V-Moda XS, the ultimate, must-buy portable iPhone-friendly on-ear headphones [Review]

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Just a few months back I had the privilege of reviewing V-Moda’s stunning M-100 Crossfade headphones. The large, over-ear headphones produced incredible sound, unmatched build quality and stunning design. So when I got the chance to review the newer, smaller XS, I jumped at the chance. I love them so much, I don’t even use the M-100 anymore.

Like its bigger brother, the XS is built incredibly well. The head band is made from a durable, and flexible metal. Dubbed “SteelFlex”, the headband has been tested to endure flat bends (bending the headband until its flat), and the cable’s been tested to get through over 1 million bends and 45-degree strain relief. What’s more, the headphones can endure high and low temperatures, humidity, salt spray and UV rays. In short: If doing hands-free headstands at a beach is your thing, you can do it while listening to music now. Oh, and the headphones can survive over 70 drops on to concrete from head height.

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Like I’ve already mentioned, the headband is really flexible, and has been designed in such a way that it doesn’t matter how big or small your head is, this thing will hug your head without leaving any gaps. They’re ergonomically designed to fit comfortably, without adding any pressure. Of course, the arms are extendable too. You get about an inch of extension on the arms, each “click” is around 3-4mm apart, giving you plenty of room to make the fit right for you. And to stow them away, there’s a neat CliqFold hinge, which clicks in to place when you fold the cans inside the headband to fit the earphones in to their bespoke exoskeleton case.

Whenever I’ve seen anything designed to be durable, I normally see a compromise in aesthetics. But V-Moda doesn’t think that good design and durability are mutually exclusive. You can have both at the same time, and in equal measure.

The headband is covered – on top – with a leather-like material bearing very subtle V-Moda branding. On the underside, a breathable fabric strip covers some generous padding which adds to the aforementioned comfort. There’s something very attractive, and understated about the look of the XS. I was sent the black version, and the headphones are almost entirely matte black. There are some glossy black accents here and there, like on the base of the headband. But overall, it’s minimal. Almost industrial. And it’s shipped with a bright orange, tough, canvas coated cord. This cable is equipped with an inline microphone and remote control, so you can take calls and adjust volume, play/pause music without every needing to reach for your phone.

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As for the actual earphones, or “cans”, they’re the trade-mark hexagonal shape made from a sturdy plastic, each one with a metal, customizable plate on the outside for added strength, and generously padded with memory foam on the inside.

If there’s one complaint about on-ear and over-ear headphones, it’s that you can’t wear them for long periods without getting uncomfortable. Or without your ears starting to get sore. Not so with the XS. Last night, in preparation for this review, I wore them for a solid 3-4 hours while working, and again for a couple of hours this afternoon, without once feeling uncomfortable. And because they don’t engulf your ears like over-ear sets do, I never felt like my ears were getting too warm, or sweaty.

On to the most important feature of the XS headphones: Sound. You can hear everything. Sometimes when typing reviews, I run out of superlatives, and in this case I want to use them all.

Audio quality on the XS is mind-bendingly good. It produces balance and volume to a degree I’d expect from a much larger, and less comfortable pair of headphones. Even when volume is uncomfortably loud, there’s no distortion. What’s more, the clarity is fantastic. It can often be difficult to describe, but when you’re listening for good sound, you’re not just listening out for the instruments. In the case of drums, you don’t just hear the beat of the drum, you hear the stick hitting the skin, or the hi-hat. You’re listening out for the little fills in the background that you didn’t know were there before. The XS delivers on both those fronts.

And despite its adeptness at handling bass tones, and boosting those, you never feel like the mid and high end frequencies are being drowned out. Making all this happen – to great effect – are M-Class 40mm dual-diaphragm drivers. The inner and outer rings deliver the bass, great mid and highs without the ranges ever overlapping. What that means to the average consumer looking for a great set of headphones is that it doesn’t matter what genre of music you’re listening to, you’ll get an unbelievable experience.

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All in all, we have hear a pair of comfortable, durable, and beautifully designed headphone with incredible sound quality, functionality and portability. There’s seriously nothing not to like. They’re quite simply the best earphones I’ve ever used. As an overall package, they just tick all the boxes for me. Even the $212 price point seems fair. They’re worth every cent, and then some.

You can buy the V-Moda XS direct from the company’s online store.

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  • Fenix

    Awesome review, I agree with you 100%