Last Wednesday when I posted the Beyerdynamic T51P, someone reminded me of the good old Koss PortaPro. No it’s not my favourite on ear but it certainly is the best sounding sub $50 headphone in the world, with the best price/quality ratio.
How we found about about this gem?
Nathan: The original Porta Pro hit shelves when I was ten or so. Maybe twelve. I had just got into headphones and had a wad of cash from my lawn mowing “business” burning a hole in my mind. I wanted headphones. No, I wanted Porta Pros. The thing is, I couldn’t quite afford them. Radio Shack had an RCA-branded imitation that said something like “Guaranteed to be as good as Koss Porta Pro”. I fell for it. So, my first Koss Porta Pro landed in my hands in the late 90’s after I had already enjoyed a pretty awesome headphone. But it was the headphone I had wanted to start with- and was so much better than the imitation. And even next to my Audio Technica’s, it was in no way second tier. I used the hell out of the Pros. My day job was general construction, and my generally steady hands got made the manager of painting. I had a white-man’s afro- tipped with Lookout Point 1646. While the Porta Pro was a great companion for the painter, it was not a good fro companion. Every day, it yanked away like fifteen of my curlies (later which I would discover were escaping of their own volition, and fast).
It’s awesome. It’s a must have. It’s the Koss PortaPro
Lieven: I first heard of the PortaPro over a decade ago when I was looking for my first headphone. Yes, there was a time when I was headphone-less. I had just switched jobs and now had to commute 2 hours a day. I had never heard of Headfi and Headfonia didn’t even exist yet. Indeed. That long ago. I’ve always been an avid internet review seeker for anything that I buy and after a few weeks of searching I ended up with three possible headphones. The original Sennheiser PX100, the AKG K26P and the Koss PortaPro. Both the AKG and the Koss share the same kind of sliding headband while the Sennheiser has the foldable kind. I ended up ordering the AKG and I’ve always been very happy with it. Looking back now I should have gone with the PortaPro or the PX100 but I have no regrets. From then on I listened to the PortaPro whenever I had the chance to listen to it but I never owned one. Till now. And that’s way too late for that matter.
Once you’ve listened to the PortaPro you will remember it for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean this is the best sounding headphone ever but take in to account its age and its size and you will be amazed at how this thing sounds. It’s over 30 years old and still thousands of people still love the typical PortaPro sound, it’s that good.
There are two types of Porta Pro owners: ones that have broken their pair, and ones that will. If you keep them in their carry tote and keep care with the cable, you may be able to stem off the will for a long time. But be prepared to dish out eventually. That, or get handy with a soldering iron. The cable will be the first thing to go. On the flip side, I’ve never seen a Porta Pro with a broken plug, but it’s not that hard to imagine.
Advice for buying one
Do it. Today, Porta Pro can be had for chump change. It is every bit as good as it was when grunge was cool. And that won’t change anytime soon. Every headphone fan should own a pair. I’m on my second now, and looking to start a club.
If you want to read more about this classic, than check out our dedicated KOSS PortaPro article: