What does $310 get you in a headset, anyway? (November 18th, 2013)
Product Manufacturer: V-Moda
- - Sound quality - Warranty - Construction
- - Steep price - Poorly-considered controls on cable - Headband fatigue
Headphones are made these days with just about everyone in mind. Sets can be found for the people that love head-rattling bass or guitar twanging treble, and in configurations geared towards a true audiophile. So how does a company create headphones that rise above all of the individual options, yet keeps consumers in mind when constructing them? V-Moda has chosen to crowdsource them with audiophiles, musicians, and other folks who make sound quality a daily part of their lives. The result of the group effort is V-Moda's most ambitious outing to date, the Crossfade M-100.
For something developed by a large number of people, one might think that the M-100s would end up a hodgepodge of features that next to no one in the general population would actually benefit from. Fortunately, the Crossfades don't suffer from such a fate. On the surface the headphones offer an audio experience, plain and simple - it is only when you look "under the hood" that you begin to see where all the work went.
The best evidence of that is in the dual-diaphragm 50mm drivers. The idea behind them is to "separate the bass from bleeding into the mids and the highs." It is clear that the design does much more than this; it allows the speakers to breathe.
During testing, it was discovered that the Crossfade M-100s were adept at picking up the nuances of songs that were previously unheard. Taking a song like "Attack" by 30 Seconds to Mars, you begin to hear finer details in the intro, the haunting digital violin that would previously be muted or lost entirely with most headphones.
Rather than having one reactionary event define the sound signature that the 50mm driver puts out, the design of the speaker allows for the separation of a bass event, leaving something in a midrange with the ability to still stand out without being buried in the bass or pushed to woofers that may not pick up such small details, nor into the tweeters where it would just be washed out. This works in favor of the new speaker design, making it as if two separate speakers were housed into one unit for each mix.
Most midrange sounds aren't muddied, but the lower end they still can blend into the bass. Even that, however, is much less likely than would be experienced in a standard off-the-shelf pair of headphones, or even some high-end models. Bass can hit hard thanks to those aforementioned dual diaphragm drivers.
Thankfully, the speaker design doesn't allow the rest of the sound to suffer when the bass goes into attack mode. It doesn't turn into beat after "Beats," becoming a mud puddle of kick drums like some other branded studio headphones. The M-100s have an extremely bright upper range. Guitars and vocals come out crisp and clear. One cannot truly appreciate how clear they are until plugged into a guitar amp to hear the twanging beauty of a raw guitar chord, in our opinion.
The quality of the materials and construction of the Crossfade M-100s isn't something to just dismiss either. Great care has been placed into the research to build something that is both stylish and long-lasting. The brackets that hold the ear cups are constructed of steel, something that even most high-priced headphones can't boast. Memory foam pads comfort ears, bringing one of the most blissful experiences for a set of phones we've tested to date, even when things begin to heat up because of them.
Kevlar (actual branded Kevlar) wraps all the cables to protect them over the course of a million bends. At the time of the review, no cable has frayed or shown signs of cutting signal after numerous bends and drops of the set. V-Moda tests the M-100s to MIL-STD-810G durability standards to ensure that the materials will stand up for everyday use.
If that wasn't enough, V-Moda covers the M-100s with a two-year warranty should they stop functioning. If one were to completely break the M-100s, V-Moda has what they call an Immortal Life Program which offers purchasers 50 percent off another set of the Crossfades.
If readers have any concerns that there were some options missing in the Crossfade M-100s, don't worry - they have been addressed, even if we haven't mentioned them. The BoomPro and CoilPro cables have been added as optional accessories for those that might have other applications for the headphones other than typical uses.
Conference call users, PC users, and gamers will appreciate the BoomPro accessory, as it adds a flexible boom mic that brings a microphone option where there previously may not have been one - due to the inability of some users to take advantage of the built-in three ring plug. It also adds in volume controls and a mute switch -- a must-have feature that was missing from earlier models. The CoilPro is aimed more at musicians, bringing a professional coil cable that stretches from 47 inches to 12 feet. While the CoilPro is based in a 1/8-inch plug, a 1/4-inch adapter can be screwed on, adding much more security than normal adapters.
For as many things that have been praised thus far, there are still some things that V-Moda could improve upon; namely, the comfort of the head band and the controls on the SpeakEasy Mic cable. The Crossfades are heavy. At 280 grams, they aren't overwhelmingly weighty -- but considering the steel constructionm they are more weighty than has probably been felt by most consumers. If the M-100s are allowed to rest on the top of the head, most people will probably begin to feel head fatigue (not to be confused with headphone or ear fatigue) after a while.
Where the band rests on the head will begin to feel like a pressure point, potentially great enough to bring on a headache for some: there simply isn't enough padding there. The SpeakEasy Mic is a great addition for use with your phone of choice, but it suffers from an odd control placement. The controls hang too low, sitting at about the end of the sternum for this reviewer. We would have preferred for them to be about three to four inches higher for placement near the heart. It must be said that the control unit does not house the mic, as it sits about 10 inches further up the line so it is near the throat.
V-Moda released a sonically phenomenal product in the Crossfade M-100 headphones. It is true that some features an everyday user might like are only available as added accessories (such as a the Boom Pro cable) - but the sound quality, rugged construction, overall comfort, and warranty are something that simply cannot be touched in the price range.
The $310 MSRP may scare off some buyers, but for this headset it is money well-spent. Our main tester for the M-100 headset ended up being so impressed, he completely removed external speakers from his PC in order to use the headphones as much as possible outside of the review environment. If that isn't the true litmus test of how good a set of headphones can be, it is hard to imagine what V-Moda could do any better.