Massdrop x Koss ESP/95X Electrostatic System
Massdrop x Koss ESP/95X Electrostatic System
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Product Description
A revival of the standard-setting ESP/950 released by Koss in 1990, these headphones bring electrostatic quality into a whole new price bracket. Initially designed for live recording, the ESP/950 came with a large carrying case and a battery pack to power the required energizer: a special amplifier for electrostatic drivers ... Read More
4.4
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42 Reviews
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TooManyMonitors
0
May 18, 2019
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I've had two of these headphones so far, and I'm far from impressed; the first pair came with a recurring whining in the right channel (not much of a surprise since multiple reviews touched on the issue). After a week of listening the frequent whining changed into a constant hum instead, I issued for a replacement afterwards. The second pair was received and included the same defect in the left channel instead; I burned them in for about two hours to possibly resolve the problem. Burning them in seemed to work fine until about three weeks later when the same defect returned. At this rate I question if QC is payed (if there's one at all), or if I happened to get extremely unlucky, I can only be glad that it came with a warranty.
May 18, 2019
Barondla
125
May 18, 2019
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Must be extremely bad luck. Most people are very happy with their ESP 95X. I'm happy. Mine are working flawlessly. Don't give up.
May 18, 2019
CCD1
1
May 17, 2019
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Prior to getting this headphone, I had the Sennheiser 6XXX headphone and the CTH SDAC DAC Amp. I connected the Koss headphone to the CTH DAC Amp. One surprise is that the volume knob on the DAC Amp still works along with the volume knob on the energizer. As for sound, the 6XX is probably the better balanced headphone. The Koss has very good highs and a GREAT midrange with a just adequate bass. The detail is also great. It reveals the quality of the recording much more than the 6XX, but is not so harsh that the recording cannot be enjoyed. I do not think the Koss replaces the 6XX. My preference really depends on the recording. For things like vocals, the Koss is my clear preference. But to the extent the recording has a strong bass track, the 6XX is my preference. If a recording has a great range in frequencies, my preference would also be the 6XX because the 6XX has better balance thru the frequency range. But in its range, the Koss is exceptional. This review may seem to conflict with my rating, but the strengths/weaknesses of electrostatics are well known. If you want bass range, you either get another kind of speaker or perhaps one of the Uber expensive electrostatics
May 17, 2019
Jacobs603
48
May 12, 2019
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Fun, fun, fun! Allowed me to re-discover lot of my music. Thank you Massdrop for making this happen at this price point. I'd never have bought electrostatics otherwise.
(Edited)
May 12, 2019
wljohn1030
2
May 8, 2019
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right channel quit after a month of light use.
May 8, 2019
Barondla
125
May 13, 2019
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Send them in. Koss will fix the problem.
May 13, 2019
Mike_Hennecke
8
Koss
May 17, 2019
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Please reach out to us via our website for help. www.koss.com or at customersupport @koss.com We are happy to have them repaired for you. Our apologies for the inconvenience. Thanks
May 17, 2019
ralevitt
18
May 7, 2019
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I got together with several audiophile friends to compare headphones, including these KOSS ESP/95X, classic Grado 1000, Sennheiser HD600, Hifiman HE4XX, Sony MDRV900, and a couple others. Signal came from state of the art Sony transport and AD/DA converter, a VALI tube hybrid headphone amp (which served as a preamp), and a ARTcessories HeadAmp4 headphone amp (which served as a splitter). KOSS were the disappointment of the evening. The detail and sound stage are terrific, as one would expect. But comparatively speaking, they were very thin, lacking depth and low-end impact. None of us were rushing back to hear them. BTW, the Sennheisers were the star of the evening. All that said, I thoroughly enjoy the KOSS ESP/95X, particularly for movies. But they definitely pale in comparison to other headphones.
May 7, 2019
g0ldl10n
12
May 11, 2019
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To hear you describe them as sounding very thin makes me question if you may have a defective unit. I have some thin sounding headphones and these are so far from that. Mine sound extremely full and engaging. Obviously, I'm not saying yours are defective (although I do wonder) or that your opinion is wrong, just am very surprised at that description. Thanks for your thoughts though, always interested to see what others think.
May 11, 2019
ralevitt
18
May 11, 2019
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I don't think they're defective. And as I said, I've had very good experiences with them. But in comparison to other sophisticated headphones, they just didn't shine.
May 11, 2019
BritInPitt
4
May 2, 2019
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I’ve owned any number of headphones in my life, from low end Sennheisers to high end HiFiMans, together with a wide selection of headphone amps. Since getting the Koss ESP/950 they’ve all been consigned to storage.
May 2, 2019
lilpossum
3
May 2, 2019
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Fantastic headphone for hours of fatigue-free listening. Hats off to Massdrop for making it happen. -KR
May 2, 2019
IBJamon
10
May 1, 2019
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I have other highly-rated headphones, that are all very good - like Monoprice M1060, Fostex T50RPMk3, and a couple of others. And as good as those are, these are really something special. They are light, comfortable, and have an excellent warranty. The bass could be better, but it's not really a problem. But the sound - the detail - is simply holographic. They will expose virtually every flaw in your sound system - the cheap DAC/onboard sound, the poor recording. But with a good source, they are magnificent. You will hear your favorite recording with a detail and soundstage that is simply excellent. I love these things, and I doubt I'll be upgrading again anytime soon. Koss is great to work with if you have an issue, which is doubly wonderful. I may have accidentally sold 2-4 more to coworkers by bringing it into work one day. I should get commission. Several were like 'I'm buying this. Incredible." My wife, who Never asks me for audio things, asked me to buy one of these for her. I couldn't believe the words I was hearing! These are really that good. Again, my wife asked me to buy her one. Do you need a stronger recommendation? (I didn't realize they had a referral program until after I clicked 'buy' using my existing account. Oh well.)
May 1, 2019
Briankan
6
Apr 25, 2019
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Disclaimer: this is my first foray into over-ear headphones; my judgment is based on having numerous audiophile after-market car stereo systems, attending countless live concerts, and owning dozens of in-ears. I’m in love with these. The detail is incredible, but not exactingly harsh or fatiguing as I’ve experienced with some of my car stereo setups. I’m hearing aspects of songs I’ve never heard before, and they are balanced in a way that I can decide to listen to particular aspect of a song, or steps back as a whole piece of art. I echo reviews that these will expose a recording for what it is, bad or good. When good, it’s better than I’ve ever experienced. Most sound mediums these days tend to use bass to cover all of that up. These don’t. I personally feel that they are bass-whatever-the-recording is (or something like that). I personally enjoy it, I don’t need artificial thump. The bass is clear, and depending on the track, it’s more forward, or back. Anyway, I love them, worth diving in headfirst. I’ve paired this with the Topping D50.
Apr 25, 2019
lemmersm
5
Apr 24, 2019
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After hesitating to purchase this headphone, and waiting a long time to get it, I was astonished by the beauty of the sound, and heard things in familiar recordings that I'd never really appreciated before. I'm hooked.
Apr 24, 2019
jeffhaight
4
Apr 23, 2019
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Terrific!
Apr 23, 2019
Squee
105
Apr 14, 2019
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Great package for the price! The mids and treble are clear, the stage is incredible, and it's so fast! The air is unreal. However, the bass leaves something to be desired. I'm not sure if it's the drivers or the amp, and I want to really crack into that later... But the E-stat transience is nothing to scoff at! I just wish there was more bass.
Apr 14, 2019
sirkuttin
119
Apr 20, 2019
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The Vesper Audio full leather earpads make for positive changes in the Bass
Apr 20, 2019
sirkuttin
119
Apr 13, 2019
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5 stars for price being so reasonable. headphones and the amp(energizer) for $500 bucks? hell yeah. They weren't perfect out of the box, but new earpads solved that. The ear pads that come with these suck. At first listen, they sounded a bit compressed and lack the resolution i was expecting. I wondered, since Koss originally uses pleather pads and these being velour if they lose some or the original intended sound signature. I went ahead and bought Vesper Audio full leather earpads right away. superb. They feel so much nicer to wear and look great. Most importantly they sound great. Better bass. More airy highs. These headphones don't shout things at you. Lots of details that all sound very, very natural. These don't have a huge soundstage. The stereo imaging is really really good and the soundstage that is there is very layered. These headphones of course are super fast. Everything sounds so clean; no colorization. So now i am $600 deep on these which is still very reasonable and they are the best headphones I have. They are light on the head, comfortable on the ears and sound better that anything i have heard before. Currently paired with the Jotunheim's multibit dac. I can't wait to get my hands on the R-2R dac to pair with this.
(Edited)
Apr 13, 2019
fobesg
0
May 9, 2019
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Are you referring to the pads for the ESP-950s? Or am I missing the ones specifically for the 95x? Thank you!
May 9, 2019
Pewgrim
12
Apr 13, 2019
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Love the purchase, no regrets. I am picky about quality of my headphones and the ESP/95X is not as bad as I have imagined. For the price, one cannot and should not complain. May not be as bass heavy as some other headphones but that does not mean the bass is missing. The bass is definitely present and while it is not as sub-by as some closed-backs, it is more than sufficient. It is an honest pair of headphones that reveals the truth about your input source...garbage in, garbage out...treat it with respect, it will sing for you. I am impressed. Sound leak is more prominent than other open backs...do not use this next to your spouse or if you are crazy enough to carry this with you everywhere you go, please do not use this unless it is the great outdoors. Only two dislikes - Major dislike - While the individual volume knobs are useful for balancing the designed and placement were major pains. Turning them evenly at the same time will be a next level skill. Also with the headphone cables to the right of the knobs, turning them could be difficult if the box is to your left Minor dislike - I wish the adjustable headband has clicks that gently locks it in place. Would I buy a second set? YES! But that’s me :)
(Edited)
Apr 13, 2019
DiamondPilot
204
Apr 13, 2019
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I received my replacement pair. Fortunately no manufacturing defects on the second one. I have discovered something about these headphones. The Massdrop pads are a problem sonically. I replaced them with the stock Koss ESP/950 pads and the improvement is significant. The Koss pads place the drivers closer to the ear, and the foam is softer than the Massdrop version, which enables the pads to conform to and seal to your face better. The result is a much improved bottom end and a fuller overall sound. I've revised my rating upward based upon this. I struggled whether to give it 4 or 5 stars. The case for 5 Stars: These headphones resolve more detail than any other I own. Separation of multiple voices amongst double-tracked harmony vocals is superior. Acoustic instruments are more lifelike They are very comfortable. I don't know what else at $500 offers this degree of realism, genuine detail, and relative neutrality. After listening to these for awhile, when I revert back to my other favorite phones, I notice flaws and colorations that I previously didn't take much notice of. I don't see myself ever getting rid of them. The case against 5 stars: They don't sound spectacular on as many different recordings as some of my other phones. How good they sound is more dependent upon the tonal balance of the recording. They tend to seem a little bit midrange-focused. They tend to start breaking up a bit in the bass at loud volumes sometimes. I suspect this is a function of the amp/energizer. Most people probably won't get there, but sometimes I like it loud. They lack the bottom end slam of planars (an inherent characteristic of electrostatics) I still find some of my other headphone/amp pairings in the same total price range more subjectively "fun" to listen to overall, such as HE-400i & CTH, or HE-400S & MD THX AAA. You need to "modify" the cans with the ESP/950 pads to achieve best results. When I ask myself the question "If I could only own one $500 headphone/amp combo, would it be this one", I have a difficult time answering that question. So, I'll let you be the judge. If you can afford to spend $500 for a headphone that isn't endgame, but does offer a wonderful flavor that you'll want to taste frequently yet not every meal, then I highly recommend them. They are also my new go-to headphones for studio work to cross-check mixes and masters. ******************ORIGINAL REVIEW***************** I'm underwhelmed by these sonically. Based on reviews I've read, I was expecting great sound and poor build quality. My impressions are somewhat reversed. While the build is lightweight plastic and indeed nothing remarkable, fit and finish is good, there are no rough mold edges, etc. I think there may be a quality control problem in manufacturing though, as mine arrived with all of the screws that hold the Energizer case together completely missing, and the back panel of the Energizer fell right off as soon as I removed it from the packaging, exposing the inner circuitry. Sonically, I'm not all that impressed. I've never owned electrostatic headphones before, but I have owned a pair of Martin Logan Aerius I speakers for 21 years, so I'm familiar with the e-stat sound signature. I'm not a basshead, but I definitely think these are lacking in bottom end and a bit thin sounding unless I'm listening to music mastered with a lot of bottom end. Stuff that sounds excessively bassheavy on other cans sound like there's almost enough bottom end on these. There is a bit of high end sparkle, but there is a weird tonality to sharp esses that doesn't seem right. I honestly prefer the sound of my Hifiman HE-400S to these by a wide margin. Where the Koss shines is on detail in strings and other well recorded acoustic instruments. There is a remarkable realism and natural texture to a bow moving across a string that is more lifelike than any other headphone in my collection of many. Lastly, my right earspeaker sounds thinner than the left, with less max volume. I think if you listen to classical and maybe some good traditional jazz recordings, a properly assembled and functioning pair might be a worthy addition to your collection. The build quality is better than I expected (except for all the missing screws), but I was anticipating much better sound.
(Edited)
Apr 13, 2019
Mike_Hennecke
8
Koss
Apr 15, 2019
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Hello. I am very sorry about the issue with your energizer box. Can you please contact me directly at mhennecke@koss.com? I'd be happy to look into this for you!! Thanks -Mike
Apr 15, 2019
DiamondPilot
204
Apr 16, 2019
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Hi Mike, I will email you in the near future. Thanks for reaching out, I really appreciate Koss's concern and support. I've been buying and strongly recommending Koss PortaPro headphones since I bought my first pair in 1984. I'm sure this is an anomaly, but if I hadn't had past experience with Koss I'd be very alarmed by receiving a product with incomplete final assembly. Again, I'm glad you're wanting to follow up and look into it. Interestingly, the imbalance between the two drivers seems to have mostly gone away with a handful of hours of break-in, and is now only noticeable with a mono sine sweep and is very subtle. Not sure what to make of that and whether that is normal, but thanks again.
Apr 16, 2019
birdland
8
Apr 13, 2019
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I've been looking to get a pair of electrostatic headphones for awhile and was thinking about the Stax SR-L700s. As I have never listened to any electrostatic headphones before, I didn't want to spend that kind of money only to realize that I didn't like them. I saw the first Massdrop for the Koss ESP/95X headphones but by the time I had finished researching, the drop had closed. I thought I had missed my chance for a reasonable priced pair of stats headphones but back the drop came and I was ready this time. :) Let me say that I am very impressed. Unpacking and Assembly So the headphones shipped soon after the close of the drop and I received them a week later. The phones and amp arrived double boxed. The original Koss box inside contained the E/90X amp/energizer, headband, left and right earspeakers (to use Stax's terms) and power adapter for the amp/energizer. It was easy to assemble the headphones. Just follow the instructions provided by Koss' instruction manual and make sure you hear a slight click when you insert each padded cup assembly into the headband. Also, included was a link to register for your lifetime warranty. Comfort Let's just say that you almost forget you are wearing headphones. I only know that I am wearing them because I broke my normal pair of reading glasses and am wearing another pair with thicker arms. The headphones clamp lightly relative to other headphones. They may clamp more than Sennheiser headphones but not by much. My temples are very sensitive to pressure and these headphones (BEFORE breaking my original reading glasses) do not cause me any discomfort. Sound These headphones are amazing. They only require a few hours of burn in if at all. Please note that I have not listened to any other headphones since I received the Koss ESP/95X so I have not compared them to my HifiMan's for example. I will do that sometime but I am just loving the music for the moment. They are very spacious. I have several other pairs of headphones (HifiMan HE-400i, Audio Technica, Sennheisers (not the really expensive ones), M&J MJ2) and none of them are as spacious as these. I am sure that there are very expensive headphones out there that are more spacious but these cost me $500. This is basically the same price as I paid for my HifiMan's. The sound stage is a bit wider than what I am used to on my other headphones but not artificially wide. These are the first headphones where there is actual depth in the sound stage. I was very surprised by that. They are very revealing. Currently, I have them hooked up to an iFi-Audio DAC2 which I have in my home office and I am hearing how the DAC is limiting my listening experience. I am hearing a slight harshness to the sound which I could not perceive on the other headphones. However, they are not revealing to the point of being fatiguing. In fact, far from it. They are detailed. Again, this is not to be point of being fatiguing. On very familiar tracks, I hear instruments and sounds that I have never heard before. The cymbals on 'The Bangles Return Post' are just exquisite. If it is on the recording, you will hear it with these headphones. These headphones are not for bass heads. However, this does not mean they do not have bass. The bass is natural and extended to the lower frequencies. If the bass is there, you will hear it. They have just enough bass for me. The midrange is wonderful. Female vocals just make you want to cry. The midrange in general is great but female voices really show the quality of the midrange. I have touched upon the treble already but let's just say that it is detailed, non-fatiguing and extended. I am very happy with my purchase. Now, I have read that the Achilles heel of this setup is the energizer. I was considering upgrading the power supply as that is supposed to help as well. However, since I wanted to purchase a Stax earspeaker anyway, I have ordered the Stax SRM-353X and an adapter cable from Fong Audio. This way I can improve the sound of the Koss headphones and be prepared for a possible future Stax purchase. I will update with my thoughts when the Stax setup is in place. Update 1 - I forgot to thank Massdrop and Koss for making this package available at this price. Update 2 - While I wait for the SRM-353X, I decided to use a different power supply. I have a Booster BOTW 9v supply that I use on my Sonore ultraRendu/ultraDigital combo. This power supply improves the sound a bit. The instruments appear to have more body and a longer decay. Also, there appears to be better instrument focus. Maybe, there is a lower noise floor which is contributing to all of these improvements. The bass seems to be tighter and might go even lower then before. The cymbals on the aforementioned 'Return Post' are even better. I can distinctly hear the stick and then the shimmer of the cymbals. Dire Straits' 'Your Latest Trick' has even more depth than before. This is still with the iFi-Audio DAC2. I'm sure the DAC is really limiting me here. I can't wait for the Stax energizer. Update 3 - The Stax SRM-353X arrived on Friday. I connected it and listened to it as soon as I powered it on. I am not impressed so far. I thought that the sound stage was narrower and the bass was not as tight or present. The midrange was still good though. I am hoping it needs some burn-in. There is also the fact that I am using a pair of RCA cables between my iFi-audio micro DAC2 and the Stax instead of the 3.5mm cable I used with the Koss E/90X which was connected to the headphone output of the DAC (I wanted to control the volume via the DAC so I didn't change the balance on the energizer. Also, I have the adapter cable connected between the headphones and the Stax. Keep in mind that I am comparing the SRM-353X to the E/90X powered by the Booster power supply. I am going to let the whole setup burn-in a bit and will report back. Update 4 - The Stax SRM-353X now has several hours on it (maybe 12). I now find that the tremble is more extended than the Koss E/90X - Booster PS setup. All instruments seem larger more formed let's say. I have not been listening to the setup during burn-in. I have been listening periodically to check in on any changes. Soon, after a bit more burn-in, I will make a comparison between the Koss E/90X - Booster PS setup and the Stax SRM-353X setup at the same volume using a sound meter so differences in loudness isn't an issue.
(Edited)
Apr 13, 2019
redstapler
4
Apr 11, 2019
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I didn't know what to expect out of a $500 pair of electrostatic headphones, but decided to take the risk because of the reputation of Koss. Now that I've listened to them, I'm very happy I spent the money. Others have criticized the quality of the materials (mostly plastic). But I would describe the materials and construction as 'adequate' and this is fine with me. Koss obviously spent the money where it counts and didn't waste it on materials that may increase the perceived quality. The volume knob(s) are annoying. I wish there was a bit of friction holding them together so it wasn't so easy to mis-adjust the balance between left and right. But the sound is wonderful and that's the important thing to me. I can overlook all the plastic and the knobs when I just close my eyes and enjoy great music.
Apr 11, 2019
adeadcrab
8
May 14, 2019
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Unless the preamp is tube based and adds harmonic distortion, why would it create distortion? example here - https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/koss-esp950.95/page-2#post-32893
May 14, 2019
adeadcrab
8
May 15, 2019
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replied to the wrong person!
May 15, 2019
aurora_audio
4
Apr 11, 2019
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I've owned quite a number of pairs of headphones over the years, but nothing compares with how sublime the Koss ESP/95X sounds. Most of my listening is classical, with some acoustic guitar and modern jazz thrown in for good measure. The sound from the Koss's simply sparkle. A favourite recording of mine is Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges, and the sound of his guitar is simply amazing. Also woodwinds in a good classical recording are outstanding. I've downloaded some DSD samples from the 2L website and these are simply marvelous sounding. There is an utter transparency to the reproduction capabilities of these headphones. My only reservation is the lack of deep bass compared to Sennheisers or HiFi Man phones; but given my listening tastes, this isn't a big deal
Apr 11, 2019
le_avion
6
Apr 10, 2019
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That what happens when I don't RTFM. At first I thought my headphones were defective because I was getting sound only from the left channel. Luckily I decided to check the manual and found that level control knob actually has two separate controls. The inner one controls the volume for the left channel and the outer ring controls the volume of the right channel. Now life is sweet!
Apr 10, 2019
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