As the consumer market has moved away from bespoke MP3 players and sided more with smartphones with media players built in, audio accessory makers have had to come up with ways to create products that suit those users.
It’s no good creating a great pair of earphones without a built-in microphone and remote control for making calls and adjusting volume. Let’s face it, the early days of wired headsets were attrocius. In 2013, we’re spoilt for choice.
I’ve reviewed some great headphones in the past, but most were in the sub-$100 price range. The latest are definitely not in the budget category, but they’ve blown me away so much I had to write about them.
Last week, I got sent a pair of V-Moda M-100 Crossfade earphones and – if I’m honest – I wasn’t sure what to expect. Checking the site before trying the earphones on and seeing the huge range of customization options (you can order different color/design metal plates to cover the cans) and the >$300 price tag, I jumped to the conclusion that these were nothing more than an overpriced pair of show-off earphones for teenage DJ-wannabes. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They are simply outstanding.
M-100s come shipped with a neat “exoskeleton” hard-case, two audio cables and a 3.5mm to quater-inch jack adapter. One cable is the standard, single stereo audio cable with inline mic and remote. V-Moda opted to give it the “SpeakEasy” moniker. The other is a thicker cable.
Dubbed the “SharePlay” audio cable, it comes with a separate 3.5mm jack input attached so you and a friend can both listen in on the music together. Both cables are covered in a flexible and durable woven fabric insulator which not only looks better than cheap plastic, but helps the cable not get tangled too much. Handily, earphones, cables and adapter can all fit comfortably inside the aforementioned case.
From a distance, the M-100 looks like the usual pair of on-ear headphones. But up-close, the attention to detail and build quality are all to be admired. First off, the internal headband is made from a really strong, but flexible steel which V-Moda calls “virtually indestructable”.
Each can is held in place by two steel “legs” (for want of a better word) on each side. These join at the base of the headband, but have a handy little hinge built in. To stow the headphones away, you push the cans upwards towards the underside of the headband and the hinge opens and clicks in to place. Et voila – your cans are now tucked neatly inside the headband and can be placed in the included hard-case.
Each can also has an aircraft grade metal plate on the outside which adds extra protection from bumps and scrapes, but can also be used to add your own unique design.
The web order page gives you a choice of pre-designed logos, lets you add your own text, but also lets you upload your own image to put on to these metal plates. Put simply: You can make these headphones truly unique if you want to.
There are often areas of headphone design that leave me thinking compromises were made. Sometimes, certain parts of the product are ignored, or deemed less important. Often times, that’s the headband, or the padding surrounding each ear.
With the V-Moda set, there seems to be as much attention to detail here as anywhere else. I literally could not find any design, manufacturing or quality control defects anywhere. Not one. One really nice touch was the decision to add in 3.5mm inputs at the base of each earphone.
Not only does this give you the freedom to choose which ever side of your face you want the mic/cable hanging from, but also lets you play music from two different sources at the same time, or daisy chain earphones with your friends. Any unused input can be covered simply with the provided “V-CORK”.
And then we get on to sound. Boy is it good.
I don’t think I’ve ever used a pair of headphones that’s so versatile. I can listen to any kind of music without wishing it had a little more this, or a little less that.
Listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Go your own way”, I can here the open hi-hats perfectly at the high-end of the scale and the bass line is so clear. In fact, there’s very little you can’t hear.
Even the gentle, soft marracas being shaken in the background can be heard. It’s like the earphones just know how to adapt to each style of music. Switching it up a bit, I flipped over to Linkin Park which has a much more emphasised bass.
At times with the M-100, the bass was so prominent it felt like I had a sub-woofer implanted inside my skull, but incredibly without drowning out, or muddying the higher/mid tones. This is achieved, incredibly, by having two 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers with inner and outer rings to prevent the bass from bleeding in to the mids and highs.
Sound’s that good that over the past week my daily routine of relaxing on the sofa and watching TV has changed up. Instead, I’d rather sit with my heaphones on and watch something on my iPad, play a game or listen to a Spotify playlist.
Instead of being a convenient tool for listening to music, I now plan my entertainment around a pair of headphones. M-100s have analog noise isolation to naturally cut out any background noise, and are also designed in a way to prevent too much noise leaking out and bothering people around you.
Very rarely do I come across a product that’s impossible to criticise. And yet, with V-Moda’s M-100s, I’m found clutching at straws. They’re a little bit heavy. And when I say a little bit, I mean it. They also made my ears a tiny bit too warm once I had them on for more than 30 mins or so.
If I could complain about anything else, I would. They’re designed in such a way as to be really ergonomic and comfortable. That’s partly down to the well-fitting headband, but also because of the memory foam stuffed inside the lining of each can.
In a nutshell, the M-100s sound incredible, look fantastic, are very well made, practical, comfortable and durable. If you want some amazing headphones and you have $310 to spend on them, just get these. You will not regret it.