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GuitarStruck
41
Jul 21, 2020
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Regret
For a while I went back and forth on whether I like these, but I've made my decision. Yes, they get some air and they're pretty smooth. But they lack everything that brings the music alive: dynamics, punch, bass extension, treble extension, attack, sizzle, immediacy. They're polite and they don't do anything actively wrong, but they just fall flat. Let me tell you I never thought of myself as a bass-head -- I listen mainly to acoustic jazz, folk and world music, some classic rock and pop. But the bass on these cans is weak. You don't realize how much of the music and emotion you're missing until you compare to a headphone with good bass extension. Drums and double-bass just wash out of the mix and you only get their polite upper end. I normally love listening to frame drums but it's pointless on these cans. Likewise I don't enjoy exaggerated treble, but these err in the opposite direction -- the treble is so rolled off that a lot of musical detail and attack goes missing. Btw I evaluated them paired with a Chord 2Qute DAC that costs several times the value of the headphones. I took my Massdrop X Meze 99 Noir back out of storage for comparison purposes. The Meze 99 Noir blow away the ESP/95X, at less than half the price. I never appreciated the Meze 99 Noir before, but in comparison they're amazing, if you can put up with the overcooked bass. Here is my hard-learned truth: Don't fall for user reviews that say "Well the bass isn't that extended but I didn't miss it." Or "The treble is kind of rolled off but I didn't miss it." You'll miss it. Those are red flags. A final comment: These take hundreds of hours to break in before you can really evaluate them. So don't get them unless you're prepared for a long-term evaluation project. I regret wasting so much time breaking these in and forcing myself to listen to them when I could have been enjoying music on other headphones. I lost pleasure in music for almost a year.
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Would not recommend to a friend.
(Edited)
Jul 21, 2020
Nottagorilla
56
Dec 3, 2020
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I am beyond amazed when I read "reviews" such as these. I am the most critical of audiophiles, I have heard virtually all of THE most highly regarded phones out there, I have worked in either High-End audio design or retail for 40 years now. I will admit that, to me, accuracy of sound is the be-all & end-all of ultimate audio performance. I just am not satisfied, either in the short-term or long-term, with coloured, gimmicky and distorted sound. Maybe you are. This is not meant as an insult, just an observation of individual tastes such as they are. Pursuing quality audio without an end-goal results in plenty of wasted money & misery on purchasing mistakes. Ideally, we learn from that, & do better next time. These are my 5th pair of electrostatic phones, & my second Koss'. These edge out my next-best headphones, Stax SRX-III's, by having vastly better bass extension with tonal neutrality to match. Dead?? Lifeless?? Rolled off highs & lows? A crummy pair of Romanian 3rd-World dynamic cans, whose sole virtue is cosmetic appearance due to spiffy wooden cups, bests these headphones soundly???? On what planet? That Chord DAC of yours gets good reviews, hopefully it deserves them. Based on your comments, unless you are using your 95X's incorrectly, it would appear it doesn't. What on Gob's green earth are playing through it? 48kb/s Internet Radio? 96kb/s MP3's? These are gorgeously accurate phones. MUSICALLY accurate as well as tonally accurate. It has ONE ONE-HUNDREDTH the measured distortion of ANY dynamic headphone. ESPECIALLY the lowly Meze 99! If the problem isn't that these headphones are too good for your defective hearing, one that is conditioned to a lifetime of listening to veiled, distorted, tonally coloured rubbish, then perhaps the REAL problem is that you aren't using them properly. Don't feel bad about that. Neither Drop nor Koss give users any proper instructions on how to get the best out of these STATE OF THE ART cans that leave absolutely NOTHING on the table when used correctly with appropriate ancillaries (preferably analog ones, ALL digital is varying amounts of AUDIO DEATH). So. First of all: - Do you leave the energizer powered up, with the headphones plugged into it, AT ALL TIMES? The lack of bass & treble sounds like you don't. If you don't charge the phones up for a bare minimum of 6 hours, you actually have never heard them! And they sound even better after 24hrs. of charging. Leave them charging at all times! - Other Neanderthals bitch about a lack of bass. Funny, I hear nothing but the cleanest, purest, most tonally & timbrally accurate you can get. FROM ANY HEADPHONE, AT ANY PRICE. - Headphone bass is DIFFERENT from loudspeaker or live bass. Live bass moves copious amounts of air that impact your entire body physically. Headphones can't do this! They pipe the bass directly into your ear canals, perhaps vibrating your noggin whilst they're doing it. But the rest of your body is excluded from the bass experience...SO DEAL WITH IT! It seems that folks who complain about the lack of bass with these phones just don't know what REAL bass direct-injected into one's ears is supposed to sound like. And there are plenty of Meze 99's & their ilk that happily hype their bass responses to compensate. And if you get used to hyped-up, distorted dynamic headphone bass, I can understand that one's first reactions are a sense of loss & sonic "withdrawal". Pretty similar to drug withdrawal, only it's all in your head! If you have any ears for GOOD sound (& I'll charitably accept GREAT sound...), you should quickly get over the loss of overblown thump, thud, mud & bloat...& become addicted to pitch-perfect, tonally perfect, ultra-detailed bass instead. Never mind mids & highs that are every bit as good as that amazing bass. BTW, my tastes include a heavy dose of EDM & Techno-Ambient. No Liona Boyd playing her hammer dulcimer or 3rd century plain-chant for this boy! So if I'm happy with unequalised bass from these phones...whose complaining about it? Gamers???? - The dynamics of this phone is utterly state-of-the-art. It matches or beats the best I've heard. Abyss 1266's, HiFiMan HE-1000's, Stax Lambda & Sigma Pros, SR-007's & SR-009's. The less said about Audeze, Audio-Drecknicrap, Swineheiser, PAYKG, etc., the better! HOWEVER. If you're a volume freak,& you imply that you aren't based on the music you say you listen to, then neither these phones nor any significantly more expensive (but no better!) will make you happy. Electrostatics only play so loud. If you like volume levels above 100db peak, then you need to go to dynamics. And an audiologist, since prolonged exposure to SPL's above 95db will make you deaf! When electrostats reach their limit, they arc the diaphragm & the 600V polarising voltage burns a nice hole in it. Game over! To prevent this, both Koss & Stax design their amplifiers to "wimp out" before it gets that loud. As you approach the volume limit, you WILL hear an increasing amount of volume compression & some "sponginess" developing in the bass. If you can't enjoy the sound of these phones at 85-90db, then yes; you should go bang your head somewhere else!
Dec 3, 2020
GuitarStruck
41
Dec 28, 2020
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@Nottagorilla after reading your response I decided to give the headphones another chance, but they stopped working before I could re-evaluate them carefully. The left channel completely stopped transmitting signal and only transmits a loud hum. Maybe there was a latent defect that affected the sound quality. Koss technical support wrote back within minutes of receiving my inquiry and confirmed the repair will be under warranty. Will post an update after I get them back.
(Edited)
Dec 28, 2020
Nottagorilla
56
Dec 29, 2020
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Sorry that my response was as harsh as it was, I definitely let my passions get the better of me in my response. But I am very pleased to hear that you were able to separate the passion from the relevant tips & information & charitably decided to give the 95x's a further chance to prove their virtues to you. Very charitably, given that quality control doesn't seem to be a particularly strong suit for Koss as far as this model is concerned! But, we have that astonishing lifetime warranty; & an even more astonishing initial purchase price for an "Earspeaker" (as Stax wonderfully calls their electrostatic & electret headphones; to distinguish them from "mere" dynamic headphone types). You seem to have suffered not a headphone failure here, but an Energiser/Amplifier unit one.... I hope that the turnaround time with Koss is brief, & you are back & happily listening to them before very long. As someone who also owns several pairs of electrostatic loudspeakers, I can well remember a bit of that cognitive dissonance I suffered from upon first bringing home a second-hand pair of 1972 QUAD Electrostatic loudspeakers. OTOH, their reputation for midrange tonal neutrality, clarity, & transparency was something I was already well aware of. So I approached my initial experience with them through that lens; whatever didn't sound quite right or otherwise meet my initial hopes & expectations I (rightly!) first blamed on the quality of, & compatibility with, my ancillary components. But as I spent an increasing amount of time listening to them, it did indeed become increasingly apparent that, as the Firesign Theatre comedy troupe most famously said: "Everything you know is wrong"! Their critics complained about the same sorts of things about them that you had initially said about the 95x's: "Oh sure the midrange is gorgeous, but these are ultimately a speaker incapable of satisfying over the long term: There's no bass/they don't go down very low, they can't play very loud, & their "sweet spot" is tiny/they're missing the high highs"... As I quickly discovered, this turned out to be a bunch of bullshit that said far more about the ignorance of the speakers' critics & their lousy ancillaries than it did anything about the QUAD's themselves! Turns out that as a pure (non hybrid) electrostatic it presents a very capacitive loud to an amplifier, as opposed to the essential purely resistive load that dynamic speakers do. In plainer english, this meant that it had an incredibly high impedance in the bass (over 50Ω), which then declined VERY precipitously to less than 1Ω in the upper treble! That meant that yer average crappy low-rent transzipster amprifryer couldn't put any power into it in the bass, & its protection circuitry would have a freakout with the virtual short-circuit it saw in the highs (& also had trouble putting any power into it in the highs, even if the amp didn't blow itself up or go into shutdown. And I did have that experience with several amps from Harman-Kardon to Carver!). But I liked the sound of valve amps, & they worked a treat. Problem solved! I had all the bass of a typical speaker with say, a 10" woofer. They easily played classic 60's & 70's rock with ease (although when playing "Breathe" from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" I had to turn the volume down, but only a wee bit!), & whenever I put ANY & all dynamic speakers side-by-side with them (including the "legendary" $10,000+ 35yrs. ago Wilson Tiny-Tot monitors!) the sweet spot was VASTLY larger...& the side-by-side nature of these comparisons DRAMATICALLY exposed the utter wretchedness of dynamic speakers VASTLY larger amounts of CLEARLY AUDIBLE distortions of ALL kinds (& like the Koss vs. any dynamic phone, the measured differences were typically 100 times worse with the latter!). And then there were the tonal aberrations of the dynamic speakers in comparison; even those Wilson Monitors, hugely praised by the High-End press for their tonal neutrality & superb dynamics, were shown up as making music sound like a bad cartoon illustration vs. a near-perfect hologram....& not one bit better at portraying the dynamics in the music at the forefront of a mix, & incredibly worse at portraying the microdynamics at the back of a mix or subtle inflections of "touch" or "leaning in" to notes that gives music its life & its meaning... But with the wrong amp, or the wrong source... you might well have heard NONE of this! With the ESP95x, the amplification problems are solved VERY well for you (when your amp works...AHEM!). Despite being a flyweight plasticky little box with all-transistor circuitry (I hear MOS-FET's, which are much better than the usual bipolar types for sound), powered by an unimpressive-looking wall-wart, I can tell you from direct listening experience that it still sonically clobbers the best that Stax makes!!! And as for the headphone itself, it strikes me as being inspired by the legendary Stax Lambda. That was THE headphone to beat in the early 90's when Koss came out with the ESP-950 (which is what the Drop ESP-95x is!). And not only did Koss match the $3000 Lambda for $1000 (back then!), but they bettered the Stax in bass extension & definition/"tightness" as well. And whilst Stax's are of impeccable quality & superb reliability, they don't offer a lifetime warranty or even anything approaching it. And I have a vintage pair of original Stax SRX's with a dead electrostatic element on one side that makes me wish they did. And the foam in the earpads of my SRX-III's have also rotted internally & collapsed, so I'm looking at spending $100 to replace them. Something Koss would repair or replace for free, even after 45 years! Once again, I wish you much luck in your dealings with Koss, as well acclimatizing to the utterly truthful & flawlessly musical sound of these reference-standard "Earspeakers".
Dec 29, 2020
Anonymous_Audiophile
22
Mar 1, 2021
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This is the funniest rant I've seen on massdrop hands down
Mar 1, 2021
GuitarStruck
41
Oct 22, 2021
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Well I finally sent in my unit for repair and got it back. I just started listening but it sounds much better than before. So maybe a lot of the problems I mentioned were due to a defect. Now sounds richer, smoother, more linear, better dynamics, better emotional communication. I'm happy your post inspired me to give it a second try. I enjoyed how your passion about it came through. I'll update again later after I've had more time to evaluate it. And will update my rating. ========== Second update: It sounded really nice, then I realized I was getting the hum that others have complained about. Tried many solutions, traced the hum to my DAC, but the same DAC has no problem with my other headphone preamp. Before I could find a solution, the whole unit died. I'm a little sad because I was starting to enjoy the sound, but I'm relieved because it saved me throwing good money after bad. That's enough for me, I'm not going to get it fixed again. This is a unit with a lot of potential but a flawed execution. Unfortunately I need to keep my "Not recommended" rating. I bought it long before Drop started their return policy, still regret the purchase.
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Oct 22, 2021
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