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Ooops!  Fooled!  I thought these were a low cost set of active noise cancelling headphones.  They're not.

The Koss QZ5 headphones are merely a set of hearing protectors with speakers built in to them.

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Koss QZ5 Noise Reduction Stereophone

Passive 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  Two  Three  Four  Five  Six  Seven  Eight  Nine  Ten  Eleven  Twelve



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.

They're not.

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 purchaser.

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 " 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 purposes.

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 not great.

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 sound quality.

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 Amazon .

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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Originally published 26 Mar 2004, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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