|Posted by kboe on January 19, 2012 at 5:10 PM|
Reviewer: Kevin Pope
Source: ALO iPod dock, 160GB iPod Classic loaded with AIFF
Amp: Schiit Asgard
Headphones: Koss KSC75 with stock harness, Koss KSC75 with Cardas upgrade harness
Cables: Power - Cardas Twinlink. Analog - Cardas Quadlink 5-C
Rack: Maple wood button isolation feet
Power Conditioning: None for this review. KISS.
Sundry Accessories: Woo Audio headphone stand, Sennheiser headphone holders
Review Component Retail: $20.00 for stock and $160.00 shipped with Cardas cable.
How far is too far? As audiophiles we are constantly going too far for the sane minded, and sometimes too far within our own small like-minded circles. For the head-philes among us the camp is already split not only on cables in general, but even more so with headphone recables and much, much more so of the price. Pairing a $500.00 ALO cable on a $1300.00 T1 for the believers is not only sane, but reaps dividends in practice. But what happens when one takes that ratio to an extreme. Rather than the 1:2 ratio with our own Amine’s T1, I’m going the radical route with 7:1.
It’s no secret that I’ve long admired Cardas cables. Bob Prangnells Verumecce designs for power, digital and analog have me kicking Cardas to the side for most of my cables, but Cardas remains my headphone re-cable harness of choice, (hint hint Bob). Taking a recent budget find, the Koss KSC75, I’m having Drew at Moon audio recable a pair with a 5 foot, mini jack terminated Cardas headphone cable. This is the same $200.00 I use on my reference K702's. I’m no Britteny Spears fan, but somehow “Opps, I did it again” seems appropriate.
(Examples taken from Head-Fi.org on other extreme recables)
While the Koss 75s play strong iPod direct, to asses the cables impact I’d need a bit more discerning rig and simultaneously not go further overboard with price ratios. Reasonable context is important to maintain review findings so the test rig is as follows; The iPods analog output is tapped with Ken Ball's of ALO Audio's bamboo dock. This signal is ferried with my trusty Cardas Quadlinks into my secondary amp, Schiit’s entry level Asgard. Power is wall direct for minimal complexity and maximum tonal warmth using Cardas Twinlink’s 1m power cable. Both iPod dock and amp are suspended by the budget conscious maple buttons. Again an insane ratio of a nearly $1000.00 rig, (excluding the iPod) powering a $20.00 pair of clip-ons is extreme even to us believers of "whatever it takes is whatever you do". So much for sanity, but this is the test bed. I can already tell you that even before receiving the recabled pair, the stock KSC75s sound superb out of this rig. Just plain fun, and that’s something we could all use more of.
(The test bed)
If you’ve heard a Cardas cable and you got a good aural lock on it’s sonic signature, then you could easily predict how these would sound. Warm, check. Detailed, check. Dense, colored and moist are all apt descriptors. But this is not, like most if not all recables, a game changer. The Koss clip-ons maintain their most prominent characteristics, which is a good thing. Chief among them their bass impact, more correctly word-smithed as jack booted. I bought these headphones as an upgrade for the five dollar generic throw-a-way ear buds I had been using at work. My job enables me to spend the first half of my day with music so long as I can keep highly mobile. But ear buds don’t do bass, the do anemic lower mid-range well, but that’s the limit for that style of transducer. While the supped up Koss’s don’t compete with my AKG’s for speed or resolution down under, they do trail rather close, and even do visceral subjective impact better. That’s where that jack booted bass comes in. Referencing one of my all time favorite go-to’s, Batman: The Dark Knight, dueling composers Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard work their magic in what I believe is their best work yet. The infamous “God Moment” in the first track at 3:30 reveals deeper subterranean data wrought from the Koss cans than the AKG’s with similar wiring does.
When it comes to the upper highs, the Koss lose out to the AKGs current flagship. Here the extra dough spent on the 702’s provide substantially more air and definition. Cymbals splash with more metal ring and less haze or fuzz as the Koss reproduce. It’s easy to criticize once you’ve heard better, but for $160.00 shipped I’d not. And while it’s a cop out to use a worn out phrase, it’s true and warranted.
Midrange is typical Cardas, and having been extensively covered before in my reviews here I’ll spare you a repeat offense.
So where does that put us. $20.00 buys you an amazingly good deal. For $160.00 you’ll get a clip on portable headphones that are maximized sonically and plays well in the lower midrange league where it’s new price puts it. Competition from something like Grado’s SR-80 is roughly on the same level. Going from memory the SR-80s gave better highs, a clearer midrange, but held back on grunt and fortitude in the nether regions. Something like Audio-Technica’s ES7 seduce with higher tonal color and richness, but fail to impress with detail as precise as the Koss clips.
Cardas bettered these headphones just as it had with my former HD-650s and my current K-702s. But the victory belongs to the all natural Koss KSC75s. I’m not going to say they don’t deserve to sound as good as they do for $20.00 or $160.00, because I’m glad they do.