Comparative Review: Koss KSC-50, Sony MDR-G72, Senn. MX500, Sony MDR-EX70 & MDR-E808
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Magicthyse

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COMPARATIVE REVIEW
KOSS KSC-50, SONY MDR-G72, SENNHEISER MX500, SONY MDR-EX70
and the SONY MDR-E808


[size=xx-small] (the MDR-E808 is the standard phone supplied with most Sony portable gear – don’t confuse it with the E888) [/size]

First of all, why choose these phones? It may be argued that these phones are totally different beasts – well yes, they are. But ultimately what you want to do with them is the same – listen to them while walking around, in frequently noise-heavy environments.

Pricewise, these phones fall into the ‘replacement/upgrade phone’ category for most. They’re not too expensive, and not too cheap.

I know that comparisons have been drawn before, but I get the feeling that these were not carried out in situ (but at home), and without directly playing off each phone against the other in the same locations. So here is a direct comparative review of the phones, in the environments you will actually use it – out in the streets, in the bus, in the subway.


SOUND

KOSS KSC-50: Absolute – 8/10, Urban – 4/10
In absolute terms - in a deathly quiet place in other words - the Koss exhibits a punchy bass and bright, detailed treble. The midrange is equally detailed but the treble possibly draws attention away from it. However the floppy fit, combined with the totally open nature of the phone means that much audio detail is lost in urban listening and it simply ends up sounding scratchy – the only part that can power through the ambient noise. When listening in a quiet street though, the overall sound is very satisfying.

SONY MDR-G72: Absolute – 6/10, Urban – 5/10
The G72 rated in absolute terms once again is muddier than the Koss. It loses out on treble response and the bass, although there is plenty of bass presence, it is not punchy. However, due to the slightly increased isolation and better contact with the ears, more sound can be heard, and since there is no bright treble the sound is more balanced than the Koss in an urban environment.

SENNHEISER MX500: Absolute – 7/10, Urban – 6/10
The MX500 was extremely impressive in comparison to the above, especially given it’s rock-bottom cost. In absolute terms yet again, the sound was not as impressive as the Koss. And as with many earphones the low bass, where you can feel the kick, is not there. Apart from that however, the MX500 offers a surprisingly good, balanced sound in an urban environment. Helped by the fact that the drivers are closer to the ears than the G72 or the Koss, the MX500 delivers more sound to overpower background noise despite actually offering no increase in ambient sound isolation when compared with the above two phones.

SONY MDR-E808: Absolute – 6/10, Urban – 5/10
These score the same as the G72’s but for different reasons. There’s no bass to speak of, much less than even the MX500, but the rest of the frequencies are nearly as well presented as the MX500, sounding noticeably less muddy than the G72.

SONY MDR-EX70: Absolute – 4/10, Urban – 4/10
With the EX70's, isolation is the word. You hear the music, and not much else. Time should be taken to ensure a proper fit. Once done, the level of isolation is impressive. Now the bad part - the sound. You can hear all of the music using the EX70's, but would you want to when it sounds as honky as these phones do? No treble response to speak of, muddy midrange and a thuddy bass. You get used to the sound after you wear it for a while, but I went back to the Koss phones in a quiet area and I could hear how the EX70's were completely outclassed in terms of sound quality. But, in a very noisy urban environment, these phones give you best chance to hear your music.


So - who is the winner for sound? In practial all-round terms, I would have to say the Sennheiser MX500. You hear more of the music at a given volume than the Koss or the G72, and while it doesn't isolate like the EX70 the sound is far superior to the EX70 in most situations. The only downside is the bass - there isn't that much. The Koss has a very nice, punchy bass response but as I said, in urban listening - due to the design - that is mainly lost and all you're left with is mainly the scratchy highs. The KSC-55 (the 50 with a headband) should do a slightly better job, since a lot of the problem here comes from having the drivers too loosely hanging off the sides of the ear.


HCL [size=xx-small] (TM Magicthyse 2002) [/size]

Did you know a guy was stabbed a couple of years back for wearing scratchy earphones? Yes, headphone rage is with us. So I've come up with a scale of measurement of this potentially happening. Here we examine the Homicide Contemplation Level (HCL) for fellow subway occupiers should you be using any of these phones. Lower is better.

KOSS KSC-50: HCL 8/10
The totally open nature of these phones mean that fellow passengers can tell exactly what dross you're listening to, and what's more get it as a 'chikka chikka' super-scratchy version. My advice? If anything shiny comes near you, duck.

SONY MDR-G72LP: HCL 6/10
The G72's, although they don't offer significantly more insulation to the listener than the Koss, present a more muffled sound to the outside world. Yes the music is still audible, but it is not as 'chikka chikka' as the Koss. Most fellow passengers will merely mutter 'wanker' and will not readily contemplate chopping you up into tiny pieces.

SENNHEISER MX500: HCL 4/10
We're back in 'chikka chikka' land again, but of a much lower intensity. If you have the volume turned up, yes it is potentially as annoying as the Koss, but the level of sound leaked is about half.

SONY MDR-E808: HCL 3/10
The same as the MX500, but a shade less leaky.

SONY MDR-EX70: HCL 1/10
You'd be hard pressed to hear these phones even in a reasonably quiet train. These are very sociable phones. However if you suffer from gas don’t invest in these - the isolation makes it impossible to gauge ambient noise to cover your farts, and you could let one rip at exactly the wrong moment.


SLAPONABILITY

“Slaponability” is the term I have come up to encompass the ability to easily put on, adjust and comfortably wear the headphones for an extended period. Slaponability also includes Sunglass compatibility in the ratings.

KOSS KSC-50: SLAPONABILITY 3/10
Lots of pushing and twiddling to get them on, less so once you get used to it. Stays on, but does not give you the confidence that it will stay put - So you are constantly adjusting these phones. Long-term comfort is also a liability. The deformable earpieces revert to their original shape in a surprisingly short time, so any changes you make for comfort have to be made every time you put these on. Tiresome. Sunglass compatibility is marginal – due to the loose fit, some sunglass arms may fit between the head and the KSC-50 clip.

SONY MDR-G72LP: SLAPONABILITY 5/10
Unfold, slide on. No adjustment required, and the headband exerts sufficient pressure to make sure they stay put. Unfortunately, long-term wear is uncomfortable for many ears. Bizarrely for phones marketed as ‘Street Style’, these have virtually no sunglass compatibility. The sunglass arms will rest directly on part of the headphone structure, resulting in microphonic booming effects.

SENNHEISER MX500: SLAPONABILITY 7/10
As with many earphones, there is a tendency for them to become loose or to threaten to fall out every now and again. Pads definitely help in this respect but do not prevent it entirely. However fit once in is good and there is no particular point of discomfort. As with any other earbud design, sunglass compatibility is of course assured.

SONY MDR-E808: SLAPONABILITY 5/10
Earbuds, but without a foam pad to provide cushioning and friction against the ear. As the short cord needs to be used with a remote in close proximity, any movement of the remote which causes the cord to move can end with the earphones popping out. Comfort as such isn’t bad, but it’s more than offset by the aggravation of constantly having to re-insert the buds – especially on the ‘heavier’ left side.

SONY MDR-EX70: SLAPONABILITY 5/10
They take quite a long time to fit – you can’t just jam them in your ears. There’s a technique that has to be developed in order to seat them properly and put them in deep. Once done, comfort is marginal for some, OK for others but never totally there – although it is bearable. But you might feel the need to take them out every now and again to give your ears a ‘rest’. Sunglass compatibility is the same as the MX500 - assured.


LOOKS

KOSS KSC-50 - Simple and stylish but slightly bulbous profile (caused by the rotating clip’s base) counts against it.

MDR-G72LP - Looks helped by lower profile than Koss, but slightly tackier looking in absolute terms.

I’d say both rate on average about the same. The Koss has the advantage of being less populist than the Sony.

No real difference between the earphones of course…


BELLS & WHISTLES

In addition to the comparisons above, what do the phones offer that we haven’t discussed?

KOSS KSC-50
Tangle-resistant cable. You’ll need it because there’s no easy way to wind the cable around something when you pack these phones away.

SONY MDR-G72
A folding machanism allows these phones to stow away in virtually the same space as the KSC-50. The hinge mechanism is not the strongest on this planet but it will stay together as long as you treat it with care.

SENNHEISER MX500
You get a plastic case with a spinning middle bit to wind the cable around. How many of us actually use these religiously to store the phones? And can’t they fit the cushions at the factory?

SONY MDR-E808
It’s not what you get with it, but what you get it with…

SONY MDR-EX70
You get three different sizes of ear plug to cater for different ears, and a very useful tiny case, just for the earbud parts of the phone. The plugs are made of a sorbothane-type material which is slightly sticky, and if you just stash it in your bag, it will come out caked with fluff – so the case is a must.


------------------------------------------------
CONCLUSION

All of the headphones reviewed represent a significant improvement in at least one category to the standard MDR-E808.

If you can, buy the Koss KSC-55 (not the 50) and the Sennheiser MX500. Use the MX500 for noisier environments and subway listening, and the KSC-55 for areas where it’s quieter. In a low-noise environment, the Koss presents a much more satisfying sound than the other phones. But, the Sennheiser earbud is a pretty good compromise between the ability to hear music against background noise, quality of sound and lack of sound leakage.

The EX70 is suitable only if you travel regularly around very high-noise environments. The tradeoff in sound quality against isolation is IMHO too much for general listening.

The G72 represents a much more thought out approach to urban ‘street style’ headgear than the Koss. However in the US, you’ll probably be able to buy the Koss and the Sennheiser for pretty much what you’ll pay in stores for the G72.


- If you're limited to having one headphone for urban listening, get the MX500.

- If that one headphone has to be ‘Street Style’, the G72 is a better bet than the Koss in all-round terms. The gap will be still narrower with the KSC-55, but I would still recommend the G72 because it’s average in everything.
 
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jpelg

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Quote:

However if you suffer from gas don’t invest in these - the isolation makes it impossible to gauge ambient noise to cover your farts, and you could let one rip at exactly the wrong moment.


ROTFLMAO!

Thanks for that one, magic.
 
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LTUCCI1924

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HI: I think that the koss portapro or koss 35 are the best portable cans for the money. And if you need islation the best has to be the etys er4p. I may be wrong about this. Just an opinion.
 
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Ebonyks

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Nice comparasion, but you might want to try modding the KCS-35's, to make the sound more neutral, and improve the low-end base response, and the mid and high response.

I've done the mod, and it really changes the sound of the cans, although my ears think it's slightly muddy. Not too bad, but it's there. Of course, i am on a really crappy source, so that may effect things
 
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jlo mein

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most ppl will take stock sony ex70's and koss 50's, and immediately rant how the ex70's suck bad.

However, most dont even realise the ease of the mods for the ex70's. By just doing the foam and tape mods, the sound already improves greatly. The sound is still not quite as good as the koss portapro drivers, but it is pretty good, and you get isolation.
 
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Magicthyse

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Yeah yeah yeah, mods, etc - how many average consumers do you think will bother with mods?

Mods are irrelevant for this exercise. You wouldn't review a Honda Accord Type-R, Mitsubishi Evo, Subaru WRX and say "well, if you tweaked the engine of the Evo, it would blow away the competition, would you?
 
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jlo mein

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but ppl dont take into consideration how easy it is to do mods for the ex70. I mean, its as easy as just sticking a piece of tape over the holes on the back....that easy...and the foam mod is easy too...
 
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LTUCCI1924

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HI: with all due respect I did the mods and it was not so easy and even with the mod done the ex70 dont come anywhere close to the koss-35 or portapros sound, stage, clearady or in any way neer the koss sound. Just my opinion and I could be wrong for someone else.
 
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Eagle_Driver

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I personally can't stand the EX70LP's boomy midbass, screechy treble, and "Hey! Where's the midrange?" Not only that, but the EX70LP delivers no more isolation than most full-size closed headphones (which themselves offer nowhere near as much isolation as the Etymotics). But I am no big fan of the Street Styles' ringing/echoing-prone sound with muddy bass and treble, either.

I haven't tried my MX500's with my TAH yet. And my E828LP's are a different animal altogether from the E808SP's: the 828's deliver boomy mid-bass and shrieky treble.
 
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a1leyez0nm3

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modding a car isnt free. modding the phones is.



your logic confuses me.
 
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