lot at home and on walks, but I'll stick with my pair of OnePlus Bullets Wireless for runs, and my Sony WH1000MX2 for planes.

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