October 25, 2014

Review: V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Headphones

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With the Crossfade M-100, V-MODA has succeeded where most headphones manufacturers continuously fail. These headphones include everything and the kitchen sink, due in no small part to V-MODA’s “Chief Visionary Officer” Val Kolton’s direct involvement in the entire production process. Kolton is a DJ/producer himself, and after crowdsourcing the research and development alongside the producer and audiophile community for over four years, he and V-MODA have managed to craft a product that sounds fantastic, oozes style, is ripe with features and customization options, and is of an exceptional build quality.

In The Box: One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to high-end headphones is the lack of a hard case, so the “exoskeleton” form-fitting case included with the M-100s is a Godsend for storage and travel purposes. The interior “V-STRAP” system lets you store both included cables, as well as the ¼-inch headphone adapter. Leaving no stone unturned, V-MODA has also included a carabiner and attachment for clipping the headphones to your DJ bag.

Cables & Inputs: Two detachable cables are included. The shorter, orange “SpeakEasy” mic cable features a single universal control button that works with Apple, Android, Windows, Kindle and Blackberry phones, while the black, Kevlar-reinforced “SharePlay” audio cable allows you to share your music with a friend, or DJ in tandem without the need for pesky adapters.

The dual inputs on the headphones allow you to choose which side you want your cable to be on, as well as the ability to listen to or mix two sources at the same time. If you’d rather go the traditional one-cable route, the included “V-CORK” seals and protects the unused input from dust, debris and ambient noise.

Build Quality: The M-100’s smooth-as-butter “CliqFold” hinge allows you to rapidly fold the headphones into a tiny shape without any fuss. This new all-metal hinge, unlike any that I’ve ever seen on headphones before, is a complex, but incredibly sturdy system that delivers a satisfying “click” each time you fold or unfold the headphones. The hexagonal shape creates an excellent seal to block out ambient noise, while also avoiding that dreaded clamping effect that can make you feel as though you’ve been wearing a vice-grip on your head for a few hours.

You’re going to be hard-pressed to find more durable headphones than these. While we didn’t test out these claims personally, V-MODA advertises that the “virtually indestructible” “STEELFLEX” headband can endure being bent completely flat roughly 10 times before losing its shape, that the Kevlar-reinforced cable can endure over 1 million bends, and that the headphones can survive over 70 6-foot drops onto concrete.

Aesthetics: It’s easy to get distracted by the heavily marketed consumer-brand headphones of today that are highly fashionable, but utterly awful-sounding—certainly not suitable for professional apps. Though not wholly scientific, I often suggest to friends that there’s typically an inverse relationship between headphones’ looks and sound. Luckily, V-MODA hasn’t lost sight of the fundamental reason we buy these things—to listen to music—while simultaneously delivering an exceptionally eye-catching product.

The matte-black version we were given to review has a very attractive, minimalistic aesthetic that feels militaristic, with a tinge of Zen simplicity. Out of the two included cables, I went with the longer black version, as I tend to move around a lot when I DJ, though the shorter, high-contrast orange cable makes more of a statement, and matches the interior lining of the case. For those who really like to customize their gear, V-MODA offers a whopping 3 base color options, with 16 different colors for the shields that adorn the outside of the ear cups, as well as the possibility to have them engraved with any graphic or text of your choice.

Sound Quality: V-MODA lists the M-100’s frequency response at 5 – 30 kHz, ensuring plenty of sub-bass, and a high-end response past the range of human hearing. They have a sensitivity of 103 dB @ 1kHz 1mW—read: moderately loud—and an impedance of 32 Ohms, meaning that you can drive these headphones without having to use a headphone amplifier to really make them “sing.”

I routed the M-100s through my Apogee Duet 2 interface plugged into my MacBook Pro via USB, and found that the M-100’s 50mm dual-diaphragm drivers emphasize the bass and lower midrange, with a slightly muted high-end response. This gives their sound quality a pleasing warmth, but these will probably not be your go-to pair of reference headphones, as the EQ isn’t very flat. Not to worry, though—this warmth means that the M-100s perform tremendously for casual listening and DJing. In fact, they’ve become my go-to DJ headphones.

Wrap-Up: The Crossfade M-100’s are a powerful step up from V-MODA previous Crossfade LP offering. A testament to their attention to detail, they also offer the option of custom outer-shield colors, engraving, and optional cable and ear cushion color customization. Covering all the bases, from compact portability to superior sound quality, stylish customization to industry-leading durability, you will not regret picking up a pair of these headphones, especially at their very-reasonable $310 list price.

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