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Puzzling experience with second-hand Koss TD/80... ¿tough luck or really sh*tty cans?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi, everyone, this is my first post so a little introduction can't hurt. I'm from Argentina. Yeah, far off. Meet and wine are great and cheap, electronics are not. 


Anyway, I was trying to improve a little bit the quality of my music and buy some more decent stuff than my unimpressive Sony MDR-ZX100... on a shoestring budget, that is. So after a lot of looking around at our Argentinean ebay, and seeing no interesting brand new headphones within my budget, I stumbled with these used Koss TD/80. Seeing how many fans Koss have around here, I investigated a little further, and found a few reviews, which were quite praising and flattering of its sound (if not of the comfort+isolation dept.). The model seems to have been sold around 1999-2003, for what I gathered. It was a good price, I decided to take my chances. Here is a picture of it:



The former owner was a mature lady that bought them for audio-lessons some ten years ago and then simply boxed them and forgot about them until now (she was moving). She barely used them, and I'm pretty sure she told me the truth because they look like they had almost no use, even the plug is pristine. Also, the thing looks solid and well built. Ugly as damn, but quite heavy and solid, with a good thick cord. They look like something a Soviet tank commander would be issued with. They are as comfortable as you may imagine.


I bought them and eagerly plugged them to my phone. First problem: it was incredibly low, even at full volume, with mids almost non-existant. Damn. Arrived home, plugged them into my radio, put it at full volume, and it finally was audible, but I'm not quite sure that was much better: it was a booming bass-piercing treble V monstrosity. Middles were quite lacking and dull. I tried with my PC, and, again, blasting volume levels that would normally fry my brain just to make them work normally, and fiddling with the equalizer like a madman, FINALLY was able to get some juice from them. Still, compared to my budget-Sonys they still sound quite awkward and not much of an improvement. Trebling is greatly helped with equalization, but the bass is still really strong and boomy (not warm at all) and mids are... well, I'm no audiophile here, just a noob, but I'd say crispy, too sharp. Suddenly, some specific notes or effects sound great, with a surround feel, while others are just metallic and clang-y. I wish I could describe it better.


SO! Maybe the community here may help me. I don't know if a 10 years old set of headphones with very little use should sound like this, I'm almost sure they shouldn't. I understand Koss has a reputation, and these cans were budget but not crap when released, they were something like U$S 40 back in 2001. 


Any guidance, help, suggestions or feedback will be greatly appreciated!

post #2 of 12

Maybe they are fake?


Else, maybe you just don't like their sound?


The age should not be a problem.

post #3 of 12
I've heard the TD/80 a couple of times (a music store nearby has them plugged into terminals to let you sample songs). I'd say your description of their sound is pretty close to what I heard from them -- mostly lows, with a noticeable dip in the midrange. Koss makes some excellent budget headphones, but they make some not-so-good sounding stuff too, just like most headphone manufacturers.
post #4 of 12

I have no experience with these but if you need to use far higher volume than usual they probably aren't very efficient and would benefit from an amp.  Seems strange they would ship with a mini jack if that were the case though, and they're only 60ohm which is far from extreme.


I guess if they really aren't used they might need some burn in, especially having not been used for years.  Leave them plugged in to your radio playing some music at reasonable volume for a couple of hours and see if anything improves - it's worth a try.  Wont make them any louder out of your phone though frown.gif

post #5 of 12

  Did you see the flattering comments here on this forum or else where? because different people/places have different taste.  I didn't see any when I did a brief search, because not all Koss headphones are good sounding and not all models sound the same. Also it depends on which headphone is being compared to the one headphone you current have.  What you are hearing might be what it is, although I do find it weird you can barely get any volume on them... Hopefully you are able to return them.


The lower price Koss I usually see being recommended here are the KSC75 and Porta Pros. You might have better luck with these if you are planning to stick with Koss, but if not I'm sure there are other options too.

Edited by soundeffect - 2/6/13 at 9:22am
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Lots of cool advice and sensible observations here. Let's see...


-I'm 99% sure they are legit Koss.


-@CFabian, thanks for the feedback! Yes, I read something on those lines, that there were a staple Tower Records-esque test headphones, and as such they had a decent sound. Here are some of them: http://www.shopping.com/Koss-Koss-TD-80-Studio-Quality-Home/info?sb=1 


-Burning them a bit sounds like a great idea, I'll do so right now. Thanks, @Orange! I imagined that an amp may be of help, but I'm not really sure of investing in one of these if the headphones just doesn't work well.


-@soundeffect: As you say, they sound really weird, but maybe that's the way they are. However, the volume problem is still a big mystery. I've to put my PC at full volume just for a relaxed soft hearing, and with my CD Player just a cut below that. Even if muddy, they're also quite sensitive, in the way that they are quite receptive with any equalizer change, and sound quite different depending of the recording (the Sonys are just always average no matter what I put in them). I get a close to decent, if odd, hearing with proper equalization and a good source, and mumbo-jumbo with anything else. Even so, testing with CDs, Roger Waters sounds quite ok, for example, while Led Zeppelin sounds like crap.


-No, I read no praising (or any other thing, btw) here at Head-Fi, just a couple of quite old comments here and there, which were on the lines of "uncomfortable, heavy, but quite good sound for the price, with strong bass". If there are so little reviews and news for these, I guess they possibly deserved oblivion. Koss webpage barely mentions them as well.


-Unluckily, the only other thing I have for comparison are my Sony MDR-ZX100, hardly the best thing. I showed them to a friend of mine who has some experience and owns a pair of vintage AKGs, and he was even more puzzled than myself.


I'll have to settle with the idea that I'm stuck with a pair of either defective or definitely motley cans, and never know why the lack of power and the distant and strange sound? Hopefully not... Keep the comments comming!

post #7 of 12

I had a thought overnight and found this review which supports it - there are volume controlls on each earcup.  Are these turned down by any chance?  That would probably spoil the sound and explain why they're so quiet.  Don't see these anymore but it use to be quite common, would be an easy fix but other than that I'm stumped.

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Orange! Yeah, they are quite visible and of course I cranked them to almost max and left them there. Quite handy feature, must say, and they add to the "retro" feel.


I'm burning them out as suggested, and I think sound may improved a liiiiiiiiiiittle bit, but there is almost no difference.



post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well, after some procrastination and so, and buying a Senn HD201 to compensate myself of so much sadness (they are damn good), I contacted Koss technical support and the answer, against all odds, have been "Sure thing, just send us the cans, we fix them or replace them, free of charge, no problem." If it turns to be so, I'll be a Koss Co. believer for the ages to come. Shipped the thing today with certified mail (not cheap at all), so I cross my fingers I'll get them back working sweetly or, possibly better, get a new set, though I have no idea of which would be these and in which price. 


Let's see what comes out of this!

post #10 of 12

Wow, that's what you call customer service!  I bet the replacements don't have volume controlls though biggrin.gif

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

If I could change the title of this thread, it would be something in the lines of Koss Co. Customer Service: a love letter. Straight away.


As written before, I wrote to Koss International, explained my problem, and redirected to Koss central, US. I just sent the cans, and waited. Before two weeks they had the damn thing shipped back, air mail, no questions asked, no charge at all and answering any of my questions in hours. When I went to the post office and opened the box, I found that they effectively not repaired but replaced the set with an entirely new one: sweet. I didn't hope for it, since these things haven't been sold for almost a decade now and were most definitely discontinued... It seems they kept a stockpile somewhere just for replacements (speaking of the company that still makes the PRO4AA exactly the same since the sixties, i shouldn't be surprised). The thing was even dusted off, it still had a little bit of dust in some hard-to-reach places. Now, that's service. 


Even better, my old ones seem to be of the first batch and these ones from the last, so there are some important differences, most of them being improvements:


-Black painted steel forks, instead of plastic (even sturdier than before, yet exerting crushing pressure)

-Leatherette cushions instead of foam (VAST improvement, isolation is quite better)

-Black volume dials (kind of a bummer, I dug the cyan ones, they added to the "retro" feel)

-Different headband cushioning, looks kind of cheaper and improvised, but as functional.

-New cable, a little bit shorter and lighter but equally solid, coiled and retaining the gold-coated jack.

-Glossier plastics.


Can't comment on the sound, since I'm still burning them in. But certainly they have nothing to do with the ones I tried first, those were definitely screwed up. Also, I put them to stretch, because pressure is simply skull-munching, hopefully I'll be able to fix it. 

Once I finished with both things I'll write a review. Thanks to the community for the advice and cheer in the dark hours!

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

There it is then! Full review for these little known but pretty impressive old cans, here: http://www.head-fi.org/products/koss-td-80-closed-ear-home-stereophone/reviews/8780

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