Pros: Superb build quality, excellently rendered bass, really fun sonically
Cons: Genre specific
V-Moda M-100 Unboxing Picture Post
Warning: Picture Heavy
Today I received a production version of the V-Moda M-100. As I was not a part of the pre-release run these aren't the VTF-100s with additional accessories, etc. As such there are no pictures of the additional accessories. This is the retail on-the-shelf stock package.
I also have to thank you very much to the V-Moda team (Val, Gavin, Bill), and to VentureCraft (Hamada-san) for making this happen for me. I feel very privileged to be able to get these in my hands so early post production. I deeply and truly appreciate this gesture by them.
As mentioned in other posts in other M-100 threads, I won't be giving a sonic review in this post. I'll make one after the M-100 has been run in overnight at least. As a end-user, I personally do believe in burn-in, some headphones required more than others, some longer than others too. But at least in the past V-Moda headphones I've owned, I gather the M-100 will be similar to them where most of the changes are within the first few hours and thereafter, the improvements taper off over time (diminishing returns).
Along the picture post, though, I will be giving my thoughts about the construction, fit, comfort, etc. in note form.
As can be seen, V-Moda has pretty much kept to the similar concept & design of the packaging as with their other models. The exception is the colour now is orange rather than deep blood red. As always the product is packaged with style.
The Clamshell Case & Contents
The carry case now has more clamshell design since the M-100 can collapse. As with the other cases for other models, it's a reasonably hardshell. Aesthetically it looks really clean and classy. The zipper slider is now seamless and the zipper tab (at least for this white M-100) is the same as the white M-80 zipper tab - note that the M-80 shadow case, the zipper tab was more normal. V-Moda has added more style to their packaging.
With the clamshell open, included (aside from the headphones of course), are 2 cables - a 1 button SpeakEasy cable, and a SharePlay audio cable. Also included is a 1/8"->1/4" 24k gold pro adapter. And of course a carrying spring clip.
I'd like to add a quick note about the cables. Not microphonic!! I wonder if this is the reason the material weaving pattern had changed from the M-80's.
The way the M-100 collapses is unique and well thought of.
These hinges are heavy duty. I remember when I first saw these at the Tokyo Fujiya Spring Festival, I mentioned in the forums that I thought they looked chunky and they don't seem to flow with the V-Moda lines. However I look at them now and they don't stick out like a sore thumb the way I first thought. It's probably as simple as their colour blending into the headbands and fork.
A close up of where the headband forks attach to the cups. I think these have remained the same as the other V-Moda headphones :-
Having seen a few different M-100 prototypes, this is one component where I've seen it changed back 'n forth. In the May '12 Fujiya Spring Festival, the M-100 had an LP2-styled wider headband. Whereas in June '12 with Val & Gavin's visit to Tokyo the M-100 prototype then had a more M-80 slimmer styled headband. This final white production version has gone back to the LP2-styled headband. I know that the M-100 will be offered in Shadow too and I'm wondering if that will have the M-80 slimmer styled headband or not.
At least with the thee white M-100s, the cups have a satin white texture. They do seem to be quite durable ABS too (ABS??). Although I'm not about to try any destruction tests on my first day of having them in my hands.
The face plates are vented with the standard 3-V ports (sorry, not peeling off the skin protector yet).
Now really the important side of the cup. Here's your 50mm driver protected by a thin diaphragm porous material (sorry, at this stage I'm out of technical jargon ;-)...I'm tired). The foam memory cushions seem to be the same as the LP2 (Val to confirm?).
I'm sure readers will ask about isolation and for I would rate their isolation as average (as with LP2 and M-80). In later planned reviews when I compare the M-100 with other competing headphones, I can give an isolation comparison too. The clamping force is strong and I may need to adjust it for my head size.
As for fit, to me these are true circumaural and my ears fit inside the cups. However I'd say that it's a just perfect fit. i.e. if you do have large ears, then your ears may not necessarily fit inside the cup. This however is true for the LP/LP2s too.
The other features which I've glanced through but not talked much about is the dual headphone jack port, one per cup. I've tried switching back 'n forth but I have not attempted to have both plugged into different sources. That may be an interesting test later.
I think V-Moda has given the M-100 a lot of thought into every detail from functionality to styling. All else, the M-100 has followed the trend of it's predecessors and sister models of aesthetics, durability and comfort.
However I feel competing products are quickly learning from V-Moda's design and aesthetic philosophies and stepping up to the challenge very quickly. It would be interesting to see what V-Moda comes up with next to stay ahead of the challenge.
Next Post Review - SQ
But after I've burnt in and given the M-100 a good listen. And so the burn-in begins.
P.S. Please let me know if any inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or clarification. I'd be happy to fix this post.
Edit #1: Added circumaural fit comment.
M-100 Sonic Review
The M-100 is probably one of the most long awaited headphones this year. Ever since it's announcement a year ago, Val has kept his customers and e-audience updated and involved throughout the entire development process of this headphone. This frequent interaction is a risky and daring move as it leaves very little room for the product to fail and still expected to impress upon delivery. And has he pulled it off? Now as the early-bird VTF-100/M-100s are being delivered on customer doorsteps throughout the world, I believe he has!
Disclaimer: My M-100 review has been based on my personal sonic capabilities, and in addition, my sonic preferences based on the genre of music I like.
I have an average headsize and the M-100 fits quite well on me. The ear cup-size is just the perfect fit for my ears. There's little room to play though which means that if you have large ears, then it may be a tight fit. The headband and clamping was initially tight however as advised by Val, flexing the headband and wearing the headphones regularly, the pads eventually mould to one's head shape. This not only makes the headphone more comfortable but by having a proper seal, also improves sonically. After 2 weeks of having the headphones this was an accurate advice.
When I'm home I wear my glasses and the M-100s don't cause any discomfort even them on. The arms of my glasses also arch out a little (i.e. they don't sit flush on the sides of my face) but I'm still fine with the M-100s sitting on them.
I find the isolation on the M-100 to be on par with the LP2s. They're quite decent but using it on the trains, some higher frequency ambient noise leaks in enough to be distracting. However there's very little leakage out. The person sitting next to me can hear "noise" from my headphones but not identify what kind of music I'm listening to.
By far the strongest sonic trait of the M-100 is it's rendering of its bass. At least to my ears, this is the defining signature of these headphones. Before getting into the nitty gritty details, overall I felt the headphones had a somewhat U-shaped signature. In my conversations with Val, it's really more the prominence of the bass and slight forwardness in the trebles give this perception. The mids are somewhat more neutral/flat however due to the characteristics of the bass and trebles, the perception appears U-shaped.
As mentioned previously, the bass rendering is the most prominent feature I picked up in the M-100's sonics. This was the same trait I personally fell in love with even on the June M-100 prototype. I can't say honestly if it's the same then as now or if it's improved (my sonic memory can't go back that far) but I can say that it wow-ed me then and continues to wow me now in the production model. I won't call myself a bass head but the M-100's bass traits have enlightened me on how to appreciate good quality bass. It has resulted in an addiction that has led me scouring for new tracks that emphasise on this quality.
The bass on the M-100 to me has done something few headphones have achieved before. It's reached deep (and I mean really deep!) yet extremely well controlled. Where other headphones attempt to reach that deep resulting in boomy or bleeding bass into the mids, the M-100 maintains a tight control of the bass. However it doesn't end there and only gets better. On tracks that do emphasise on bass, there is this beautiful 3D rendering that's fluid and reverberating. I've called it the "rumble" but Val has more accurately described it as "purr".
To my ears the mids are somewhat pulled back and as mentioned above Val describes it to be neutral/flat which I can see where he's coming from. For me, I find this particular signature less ideal for strong vocal tracks but good for more modern R&B, Hip Hop, and Electronic genre. Because of the bass are well controlled and doesn't bleed into the mids, my ears still can focus on it and there's clarity and detail in the mids. However, for my personal sonic preferences this factor has made my M-100s to be more genre specific.
The trebles make a comeback but just above neutral. Back to my conversations with Val, he confirmed my opinions. It's approx 1-1.5dB but nothing like the other treble-forward competing brands out there. This in itself is a positive trait especially for those who are sensitive to sibilance. From around 8kHz onwards it peaks up and mostly flattens. I would state that in my early days of listening to the production M-100, I felt I wasn't getting enough treble however, over time I don't know if the earpad moulding, the burning in, or me getting used to it's signature I found the trebles have been creeping up to be a little more forward and I'm appreciating it a lot more than 2 weeks ago. It's airy, transparent and micro-detail.
Soundstage & Imaging Presentation
When I first heard the soundstage I felt it was large but nothing to be impressed about. After getting my hands on a few more headphones that are in competition to the M-100, I realised I was wrong! I had merely been used to very high end headphones. The soundstage actually feels quite large by comparison to other closed headphones around the same category. In addition, primarily due to the bass 3D rendering, the imaging is beautifully textured. The combination of these two factors make the instrument separation (and therefore ability to focus on instrument detail). The way I'd summarise the soundstage and imaging to my ears is that some of the other headphones sound like a big gig in a small pub/bar but the M-100 sounds like a gig in a concert with you sitting around the 5th row from the front.
Other Non-Sonic Features
Do I really need to comment on the durability? If not known already, the V-Moda headphones are extremely durable and V-Moda spends a lot of time on testing these headphones to ensure they meet their tight standards prior to production. Even with the new collapsing hinges, they feel extremely rugged and durable. When you hold a the M-100, it doesn't rattle, it doesn't shake, and it doesn't convey any sense of flimsiness. It's like German engineering with an Italian design.
Another special feature is the dual headphone jack. Val & I actually tried plugging in two different sources - each into each earcup. WIth the right kinds of source, you can actually mix if you wanted to! It's quite a surreal experience.
Conclusion for Now
I have to say, to my ears I'd still classify the M-100s to be somewhat coloured, and for my personal use, not reference headphones since I feel for my sonic preferences the M-100s are genre specific. I've mentioned this to Val and he understands. However this coloured-ness in itself is an extremely positive feature and in fact a great selling point for this headphone. As mentioned before, the strong deep bass is so well controlled and rendered that it's made me (and others I'm sure) wanting to find new music tracks to exploit this feature.
Combined with the ruggedness and compactness, and low profile of headphones, I do find myself grabbing the M-100s more when I go out and about the city. If I just want to enjoy music these are the headphones I'll grab.
Sample music I enjoy with the M-100's :-
TRON Legacy (check out the C.L.U track!)
Sting's Brand New Day (More specifically A Thousand Years track)
Bond's Viva!/Wintersun & Born
Vanessa-Mae's Art Of War
Alex Gaudino's Destination Calabria (ok I admit, I do like the video a lot too)
Il Divo Il Divo (makes my hair at the back of my neck stand!!)
The Postal Service Give Up (Such Great Heights track)
Jamiroquai A Funk Odyssey
Ne-Yo Year of the Gentleman
Where can the M-100 improve?
In my mind, the M-100 is the top in its class of which I wouldn't hesitate in recommending. However, it's also reaching up to the next level and category. There's potential for the M-100 to come close to competing with some of the higher end headphones. In my honest opinion, the next few features for V-Moda to focus on for the future would be (aside from the M-100s current features), are further detail and increased resolution.
A Little Durability Update
This morning, in attempting to take some extreme pictures of the V-Moda M-100, it decided to take a swim in an almost frozen lake. The headphone surprisingly still works but naturally sonics are affected.