KOSS UR23i: Cheap Plastic Fun!
May 30, 2015 at 7:41 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

jant71

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I saw that Koss had some new models out. Then I saw the new UR series, the UR23i, in blue, was a smidge over $15 Priority shipped on Amazon so how can you pass up trying out a new Koss phone 
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The Koss UR23i
http://www.koss.com/en/products/headphones/full_size_headphones/UR23i__UR23i_Full_Size_Headphones




 

 

 

 
Four color choices, the lifetime warranty, and the Koss D-profile pads is worth trying for a few bucks.
 
The build is all plastic but reasonably solid. No creaks but the cup/arm chatter can make a bit of noise. We have a rubbery flat cable that is thin and pretty light. Straight plug and reliefs on the plug and coming out of the cups. The little window on top of the whit arms shows R and L but the straight edge of the "D" goes to the front is the real indicator. Pads are pretty decent for a cheap can. Not much seal and some leakage but not too hot, room for normal size ears inside, and decent comfort.
 
I measured the driver size to be 36mm and it is 34Ohm and 94 sens. I can max out my A15, S639, iriver E300, and minidisc w/o having to tear them off my ears. Iriver and Sony minidisc both give more max volume levels. The 34Ohm driver will benefit from some juice but also a bit brighter signature, for my taste any how. A culprit is the grey foam pad fabric which is pretty thick and fairly dense. Some of the blanket comes from it. Also ear positioning inside the pads will lift some off as well but that will be affected by one's ear size. Hard to say exactly what one will get from these cans. More fun from my minidisc and S639 with more impact and forgiving sound. iriver and A series Sony have less bass impact and thinner notes overall. Can be pretty quick like with my S639 but it a tick slower with everything else. With a good match/synergy some of the good ole' Porta-Pro/Sporta-Pro type fun is there which makes for engaging listen. Nothing offensive nor glaring hits you and you just enjoy some smooth thumpy low bass, smooth pleasant vocals, and treble that doesn't stand out as either good or incorrect but fits in nicely and causes no problems :)  
 
They are a bit muddy out of the box but started to clear up a bit with the first extended listen. Not impressive but some potential could be heard. Enjoyable but thick out of the box. A sloped frequency balance with elevated bass, down a bit for the mids emphasis and treble is a bit shy. Not recessed mids or treble but blanketed some. Still some cohesion and some separation can be heard. I am still running them in atm. 
 
As a Koss and being cheap, I'm sure some will try to mod them. I have done a slight mod already. Had the pads off and there are screws to open them up if one so chooses. Not yet for me. The drivers are raised a couple of mm and I cut out the same diameter circle out of the pad foam.
 

 
I'm just gonna burn them in some, master the sweet spot and enjoy them. I'm sure a few Head-fi members will have some fun trying to tweak what they can out of a pair. Nothing special but maybe some good cheap fun!
 
May 31, 2015 at 8:00 PM Post #3 of 16

jant71

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True there. It is semi-open and I can hear music through the holes in the center circle. I'd have to open them up but seems like it could be a snap in ball pivot just like the KSC etc. but bigger.
 
Still burning these in but they are a keeper. Had the UR55 and it is technically a bit better from memory and quite a bit more well built but the UR23 has the real engaging quality that has staying power. UR55 I stopped listening to. Things like the PX's(various models) I also just stopped listening to after a while outside of the PX-200II which had "it". Few cans have that true staying power fun that you won't grow tired of like the Porta Pro but this one has it to my ears. Even the Mikros which had some musicality I don't miss. I guess that is the main why I would try this since it is a Koss and there would be a chance for that. Doubt I would have grabbed another $15 can from another brand. My first reaction was. well it was only $15. My two other recent cheap acquisitions(JVC Elation and Senn MX686G) were winners so two out of three isn't bad but the Koss grew on me pretty quick and I am nearly as happy with them as well.
 
BTW, they don't mention that they are semi-open. Just isolating pads but the isolation is nothing to write home about. Possibly will improve slightly if the pads soften and conform more with extended use. I also put them in here(portable) since they are a small, light, 4' cable phone. They say full size but they really aren't. Circum-aural is true but not really full size. I can lay back in a puffy recliner with them w/o issue. Think I had more trouble with the Mikros and UR55 being pushed forward in the same chair.
 
Jun 1, 2015 at 11:26 PM Post #4 of 16

DaveK1977

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Enjoyable but thick out of the box.

I came here to write a mini-review.  Your quote above is absolutely what I was going to start with.  I'm going to burn them in for a day unattended and see what opens up, but they're already worth the price if the sound doesn't change.  I was trying to picture different audiences, and one conclusion that I came to for a price vs. performance compromise, and it's very fair to grab people with similar expectations and money and lump them together and market.  These would be hands down the best pair I'd ever heard until at least I was 16 and heard a Realistic LV-10.  Now I have not heard those for years, but they were memorably good when I heard them.  Aiming these at tweens and teens with devices to play with certainly has potential at this price, but kids don't need to pump up the high frequencies especially and I think these quell that somewhat by pumping bass.  The switch is iffy, but I think that I might be able to fix it and the mic works.
 
Jun 2, 2015 at 4:06 PM Post #5 of 16

jant71

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Feel free to write whatever impressions you'd like.
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Pretty much why I put it here so it may become an impressions thread or where people can talk about modding them as well.
 
Jun 2, 2015 at 4:20 PM Post #6 of 16

396629

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Looks like a PortaPro for 21st century (can't believe were in 2015). A lot of fun and look it too . I'll get a pair as soon as they are available on UK. At that price how could anyone not.
 
Jun 2, 2015 at 4:47 PM Post #7 of 16

jant71

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I should mention my current impressions on them as I continue to put some more hours one them. Can't hurt, right? Still think they can benefit from some further mods though I'm done after the foam cut away. The reason for that impression is that the mids and vocals are the clearest part of spectrum. The treble is a bit rolled and subdued(good if you like to crank them esp. unamped). The bass is strangely blanketed but yet still pretty quick and not truly muddy per se. The bass is even or fairly balanced sub-bass up through the mid-bass. Bass has good texture. Still got that nice smooth but visceral thump from the lowest bass. It is still layered out like the Koss 60ohm driver does. Just sounds like something with not all the tuning tweaks done yet as those are odd traits for a can to have perfectly fine mids/vocals w/o issue and bass with the many qualities and one odd thing keeping them down. Really does sound like a decent driver kept back to be in a cheaper model :)
 
Jun 18, 2015 at 9:39 PM Post #8 of 16

AnAnalogSpirit

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This is a nice looking model. Personally, I think the Blue colorscheme would be a tad bit nicer with the white pads from the White colorscheme, to match the arms on the Blue one. 
 
Agree that this appears like a modern twist on the PortaPro, but with a semi-open design.
 
Should be a lot of fun for carry-along 'phones.
 
Looking forward to more impressions.
 
Aug 9, 2015 at 6:44 AM Post #9 of 16

AnAnalogSpirit

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Can't help but agree with jant71's impressions, now that I've acquired a pair of these (in White). It didn't take long for me to dislike the sound that the foam panels (inside the earpads) lent to the sound signature. Especially as it oversmoothed the entire tonal range and, if you've ever heard a pair of cans with a foam panel, you might notice how it "basses up the treble" range, giving an unnatural tone to the sound.
 
It was easy to remedy, I just removed the pads, flipped the lip around the edge all the way around, then used some scissors to cut around the seam. The foam panels are stiched to the pads on the inside, so this elective procedure is in my mind, an easy and revealing mod to make.
 
Also satisfied with the sound out of the UR23i now after performing this mod. I don't REALLY see much of a need for any further monkeying around with them. They're nice at this stage with a day and a half of regular music and movie listening.
 
Doubt I would recable them, as the stock cable feels pretty nice and doesn't hang up on anything and isn't microphonic.
 
One thing to note: These pair excellently with the FiiO E11 or better yet the E17 (with the treble pushed to +10, and the bass pushed to +10) with music pumped into the DAC/Amp via SPDIF Optical. They. Just. Sound. Good.
 
Last thing to say about them is that they look good. Bright White pads, not those dingey grey numbers most "white" headphones usually sport. From the product images on the Koss site, the Black colorscheme really looks a bit like the AiAiAi TMA-1. I would think that could make them rather popular as the look is very nice. Only reason I didn't get mine in Black is because I wanted to see how good the white pads looked in person.
 
Anyhow, hope you enjoy yours! Seperation, Soundstage, Clarity, Bass are all nice on 'em.
 
Aug 9, 2015 at 12:20 PM Post #10 of 16

AnAnalogSpirit

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So, I couldn't resist opening them up:
 

 
...and in there I found the same driver as the UR22i, which, after previous experiments, sounds good. It does the same as the engine of the UR23i.
 
Here is a photo of the UR22i:
 

 
Personally, I like the UR22i's look, but, honestly the UR23i is a nicer set, ergonomically, and as a package.
 
Moving on, the driver is basically a "ring-ported" driver, like the Shure SRH1840, but without the acoustic paper filter covering the port.
Here there is a plastic disc "membrane", if you will, covering, nay, holding back, the driver.
If that's the case, let's take it off. Besides, it makes the treble slightly harsh when it's there, and it's restricting airflow.
Sans the plastic membrane, the drivers open up and sound more natural. Especially in a semi-open/ported cup style can.
 

 
You can see the clear plastic membrane that restricted airflow to the rear of the driver unit.
 
I also decided to do a recable, as I had an Oyaide IEM cable around.
 
Took some artistic license with the cable; added some nice metal beads to make the Y-Split look better, and clipped off the MMCX connectors.
 

 
Might as well do a proper UPgrade if choosing to upgrade the cabling. While this "Silver" Oyaide cable has a silver mesh coaxial design.
Only the "outer conductor" is silver, and wired in the plug to ground, sigh. The inner "signal" wire is PCOCC-A, and of course, is copper.
Love the mishandled advertising on this $70 dollar cable. Still, it is a good cable, despite not living up to being 100% Silver.
Sometimes you DON'T get what you pay for. LOL.
 
I think it looks nice gussied up with the metal beads. Silver and White is a nice combo, and the clear jacket on this cable looks good to boot.
 

 
Here is the completed recable job. I feel like it's a hit.
 
Changes to Sound Characteristics:
 
1. More OPEN sound.
2. Deeper, harder-hitting bass. 
3. Slightly recessed, but less harsh, more natural sounding treble.
 
Overall I feel these are excellent for stuff like Ambient, or Deep House now. Movies too.
 
Didn't expect such a good sound from these housings, on the cheap! (relatively speaking).
 
Aug 9, 2015 at 12:58 PM Post #11 of 16

jant71

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Cool! I'll have to at least try the plastic membrane removal on mine. Yes, the white/white pads with the silver accents and clear cable looks good. Looks pricier than what it is for sure!
 
Jan 13, 2016 at 12:54 AM Post #13 of 16

trellus

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Picked these up at Walmart tonight on an impulse buy. Not bad at all. Haven't compare them yet to my SportaPro's...
 
Jul 26, 2016 at 9:12 PM Post #15 of 16

DJ The Rocket

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I picked up a pair of these to try to fill the hole that's been in my soul since I broke my portapros, and they do a surprisingly good job of it!! They sounded muddy and boring out of the box, but I did a quarter mod and removed the plastic circles from the back of the driver per AnAnalogSoul.

Yesterday, I was blown away by how much I loved these modded phones. I thought the highs and mids were acceptably clear and crisp, on top of a muddy but captivatingly thumping bass. I fell asleep listening to them though, and today only the bass sounds like I remember. The highs/muds (actually a typo for mids, but due to their sound I'm going to leave it) don't seem to match my memiry at all. They sound more like they did out of the box. Did I break something? Did my ear sweat/oils get through the quarter mod holes and mess everything up, or was my opinion yesterday just wonky? I can't rule out the latter, though my subjective impressions have never been anywhere near this inconsistent before. I even did a side-by-side comparison with my Grado SR225e's yesterday, and the Koss' certainly weren't in the same class, but they didn't embarrass themselves either. Today, it's like they showed up for the first day of school in their underwear.

The rest of this review is based on how they sound today, since I can't be sure they really were that good if it's irreproducable, and I'm not keen on spending another $20 just to find out.

The bass is all there, but it too needs some work. It bleeds into the mids some and is somewhat muddy. They have excellent soundstage for the price, which means they have one. The impression overall is of a photo that's been overly smoothed in photoshop, as if to clean up the noise from a too-high ISO. I have a feeling a recabling will help the entire range. It will be an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

Portapros are still superior in most ways, but the UR23i's have the edge in isolation, comfort, instrument separation, and especially in thump. As muddy as they can sound at times (weirdly some tracks are noticably better/worse than others) that doesn't mean the bass isn't fun sounding and pleasant to listen to. If they just had sharper highs and tighter mids on top ofbthe bass, I would absolutely love them. The biggest areas portapros have them beat is in detail and clarity, and unfortunately it isn't close. Portapros have an enchanting way of texturing the sound that I think is unique to them, which to me is central to their charm.

Overall, the UR23i isn't about to unseat the portapro, but its a fun, cheap phone to play around with. I paid $20 for them at Walmart, and I've had more fun with them than that $20 would have bought at, say, a bar or a movie theater.
 

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