The Koss PortaPro headphones look like a throwback to the 1980s because they are -- they've been on the market, essentially unchanged, for 30 years. Reviewers say these inexpensive headphones deliver the best sound you can get for $50 or less. They're also lightweight and generally comfortable, aside from the awkward headband that tends to snag on hair. Moreover, they're backed by a virtually unique lifetime warranty.
Best sound under $50. Both professional reviewers and users agree that the sound of the Koss PortaPro is far better than you'd expect from $35 headphones. CNET's Justin Yu, who tested them with a variety of musical genres, says the headphones "simply blew us away with their range and ability to maintain quality at a high volume." Reviewers admit these inexpensive Koss headphones can't match the performance of higher-end headphones, but they say the sound is the best you're likely to find in a portable model. One caveat mentioned by Yu is that these light on-ears headphones "definitely won't block out the majority of ambient noise."
Flexible fit. Most users find these Koss PortaPro headphones very comfortable. In addition to being, in Yu's words, "featherweight" and comfortably padded, they have a unique feature called "Comfort Zone" that lets you adjust the tension the earpiece places on your head. Users at Amazon.com say these are comfortable even for users with large heads and those who wear glasses. One downside of the adjustable fit, however, is that the headband won't lock in place, so it tends to snag on hair when it's removed. Users also gripe that the headphones tend to snap out of adjustment when you don't want them to, and folding and unfolding them can be awkward.
Guaranteed for life. The Koss PortaPro is an undeniable bargain, combining good sound quality and comfort with a remarkably low price. However, if that's not enough for you, Koss offers an additional incentive: a limited lifetime warranty. If the headphones break at any time, the original user can return them to Koss for service and pay only the cost of shipping. A warranty this long for headphones is all but unheard of, and it far exceeds the one to two years that's typical for popular brands like Sennheiser, Bowers & Wilkens, and Bose.
Nearly 25 years after their initial release, the Koss PortaPro headphones get an Editors' Choice award and 4 out of 5 stars at CNET. Justin Yu says the sound quality, functionality and low price tag far outweigh their dated design.
Review: Koss PortaPro (with Case), Justin Yu, April 22, 2008
Amazon.com has more than 2,000 user reviews of the Koss PortaPro headphones, with the earliest dating back to 1999. The headphones earn 4.5 stars out of 5 overall from users, who praise their comfortable fit, good sound and lifetime warranty.
Review: Koss PortaPro Headphones with Case, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of May 2014
3. GoodCans.com by Listening Station
"Bill K," the proprietor of this online headphone store, names the Koss PortaPro as the best headphones you can buy for $50 or less. He says they combine a comfortable, lightweight design with "surprisingly good detail in all areas; highs, mids and bass."
Review: Best Headphones: Headphone Recommendations, "Bill K", Not Dated
Editors at this audio retailer say the Koss PortaPro is "a killer-sounding portable headphone at a very strong price" -- possibly the best you'll find for $50 or less. There are also about 25 customer reviews on the site, nearly all of which give PortaPros 4 or 5 stars on a 5-star scale.
Review: Koss Porta Pro, Editors of HeadRoom, As of May 2014
Owners from a number of countries rate headphones at AudioReview.com. About 80 have reviewed the Koss PortaPro, giving it nearly 4.4 stars out of 5 overall. Even users who aren't impressed with the headphones overall describe them as a good value.
Review: Koss PortaPro On-Ear Headphones, Contributors to AudioReview.com, As of May 2014