Brief: Coby is not a brand often-mentioned on head-fi, and with good reason – the company is known for slapping their name on anything with a soldering joint, good or bad. But the CV-185 is more than worthy of mention – in the realm of ultra-low-budget headphones it stands as one of the best values around.
MSRP: $19.99 (discontinued)
Current Price: N/A
Build Quality (5.5/10): The structure of the CV-185 is similar to that of the Denon AH-P372. The cups collapse by swiveling into the headband but the Cobys are missing the 3rd hinge in the headband, which makes them less portable but more robust than the P372. Like the Denons, they are made entirely of plastic, but the plastic is actually thicker and harder on the Coby set. There are no squeaks or rattles in the structure after several months of use. The 1.5m cable is fairly thick and terminates in a massive 3.5mm plug but lacks strain relief on cable entry. Though the hard plastics used on the Cobys may crack if dropped repeatedly, the initial build quality is very impressive for a headphone that retails for the price of a dinner salad.
Comfort (7.5/10): The headphones are fairly light and very adjustable. Clamping force is just right and the stock pleather pads, though not the softest, seal well. With some RadioShack flat foam pads, comfort increases twofold, rivaling the Grado SR60. One small annoyance for me was the headband adjustment mechanism, which doesn’t have enough grip. As a result, lifting the headphones by the headband extends it fully–hardly a notable detriment for a $10 headphone.
Isolation (5.5/10): With the stock pleather pads isolation is decent and leakage is nil. The adjustable cups seal well and the closed-back Cobys are large enough to cover my entire ear. Naturally, swapping the pads for foam cushions drops the isolation and increases leakage, though I still found the CV-185 perfectly usable outside.
Sound (5.25/10): After spending several weeks with budget models from Kanen and Panasonic, the CV-185 are a welcome relief, providing the clarity and definition that I’ve been missing. The sound has a crispness to it that is often absent in low-end products. Though they do distort at extremely high volumes, the Cobys have very good control over their low end and impressive extension. The midrange is articulate and clean, boasting decent instrumental separation and a slightly warm tonal balance. The treble is well-controlled, extended, and unfatiguing, at least with the stock pads.
At the suggestion of jant71, who lent me the phones, I also tried a set of RadioShack foam pads on the CV-185 and was immediately surprised by how much the sound signature changed with the swap. Soundstage width drops slightly as the mids and treble both seem to step forward, bringing more detail and a better overall balance. Bass impact decreases slightly while maintaining the same depth. With the foam pads the CV-185 tend slightly towards brightness. I find them to sound more fun and engaging this way, though some may prefer the inoffensive balance of the stock pads. The sound of the CV-185 is also more dependent on their positioning over the ear than most other headphone. Especially with the foam pads, it is easy to miss the ‘sweet spot’ and end up with tinny, uninteresting sound.
Compared to the Koss KSC75, head-fi’s perennial <$20 favorite, the CV-185 sound less muddy at the low end but also lacks the fullness, smoothness, and dimensionality of the KSC75s. They do boast better separation and a more emphasized midrange compared to the KSCs. With the foam pads they are also more balanced and neutral, with treble that lacks the bite and sparkle of the Koss phones but has a more convincing tonality. Though the Cobys may not quite best the KSC75s as all-around performers, they certainly go down swinging in my book.
Value (9/10): I have owned and heard quite a few headphones in my time here at head-fi, including many price/performance powerhouses, but few have made me stop and say, “Wow, these cost how much?”. In fact, the last time that happened was when I plugged my old KSC75s into a proper amp. Well, the CV-185 don’t require an amp to impress me the same way and with the addition of some foam pads can take on two significantly different sound signatures. For anyone in search of a comfortable budget headphone that leaks little and is wearable for several hours at a time, the CV-185 are definitely worth a closer look.
Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
Impedance: 22 Ω
Sensitivity: 100 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 5ft (1.5m); Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Flat-folding, collapsible