Oh, Say KSC...

For years, one of the best values in headphones has been the Koss KSC-35 earclips. Providing impressive bass response, excellent detail and midrange, and good comfort, there was really no competition at the under-$30 price point. Apart from the KSC-35's fraternal twin siblings (see the note at the end of this review), there still isn't.

However, a few years ago Koss attempted to improve on the popular KSC-35 by creating the more modern looking KSC-50. Instead of the hard, black, plastic design of the KSC-35, the KSC-50 used a larger, rounder body style that was silver in color and featured rubber earclips for better comfort. Unfortunately, these changes had some drawbacks: the new design was bulkier and heavier, and the new earclips didn't fit some users as well. As a result, the KSC-50 tended to fall off more easily and, because they didn't fit as snugly against the ears, their bass response wasn't quite as good.

Koss went back to the drawing board and -- if the appearance of the KSC-75 is any indication -- merged the KSC-35 and KSC-50 to come up with a near-perfect hybrid. The KSC-75 are approximately the same size and weight as the KSC-35, but feature a more attractive silver appearance with more stylish curves than their utilitarian predecessor. In addition, the earclips are similar to those of the KSC-50: thin metal covered in translucent, stiff rubber. The result is a relatively stylish model that fits securely but comfortably. Because they have no headband, the KSC-75 are perfect for people who don't want to mess up their hairdo, and they've also replaced the KSC-35 as our favorites for exercising.

Thankfully, the KSC-75 also retain the excellent sound quality of their parents: from the treble to the bass, the audio put out by the KSC-75 belies their low price. Our only disappointment is that the bass response is closer to that of the KSC-50 than the KSC-35, which means "good but not quite as good." Nevertheless, these headphones will blow away your player's stock earbuds or 'phones for about the price of a CD.

The Lowdown

The KSC-75 are comfortable and attractive, and they provide sound quality unsurpassed at this price point. You simply won't find better headphones for $20. They easily earn our Playlist Pick award.

(NOTE: The Koss KSC-35, KSC-50, KSC-55, KTX Pro 1, PortaPro, and SportaPro all use the same drivers as the KSC-75, just in different enclosures, so they share the KSC-75's impressive price/performance status. All of these models are reviewed in our Product Guide.)

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