Koss QZ5 Noise Reduction
noise reducing headphones
A strangely designed set of headphones, with a nylon
strap going over the top of one's head and a metal spring
band going behind, make these headphones bulky and
ill suited for travelers.
Part 6 of a series on noise
reducing headphones -
click for Parts One
The rather strangely named
Koss QZ5 Noise Reduction Stereophone implied - at least to me -
that these were active noise canceling headphones. Some
websites further encourage this confusion by advertising them as
noise cancelling headphones.
What You Get
The headphones are
packed into a light cardboard box. The box
claims a frequency response of 40-20kHz without saying within
what dB range, and makes no mention of how much noise quietening
the headphones offer.
Inside the box are the
headphones and a warranty card. Koss offer a very generous
limited lifetime warranty for the headphones to the original
There was no instruction
booklet (although one is not really required) or anything else.
The headphone plug is a
small mini plug for portable stereo devices, and it also has a
home stereo type larger ¼" plug. It doesn't have
an adapter for the twin prong airline type plugs.
The unit uses passive rather
than active noise cancelation, and so there were no included
batteries because the unit has no built in electronics to power.
The most distinctive feature of these headphones is the strange double
band/strap between the two earcups. A spring steel type metal band
runs between the headphones and would sit behind your head.
This band is non-adjustable, however, and for me,
sat uselessly in space, about an inch proud of my head.
If you try and sit back, the
metal band hits the seat back/head rest and prevents the
headphones sitting on your ears as you'd wish them to.
The metal band can't be adjusted, so it
can potentially interfere with, rather than help, the good fit
of the headphones.
A nylon strap in two parts,
adjustably velcroed together in the middle, rises above the earcups and
sits on top of your head. This is essential - the weight of
the headphones is such that they'd fall off if it were
not for this top strap.
The headphones weigh a hefty
14.7 ounces, of which 12.5 oz is 'on the head' weight, the
balance being the cord. This weight is almost twice that
of the Plane Quiet headset (our current
favorite model active
noise cancelling headphones).
The headphones are of an
over/around the ear type design. They are pressed tightly
against the side of your head, making a hopefully noise-tight
seal to keep the background sounds away.
The cord is described as
being an 8' coiled cord. But at its rated 8' length, we
felt that the cord would be uncomfortably tightly stretched.
With only a moderate degree of stretch, the cord can easily
reach 5', which should be more than sufficient for most
There is a volume control on
the left ear cup that controls the volume to both ears.
There is also a mono/stereo switch built in to the cord, near
the headset end.
The headphones felt heavy
and quickly became uncomfortable. They are unsuitable for
extended wearing, and due to the metal behind the head band, there is no way you could lie back in
a seat while wearing them.
The sound quality was not as
good as the Plane Quiet (Mark 5). Sounds were not nearly
as clear and transparent, and the highs were much less open -
this being most noticeable when hearing the background hiss from
a noisy recording.
Overall sound quality was acceptable, but
The headphones, with no
built in amplification, were moderately sensitive - giving about
the same volume level as the PQ Mk 5's.
As for noise canceling, the
Koss QZ5 unit was definitely better than any of the active noise
canceling units. But this was unsurprising. If noise
canceling is the most important thing, you can readily solve
this problem by getting a set of shooter's ear muffs or ear
plugs, and expect to get about 25dB of noise attenuation broadly
across the frequency range.
We don't think that the Koss
headphones provide quite this much attenuation, but they do
out-perform all active noise canceling headphones.
The headphones are very
bulky, with comparatively enormous ear cups compared to other
active noise reducing headphones. The earcups and headband
don't fold, making them very space consuming to pack and carry.
But, for most of us, we want
something light-weight, comfortable, that takes up little space
when being carried in a travel bag, and with reasonably good
The Koss headphones perform
less well on all these other parameters, and because of this,
they are not really suitable for travelers.
The Koss QZ-5 headphones
seem to range in price from a list price of $50 down to a low
street price of about $35, and are available from a number of different sources.
I bought mine through
Summary and Recommendation
These headphones combine
better noise reduction capabilities (compared to active noise
cancellation headphones) with poorer sound reproduction and
ergonomics/design factors. They are fairly priced.
Their bulkiness and
uncomfortable fit (for long flights) make them ill suited for
travelers. While they might be good in some non
travel related specialized applications, particularly if they
did not need to be worn for many hours continuously, they are
not a good choice for travelers.
Not recommended. Buy a
set of Plane Quiets instead.
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26 Mar 2004, last update
28 May 2011
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.