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
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All of our reviews are from verified customers.
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310
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85%
would recommend to a friend
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loadexfa
281
Feb 28, 2019
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Very impressed with the sound quality, superb clarity, fast, and slightly bright but not fatiguing or harsh. My favorite is female vocals, rich with great presence. I don't think any of my other headphones do female vocals this well (HD-800 + SDR, Elex, HD-6XX, HE-4XX). Sound stage is spacious and open while the vocals maintain a nice intimacy which I really like. I even noticed a couple small details that I've never heard before which is very rare for me now. I doubt these are more detailed than my HD-800, more likely the tuning brought a couple small details to the forefront that I missed before. Great for a variety of music, only piece missing is rumble and slam in the bass. As other have said, this is expected and a common limitation with electrostatics. I did need a couple days of brain burn-in to fully enjoy them. Initially they seemed clear and good but a little boring. Now they are great and hold up strongly with my other favorites. I find it a little odd that people don't like the build quality. The energizer is smaller and lighter than I expected but I don't think that reflects on quality. The plastic on the headphones doesn't have an "expensive feel" but neither do Sennheisers in my opinion and their reliability is very solid. These have been in production for over 20 years, and have a lifetime warranty, we don't need to worry. Let's not encourage manufacturers to drive up the price to make these "feel expensive".
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Would recommend to a friend.
Mohannad13
94
Sep 15, 2019
So you think that the 6xx is more relaxed sound than the 95x but in term of clarity the 6xx has the advantage
loadexfa
281
Sep 15, 2019
I think you meant the 95X has the clarity advantage and yes I agree with that and the 6XX has the relaxed advantage. I find the 95X relaxed enough, they're just not as relaxed as the 6XX.
badboygolf16v
81
Feb 20, 2019
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These are my first pair of electrostatics, and they are certainly different to any dynamic or balanced armature headphones and IEMs I am familiar with. They are "neutral" in the strict sense of having a flat frequency response, so appears somewhat bright when moving from a more traditional rolled-off treble, I would imagine if these were your daily drivers, one might become accustomed to it. Most people prefer a downward sloping frequency response, so some judicious use of DSP might help. The sense of brightness is also due to the lack of distortion. When listening to low distortion systems (headphone or speaker based), it may appear that "something is missing". Well something is missing - distortion! This again can take a bit of getting used to. Some people don't like to give up their distortion - witness the popularity of valve amps. It's not for me to say which is right or wrong for the listener - it's a matter of personal taste. (Bear in mind I'm nearly 50 years old so when I talk about treble, there's a certain part of the spectrum I'm no longer able to comment on. My faculties are in an inevitable decline.) Do the Koss ESP/95X deliver the fabled electrostatic sound? In a word - yes. The level of detail was quite overwhelming on first listen. And I don't think it's solely due to the frequency response. The hackneyed phrase "I heard details I had never heard before" can, in this instance, be trotted out without a hint of hyperbole. Believe the hype. They are very comfortable, but it's not very warm in the UK, so impossible to say how they would feel after an extended listening session in hot weather. (Hot weather is not something that UK residents need to consider very often.) One downside, they are extremely susceptible to ground loops and hum, care is required when situating. Am I happy I bought them? Yes, I am.
densetsu
192
Feb 14, 2019
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Pleasantly surprised. Like many others, it was jarring at first forgetting the volume knob is split and thinking you have a bad driver in one ear. So early warning to those who have not gotten theirs yet! These things are great. The first thing you notice about the sound is how lively it is. I got this feeling with my Sennheiser HE-60s. It was a good while into first listening before I remembered I was trying to analyze the sound. The mid-range stuck out to me when I started to listen critically. It's pleasantly rich and detailed. The highs are also well detailed with some nice sparkle without being fatiguing. Lows are present and well extended, but I would not call this a bassy headphone. Overall, I enjoyed them way more than I expected. Can't wait to get an adapter and use them with my iESL. I do feel that the stock energizer might be holding them back. As far as build quality, I've come to expect lots of plastic when dealing with electrostatics in this price range. I have L300 Limiteds and HE-60s and both are just lots of plastic. The only thing that bothered me was the initially strong chemical odor. I actually waited a day to start listening so that they could air out. It was much better the next day. Comfort was great. They're naturally light, the earcups are spacious, and wearing them for hours was not a problem. Overall, for the money, these are a no-brainer if you want to experience good electrostatic headphones for "mid-fi" money. Great job Massdrop for arranging this.
mehrdadgog
2
Oct 5, 2021
Hi How much is different in sound quality between this can and l300? I want to upgrade my sennheiser hd650 + apogee groove. Thx
densetsu
192
Oct 5, 2021
It's a different sound altogether, so I wouldn't really say it's an "upgrade" moving to e-stats. Just different. And a difference you might not like.
Jan-Ove
33
Aug 13, 2019
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Probably the best headphone you can get for 500$
As someone who has had Headfi as a hobby for well over 12 years now these headphones opened my eyes, as an owner of both an HD800S and Audeze LCD3 I actually like these Koss Electrostats better then both of them when it comes to sound. The detail in these are amazing, the bass was what i was most sceptical about, but as far as i am concerened the amount of low end is perfect for the music I listen to, the clarity, resolution and airiness of these cans are out of this world. I've completelely fallen in love with them. When it comes to the quality feeling im not all that happy, they feel really cheap with hard plastic everywhere, but on the other hand it means they also are very light and very comfortable, not as comfortable as my HD800S but its not far from it, could easily sit whit the ESP/95X on my head all day. Im going to buy new earpads from VesperAudio down the line and probably try out a new power supply to see if it makes any difference. All in all this far probably the best headphone I've ever owned.
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Would recommend to a friend.
oniongrass
7
Dec 8, 2020
It's a capacitor driving a charged diaphragm. Having metal nearby would change its capacitance to some extent, so plastic resin makes more sense to me. The plastic is well finished and doesn't seem weak.
DiMora
262
Mar 2, 2019
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Sound quality is amazingly detailed - but lacks bass. Too bland for me. Like a meal with no salt and pepper. Very comfortable headphones. Energizer feels cheap and plasticky - like a kids toy, not like a piece of high end audio gear. Dual volume knobs are difficult to use and very small and cheap feeling. These were bested by my HiFiMan HE-4XX on Schiit Asgard 2 as well as my Senn HE-6XX on Darkvoice 336SE. 6 listeners agreed these were last place vs. the two combos mentioned above. See pic below of my headphone shootout! I sold them immediately. Adios, Koss Electrostatics! Have you ever seen the Top Gear where James May drives a Lamborghini Countach - and is disappointed? That’s what this was like - so much hope, as I love Martin-Logan’s and Magnepans...but there was just no love here. Too bright and flat and boring. And cheap feeling. Really cheap. These are like a pair of toy headphones.
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DiMora
262
Sep 24, 2019
I’m picking up some Audeze LCD-X from a great friend; I’ll give them a review once I’ve had a chance to listen to them at length. Lately I’ve been using my Mr.Speaker Ether CX on a Monoprice THX 788 with its internal DAC. I’ve actually been giving them a touch of EQ to the bottom due to my bass love but even dead-flat they sound very well balanced and detailed. I’ve already heard the Audyssey - and they are quite amazing. I also picked up a pair of THX789 amps so I can do A:B headphone comparisons with identical amps/DACs. More to follow.
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Dracon_Arkhon
11
Apr 23, 2020
LoL Guys I've almost forgotten about how the so-called audiophiles can have a heated argument basically about anything... While at the same time they are just trying to put together a bunch of biased equipment to please their biased ears by balancing their respective imperfections. If you can't enjoy music coming from a $5 headset you are just f***ed...
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Finally, I own electrostatic.
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Day 1, 2019.11.05: I've been wanting these cans for over 25 years. Seriously, I just couldn't justify the $999 that KOSS sells em for. Every few years I'd essentially flip a coin and not get them. This time around that $500 at Drop was much more tempting, and that $100 off sale bringing them to $400 was just too hard to pass up. No coin-toss required. As these have just arrived, I'm giving my initial observations.
  • Everything feels super cheap. Plastic everywhere on the cans and energizer.
  • The concentric potentiometer is a nice touch, but I'd love to have a lock on it so I can twist both equally.
  • The 9VDC wall wort is total garbage and should be replaced. Preferably with something that can be turned off without unplugging. Probably find some ChiFi linear.
  • Fuzzy earpads suck almost as bad as pleather and vegan leather. Skin me some dang sheep. Dekoni Fenestrated pads ordered and on the way, hopefully before I melt from the fuzzy.
  • It is incredibly too easy to push the button which makes the cans disassemble. First time taking them off was a very WTF moment.
  • These cans are very compatible with large gauge piercings. The ear cups and pads are huuuge.
For all those mostly negative observations there is one very important thing, and that'd be that these cans sound good. Incredibly good. They've got clarity. They've got punch. It is like a wall of pure sonic bliss. They sound great from all of my audio sources. SDAC-B, DX7s, XR18, and Airist R-2R. All of my sources except the Airist start the signal as XLR and get it brought to single ended. They produce very loud clean sound via the Koss. The Airist needs the volume ramped a bit at the Koss compared to the others, but still sounds wonderful. -1 star for the cheap construction, garbage AD->DC, and fuzzy pads. +4 star for awesome sound, great looks, and extreme comfort. Day 3, 2019.11.07: I'm totally replacing the wall wart. I've the parts for a number of low noise AMB σ25 linear power supplies using the AMB σ78, plus I definitely have a trafo that'll push the voltage I need (both toroid and r-core). Stable 9VDC will not be a problem, and by the gods, having a psu with a fricking power switch will make the energizer not suck. I do not like having to unplug the stupid thing every day when I'm done using it. A short design note for the MassDrop folks. Putting the power switch after the transformer and AC-DC is stupid. Low quality power supplies are the bane of audiophile gear. Just sayin. 1Amp of 9VDC requires a stupid small toroid transformer, we're talking like 9-10VA. Throw in a low noise LDO linear voltage regulator and an IEC socket with fuse, and you can just stuff it in a slightly larger chassis. TI even has some pretty sweet reference designs for this. If y'all are going to do the whole make it better thing... :) So, my initial take still stands. Sounds great, works great, but the power brick is crap. Also, I TOTALLY had to relearn how to take headphones off after I kept hitting the disassembly buttons. Still no regrets in buying it. Day 4, 2019.11.08: My Dekoni Elite Fenestrated Sheepskin Earpads arrived. I missed the most recent Drop for them, so I sourced them direct. They're totally a pain in the butt to apply to the cans, requiring you to stretch the earpad around the ear speaker housing, but oh so worth it. Maximum comfort achieved. If you've got these cans, or are getting them, get the Dekoni pads. Your skin will thank you. Day 9, 2019.11.13: Sill sounds good. No problems there. This is more of just a status update for my PSU replacement project. I've got some 9V 10VA Talema toroid transformers to go with those AMB boards I mentioned previously. I've got most of my circuit board laid out for replacing the power brick with something more or less simple and linear. Fused at the AC input, fused at both of the AC outputs. The ability to run it 115/230VAC in, and the ability to run it with a single or dual power supply modules. Another few days of refinements and I'll hit the order button for a couple of the prototypes. And yes, this stage is pure auto-router. Day 12, 2019.11.16: Ordered some prototype boards from OSHPark. In about two weeks I should have my low noise, and generally better than power brick, power supply. Day 25, 2019.11.29: Prototypes arrived. I didn't screw up on alignments, but there are definitely tweaks I'll be making to the schematic. Now to assemble and test. Prototype boards:
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Renders of Prototype Boards:
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Layout and schematic of replacement 9v PSU for ESP/95x:
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Cans with Dekoni Pads:
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Would recommend to a friend.
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birusan
7
Dec 20, 2019
Do you think the ifi pro iesl will improve the sound quality of the 95x over the original energiser and power supply?
Nottagorilla
56
Dec 27, 2019
I am not familiar with this particular product from iFi. It may be very good, & I wouldn't rule out it being better. The E90x is a pretty minimalist (as in: Cheap!) effort, it SHOULD be easy to do better. But as I've said here before, this cheapo E90 still sonically MURDERS anything I've heard by Stax, including the SRM-007t & the new (& incredibly disappointing) SRM-8000. The ONLY amp I've heard that is better so far is a big push-pull EL34 amp from Woo Audio ($3000+USD), never paid any attention to the Model# since for that kind of money I'll one day build my own! I'm going to do a bit of research & get back to you with a stronger opinion & better info. But otherwise, you MUST trust your own ears here. Seek out a dealer to do your own auditioning as brand-names mean NOTHING in Audio much of (too much!!) the time. Another option, the one that works for me, is find your closest annual Audio Show & check out the CanJam portion of it!
Jhead
34
Mar 5, 2019
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I believe as some others here that these surpass a good many other's when listening to vocals which I do a fair amount of I have a long list of favorite Female vocalists that I very much like listening to through the output of a oppo 105D player these to me are more impact full then any other of my other Headphones which consist of Massdrop Sennheiser & HE-6XX,HiFiManHE-4XX Austrian made AKG-701. I would have to say these are not for Bass Heads so would suggest that you look else where if you value low powerful bass above all else. And going into making the decision to spring for these I did a lot of Internet search reviews on these.So going into I was very aware of how cheaply these appear to be made as well as being very aware of the weakness that Electrostatic drivers have in the lower frequencies which is partial due to there inability to move the air needed to reach low in the frequency extreme . These truly shine from the Mid-bass on up these to me are a real treat to listen too in the area's that they do well in which to me seem's to be many .
Mohannad13
94
Sep 15, 2019
Do you find the 95x superior to the 4xx and 6xx in every aspect except the subbass ? Have you noticed a huge sound quality improvement over the 6xx and 4xx ?
Jhead
34
Sep 15, 2019
What I consider to be Subbass personally would fall below 20 cycles.For my opinion only on the Koss 950 between the 6xx they have a even more airy sound to acoustic instruments and how they are presented in time and space there's been a acronym coined for this (Prat) pace,rhythm and time I think that the Koss has this characteristic in spades from say 100 to 10,000 cycles where a huge portion of sound we as humans hear.And if you prize the midrange the 950s at $500 are champions at it.
DennisB
16
Jan 20, 2020
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Very impressed right out of the box.
I would dispute the other reviewers on the "quality" of the headphone build. For home listening , they are well constructed..........the only time I see it being a problem is if you are an NFL coach and you want to rip them off your head and fire them into the ground they probably won't make it thru the season. Otherwise , what are they doing with their cans? GREAT DEAL at this price. Dennis B
Scharfschutzen
48
Jan 25, 2020
Holy fuck, this review made me laugh so hard. Thanks.
headphone_slayer
1
Sep 15, 2020
Dude this had me cracking up.
adeadcrab
255
Dec 12, 2019
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Unique + A Good Deal
Some might call the build 'flmisy' or 'cheap'. I would call it aerodynamic and lightweight. Space age. I wanted some time with these headphones before giving them a review, and I'm glad I did. Initially I thought they were decent, but not reference quality as they have a tonally dark sound signature. While it sounds phenomenal out of the box with older recordings and acoustic guitar-dominated records, it doesn't have neither the slam in the low-end, nor the tizzying highs (there is a headphone currently on Drop that does those things in spades. I'll let you guess which one). The real magic, I found, came after watching a youtube review by Metal571 where they extolled the virtues of EQ on the 95x. I have been a lifelong skeptic of EQ, partly due to a warped pride in refusing software to 'fix' my headphones, partly laziness, and partly a sense of being overwhelmed by the choices presented to me through the EQ panel. Luckily, there is someone called 'Oratory' who has done most of the legwork. Here is their EQ settings - https://www.dropbox.com/s/vpktmiuj5ogw67p/Koss%20ESP%3A95X.pdf?dl=0 This fixes much of what was lacking, although I've adjusted these numbers to lessen the big valleys between the midrange and the rest of the audio spectrum. So, with that out of the way - The 95x being electrostatic has unique staging and imaging qualities, thanks to the massive drivers and earcups. Compared to other headphones, it almost 'stretches' the image vertically. You get used to it quickly, and is probably my favourite headphone for live recordings where it replicates the space of a concert with ease. The soundstage is quite good, doubly so with a Linear Power Supply to replace the stock wall wart, and doubly again using a preamp to feed the signal to the energizer. Speaking of the energizer, I have had to channel match with a sound level meter, only to find one of the channels has increased in volume on its own! I have them turned up nearly to the max on the energizer, using digital attenuation, so your mileage may vary. This is the main negative I've experienced. Oh, you may experience some crackling noises from time to time. This was plaguing me for weeks, I even asked for a replacement unit (which Drop so kindly sent out before even receiving the defective unit) only to have the crackling persist. Eventually, I tried turning off both the energizer and the LPS at night, giving them a rest before the next day of listening to the 95x. This has worked for many months so I think that was the issue. I also experienced ground loop hum, the energizer is susceptible to electrical intereference and turning off the motor in my motorized desk fixed this. With these EQ tweaks and details to keep in mind I am now enjoying a reference-level electrostatic system. I may get some new earpads from Vesper down the line for a more premium fit and feel. Thanks Koss and Drop for collaborating and giving members of the community this opportunity!
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Would recommend to a friend.
ManofTaste
4
Apr 9, 2020
Which linear power supply did you purchase? Inquiring minds want to know!
adeadcrab
255
Apr 9, 2020
it's right above you in this thread
octokid321
13
Dec 7, 2021
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TL;DR-Amazing and recomended but have certain quirks that you must deal with. Ive owned these for almost two years now. If i had written this review when i first got them i wouldve given them 5 stars. However things have changed and i have since acquired and listened to better headphones that have completely changed my definition of 5 stars. With that out of the way lets get into it. These headphones are great and in some areas amazing. They were my first set of electrostatics so naturally i was blown away by the speed, clarity, etherealness of the sound. The bass on this headphone is decent. Its very neutral, if not slightly bass light. However it is clear, punchy, and fast. But this along with most other electrostatics, isnt gonna blow you away in the bass department, unless EQ is applied. If you are a bass head this is not the headphone for you as are most other estats with a few notable,but very pricey, exceptions. Stick to planars and dynamics for that. However if that doesnt describe you and you are someone that revells in the mids and treble then please keep reading. The mids and the treble are nothing short of transformative. If your have never experienced estats before this is the area of the sound that they are known for. They have speed, clarity, impactfullness, and an almost "ethereal" quality to them. Youll hear that word alot if you decide to go down the estat rabbit hole. While it almost sounds pretentious, after owning a few sets of estats now, it is an accurate description. The sound is so quick and so clear that its like it appears from thin air and then vanishes as quickly as it came. Now you might be thinking "holy crap this sounds amazing let me buy these right now!" STOP! Before you purchase these there are a few very important quirks and features (doug demuro would be proud) that you MUST be aware of with these headphones and other estats in general. I will list them as follows:
  1. DUST, DUST,DUST- I cannot stress this enough. Due to the nature of electrostatic driver construction (something which i wont get into here to save time, google is your friend) dust is the kryptonite of estats. Dust will weigh down the driver and cause popping, hizzing, and other electrical noises that deminish sound quality. It will, not it can, it WILL cause these problems aswell as channel imbalances. Store these in a dust free enviroment. I literally just drape a big ziplock bag over them when not in use. Cheap but effective.
  2. Wierd noise- These headphones can make wierd noises when music is not being played while turned on. It sounds like electrical noise or squealing. Usually tapping the cups gently with your fingers fixes the problem. This is my only pair of estats that do this, my other ones dont have this problem. However this problem while remedied easily is just a part of this headphone's character as it is very common among owners. Sometimes these noises can become permenant so its a good thing koss has a legendary no hassel life time warranty. Most of these noises are due to the energizer unit being subpar which is will expand on in the energizer section of this review.
  3. Energizer- An energizer is just a fancy word for an electrostatic amplifier. This heaphone comes with one, which is part of the reason this deal is game changing. These headphones by themselves are already a steal at 500$. That being said this energizer, the E90, is the weakest link in this system. It is very cheaply made and has had the same design since it was released in 1990. As such it is very prone to electrical noise and makes the headphones operate at a fraction of their potential. The electrical noise can be remedied by buying an aftermarket 9v power supply. IFI makes a great one for 50$. The sound quality can only be remedied by buying a better STAX amp(used ones start at around 500$ and only go up from there) but you must also purchase a cable adapter and those cost atleast 100$. Now before this is disheartening, the stock amp still sounds great and is likely leagues above anything else most people are used to hearing. I only mention its short comings to give you an idea of an upgrade path with this headphone as well as inform any estat enthusiasts that read this.
  4. Warranty- As stated above the koss lifetime warranty is legendary and you WILL use it at some point when owning this heaphone. They are very delicate and will accumulate dust causing all the previously stated problems no matter how careful you are. My personal pair has to be sent out due to a channel imbalance that appeared a couple months ago and i babied them. Now this isnt too big of deal because it is a lifetime warranty but its still an annoyance and unfortunatly just another part of owning this headphone.
  5. WORK- If all the afformentioned quirks and features havent spelled it out yet, owning Estats is work. They have problems unique to them. They cost a mountain of money(exluding this bundle). They have to be stored properly. They require special hardware to work properly. I could go on but i think you get it.
Now youre problably thinking at this point "why would i bother with these if they are so difficult to deal with?" Its a valid question. Im here to tell you why. Its because the reward is so high. The audio experience you get is so lovely and so rewarding that its addicting. I bought these headphones on a whim to satisfy my curiosity about estats. I now own several pairs of estats with one of them, The $1800 ES Labs ES-1A, being the best headphone ive ever heard and ive heard ALOT. All of this because of the Koss ESP 95X. These headphones hold a special place in my heart because of this and as such i will never sell them. Despite owning better estats and several standard dynamic and planar headphones i still come back to these because there is something magical about them. It might be because they are the little engine that could of estats. They are the cheapest ones available but they sound so good and punch wayyyyyy above their price bracket. Their most direct competitors are the Stax L300 and in my opinion the koss sound a little better and actually come with and energizer. The L300s cost aroud $450 and dont come with the energizer unless you get the $700 bundle available on ebay that ships from japan and requires a D/C converter to work in american and european electrical outlets. It also might be because they were my first forray into the magical world of estats. I believe its a bit of both reasons. I could sing you the Koss ESP 95x swan song for the rest of my years but instead ill end with this: BUY them and enjoy real sound for the first time but also know the work you have to put in. Thanks for attending my TED talk.
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Would recommend to a friend.
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