In our audio reviews, we love to feature new companies with new products packed with new technology. High-resolution music playback, high-tech speaker drivers, and high-power amplifiers are exciting, but they’re not everything. There are some companies that have been around as long as there was an audio industry to write about, who are willing to produce audio products that are based on tried-and-true technologies. Koss is one of those companies (around since 1958), and the new KPH30i is one of those products.
For those under age 30, the KPH30i presents as a basic headphone with good value for dollar. Its plastic-but-sturdy construction is very light, with a nice sizing mechanism and a simple silicone suspension strap. Its driver housings are mostly open-backed so, though there’s really no isolation, it produces a nice soundstage for a headphone of this type. Its drivers are covered in foam that isn’t very generous, but is comfortable enough for short to medium-length listening periods. Its 4-foot cable seems to hold its bends, but it features a microphone and one-button control pod, and it’s surprisingly sturdy for a headphone this cheap. At 60 ohms, it has a relatively high impedance for a portable headphone, but plays well enough out of portable devices. For the price, it sounds very good — a little soft in the treble, but with good detail and bass extension for such a cheap headphone. The Koss KPH30i is a great alternative to earbuds — we’d even call them an upgrade.
For those over age 30, there’s more to this headphone than its materials and specs. Though we’re routinely exposed to devices that can perform beyond the range of human hearing, the portable music industry is still relatively young. If you bought a portable cassette or CD player in the 1980s or 1990s, it probably came with a set of very basic headphones. These were usually little more than a thin metal headband, cheap plastic yokes, some thin cable, and two foam-covered drivers. They didn’t sound very good, but they had tremendous cultural significance — watch any movie from the 80s, and you’ll probably see the rebellious high schooler wearing a set around her neck. We heard some of the most important music of our lives for the first time through headphones like these, which is why we were excited to see that Koss was releasing a throwback like the KPH30i. For the most part, the KPH30i is a successful “soft reboot” of that old design.
While they probably sound far better than what we listened through in our youth, the KPH30i don’t sound that much better than their price tag. Better, but not much better. Still, $30 is a fair price to pay for a little nostalgia.
Company and Price