V-MODA Crossfade M-80 On-Ear Noise-Isolating Metal Headphone (White Pearl)
- Award-winning sound, military level durability, ultimate ergonomics in an ultra-portable size
- Metal construction and military level testing ensures unrivaled durability
- Supreme comfort, natural noise isolation, bespoke fit and 3D sound with over 3 years of fitting R&D
- Exoskeleton hard carry case and two detachable cables with both 3-button and 1-button microphones for all smartphone, tablet and audio compatibility
- 2 year warranty and immortal life program provides 50% off lifetime replacement for extreme use and post warranty coverage
Award-winning audiophile sound and supreme ergonomics forged upon military-level durability and timeless materials. Tuned by over 50 legendary musicians, Grammy-winning producers and DJs yet half the size of the top reviewed Crossfade LP, the Crossfade M-80 features a virtually indestructible metal frame, STEELFLEX headband, durable microfiber suede, three years of ergonomic R&D and customizable metal shields. M-80 includes two detachable Kevlar reinforced cables optimized for voice recognition
List Price: $ 230.00
Price: $ 179.99
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Frustratingly Close to Being Really Excellent,
First, the good news. These are a very appealing design aesthetically, have impeccable build quality, and an excellent warranty. More significantly, this extremely slick and attractive product also sounds very good, and does not take the usual thumpity-thump extreme bass distortion that is so typical to mainstream consumer headphone designs, especially the ones targeted towards the young and hip. VModa has designed a credible product that stands out in crowded field of mediocre headphones that look good and sound ordinary or worse.
That said, there are a few issues buyers need to be aware of. The immensely positive reviews these phones have received on Amazon and places like Inner Fidelity and Head Fi seem to have ignored some key concerns which I will voice to fully inform potential buyers.
First, if your hat size is L, these will barely fit. If your hat size is XL, forget it, these will not fit at all. On headphones like the Sony V6 and Shure 440, my reasonably sized head needs 6 of 10 ratchets. On the M80s, 10 of 10 fits with a bit of struggle. Those with a bigger head than mine need not bother. Yes, you could bend the headband in hopes of getting them to fit your oversized noggin, but why would you want to do this? The Phiaton MS400 and Sennheiser HD 25 are roughly the same size and can accommodate heads of all sizes pretty handily. VModa for some odd reason assumes their users are all well on the average side of cranium size.
Second, the pad that goes on your ear is too small. Again, my ears are not that huge and the HD25 covers up the whole ear nicely, but the M80 needs to be precisely centered to sound good, and then sometimes it moves a bit and needs to be re-centered. Annoying, and unnecessary. If the cups were 10 or 15% bigger, there would be no issue here.
So any other issues for those who have heads and ears that the M80s fit well? Yes, a few. First, in the only truly bad design element seen in the phones, the plug that goes into the left headphone cup needs to be removed before you store the headphones in the hard case. The bottom of the headphone does not have enough clearance for the straight connector on the plug to fit in the case still attached. Otherwise you have to bend the cable at a really sharp angle that looks like it will lead to early cable failure. The cable is high quality and sturdy, but even an excellent stress relief bend is not meant to be kept at close to a 90 degree angle for the long periods of time when the phones are sitting in the case. So this means if you take these on the bus, you first will have to take them out of the case and then connect the cable to the phones before connecting them to your device. Minor, but irritating for a set of phones supposedly designed for mainly mobile use.
All minor issues so far. But now we come to the Big Three Problems.
Problem One: The sound profile – too much accent in the mids! Bass is excellent, well controlled yet resonant when needed, quick response. The equal of the HD25, which is tough to do. Excellent for rock and metal, decent bass extension for other genres. The treble is rolled off a bit, lacks some detail at the higher end, but no real problems as many find truly accurate treble to be fatiguing. The real problem (for some music) is that the mids are boosted too much. Listening to rock where you have a mix of quiet instrumentation and vocals (e.g. The National, Lost in the Trees) the singers sound artificially forward and overwhelm the music. Listening to “Fake Empire” from Boxer on the M80 and then comparing it to the HD25s makes the piece sound like 2 completely different songs, with the M80 version sounding unnatural and unpleasant.
For other types of music where vocals are equally mixed with loud instruments (e.g. Lamb of God) there is no problem and for non-vocal or non-amplified music (jazz and classical) this is also not an issue. Most modern popular music uses studio miking where everything is mixed as coming from the center while jazz and classical recording is more positional (e.g. the drums are on the right, the bass is on the left), so I think that may explain this. This may or may not be a problem for individual users. Metal and electronica sounds really fine (probably rap and pop too though I didn’t test those types), classical and jazz are decent, but less energetic vocal oriented rock (alternative) may end up sounding weird. In any case, the boosted mids mean these phones are not very accurate, which may offend audiophiles.
Problem Two: Strong competition at the price point. For roughly half the price of the M80s, the AudioTechnica M50, Sony ZX700s. and Shure 440s will thoroughly trounce the M80s. Bass is as good or better, treble handling is more accurate, and the mids are more natural sounding yet also enjoyable. If you want good sound cheaply, any of those options are superior. They are all somewhat larger phones…
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Do believe the hype,
There are a ton of new headphone manufacturers out right now and the majority of them are making some outlandish claims about how good their products sound. I’m often skeptical of the ones who spend an almost equal amount of time on pretty packaging and good looks. So, you can imagine that when the hype-train came rolling through with the V-MODA M-80s on board I wasn’t sure what to expect. One of their models is co-branded by an HBO series called True Blood, they’re packaging is nothing short of beautiful and they are nothing short of drop dead gorgeous looking. I immediately think, “this company really knows how to market to the masses, they look beautiful, but I’m not sure how they sound.”
You see, there are times when a new product gets the attention of the headphone web forums and it turns into irrational exuberance. I’m convinced that many of the posters on these threads haven’t even listened to the overly-hyped headphone in question, they just enjoy being a part of the “gang.” The V-MODA M-80 is one such headphone that has been “hyped” a lot lately. I wasn’t sure if I could believe all of the good press they were receiving. I’ve been deceived before by the hype-train. When I finally got a chance to listen to them, I can say that I was surprised.
So my advice with the M-80 is: Do believe the hype. They’re really that good.
They are extremely accurate headphones which will please the ears. They isolate very well, which is hard to do with a supra-aural headphone. As such, with the right positioning on your ears the bass will deliver. The vocals come though crystal clear and do not seem to be overpowered by the other ends of the frequency spectrum. There is a slight amount of roll-off at the very top end of the spectrum, but that helps make for a non-fatiguing listening experience. They also have very good instrument separation, that will only improve with a really good source (or even better with an external amplifier). But, if you want to listen to them from an iPod, iPhone or other MP3 player they will not disappoint in the least.
I have owned many, many headphones in my audiophile career and these are “keepers” for sure.
Great work Val and the team at V-MODA, you’ve got a fan here!
“SoulSyde” on Head-Fi.org
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Wow. Seriously, wow.,
These are some absolutely amazing headphones, especially when you consider that they’re priced well under $300. Excellent construction, and the sound is perfect for my taste. After getting them in, I’ve listened to all sorts of music – my tastes run from House / Electro to classical (tested with Dvorak’s Symphony #9 in E Minor – lots of subtlety) to hip-hop, to Europop, and even some old Rush albums (and – ultimate test- the newly released BluRay audio version of Moving Pictures). The response curve is nice and flat (at least for headphones), and the details of the music flow beautifully. I couldn’t be happier.
Other details like the detachable Kevlar-reinforced iPhone-compatible cord with remote are just icing on the cake. Normally I wouldn’t really care much about what the headphones look like, but these are as close as you can get to works of art on your ears. It’s not a decision maker / breaker, but to me it says a lot about a company that apparently cares about every possible detail in their products (even a carrying case that easily clips onto a carry-on bag – seriously, is there *nothing* these guys don’t think about?!??).
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