Pros: Inexpensive ($35), Open Air, Light, Neutral, Decent bass response, Good detail
Cons: A little flimsy, kind of small, foam could have been nicer
Koss UR 55 Studio Pulse An inexpensive performer
There's a vast array of inexpensive headphones out there. Thousands of them. But every now and then, if you sample around, much like wine, you can fine something inexpensive that is actually pretty good. The Koss UR 55 Studio Pulse is a headphone that fits that description. I picked it up for $35 from Amazon (was on sale, goes on sale now and then, just watch for it if interested) because at a price like that, it doesn't matter. So I took a shot at it to see. I've seen some information out there on them, which is limited, so for the most part this was a shot in the dark. That's fine by me though, I like trying things. I wanted to see what kind of application an inexpensive headphone could be used for. Mainly though, I really wanted to find a decent headphone that had good imaging, was open to semi-open air, had a good frequency response and was inexpensive. Hard to find all that in a cheap little package. That's where the Koss UR 55 Studio Pulse comes in.
So a little summary to see if you're interested, in which case, the rest bellow is for you.
- Over-ear (but snug, so they're smallish)
- Soft pads (foam)
- Good sound stage
- Good extension both in highs and lows (can do bass well)
- Good for gaming, movies and music listening
- $35 on sale
What Comes In the Box:
The package is rather simple, it's very small when you first see it. The headphones are classed as over ear, but they're not very big, so they are over ear on normal and small ears, and snug at that, but on someone with wombat ears, these are likely going to be too small. There's no accessories or adapters. You simply get a set of headphones with an attached cord and the mandatory wasteful slips of paper that either advertise or tell you how not to strangle yourself with the cords.
- The headphone itself
- Paper junk and plastic packaging
- No accessories or adapters
Construction, Materials & Comfort:
The headphone is build of plastic with some metallic grills and a metal band within the headband, likely magnesium and/or aluminum. But you never really know. Might cause cancer, right? Regardless. The construction is actually kind of flimsy. Everything is tight and holds together, but the entire headphone feels very light almost toy-like. I've had mid-tier headphones that felt like that, so I didn't let it really sway me, but be prepared for that.
The foam pads are just foam. Nothing special. But also, not plastic or vinyl which is a plus in my mind. They're actually pretty comfortable. They don't clamp too much, so they're not too tight, and the pads fit over my ears and touch a little. Again, they're a little small, so these are not likely going to fit someone with old man ears that are huge like kites, har har. The headband has a memory foam that is within a vinyl type material that is nice and soft, not a foam that is exposed that will keep scent, so that's a plus.
The grills are simple. You can see into them. They're semi-open to open-air (depends how you define it I guess). Point is, they're open, so they leak and you can hear things around you. This is a good and bad thing depending on your needs and wants. I think it's a good thing and that's why I went for them, inexpensive open-air headphones to try. The style is not over the type nor completely bland. They look kind of nice.
The cord is very small and short and terminates into 3.5mm. I would have liked a longer cord. But inexpensive models don't tend to have all the bells and whistles so I can't really fault them for this.
A huge note about the headphone is size. They're not very big. I had to extend the headband extensions to get the ear cups down to my comfort zone around my ears. These are not going to fit on someone with a massive head and massive ears. Keep that in mind. I almost felt like they were kid sized. I've never had to "max" a headphone's extensions to wear them. So that sort of took me by surprise. Keep this in mind if interested in this headphone, they're not huge, they're not micro, they're smallish though.
I wasn't expecting the world, nor did I expect absolute rubbish, so I had to just slide into them and see. I did not bother letting them pretend to burn in over a long period of time. They're $35 headphones. And I'm not in the camp of magic phenomenon anyways. I went straight to listening and put some time in. Played some tunes, watched some YouTube stuff in HD, played a movie, and then tried some gaming fun to see how they handle everything.
Quick summary for the impatient:
- Relatively neutral sound
- Clear treble that is not fatiguing
- Mids are solid
- Bass is actually good and can extend low with a bit of reverb
- Good sound stage, good imaging
- Good for listening to virtually any genre, good for movies, great for games
- Easy to drive
Music tested, from my trusty test-group that I tend to use on all headphones (all lossless), included: Ani Difranco (Acoustic, Female Vocals), Regina Spektor (Folk, Pop, Female Vocals), Euge Groove (Jazz, Bassy), Ludovico Einaudi (Classical, Piano), Keith Jarrett (Classical, Piano, Live Concert), The Cranberries (Pop, Female Vocals), Elton John (Classic Rock), Avantasia (Metal, Fantasy), Buckethead (Alt. Metal), Rusko (Dubstep), Ephixa (Dubstep), JesusDied4DubStep (Dubstep), Robyn (EDM), BT (Trance, Techno), OceanLab (Trance, Techno).
Movie tested, Priest "2011".
Game(s) tested, Oblivion, Bad Company II, Star Craft II, Torchlight
Hardware tested included Sansa Fuze, Vivid Technologies V1 DAC/AMP, Matrix Cube DAC/AMP, Schiit Lyr, Auzentech Forte Soundcard.
The highs of the UR55 are pretty good, they're not too bright, they don't fatigue me, and I didn't really have an issue with sibilance. There was some noise floor present, but that was likely due to my equipment, so I cannot say for sure. But then again, I don't expect a hiss-free inexpensive headphone. The detail was pretty good, pretty clear sound. I felt that the highs sounded a little bit like there was a fog around them, so I'm guessing there was some odd spikes in the 5khz to 10khz range, both up and down, but likely a bump around 10khz compared to before it to get that edge sound to it. I could hear the flicks on guitar strings, cymbals sounded right and were not too harsh or hot, and there was a good snap but not enough to punch you deaf.
The mids stand out as being the main sound you hear (as it should be, really). I felt like the mids were full and gave you a good sense of body. Rock sounded good. Voice had some body to it. Instruments had a good solid sound behind them. The mids were pretty clear with some detail, but I also felt at times like there was a touch of congestion which may be due to the driver being a little slow, so I'm not quite sure there. It was clear most of the time though and pleasant to listen to. Just from ear, I think it may be flat from around 2khz to about 500hz or so perhaps. It's a good sound.
The mid-bass definitely comes through, which is usually a hard thing to get in an inexpensive headphone, especially open-air. Usually they're bass light, but this is not a bass light headphone. It's not a bass monster, but it simply has good impact and can manage low tones that reverb and sound good for moments where bass becomes important. It makes it have a relatively warm sound, and richens it up. It was nice to have some rumble in games and movies, and of course, during music that called for some tones down there. Cello and bass sounded good. Explosions were nice and rumbly. Again, the bass doesn't pound you down, it's not a subwhoofer, but it definitely is more present than the likes of other popular headphones that are similar (to give you an idea, it sounded quite bassier than the AD700, so in a very good way).
There is no isolation, it's open/semi-open. Leaking will occur both ways.
The idea of getting an open-air headphone is for the benefit of the usual decent sound stage and the UR55 delivered there nicely. Sound stage is pretty good. Lots of nice separation, not cramped feeling at all. Music playback was nice, you were in a room, not a closet. Movies had a nice amount of space. Games sounded good, great positioning and imaging was good. The sound stage is not overly expansive to the point of artificial sounding, but it's not a tiny little cramped space either. Overall a good soundstage for it's type and cost.
Gaming & Movies:
Ideally, I was looking for an inexpensive headphone to review that was good for games and movies, basically, an inexpensive alternative to the popular, and highly over-rated, AD700. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a $35 alternative that has a good sound stage, good imaging and some bass, all at nearly a third of the cost of the aforementioned. Games sounded good, the sound was full and immersive, not hallow sounding. Positioning was good, and you could navigate with sound as you should be able to with surround effects. Movies also benefited from this and it was nice to hear some rumble and good imaging. Combine some good comfort and you have yourself a very inexpensive good-for-gaming headphone that also can be used for movies.
The UR55 is a smallish headphone with foam cups with a good enough soundstage for gaming and enough bass to satisfy genres that call for it, making it quite a decent headphone for it's humble $35 price tag. I could only really fault the cord for being too short and tiny diameter, and overall the headphone's size was relatively small, making me max it out to wear it in my comfort zone. But beyond that, it had surprisingly good full bodied sound with some detail to it. I was impressed enough to recommend it over the AD700 for gaming and general music listening. But it doesn't quite stack up to the other alternative, the Fischer Audio FA-011 (which I think is the best budget headphone for games, movies and music that is open-air and bass capable in the $100ish range). But this little guy competes rather well with the $100 tier headphones, even though it's only $35 on sale. If you have a friend, loved one, or just yourself, looking for an inexpensive headphone for these applications, especially a gaming headphone, this would be a good route to take. I didn't keep the headphone myself, as I have no need, but it was fun to try it out and put it up against some far more heralded headphones and see if $35 could stand in the crowd so to speak, and I felt that it did quite well.
Great headphone for rock and jazz, also good for acoustic and indie or folk. It performs decently for electronic musics like Trance, Dance and Dub (not quite a bass titan). So it can handle most genres pretty well. It's not too bright, and it's not anemic.