The Koss Tony Bennett Special Edition TBSE1 Headphone Page 2

Sound Quality
When I first listened to these headphones straight out of the box, I thought they were going to fail miserably due to a harshness in the treble. So, I left them burning-in for a week to the wonderful sounds of pink noise. When again I listened to them to start my review evaluation, I thought they were better, but I was still somewhat disturbed by the treble. When I listened to pink noise I could clearly hear a peak in the mid-treble, and quite a bit of missing energy around it. Otherwise, the headphones sounded somewhat "old school" with a mid-forward, "n"-shaped frequency response.

When I did some comparative listening, I found the TBSE1 somewhat "papery" sounding --- sort of in the opposite direction from lush or liquid. I felt the Skullcandy Aviators and House of Marley Exodus had significantly better tonal clarity in the upper mid-range/low-treble area. But when I compared them with the Sony MDR-ZX700, which is a somewhat "dry" sounding headphone, I thought they were equally as listenable, and weren't quite as edgy. The low notes fair pretty well with the TBSE1; though slightly overshadowed by the mids, the bass extension was fairly good and the headphones deliver better than average punch.

Here's the funny thing though, after I stopped comparing these with other headphones, and just started listening to get accustom to them while writing, I found myself slowly getting won over. While they are not neutral, they are also not offensive. None of the bloated bass or screeching highs that are commonly found in unworthy headphones. After a while, I found them pretty pleasant; I could easily see a graying AARPer who had purchased these being quite satisfied with the sound. (A rather ironic statement, I think.)


Click on graphs image to download .pdf for closer inspection.

Raw frequency response measurements show a fair amount of variability due to the seal of the headphone. I found it somewhat difficult to get them to seal properly on the measurement head. Compensated and averaged response shows a broad upwardly bowed response from 10Hz to 2kHz, which is characteristic of some of the good old headphones. If you compare the TBSE1 to the Sony MDR-V600, for example, you'll see some striking similarities --- the V600 is one of the few older Sony designs of this type that I liked.

Above 2kHz, the frequency response see-saws up and down quite a bit producing a clear peak at 10kHz. I think this is the peak I heard in pink noise listening, and the jagged see-sawing might be indicating that "papery" sound signature I heard. Fortunately, the peak is not particularly high in amplitude, and coupled with the lack of overshoot in the 300Hz square wave, may be good indicators for the lack of strident harshness even though I heard troubles in the treble.

The 30Hz square wave shape is a little rough and bowed (just like the frequency response, as they are strongly related), but it crosses the zero line on the trailing part of the waveform in only a minor way. This, coupled with the only gently rising THD+noise in the bass, indicate a bass with moderately good control. This is a better than average showing, and I think I heard the bass on these headphones as better than they measured.

Noise on the front end of the 300Hz square wave, and the rather anemic and noisy impulse response speaks toward pretty poor treble clarity, which was heard in listening.

The isolation of these headphones at -12dB broadband is about average for full size sealed headphones. They will isolate adequately for general use, but will not be a good headphone when high isolation (trains and planes) is required.

The impedance and phase plots vary little, and with 50mVrms required to achieve 90dBSPL, the TBSE1 will work fairly well from a portable player.

This was a very difficult headphone for me to review because it was so "average." There's something very important to note about my use of the word "average," however. 80% of headphones out there are junk and few of them ever get any time on my desk. So, when I say average, it's pretty heavily weighted to that top 20% of headphones I do experience. When I say "average" it means something like "average among the headphones that are worth listening to at all."

The Tony Bennett Special Edition delivers a pleasant listening experience with that old school, mids-foward sound. A nice solid bass with good punch is it's strong point, but its somewhat "papery" or dry treble detracts a bit. They will isolate well enough for general purposes, and can be driven well from a portable player.

I'll be asking Koss for a DJ100 to review because if it sounds as identical as it looks, it'll get a pretty strong recommendation at half the price of the TBSE1. I don't think the added value of Tony Bennett's signature embossed on the headphones, the hard-shell case, replaceable cable, and album download create enough additional value to double the price and retain the strong recommendation, however.

At $150 I think the Tony Bennett is about average, and I'll give them a guarded recommendation. If you're getting gray hair and like Tony Bennett, go ahead and buy them, they're a pleasant listen. But if you're looking for something better sounding, take a look at the Skullcandy Aviator or House of Marley Exodus (which is a little weird looking, but sounds amazing).

Head-Fi threads on the Tony Bennett and DJ100
Koss product pages for the TBSE1 and DJ100

And how could I possibly not add this:

Koss Corporation
4129 North Port Washington Road
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212

tdockweiler's picture

Thanks for the nice review!

Looks like I'll need to give the DJ100 some more competition and compare them to the Aviator. Don't know if I'll ever find anything I like more under $100, but it's possible! I should try out the V600 sometime too.

Definitely try them out with the M50 pads if you ever get a chance.

So...did you like these more than the SRH-940 or SRH-840? Probably not. I upgraded my SRH-840 to the DJ100 and haven't bought the SRH-940 yet since I prefer the KRKs.

DJ100 just seems like a nice alternative to the MDR-7506, M50 and SRH-840 IMO.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
The Aviators are over $100, but try the Creative Aurvana Live! They're $60 and very good.
bfwiat's picture

It sounds like these cans are "Meh". . . not bad, but there's better for less or same dollars.

I love the link to the shopping network segment. ..
I found it disturbingly hypnotic and mind numbingly repetitive . .what with that rich bass sound and like OMG, the studio quality with the comfortable swivel . . .. . blah blah . . ha ...ha.

Looking forward to the review of the EXODUS house of Marley . . .you seem to suggest you are quite impressed.

Keep up the good work with the site (and the sense of humour too).

have you seen this :
sounds quite interesting, and apparently there is also an optional high quality lossless aptX bluetooth module option too.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Thanks for the DAC Magic Plus link, looks interesting.

The Exodus is reviewed here:

shstrang98's picture

Sorry but I could never buy headphones on the HSN.

tdockweiler's picture

Looks like Koss may have dropped the price on these! Don't know if it's just on sale or what.
At every store they're under $90. So for only $10 more over the price of the DJ100 you get a case, removable cable and possible download.

Tempted to get another one just for the straight cable. IMO they're a steal for $90 if you like the signature.

AncientWisdom's picture

Seems like a bargain?

McVin's picture

Hey Tyll, I know this review had been added quite some time ago, its very helpful but still I need some opinion from experienced listener like you.

Currently there are 3 headphones in my mind which I'm in a dilemma of picking them up.
1) Audio Technica M50
2) Koss TBSE1
3) Shure SRH-440

I'm an assistant engineer in a music production studio, which I find accuracy and flatness is very important as I have to monitor the tracks. Is TBSE1 suitable for my needs? Can it do what the M50 do?

And I'm a bass lover (but not excessive bass like the Solos), I listen to mostly hip-hop/R&B/Rock/Rap Rock/Pop and some minor club hits. Will this headphone do the job? Your opinion will be very helpful.

Thank you ! :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I prefer the Shures. Not quite as edgy as the M50, but the bass doesn't have quite the pop. I'd not consider the Koss as good as the other two.
sbuentello's picture

Hey Tyll,

  Read your review on the signature TB headphones by Koss. Although you said they were "average" on your weighted scale, would your opinion change if you were reviewing based on a 49.00 cost. Found them at Tuesday Morning store and couldnt pass them up. I thought for that price i couldnt go wrong. Like to know what you think?  thanks.

tedywilliams's picture

Hello! I'm from Brazil, do I have any chance of you answering my question in this topic? Can you help me with this doubt, will be the new Koss Pro DJ200 had some improvement over Koss Tony Bennett or Sennheiser HD 380 Pro is definitely superior, I'm Guitar Player building a home studio, sorry about my english and thank you very much!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Haven't heard the DJ200, but the Senn HD 280 Pro sounds better to my ears than the HD 380 Pro.

tedywilliams's picture

Senn HD 280 Pro instead of Senn HD 380 Pro, I confess that let me at least intrigued, could You be more specific if not too much to ask and sorry about my poor english but it is very important to me. Thank You very much again!