Here’s Why the Koss Porta Pro Are Still So Popular After 40 Years

Why are Koss Porta Pro still so popular?
Why are Koss Porta Pro still so popular?

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Why are the Koss Porta Pro still popular 4 decades after being released?

2024 marks a special milestone for the Koss Porta Pro headphones. Originally released the year before ‘Back to the Future’ hit theatres, the same year as ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Karate Kid,’ ‘Terminator,’ and ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ were screened. Clearly, 1984 was an iconic year for North American pop culture.

The Porta Pro Defy Typical Tech Lifespans

The iconic style of the Koss Porta Pro. (From: Trav Wilson)
The iconic style of the Koss Porta Pro. (From: Trav Wilson)

Four decades later, Koss is still making the Porta Pro – just like the originals. They feature the same lightweight plastic and metal build and unique 35mm 60ohm drivers that became the basis of many of their future models.

It can’t be overstated how remarkable this is. While movie franchises seem to live on or rise from the dead, tech products just don’t enjoy the same immortality. Especially without a refresh, reimagining, or complete abandonment of what made the originals so special.

Additionally, as the rise of the Chinese IEM market can attest, audio enthusiasts are fickle beasts and quick to abandon yesterday’s darlings for today’s new hotness – what is now praised is soon scorned. Yet, the Porta Pro are still in production and very often recommended by enthusiasts.

The Koss Porta Pro must be very special indeed.

Whether in basic black or multi-hued, the Porta Pro go with everything. (From: Trav Wilson)
Whether in basic black or multi-hued, the Porta Pro go with everything. (From: Trav Wilson)

Stranded with Only One Pair? Porta Pro!

I’ve called the Porta Pro my desert island headphones. The ‘if I can only have one pair, I could be content with these’ choice. After testing tens of headphones, some costing nearly 100 times what the Porta Pro cost, how can this be?

Let’s be upfront with each other. Are the Porta Pro perfect? Heck no. It’s easy to find folks complaining about their open-backed, on-ear design, which makes them a poor choice in a noisy environment. Every Porta Pro owner has likely painfully pinched a few hairs in the band, and the fixed, thin cable leaves a lot to be desired.

But they are so much more.

Iconic Sound and an Unbeatable Value

The key factor that cements their popularity is their affordability.

The low cost underpins the ‘good for the price’ rebuttal for all their other characteristics. For every “but headphone A is better at…” argument, there is a corresponding “but not for the price” response. The street price has hovered around USD$40 for many years, and the Porta Pros can often be found for far less – bang-for-the-buck is their cornerstone.

Polarizing yet Fashionable Style

Perhaps the most divisive element of the Porta Pro is their iconic looks. They are full-on products of 1980s industrial aesthetic, and you are either going to love or hate the style.

Pop culture is currently embracing this time period, so the Porta Pros have become a modern retro fashion statement and can be seen on Caroline Polachek’s ‘Desire, I Want To Turn Into You’ 2023 album cover, which features the artist crawling between the seats on a bus wearing a pair of beige Porta Pro.

The original iconic folding design features a hook to keep then closed. (From: Trav Wilson)
The original iconic folding design features a hook to keep then closed. (From: Trav Wilson)

Fold, Hook, Wear

Featuring a foldable design, with an integrated metal hook to hold them in a loop, and weighing only 60g, the Porta Pro are sublimely portable and comfortable for a pair of over-the-head cans. They even integrate unique adjustable temple pads to improve fit and comfort.

While the lightweight plastic and metal build is surprisingly durable, Koss offers what most mega-buck headphone companies do not: a Lifetime Warranty! If you do manage to break the Porta Pro, Koss will fix them or send you a new pair – for free. In my decades of ownership, I’ve only had to use the warranty once.

Although there is a Bluetooth variant of the Porta Pro, the wired version can be driven properly by anything with a headphone jack or dongle, as modern phones require.

Colored Sound That’s Effortlessly Enjoyable

Unashamedly, not the highest fidelity or most detailed, the Porta Pro share a similar sound and tuning as the Sennheiser HD600/650/6xx family – balanced, dark, warm, mid-bassy, with upper treble roll-off. It’s a safe, unfatiguing, colored tuning that is enjoyable and intimate. Simply, they sound great.

Booming sound and nostalgic looks are only improved by modifying the Porta Pro. (From: Trav Wilson)
The booming sound and nostalgic looks are only improved by modifying the Porta Pro. (From: Trav Wilson)

Customize your Porta Pros

Finally, the Porta Pro are easily and affordably modifiable for audio improvements or gaming, with microphones, detachable cables, and, of course, ear pads.

At a minimum, I consider the addition of Yaxi ear pads a necessary upgrade in terms of sound quality and comfort. The stock pads are too thin to be comfortable all day, and the Yaxi pad replacements add slightly more mid-bass and significantly greater higher-frequency extension while maintaining their special sound signature.

An Affordable Icon for Enthusiasts

In my opinion, every audio enthusiast worth their salt must have a pair of Koss Porta Pros in their collection. Their cult following is well-deserved. Can you name another affordable, portable, comfortable, great-sounding, and easily modifiable pair of headphones with iconic looks and a lifetime warranty? I thought not.

💬 Conversation: 6 comments

  1. I would read about Porta Pro’s for years. Finnily I purchased a pair.
    I was shocked! How could a pair of headphones at this price point sound this good?
    Now I am a bit of an audiophile and have 20 pair of headphones. Wired sets are always the best, and Porta Pro’s do not fail to deliver. The only thing I regret is waiting so long to get a pair.

  2. I bought a pair a few years ago on Drop and was shocked at how good they are. You can also apply equalization to them to get a more “modern” sound signature. I agree that every headphone fan should have at least one pair. Because of that tuning, they are extremely listenable. Not the last word in detail or resolution, but just fun to listen to.

  3. I must have been a somewhat early adopter, as I bought my first set of Porta Pro’s in the mid-1980s. As others note, they do sound great. But also what is very important is that they wear very easily. You can listen to them all day long and not feel any discomfort, etc. The same cannot be said of IEMs or many other larger (and heavier, more expensive) headphones. I own several other closed and open back headphones and at least a half-dozen IEMs, but I do keep going back to the Porta Pro’s (with aftermarket Yaxi earpads)!

  4. Should be everyone’s first introduction to a ELECTROACOUSTIC TRANSDUCER. If after that first introduction you are financially smart it should be your last headphone, speaker ect. If I could go back in time and save some $$$$. Porta Pro’s make subpar recordings sound good and excellent recordings sound good. While being comfortable and very portable when you fold them into there clipped circle.

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