This is a Review of V-Moda Crossfade M-80 headphones and V-Moda faders hi-fi earplugs. crossfade M-80 on-ear headphones
and V-MODA Faders VIP by Ear Armor, Inc
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear "fashion" and "headphones"? I can guarantee the top choices will include rap star endorsed over sized cans you wear around our neck, you know those overpriced headphones you buy for looks rather than built or sound quality. Even so those particular choices had some improvements with recent 2013 versions, nothing can even come close to what I had a chance to test in the last few days. Actually founded and designed, not just endorsed, by a DJ and producer Val Kolton, I think V-Moda line of headphones is the best kept secret of what marriage of "fashion" and "headphones" really supposed to look and to sound like. Considering I first learned of V-Moda headphones browsing audiophile websites says a lot about these. While researching the Crossfade line of headphone, I decided to review M-80 model since I found it to have the best value vs sound quality ratio. I do hope to have an opportunity to review their flagship M-100 model as well, but for now lets focus on M-80 and continue with my review.
As I always start with a packaging of the box, I typically take a note of fancy graphics, perhaps a magnetic flap, and move on. Here, I was staring for quite some time at the box admiring every details of it, just like when my wife looks at her new fancy perfume box/bottle. The packaging always sets a tone for the review, and in this case it felt like something you got from a trendy boutique place. Everything from a fancy leather handle, to a leather buckle, and even a red ribbon I had to cut in order to open it - screamed "celebrity" quality. Knowing V-Moda signature of hex shaped design elements, that was also translated into the box shape. Once you open the box (after cutting a red ribbon), the next surprise was exoskeleton hard case shaped like a glove to fit these headphones and included accessories. A lot of design details went into that case as well: with a soft rubbery touch finish, textured printed design, and a lot of signature v-lines. With carabiner included as one of the accessories you can hook it to the case - this is probably one and only case I would actually want people to see clipped to my attire. Opening this form fitting case revealed M-80 and two areas in the middle with a special v-strap organizing area for accessories. Beside already mentioned carabiner, you get 2 sets of Kevlar reinforced tangle free flexible cables with a very unique braided cloth shielding, in-line remotes, separate built-in mic, and 45-degree 3.5mm rugged gold plated plug. Just like with any high end headphones, V-Moda cables are detachable which means if anything ever going to happen to the cable - you just replace it and continue using your headphones. The reason for 2 cables was one with 1-button remote (for Android phones) and the other one with 3-button remote (for iPhones). For majority of newer Android phones with 4.x, either cables can be used since multi-function button works perfectly to play/pause/call and double/triple-click to skip next/prev, and long press to start Google Now. So just think of it as getting a bonus replacement cable. One unique common thing about these cables is a separate in-line mic unit which is placed closer to headphones itself to provide clear sound during phone calls, which turned out to be super clear from both sides.
Now, on to the headphones itself. When you look at the picture on the box, you can get a false impression of their size. Once you take M-80 out of the case, the first thing you notice how small and lightweight they are (at around 200g). These have on-ear design which means the earcups will be be smaller and fitting right on top of your ears. In addition, the hex shaped form factor of these is both outside with interchangeable shield plates and inside with hex-shaped foam pads. The size of these earcups is probable the only con I found with these headphones. It's not really a negative comment since they are still very comfortable and got even better after a few hours of breaking in the pads. Due to their smaller size I had to adjust their positioning on my ears to get the best fitment. But honestly - its a very small price to pay for what you are actually getting with M-80. As I mentioned above, the brushed metal plates outside of earcups are interchangeable, held by 6 hex screws (fits very well with a scheme), and can be easily replaced with different custom colors and even logo designs. That really takes it to the next level of modding!!! Furthermore, these plates have small v-shaped port openings, referred to as v-ports which supposed to enhance sound experience and probably help with passive noise isolation balance. Once you put these on - you will definitely hear the difference on how much outside noise will be cut off. The on-ear design helps isolate it even more. And speaking of design, the whole headband is made out of a solid piece of virtually indestructible SteelFlex material. V-Moda is so confident in the quality of this bend, they actually mention that it could be bend flat, and also provide a lot of references to MIL-STD-810G testing. Despite its rugged steel construction, the headband is wrapped in micro-fiber suede coat with a softer material on the inner side for cushioning. These headphones are designed not just with style but also with a super high level of durability backed by 2 year warranty and what they refer to as "immortal" lifetime replacement with 50% discount (if you ever need it).
Now comes the most important question, is there a brain behind this beauty? Oh yeah!!! The brain of two 40mm dual diaphragm audiophile tuned drivers!!! With headphones of this class you always need to give a proper burn in period to evaluate the sound, and I found in the past headphones doesn't sound as good out of the box until such burn in. To my surprise, these sounded great from the get-go! I don't know if they get burn in cycle at the factory or just as part of the design, but I noticed very little changes after 20hr of white-noise burn in test. The sound was simply Amazing!!! First of all with a frequency range of 5Hz-30kHz (never mind that some of these extremes are not even audible), you know this is a quality beyond typical 20Hz-20kHz. The bass is very powerful and hits you with a tight punch, but at the same time it's not too exaggerated. The bass lovers definitely going to appreciate the impact of it's clear delivery, and casual listeners and even audiophiles will also enjoy this bass bump without being too overpowering. The midrange really shines in these one, especially with upfront delivery of vocals and details of other instruments. I was very happy that M-80 didn't follow a trend of V-shaped eq tuning where mids are usually recessed to emphasize the bass; here mids were perfectly balanced and sounded very detailed. With treble, I felt the high frequencies were a bit rolled off and not as crisp. It was still detailed, but sounded a bit pushed to the back. I personally found it to be suitable the best for all the types of EDM music I'm listening too. To my ears, this was a perfection. Also, I found soundstage to be large enough to hear placement of all the sound elements, even with crossfeed on using my Neutron player the sound imaging was excellent. I'm also thinking those small port openings on shield plates contributed to some "opening" in sound, almost like giving it a bit of "air".
Overall, I went into this review knowing already that I'm going to be impressed based on everything I've read about M-80, but I didn't expected to be THAT impressed. Currently V-Moda websites has M-80 on sale for $150 and I have seen some other places on-line (surprisingly not on amazon) selling them down to $120. For this price, the mind blowing design details, and audiophile quality sound - these really stand out above any "celebrity" endorsed competition for twice it's price. My only word of caution is that on-ear hex-shaped small earpad fit might not be a cup of tea for everybody. But if you OK with it's fitment - you will be treated to a celebrity style headphones with a sound quality to match it! I definitely recommend these one!
Here are the pictures.