True story: when I first saw these headphones at a trade show, I asked the Koss booth attendant the same question. And believe it or not, the answer was sufficiently non-intuitive that the attendant had to go find a photograph showing the 250’s being worn by a model before he could answer my question (no, I am not making this up).
In truth, though, the KDE250’s are actually extremely simple to insert and very comfortable to wear, though there are a few simple tricks that will help users come up to speed, as outlined below.
• Orientation: start by examining the earpieces, noting that there are shallow “L” and “R” markings on the earpiece frames, which are found down near the signal cable attachment point.
• Trial Fit: to get a sense for the how the KDE250’s are supposed to fit, trying swinging their ear clips aside (the clips are designed to allow this), and then gently inserting the 250’s in your ears for a “test fit.” Try moving the earpieces up/down and forward/backward until you find comfortable position.
⇒ Hint: the KDE250 earpieces should not put any undo pressure on your ear canals or outer ears. If you feel any excess pressure, reposition the earpieces and try again.
⇒ Hint: to dial in an optimal fit, try adjusting the hinged frames of the KDE250 earpieces until you find an “angle of attack” for that feels comfortable.
• Adjust the Ear Clips: once you have a sense for the gentle, comfortable, low-pressure fit that the KDE250 is supposed to have, swing the ear clips back into position and hook them over the tops of your ears. Then, carefully dial- in the height adjustment knobs until you get a just-right fit.
⇒ Hint: the ear clips should support most of the weight of the earpieces, so that the frames/driver housings do not press downward too firmly on your ears.
⇒ Hint: the KDE250 comes with three sizes of ear clips (small, medium, and large), so that you may find it helpful to experiment to see if one size works better than the others.
As a welcome convenience touch, the KDE250’s come with a small, rectangular leather carrying pouch with a magnetic closure. The pouch includes an inner tray made of a firm foam material, which not only provide clever cutouts that fit the KDE250’s left and right earpiece frames, but that also serves as a cable winding spool (an idea we wish more manufacturers would implement).
As noted above, the KDE250’s sound quite different, in a qualitative sense, from other in-ear headphones (and also different from typical earbuds, for that matter). First, there is absolute no sense of the Koss drivers being “pressure coupled” to your ear drums, as would often be the case with in-ear ‘phones whose eartips seal tightly in your ear canal. Rather than sensing that there are tiny drivers positioned mere millimeters from your ear drums and that are “beaming” sound straight down your ear canal, you’ll find the KDE250’s instead create the illusion that sounds are originating from outside your ear canals and outside your head. In this sense, the KDE250 gives results similar to, but arguably even more dramatic in their impact than, those you might experience with Ultrasone headphones that use that firm’s S-Logic technology. As a consequence, the Koss ‘phones sound noticeably more open and transparent than most, and significantly less artificial, constricted, or “canned.”
Importantly, the Koss design let you hear music reproduced with genuine high fidelity, while at the same time being able to hear at least some ambient room sounds, which many will find a novel and pleasurable experience (kind of like having the proverbial “soundtrack for your life”). There is, of course, a tradeoff in that the KDE250 provides almost no noise isolation. But for those who want high-performance sound while still maintaining good “situational awareness,” the KDE250 is just the ticket.
I have three observations to offer regarding the KDE250’s tonal balance, starting from the top of the audio spectrum and working downward. First, treble is nicely extended and smooth (in terms of freedom from either large or small-scale response variations). To appreciate these qualities in action, listen to the high percussion in “Talking Wind” from Marilyn Mazur and Jan Garbarek’s Elixir [ECM]. On this track, the Koss 'phones effortlessly revealed the incredible high-frequency delicacy (and variety) of the instrumental timbres, without ever lapsing into edginess or brashness.