Another dive into the realm of sound delight, as we take a moment with Koss’ BT540i headphones and discover what makes them special. Koss is another company that has been around for over half a decade. Although, they didn’t always specialize in sound. They began as a TV rental company for hospitals in the 50’s, founded by John Koss and eventually reached for something bigger. Since then, they have been known for their headphones and the past was quickly forgotten. They even became the brand behind the RadioShack logo for RadioShack “branded” headphones.
The BT540i is Koss’ approach to Bluetooth connectivity and a challenge towards brands like Beats by Dre. A focus on a near-flat response range with a solid amount of low end, they become quite flexible to various EQ solutions, including mobile-based EQ and Dolby/DTS sound enhancers. A lot of time was spent with these plugged into a Lenovo tablet with “Dolby Audio” enabled, which led to a very rich experience while listening to FLAC or even SiriusXM. Minor adjustments to the EQ can instantly be noticed and enjoyed depending on the genre of track that was playing.
Where these headphones hit hard is the bass. They don’t kick as hard as Kicker, but as mentioned, they do stand up to models by companies like Beats. Well-tuned for listeners of hard rock, hip-hop and the various club varieties, as well as a great solution for watching movies while on the go. DJ’s could easily be seen tearing up their booth with these around their neck.
So if you’re looking for an audiophile range to enjoy acoustics, jazz, classical and the sort–these are not the headphones for you. These are for consumers that crave thunder in their ears through bass and volume. I am not saying they do not sound good for these other genres. They simply just do not live up to “that” kind of user, who typically wants a different approach to EQ and response. It’s important to know what you are looking for.
They fair wonderfully when watching movies and TV, especially when tuning into action. Explosions and fight scenes really pop out and nature scenes of heavy weather really sound fun. A great solution for catching up on your Netflix watchlist while waiting for that bus or sitting at the hotel with plenty of free time on your hands.
When using them as a Bluetooth solution, you get all of this, which is great since Bluetooth headphones don’t always give a lot of focus to your lows. Typically you get an even but flat range, and only a few select (this included) models on the market giving you more than that. Typically, models like these that can go wired as well, don’t always truly perform unless you opt to plug in the cable. However, with the BT540i’s, it is the complete opposite as your best performance comes from Bluetooth. Plugging in the cable gets you good sound as well, but the sound is more equally balanced, leading to that drop in bass.
Although they can block out a lot of outside noise due to their over-the-ears design, they do not offer any active or passive noise cancellation, so they won’t be the best option for situations like plane flights, They would work great however blocking out noisy siblings, busy office environments, traffic and the like.
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Their design and construction are similar to a lot of DJ-style headphones, with rotating muffs so that they can lay flat against your chest. The muffs feature a very comfortable foam cushion design that sits well on the ears and is very soft to the touch. Long-term usage can lead to a slight bit of numbness in the ears like most headphones, but the BT540i’s do a great job of diluting the effect with their soft design. There is just enough pressure in the band to keep the headphones around your head and not slipping all over, while not putting too much pressure on your cranium.
They do support NFC (near field communication) for pairing to your devices with. This prevents you from having to search our your Bluetooth settings and consolidates the pairing process ti simply touching your device to the right muff and responding to the notice on your device to pair. Your device does have to support NFC though, so not everyone would be able to take advantage of it.
Connection strength is pretty solid and can reach as far as 50 feet from the streaming device on average. We found this to be true not only in the open, but with walls in the mix as well. Not bad since some Bluetooth devices start to drop out around 20 feet.
All of the controls are easily located on the right muff. The back side bearing the volume up and down, and the front side the next, previous and play/pause/answer buttons. Towards the bottom of the muff, you find the on/off switch, that also functions as your Bluetooth pairing mode when you slide it further to the left and hold it there (spring mechanism) for 3 seconds or so.
To the right of the on/off switch, there is a 3.5mm input for using them as a wired pair of headphones and a micro-USB port for charging them with. The case includes cables for both of these functions. They charge either by a USB port on your computer (or outlet, as we are starting to see more of these types of plugs) or by using one of the wall adapters that came with one of your other devices, such as a smartphone or tablet. It does not come with its own wall adapter.
Inside the box, along with the two cables and headphones, you find a nice (mostly hardcover) case to protect it all with. Besides that, you have a simple set of instructions and your warranty information. A 1/4″ adapter for the wire would have been nice, but then again, these are focused on Bluetooth usage vs wired. They only come in their black color with a silver trim to the logo on the sides.
Koss has really added to their line of headphones over the years. Covering the market for everything from your bottom-end solutions (like your typical $10 pair of earbuds and RadioShack models) to solutions meant for serious users and specific situations. A good example of the latter is their electrostatic ESP950 model, but that is a whole new story in itself.
The BT540i is a great model for those looking for a bassy solution for music and movies. It challenges the Beats and comes in at a lower price. They are also more flexible and loose than the Beats and feel better after long-term usage. They are durable, light enough in weight, look nice and even DJs could find themselves using them. It is easy to say that this is one of Koss’ better models and they fit right into their price category.
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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- Wireless Bluetooth
- NFC Enabled for quick pairing
- Koss PLX40 Elements tuned for personal listening
- Built-in microphone
- On-board controls
- Rechargeable battery provides 8 hours of play
- Carry case
- 1-Year Limited Warranty
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Half a Century not half a decade Surely?? – nice review though 🙂