I’ve tried so hard to be an AirPods person. In theory, I should love everything about them: They’re lightweight, take up next to no space in your bag, and have a minimalist design that goes with everything. Sadly, those hard, white nuggets never—and I mean never—stay in my ears. They fall right out the second I move my head, and actually hurt if I try to secure them in. I’ve done a lot of Goldilocks-ing over the years with various over-the-ear headphones (a favorite winter trick for keeping my ears warm in New York City) until I settled on this pair of wildly affordable, albeit sauceless, Panasonic suction earbuds. They were solid, but started giving me discomfort after hour two of use—an inevitable problem, as it turns out. The cartilage in my ears just isn't meant to hold a hard piece of plastic nestled inside for hours, apparently. Bummer.
I was back at square one with no real clue (or big budget) for what I needed, but I had accepted the fact that whatever I ended up with would probably be of “meh” quality, let alone design. Then the all-knowing TikTok algorithm did what it does best, and delivered me to audiophile heaven with the viral Koss Porta Pros:
The chemistry was instant—specifically with the beige, retro-style Porta Pros that have helped push the headphones to their viral status. Not only do they continually sell out on both Amazon and the Koss website, but they’ve amassed over 17.7 million views under the #kossportapros hashtag on TikTok. They have a 4.5-star average rating from over 800 reviews on Amazon, with the majority being glowing treatises on the terrific sound quality, low price, and spot-on 80s/90s aesthetic. As one reviewer said, “I almost cried tears of joy, and maybe part of that is with the presentation. These really deliver.”
When the glorious day came for the beige edition restock—yes, these puppies are frequently sold-out—I smashed that order button and set out to see if they were really worth the hype.
First, a few juicy deets on Koss: the American audio gear company was founded in Milwaukee in 1958, and actually invented the world’s first SP/3 Stereophone that same year. It’s also a service-based company—rare these days—which means that if you need repairs or parts for your electronics, the Koss team is there to help you. Even if your model is discontinued, they can hook you up if you dial 1-800-USA-KOSS. Cute and helpful.
This thoughtfulness was clear in both the packaging and design of my sweet little Porta Pros, which comes with a soft pouch as well as a hard-shelled case. The headphones themselves will also fold up and hook together:
And these headphones are light. As in, a brioche bun would carry more weight. I felt like I was wearing a cotton candy crown when I finally tried them on, and stepped out into the city to see if they could compete with the kerfuffle of a Bushwick weekend, which is a soundscape of… many things.
What was rad
“Good god, Francky,” is usually what my editor says when I come into the office with my tangled-up earbuds, looking like a weathered telephone pole. But the day I wore my Porta Pros to work, I felt Linda Hamilton-cool. I looked like I knew how to drive a stick shift, and had opinions about TR-808 drum machines. They also took my typical white T-shirt and raver pants outfit combo to the next level:
In terms of specs, these Porta Pros have a lot of hidden features. There’s an inline microphone, remote and attenuating volume control, and a little slidey thingy on the outside of the earphone for you to adjust the firmness of the fit. As a spineless jellyfish, I like them to sit on my head with just a bit of tension. There’s also a pause/play button on the inline microphone attachment that will skip to the next track if you press twice quickly, and the part where you attach your dongle for iPhone listening is slightly angled for more ergonomic use.
Expect a crisp, clear sound with solid bass that hits just right without feeling overwhelming. Prior to purchase, I read a lot of Amazon reviews saying that while the regular Porta Pro’s sound good, this beige, limited-edition set sounds even better. As one Amazon audiophile writes, “I've done direct A-B comparisons between the two [...] and found that they sound more lively, more dynamic, and more three-dimensional. [The] bass punches harder and there's more air [and] sparkle in the treble.” After testing out the re-trending Hounds Of Love album and its *muah* blend of synth and piano, I wholeheartedly agree. The sound will leak a bit if you blast The Prodigy or 10 hours of bagpipes, but for the most part, I never worry about others hearing my music—and if I ever do, I can immediately turn down the volume with the little slider on the cable. They’ve pretty much become my summer personality at this point, and I can’t wait to start switching up the earpads, too:
What was tricky
Wait… exactly how do these sit on my head? was an initial thought when I unboxed my Porta Pros. I’m not alone, as evidenced by Reddit users who say things such as “mandible bones” in threads titled “how the hell do I wear my porta pros??” I’ve seen people wear them both ways on TikTok, which is probably a testament to how comfortable they are, but the correct way to wear them is demonstrated clearly on the Koss website.
These are a no-brainer purchase for those looking for an over-the-ear option that also has plenty of swag, and the first pair of headphones I’ve actually been excited about wearing every day. As someone who dislikes ear buds—but doesn’t want chonky headphones to lug around during my daily commute—the lightweight and easily foldable frame is perfection. If you’re a serious audiophile, know that the Porta Pros are actually worth the hype for the price (and especially the 80s nostalgia). The sound is clear and bright, with solid bass that never gets womp-womp overwhelming, and the often sold-out, retro beige edition will be a real feather in your collector’s cap. Not only do they make me feel like an an off-duty bounty hunter in a Terminator movie, but they make every outfit I wear just a little bit cooler. From the rave to the grave, I love my Porta Pros.
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