The KDX family of sound isolating in-ear headphones represents the middle band of Koss’ in-ear line-up, with the KDX 200 Silver ($79.99) in turn standing as the middle model in the KDX family. Though the KDX 200 Silver enjoys “middle of the middle” status in the Koss family pecking order, it appears to be very well made, sporting polished, solid aluminum earpiece housings, each of which is fitted with a single dynamic “micro driver.”
As near as I can tell, the KDX 200 Silver’s mission profile is blessedly simple and straightforward. According to Koss, it aims to provide a good measure of isolation from external noise sources while delivering “exceptionally rich audio” sound quality that is “crisp and clear”—and to do so for at a reasonable price.
A Koss press release on the KDX works to paint the KDX 200 Silver as a highly differentiated product, though I think the Koss description could hold true for many of the in-ear ‘phones that Playback has tested. Of the KDX series, Koss writes:
“The KDX Series is unique from other in-the-ear style headphones because of a direct coupling technology specifically engineered to partner with the listener’s eardrum. The earbud forms a tight seal with the ear canal becoming acoustically coupled with the eardrum for almost perfect sound translation to the ear. This partnership enhances isolation…”
I think what Koss is getting at is that the KDX 200 is not a conventional (and thus inherently loose fitting) “earbud” of the type typically supplied with iPods or other personal digital music players; it is, by design, something much better than those.
Design highlights and product accessories include the following:
• Computer optimized dynamic (not balanced armature-type) “micro drivers.”
• Solid aluminum earpiece housings said to improve durability, isolation, and overall sound quality.
• Three sizes of silicone eartips (which Koss calls “ear cushions”).
• Signal cables with padded, patterned fabric sheathes that look much like miniature versions of the fabric wraps commonly seen on high-end audio interconnect cables and that are said to be “resistant to kinks and tangles.”
• A leatherette carrying case with spring-clasp closure.
• The KDX 200 Silver ‘phones are, significantly, covered by Koss’ “No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty.”
I found the KDX 200 Silver’s solid aluminum earpieces made the headphone easy to handle and to insert. Two detail features I particularly appreciated were the combination aluminum stems and firm rubber signal cord strain reliefs that Koss provided. Together, these features should help minimize the oh-too-common problem of users inadvertently yanking signal cables right out of their headphone’s earpieces (typically causing irreparable damage)
The silicone eartips provided good, though not class-leading, amounts of sound isolation and were comfortable to wear. While some might wish for more than three eartip sizes, I think others will be grateful that the KDX Silvers do not impose “eartip option overload.”
Contrary to Koss’ claims, I found the fabric wrapped cables, which are very light and thin, actually did seem prone to kinks and tangles (though perhaps that is because the cables had been very tightly coiled when the headphones were still in their packaging box). Even so, I suspect many listeners will regard the cord’s cool appearance and lightweight construction as winning attributes.
One small (and I do mean very small) nit I would pick is that the KDX 200 Silver’s Left/Right earpiece markings are presented in the form of the almost unbelievably small and fine-lined letters “L” and “R” imprinted on the earpieces’ signal cable strain relief sleeves. Depending on the quality of your eyesight, you may need a magnifying glass to see those markings.
The KDX 200 Silver offers a taut, well-defined sound that is, in a subtle way, tilted more toward the qualities of crispness and clarity than toward warmth and overall richness. Here’s how that plays out across the bass, midrange, and treble bands of the audio spectrum.
Low end: The Silver’s bass is taut and reasonably well extended, but notable for its tightly controlled presentation that gives more emphasis to textures and pitch definition than to warmth, weight, or perceived bass “slam.” Many listeners, especially those who dislike even trace amounts of bass “boominess” or overhang will find the KDX 200’s bass quality a delight, while others might wish for a bit more foundational mid-bass weight in hopes of achieving a sound with, for want of a better term, a bit more “gravitas.” As a practical example, listen to the deep bass guitar and drum notes at the beginning of Lucinda Williams’ “Rescue”, from West (Lost Highway). Through the KDX 200’s, the bass clarity and extension, especially on the drum “thomps,” is quite good, yet the senses of richness, warmth, and impact are not all that they could or should be, which becomes apparent if you compare the Silvers side-by-side with good competing models (e.g, the NuForce NE-700X) or with Koss’ own KDX 300 Gold ‘phones.