Pros: Finely tuned bass emphasis, excellent treble extension (near sibilant but not!), just damn fun
Cons: Colored, slightly recessed midrange
Wow. It’s been awhile, a long time of wait, development, etc. Quite the journey, but three weeks back, I finally got my hands on these. V-Moda’s latest entry to their Crossfade series, the Crossfade M-100. As anyone here can attest, Val Kolton’s latest piece de resistance has been nurtured for quite some time under his perfectionist eye, and man, these cans are simply delectable. Shall we continue?
V-Moda is one of the pioneers of the fashionable headphone, and these have the design of stealthy, sleek elegance. For those of you feeling that your headphone collection is feeling a bit too black, you also have the option of selecting the fabulous white-silver edition. For me though, the matte black edition was just calling to me. Sleek, stylish with an industrial, almost cyberpunk quality, these headphones are simply excellent. In spite of its stylistic choices to stand out such as its V-wings, the sheer elegance of an all black design goes well with anything I throw with it.
Size wise, I was always under the impression based on photos that these would be sizeable headphones. Just as with the M-80’s, however, the M-100’s are much smaller than expected. When receiving the box, I was almost flabberghasted at how small the box was. In its case, the M-100’s are no larger than a softball! Or a grapefruit. Whatever obloid-shaped object happens to be within your grasps that fits in your hand.
As expected by V-Moda’s build quality, the cans I have in my hand are top notch pieces of work. The curiosity buzzing around the M-100’s is the hinge and whether it’ll stand the test of time or not. Mr. Kolton has taken care to be sure that the hinge not only stands the test of time but has the feel that it will stand any amount of folding you throw at it. Describing it as a “German Car Feel” by its maker, every fold is accompanied by a *click* sound that is satisfying to fold and unfold.
The rest? Fine cloth on the headband, plastic a bit, particularly for the cups (which is fine unless you want to be weighed down by the sheer weight of metal on your shoulders). Overall, the build is metal, and demonstrating to friends the durability brings some star struck faces. The screws for the shields are initially the worst screws ever to deal with (I think the shield change took me somewhere around an hour to finish. But seeing as I’ve got four sets to fiddle around with, I perservered, and now it takes me a little less than 15 minutes to do a shield change.
And for the curious amongst some build problems in the first batch, I’ve had no problems. These things have stood up to Sandy, an early November nor’easter, and being handled by my brother, a professional with the midus touch, if midus broke everything in sight.
Your standard package comes with: case, (for matte black) a black shareplay cable (5ish feet, have yet to measure it formally), an orange one-button cable (4 feet or so), stickers! And a 1/4” -1/8” adapter. As with the M-80’s, the one button cable is *just* the right length for me. It somewhat irks me why V-Moda has the audio only cable and the shareplay cable (both the same length) be longer when the one button cable is fabulous. But the orange of the one button cable works excellently and exquisitely with the matte black design.
Along with those are preorder extras. Faders (excellent for keeping out noise when I need earplugs such as crashing at my friends’ place with a rather rambunctious heater) and the Boom Pro mic cable, which I have yet to test out due to lack of a VOIP adapter.
Short and simple for me, these headphones are excellent. I could (and have been) wearing these things for hours on end with no sight of fatigue. I understand that for some fellow members of head-fi that there are comfort issues based on the shallowness of the cups and the tendency of the plush to compress after a period of time, but I’ve been all set in that department. For the most part for other people, it has been the same (we must all have small ears! Read below) Twisting/flattening the headphones decreases clamping force if that’s a problem for you.
Alright, let’s get down to the real reason why we’re here. How do they sound? That is the main reason why we’re shooting $310 for a new, unreleased headphone, no?
*Bam* *Purr* *Growl*
Bass is the star of the show on these cans. But think not of these cans as basshead level cans. The bass here is controlled, detailed, and makes these cans lively as can be. They really purr and growl, and it is simply a visceral experience to listen to bass through these cans. Catbread by Deadmau5 really grooves well as the first top of my head example.
As a fan of forward mids, it is a bit of a change for me to have the mids a tad laid back in comparison to the heavily forward Beyerdynamic DT1350’s. But the mid presentation is well within what I would consider acceptable for me. No bass bleed, and they stand well, if at least a bit behind the rest of the spectrum.
Extension is superior to the M80’s, and that’s excellent. They stand a bit more forward than the mids, but of course in comparison to the Alessandro MS-1’s, they seem to be missing just a wee bit at the top, but I’d say that’s acceptable, especially considering that the grado sound (a treble emphasis that can at points be too sibilant) is not what V-Moda is aiming at.
For a “semi-closed” phone? Pretty darn good. I believe miceblue has posted the inner workings of the vents, showing some foam below where the shields are and some sort of second layer of foam beneath that one, which makes it questionable how much the v-port vents actually play a role in the sound, but it is a pretty wide sound for closed-back. Not concert hall, mind you, but perhaps something of a club sort of sound as anak-chan alludes to when he describes the soundstage.
The spectrum layout alludes to this, but there are certain things that don’t stand out as well as I’d like. Cymbals don’t crash as nicely, and string-emphasized pieces, while not presented in a bad way, are not presented in the most accurate way in my opinion. Listening to a variety of pieces over these three weeks, My breakdown as to genre matching with these headphones would go like this:
By no means is classical bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, simply that the M-100’s would not be my preferred headphone for the selection. Rock is a bit of a mixed bag. Some songs are *okay* while others (Roundabout by Yes comes to mind) are superb, so I’d say that’s where things start turning the tide. It’s a wellrounded phone, but it’s a bit genre specific in the sense that some songs are adequate while others absolutely shine.
When writing a review, I’d like to keep in mind the perspective of the maker. What is the objective of their designs? Mr. Kolton has kept this design philosophy in mind: “Greatest sound for the greatest number of people.” Has he achieved that goal? Let’s find out.
Friend #1: 20 years old female, wore bose because she liked the comfort, less concerned about sound quality.
“Ooh! These are so comfy!”
*ten minutes later*
“Yeah you’re not getting these back for awhile”
“I like these way more than your other ones! (DT1350’s”
Friend #2: 20 year old male, actually head-fi member kagelou!
“Yep, these are pretty good.”
“They’re smaller than I thought they’d be”
Overall his impression was that they beat out the M-80’s, and the comfort easily wins compared to the M-100’s due to A) the pads being less stiff and B) the difference in circumaural vs supraaural headphoens
Friend #3: 18 Year old male, M-50 owner for a few months, new audiophile!
“Wow. Darn it! I’m going to go home and be like, I wish I had robble’s headphones! It won’t be the same!”
“Some stuff sounds great! But I’m not sure if I’d prefer these over the M50’s by much for some genres”
“I love how Val has been able to marry great sound with great aesthetic design! I wish the TMA-1’s had the sound quality of these”
Positive feedback, no? Yes, these three are aged 18-20 and are college students, so this is a bit more of a youth sound, but these are just people that stuck out in my mind in particular.
Headphones? Fashion statement? Personal statement? These are all qualities of the Crossfade M-100. But all those man hours and late nights tweaking have led to something really extraordinary. Many will note from Tyll's review that these are not measured well, and they are by far not the most neutral headphones around. But measurements can only tell so much, and these are by far the headphones that rock my music the most! A community semi-open sourced headphone taking the positives of the M80’s and the critiques of audiophiles, the tuning is truly excellent. A wonderful sound for a huge range of people.