Koss packs a lot of value into its Pro3AA Titanium (listed at $69). The Titanium part of the name refers to the headphones' titanium-coated, high-polymer diaphragms, which are said to produce accurate sound. Though the 3AA isn't a noise-cancellation model, its closed earcups provide maximum isolation, and their soft cushions coddle your ears. The 3AA's 8-foot cord is outfitted with a 1/8-inch stereo minijack; you screw on the included 1/4-inch adapter to listen to your home system. The headphones fold up for easy storage, and Koss backs the package with a lifetime warranty.
We started our auditions with Joel and Ethan Coen's Barton Fink DVD, which looks at the plight of a neurotic writer (yes, that's redundant). We heard all manner of subtleties--little gasps and hesitations in Fink's voice, mosquitoes buzzing around his dingy hotel room, his typewriter's keys hitting the paper, and birds chirping outside--and they all sounded extremely real. We also cranked up Saving Private Ryan to the max, and boy, did the artillery blasts make us jump. No, the 3AA's deep bass didn't have the visceral effect you'd get from a hulking subwoofer, but by headphone standards, the booming bass was pretty darn impressive.
We weren't quite as happy with the 3AA when we played music. Rosanne Cash's brilliant 10 Song Demo CD came out slightly hollow, and Keith Richards's Main Offender CD had a little too much detail and treble emphasis. It's a matter of personal taste, but we prefer the smoother sound of Sennheiser's HD497. Still, for the money, the 3AA is a solid choice, and we have no problem recommending it.