this thing's incredible

These Wired Headphones Are Too Fugly to Lose (and Sound Good, Too)

Clearly these are mirror-selfie-worthy. Photo: Brenley Goertzen

After accidentally washing my AirPods for the second time, I concluded that Bluetooth headphones might not be my jam anymore. Wireless earbuds have been my preference for a while now, mainly because they pair perfectly with runs and other forms of exercise. As I contemplated what might actually prevent another laundry short-circuiting, the obvious answer was, well, cords. It’d be much harder for physical wires to go unnoticed in a jacket pocket or buried in a mound of dirty clothes. And larger, bulkier, over-the-ear headphones seemed easier to keep out of hot water, even though it might be slightly less convenient for working out.

After falling down a rabbit hole of long, short, and coiled cords, I eventually landed on the Koss Porta Pros. They came recommended not by a tech site but an Instagram account: Wired It Girls, which I started following a few months ago. Created and run by Shelby Hull, the feed is stacked with celebrities such as Chloe Cherry, Megan Fox, Bella Hadid, Lily-Rose Depp, and Zoë Kravitz effortlessly — and surprisingly stylishly — sporting wired headphones. In a few posts, Hull herself can be seen wearing the Porta Pros, specifically the Limited Edition Rhythm Beige style, as well as Koss’s classic KPH30i model.

I was immediately drawn to the quirkiness of the Porta Pros. They remind me of the headphones worn by grade-schoolers to learn keyboarding in the media lab, which makes them feel favorably old school. They are so strangely retro, to wear them is to humbly whisper a vintage fashion statement, almost like grandpa sneakers. They’re also very reasonably priced — especially compared to AirPods, which cost well over $100 — and given my track record, I wanted headphones that were budget friendly.

They may appear stiff or rigid in photos, but in reality, this model is so light I often forget I’m wearing them — like, to the point where my music has stopped playing, but I keep them on as a utilitarian headband. I also have a lot of ear piercings — cartilage, tragus, and more — but the Porta Pros are just the right amount of snug and don’t cause pain unlike the Beats Solo HD I used religiously in college. That’s probably because the Porta Pros do not have plushy ear cups like most of the over-ear headphones you can find.

I never liked silver accents until now. Photo: Brenley Goertzen

The design also means they’re not noise-canceling, but I don’t find that to be a problem. When I’m wearing them out and about, in grocery stores, or on airplanes, they allow just the right amount of ambient sounds in, so I don’t suffer from selective hearing. And they still have incredibly spacious sound. I can feel the grainy details of a song. Riffs are more distinguished, voices have more clarity, and nothing ever sounds too sharp or deep. It’s so good that I can now even tell the difference in streaming quality between Apple Music and Spotify. (For what it’s worth: Apple Music is better.)

These Koss favorites can also get very loud. If I’m blasting max volume, my Porta Pros will actually begin to vibrate against my ears. I used to struggle to get enough upper range out of my three-year-old AirPods, especially when watching lengthy movies on my laptop, but the volume these headphones offer is unparalleled.

Also important, these wired headphones have been more than ideal for my runs and hot-girl walks. I haven’t noticed any issue with the cords getting in the way except when in down dog during at-home yoga. And unlike my older Bluetooth-enabled Beats or AirPods, this headset never needs to be charged. The real downside of the corded design is you’ll need an adapter if you’re using your iPhone. (I just use Apple’s lightning-to-headphone jack adapter.) But most satisfying of all, after using them for several hours a day over the past three months, is that I’ve still yet to lose them.

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These Wired Headphones Are Too Fugly to Lose