V-Moda is a new brand for me. I recently read about V-Moda when I was looking for an upgrade to my Sennheiser HD 202 headphones. It was Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity that got me into the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 on-ear headphones in the first place. His videos on YouTube open my eyes so much about the world of audiophile. So, thanks, Tyll!
Why Did I Decide To Upgrade?
The only pair of serious cans that I’ve ever own is my 2 years old Sennheiser HD202. It suits my music, which varies from jazz, rock, pop, R&B, hip-hop, dance, house, and recently I’ve got myself into dub step. For $30, these are the best pair of cans available in the market, at least where I live. My gripe with it is only to the cord, which is a long and winding one. But since I only use it at the office, it’s safe to say that I have no complaint about the HD 202.
Until one day, I felt like there are more sounds in my music that the HD 202 simply can’t deliver. Now I’m not really an audiophile, so please excuse me if not putting the right terms in the right place. Here’s what I think about the HD 202. The bass is punchy, but to me it’s not deep or whole enough. The mid and high are good, but they sounded a little bit recessed. It’s like a shy group of musicians playing in a large stage. And it’s also sounded narrow.
On the positive side, the HD 202 does not require an amp to sound good. It rests nicely and comfortable enough on my head and ears. It’s around the ear design does a good job at blocking sound. I’m simply deaf from outside noises, but I think they can still leak a little sound but not so much. These cans are good enough for everyday listening that don’t really need too much detail.
The Hunt for a Better Pair of Cans
My budget was $200 and probably can stretch up a bit, but not much. At this point I should remind you that all prices that are written in this post here roughly translate $1 to IDR 10.000, although the real value is less than that.
My research came up with these and I’ve auditioned some. They are :
- AKG K240 Studio ($175)
- Audio-Technica M50 ($160)
- Sennheiser HD 555 ($130)
- V-Jays ($70)
- Marshal Major $(120)
- Shure DJ 750 (I forgot how much)
- AKG K518 DJ (I didn’t ask for the price)
- Sennheiser HD 25-1 II Adidas Originals ($380)
- Beyerdynamic DT 1350 ($310)
- Bose AE ($140)
- Bose OE ($160)
- Bose Quiet Comfort 3 ($499)
- Skull Candy Aviator ($199)
- Soul by Ludacris SL 150 ($250 – $300, different stores)
- V-Moda Crossfade M-80 ($200)
Now some of these cans are way beyond my budget, but it never hurt to try, especially when the store let me try them, right? Wrong! For a couple of days, I was haunted by the image of the HD 25, Aviator, M-80, SL 150. Argh! I also began to think that maybe all I want is just a fashion/celebrity cans with good sound. Argh!!
Whenever I’m at an intersection of good choices, I let my gut feeling decide. So I decided to go look for an HD 555 or an HD 558 first. Alas, none of the online store that I’ve contacted can confirm of a ready stock unit. So I turned to the M-80 and the SL-150, since they both got good reviews and looks awesome. Should I fail to get either one, the ATH M50 will be my last resort.
I noticed immediately from the packaging that this thing has a fashion statement. It’s a hexagonal box with a little slant the top part. The material used for the box is doffed and felt premium. On the top there was some sort of leatherette with snake skin texture which functions as a handle. There were three securing points, a clear sticker, a hard to open snap button, and lastly a fabric ribbon which you must cut to open. Based on what I see, it’s still in a BNIB condition.
Inside the box, there were two protective foams placed on top and on the bottom, ensuring that the product is safe. There was also a user manual, one discount code voucher, and the exoskeleton looking case. Surprisingly, they all smelled like new rubber coming out of a factory. I didn’t expect that.
I opened the case and there it was, the M80 sits nicely inside. There were two cable holder each holding an iDevice cable and a regular audio cable, both has mic function to accept phone calls. The cables has the same length, roughly about 1 meter each. There’s also a carabineer to attach the hard case to my backpack whenever I want to carry it along.
I was itching to try the durability test just like Val Kolton (V-Moda Founder & CEO) did in a video. The steel flex band past the test of straightening and bending. I didn’t have the heart to try the drop test though. I’ll just have to believe Val’s demonstration in one of the video. Haha!
To test the M-80, I used my android phone (HTC Desire Z) with an app called andLess that support FLAC. I used the non iDevice cable and adjust my M-80 to approximately 6 – 7 clicks so that they fit my head better. It turned out that I do have to adjust the band by bending it a couple of times to make it fit my head perfectly. However I noticed later that it was stated somewhere in the packaging (or was it the user manual?) that I need to use it for at least 24 hours to optimize the M-80.
On to the sound test. I listened to tracks from Adele, Cold Play, Foo Fighters, Michael Buble, and Skrillex. They all sounded way better than I’ve previously heard on headphones. I’ve noticed immediately that these cans are quite bassy, but not like the AKG K518 DJ that I’ve auditioned. The K518 has too much base that it somehow engulf the mid and the high, at least for my taste. Though it’s bassy, I’ve also noticed that the M-80 didn’t sacrifice the mid and high. The mid has a good presence, but not as forward as the V-Jays that I’ve auditioned. The high also has good presence and I haven’t notice any sibilants from all my listening.
To simplify things up, my impression of the V-Moda M-80 is that they sounded like Sennheisers, somewhere between the HD 202 and the HD 25-1 II Adidas Originals. You don’t have to agree with me on this one, and those of you who have experience with a lot more various cans than I do might have a different take on the impression of the M-80.
The mic is good and I can hear people talking clearly. The brushing noise that people often complained about is actually coming from the Kevlar sleeve. It has a rough texture and as with other sleeved cord they tend to be stiffer. Rough surface becomes the source of the noise and the stiff structure becomes a good media that’s spreading the noise. I tried brushing and tapping on my HD 202 which uses a regular rubber cable and also tried it on my stock HTC earphones with mic. The results are less brushing noise, but they do tangle a lot easier. I believe t-shirt users are not prone to the brushing issue as much as shirt users. As for the mic position, I have to agree that the placement is at an awkward position.
M-80 vs Stock HTC Earphones vs Philips Stereo TV Headphones
I know this part is silly, but there are comparisons that I’d like to address. So here we go.
Compared to HTC’s, in terms of SQ there’s really nothing to compare now, is it? Although I prefer the earphones whenever I wanted to listen to my music while walking or riding my scooter. I need the openness just to be able to remain conscious of what’s going on in my surroundings. Safety first.
As for the Philips, it has a deep bass but lacking the punch. The M-80 can also deliver bass that deep, but it’s sounded more whole and can deliver some good punch. Other than the bass, the Philips tends to be neutral. It’s not for music listening anyways.
M-80 vs HD 202
I will be comparing to my HD 202 which is my primary driver for the last 2 years. This is a hard comparison for me, because in my opinion both cans sounded very good. But since this is a comparison, one must be the victor over the other. The comparison will be divided into segments so you guys can read my review easily. Here we go!
I do prefer headphones with around-the-ear design over on-ear design, because they felt more free comfortable to me. However, I do find that the V-Moda M-80 is also comfortable once you give it enough time to “mold” into your head and ears. As for the clamping force with the M-80, I really can’t compare it simply because it’s still new. And as with other new things, we need time to adjust to it or have it adjust itself to us.
Both cans can deliver a good amount of bass. The M-80 has the upper hand because it can deliver a more whole experience to the bass sound. The HD 202 is no slouch either, since it can pack more punch with the bass than the M-80, although the experience is less rich.
Again both cans deliver good mid. The difference is, the HD 202 has a more forward presentation. As for the M-80, I like how it has a good bass that doesn’t “eat” the mid. Yes, the cans presented mid clearly, though I’m not sure if it’s accurate.
Both cans can handle high sounds quite good. However I found that the M-80’s high has a richer experience compared to the HD 202.
Both the M-80 and the HD 202 can deliver fun sound. They are both great for dance and electronic music. However the M-80’s ability can be suited to a wider range of music genre. Both cans isolates a good amount of noise from the outside, but they still leaks a small amount of sound to the outside.
I found that the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 is a good choice for upgrading my cans. Now I own 2 pair of cans, each with its unique sound signature. The V-Moda is now my primary driver and I carry it everywhere with me. It’s the new toy syndrome thingy. You’ll understand lah… :p The HD 202 is still going to be my daily driver but only at the office since it’s less portable.
Great sounding, good bass, fashionable, portable, durable.
Needs more time to adjust, brushing noise, smells like rubber at first.
Do I recommend the V-Moda Crossfade M-80? Yes I do, but only if you’re okay with its price tag, looking for headphones with a fashion statement, or you’re into serious music listening.
What’s next for me? I think I’ll be saving up for an amp or the Soul by Ludacris SL150. Yes, I think I’m starting to get into these fashion headphones with good sounding thingy. I hope you enjoy the review and find it useful.
Thanks for reading! :)