Pros: responds well to eq + burn in, nice detail in certain genres
Cons: not much to knock for the price, forward mids lack detail with amped music (but not horribly so), really nothing subpar about these
These are my first purchase of head-fi recommended headphones. I do not have ANYTHING to compare them to since I'm a novice audio enthusiast. This really amounts to a bit of babbling by someone who does not know very much about his new hobby. However, I will offer my proverbial 2 cents. Here goes nothing:
I've had these for about a month and have approximately 40 hours use on them. They may still be burning in at this point.
Build Quality: The build quality is quite good for the price point. I think we have all seen the plastic-clad hideousness that sells for 3 or 4 times the price of these. The cups are machined aluminum and most other parts are metal as well. Durability doesn't appear to be a future issue, nor have I read any reports of this being a problem with this model. There's just not a lot of plastic to be found on these.
Comfort: The earpads are okay for comfort, but not the best in the heat here in Saigon. I find my ears get quite warm even when I'm in an air-conditioned space. I've read that the pads from Audio Technica M50s are ideal for these - I haven't yet tried that route. I would like to try replacement pads with an oval shape that create a little more space between the ears and the drivers and apparently that's exactly what the M50 pads do, enhancing not only the comfort but the soundstage as well. The cord is a bit heavy, with a good portion of it being coiled. I guess that's part of what makes it DJ-specific. The earcups do swivel around to make it easy for DJs to listen to the room and what they're setting up/mixing on their equipment. That being said, not many people on head-fi buy these for their "DJ-ness." These are good sounding headphones for listening pleasure regardless of the intended target market.
Audio Quality: As I've said, I'm a novice here, but we all have to start somewhere. My source is a rockboxed ipod video and I use flac files. With this source and these headphones, the music that sounds best to me is acoustic music, regardless of genre. I've been listening to Fleetwood Mac's Rumors while writing this, and Lindsey Buckingham's guitar sounds fantastic on "Never Going Back Again." The midrange frequencies are pretty forward in these headphones as others have mentioned, but not excessively in performances with acoustic instrumentation. Another album that sounds stellar with these headphones is Tone Poems by David Grisman and Tony Rice. It's all acoustic music being played on fine instruments, and for me, this is where I really enjoy these headphones the most. I do find that there isn't great seperation in amplified music or even in orchestral pieces, especially in the mids. This can be remedied somewhat by tinkering with equalizer settings in Rockbox, but there are limits. I won't say I am put off by this, but there are areas where it doesn't shine as brightly - this is to be expected for this price. As far as the low end is concerned, I think these handle them quite well and I don't get a muddy sound in acoustic instrumentation at all. I don't think they are bass-heavy headphones even though they are marketed as such. To me, they sound fairly neutral in the bass department and do a good overall job with the low end. Once again, with Rockbox, you can tweak it a bit to your liking. A track like "Lush Life" by Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane is a pretty good showcase for the detail it can give in the low end as you listen to Hartman's brilliant baritone. John Coltrane's tenor sax does come out a bit heavy, once again showing a tendency to be mid-forward. A track that reveals some muddiness is "Chubb Sub" by Medeski, Martin, and Wood. It has a bass line that Bootsy Collins would be proud of, but this track reveals some bleeding between instruments/frequencies and general muddiness. If you have a set of cans that are able to handle this track, you will not be disappointed - it's Hammond-organ goodness, a filthy bassline, and syncopated drumming pounding away. The DJ100s come up short with a track like this - it just demands a little too much for these cans to shine in my opinion. That's not to say the experience is ruined, but I can really hear the boundaries imposed by some amped music. Perhaps it has to do with how a track is mixed in the studio...I'm not really sure. There may be albums that are mixed in such a way that sounds terrific with these headphones. My experience has been that amped rock and roll does not allow these headphones to reveal the detail and seperation the way acoustic music does. I do tend to listen to classic rock, so perhaps the recording techniques employed in that era make these headphones work a little harder. A song like "St. Tropez" by Pink Floyd is much better suited for these headphones. The nice seperation is present and the overall quality is more lush and evened out.
Final Thoughts: It's awfully difficult to convey such a subjective experience to an audience that is much more experienced than I, perhaps impossible, even. This review may be more instructional for myself than most all readers, as well - I think it's pointing me toward what I'm actually looking for, as well as revealing what I don't want in a set of cans. I think I may in fact be a freak for detail and seperation - that seems to be my bag. I guess that's part of the fun, too - the experience of discovery. The best summary I can give is that, as a new participant in this fantasmagoric hobby, the Koss DJ100s are a very good entry-level set of full-size headphones for a new, budget-conscious hobbyist who wants to dips their toes (and wallet) in the water to see what all the fuss is about, rather than dive in for a set of big boy cans that cost a small fortune. If you find that you're really not all that passionate about the pursuit of hifi bliss after all, than starting out with a pair of these will not leave you with feelings of buyer's remorse - you'll walk away with something you can still enjoy, pass along to a friend or relative who'll enjoy them more, or just sell to somebody else for most of what you paid - I don't think these will depreciate much at all in value. On the other hand, if you're like me, you'll A) be pretty happy with your purchase, B) use these to teach yourself what it is you're really looking for in a set of cans while still enjoying them, and C) surely become quite eager to discover other well-crafted products out there that can bring you ever closer to your ideal music listening experience.