Koss, one of the oldest manufacturers of hi-fi gear in the US, was founded in 1958 by John Koss. He believed that headphones could be used for something more than voice messages and monitoring on aircraft and ships, and premiered full-range stereo headphones to great success. Old-timers need no prodding to remember the company, and newcomers who’ve watched Mad Men might relate -- Koss is one of the real companies that Don Draper’s fictitious advertising agency works for. Many of the Koss models created decades ago are still being made.
With an eye to the future, Koss has now brought out the BT540i wireless Bluetooth headphones ($199.99 USD).
Even as new models of commuter headphones continue to be released by the dozen, there seems to be a trend toward designing headphones that can serve many purposes. Audio-Technica’s ATH-MSR7 ($249.95 USD) is one of these models.
Out of the box
On the ATH-MSR7s’ cardboard box is a dramatic, larger-than-life photo of the left earcup. In the upper-right corner is the official gold-and-brown Hi-Res Audio emblem. On one side panel is printed information about the three detachable cables, on another the specifications are listed in tiny type, and on the back is an informative exploded diagram that shows all of the components of the ATH-MSR7s’ 45mm drivers and the technology used in making them. Inside are the headphones, wrapped in black fabric and nestled in a plastic mold. The cables and instructions come in a separate black box. A cheapish vinyl carrying bag is included.
I like Outdoor Tech -- the imaginative company comes up with devices like no others. A few years ago they came up with the Buckshot, a little cylindrical speaker that could be fastened to a bicycle handlebar or hung from a backpack loop. Now they’ve expanded that design into the Buckshot Pro, which adds a flashlight and a battery charger.
Most headphones look similar to other headphones, but Polk Audio’s Hinge Wireless on-ear model ($199.95 USD) is subtly different. Add to its looks good sound and easy use (for some), and you have headphones that are not just for the fashion conscious. Still, the Hinge Wireless has some problems . . .
The Philips BT3500B is another Bluetooth speaker worth considering if you’re in the market for a smaller model you can carry in one hand from room to patio to porch. It has surprisingly good sound for such a little fella, and its retro design will appeal to many buyers. And at $79.99 USD, it constitutes good value for dollar.
This reviewer is never so happy as when he’s blown away by a real bargain. I expected little when I first put on Monoprice’s 10585 Bluetooth headphones ($89.50 USD). Then I began to gush. “Whaaattt!?” “Oh, my!” Other complimentary exclamations followed . . .
Unpacking and contents
The Monoprice 10585s come in an attractive, low-key, quality looking outer sleeve. Lift that off to reveal a sturdy, black, cigar-box-quality case with a hinged lid secured by a magnetic clasp. Flip this open to find the headphones and accessories, protected by a clear plastic cover. It’s all simple, neat, and attractive. Also included are a USB-to-USB Micro charging cable, a 3.5mm stereo audio cable, a quick-start instruction manual, and a drawstring storage pouch of black plastic.
I purchased these off the shelf at Walmart and didn’t expect much from them. But the on-ear Transit headphones from Jam, a division of HMDX, turned out to be a good bargain at $49.99 USD. After using them for three weeks, and despite one serious flaw, I found a lot to like about them.
Bluetooth speakers continue to arrive in every shape and size. JBL’s Clip looks like a slightly oversized hockey puck, with a carabiner at the top that gives it its name. If you need something this small and don’t need a lot of bass, the little Clip’s performance might surprise you.
A little over a year ago, I reviewed Jabra’s Revo wireless Bluetooth headphones, now priced at $199.99 USD (down from $249.99). Now, for less than half that price ($99), Jabra has come up with the Move Bluetooth headphones, a stripped-down version of the Revos. Though some whistles and bells have been eliminated, there has been no sacrifice in sound quality.
The Jabra Moves come in a sturdy cardboard box that opens like a book. The headphones are held in place by protective foam and covered with clear plastic. Lift out the ’phones and look under the foam to find a USB-to-USB Micro charging cord (no AC adapter is included), a 3.5mm cord, a quick-start booklet, warranty information, and a red tag urging you to register your product. Why the 3.5mm cord? One of the nicest features of the Moves is that they can be used wirelessly or wired.
Looking much like the Revos, minus the color trim, the Moves have a sleek, simple modern design and come in three colors: Cobalt, Cayenne, or Coal. (On Jabra’s website, you can see them displayed in the color of your choice.) The aluminum headband is covered in fabric that Jabra claims has been tested to withstand 10,000 flexes. The headphones have also been drop tested to ensure that, like the Revos, they’re really tough.
JBL is a name I heard a lot in college and my early years in Washington, DC, but until recently I hadn’t heard any of the company’s current products. My experience with the Synchros E50BT over-ear Bluetooth headphones ($149.95 USD) indicates that I should tune back in.
Out of the box
Inside the box, the Synchros E50BT headphones nestle in a black plastic cradle. In a compartment affixed to the inner side of the box lid are two cables: an audio cable with a straight 2.5mm plug on one end and a right-angled 3.5mm plug on the other, for use when the battery runs down; and a 2.5mm-to-USB cable for charging the battery. Also included are a quick-start guide, and warranty and safety information.
The E50BTs are made mostly of plastic, with a little metal, and their looks are impressive: futuristic with a retro accent. There’s a huge JBL logo on each earcup, and another on the leatherette-covered headband. The button behind the logo comes in different colors: black with silver, blue, red, purple metallic, and white with silver accents.
A unique swivel connection permits movement on two axes, allowing the earcups’ positions to be easily adjusted, from front to back and from side to side, to fit almost any head. This and the headband’s flexibility allow the cups to be folded for packing, and continuously adjustable sliders let the earcups be positioned for a secure fit. No carrying pouch is included, but I’ve found that Walmart’s camera department always has a case that will fit, at minimum cost. The earpads -- foam covered with leatherette -- are of generous size. The actual space for each ear is slightly oval, its diameters measuring 1.875” by 1.75”; each overall earcup is 3.5” in diameter. The E50BTs weigh 10.2 ounces and, despite all the plastic, feel solidly built.