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Koss KE29 Review

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Reviewed Jul 2010

 

Details: Budget IEM from Koss notable for being covered under the manufacturer’s no-questions-asked lifetime warranty

Current Price: N/A (discontinued) (MSRP: $29.99)

Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 16 Ω | Sens: 100 dB | Freq: 15-20k Hz | Cable: 4’ I-plug j-cord with volume control

Nozzle Size: 5.5mm | Preferred tips: Stock single-flanges

Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

 

Accessories (2/5) – Single flange silicone tips (3 sizes) and soft carrying pouch

Build Quality (2/5) – The housings are made completely out of plastic and visible molding imperfections abound. The short hard stems pose a danger to plastic cabling but the 3.5mm I-plug is well-relieved. A volume control is located about halfway down the j-cord and the low-quality potentiometer can result in channel imbalance at low volumes

Isolation (3/5) – Despite being ported dynamic-driver IEMs, the KE29s isolate a surprising amount and can easily be used in loud environments

Microphonics (4.5/5) – Very low due to j-cord setup and plastic cabling

Comfort (3/5) – Though the KE29s are very light, their nozzles are extremely short. To achieve a proper seal I therefore have to push the housings, including the fat driver bulge, deep into my ear, which becomes uncomfortable after some time. Some may find the j-cord bothersome as well

 

Sound (4.1/10) – Like the similarly-priced Yamaha EPH-20, the KE29 is a mainstream earphone with a mainstream sound. Its signature is bass-centric, with low reach and a good amount of bloat, smooth midrange, and rolled-off treble. The bass itself is somewhat muddy and intrudes on the lower midrange, not unlike that of the Sennheiser CX300, but carries decent detail. Impact is not too sharp but quite powerful – not as tooth-rattling as that of the TDK EB900, but not too far off, either. The bass bloat results in a slightly veiled midrange. On bass-light tracks or with the low end dropped several dB on the equalizer, the midrange has nice clarity and transitions smoothly into the treble. The treble has some inoffensive unevenness and rolls off quite early – 14k is notably de-emphasized compared to the similarly-priced Soundmagic PL30. The soundstage is capable of surprising air but for the most part the KE29 keeps sonic cues closer to the center for a decidedly in-your-head feel.

 

Value (5/10) – The KE29 is an inexpensive and readily available budget earphone that offers plenty of bass, a smooth and slightly veiled midrange, and laid-back treble. It competes well with mainstream budget earphones such as the Yamaha EPH-20 and JVC HA-FX34/FX67. Compared to head-fi favorites such as the Soundmagic PL21 and Meelec M9, however, the KE29 shows its age with unimpressive build quality and less-than-ideal ergonomics. On the upside, microphonics are notably low and the inline volume control and J-cord may actually make them appealing for active use. Those with the luxury of ordering online can easily do better for the $20 asking price. Those who just need to grab something off the shelf at Radioshack can do much, much worse than the KE29.

 

Pros: Bass-heavy but unfatiguing sound, low microphonics, decent isolation

Cons: Plasticky build, J-corded, integrated volume control may cause channel imbalance at low volumes


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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