Pros: For the most part, a very well-rounded, full-bodied, smooth sound signature, very durable build quality, and extremely comfortable
Cons: Poor Isolation
When it comes to describing the sound of the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 on-ear headphones, two words come to mind:
Smooth and Full-Bodied
I think that it also bears mentioning that this review is coming from someone who does not have much prior experience with OE headphones. Most of my most recent experience has been more involved with IEs of differing brands and sorts, and styles. But I am one of the ten contestants who was fortunate enough to have been selected for the this Voyager group. And so, having spent a few weeks now with this set, I have formulated a few impressions I would like to share here with others of you who might be interested in these.
Please take note, before I proceed that, in no way do I consider myself an expert in any conceivable manner or means when it comes to rating or reviewing audio gear. All I can do is share my impressions with you. Ultimately, you will have to make the final (informed decision), yourself, as to whether to purchase a set for yourself, or not. Please also keep in mind that there have been nine others of us in this group. And although we have all had the opportunity to discuss these headphones together at great length (in a private forum setting here at Head-Fi), we may not all necessarily agree with each other about every single aspect regarding these M-80s. So, just a few things for you to keep in mind as you read.
For my own personal testing and overall impressions, I have been primarily using two different MP3 players, neither one of which has been amped or ‘Rockboxed’ (but I do adjust the EQ settings quite a bit). These two sources of mine have been a Sony Walkman NWZ-E354, and a Sansa Clip+. And my music files have all been in WAV format (lossless). The music I have been listening to throughout my time of testing has varied quite a bit. It has actually run the whole entire gamut, from Christian Alternative Rock (bands such as Thousand Foot Krutch, Switchfoot, Skillet, etc), as well as some Classic Rock from the ‘60s. ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s (Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Eric Clapton, The Moody Blues, CCR, The Rolling Stones, The Cars, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, Heart, Journey, Boston, etc).
I would like to break my review down into 3 primary groups: Build Quality, Comfort, and then finally, Sound Quality. First let me say though, for the record that, although it is my desire to be as concise as I possibly can here, however it is entirely possible that I might miss something, or leave out an important detail or two. Allow me to apologize for this right here and now, in advance if it turns out to be the case that I miss anything important. And of course, don’t forget. . .there are nine others of us as well. So, by all means please read their reviews also, because what I might miss, someone else might do a wonderful job discussing with impeccable detail (and of course, vice versa).
I’ll begin with a word about build quality. I really have to admit, I am very impressed. The designer(s) of these phones have obviously put some creative thought into the build quality and design. They seem very sturdy to me, constructed of very durable materials. I would venture to guess that these phones should be able to handle whatever abuse that the average user might administer, without caving in so easily to the day to day pressures of wear and tear that so many other (less durable) OEs out there might tend give in to. From the steelflex headband (protected by a stain-resistant suede-padded covering), to the v-angle steel acier, to the brushed metal shields which are placed over the outer walls of the earcups, these phones are not only Military-Grade durable, but also rather stylish and classy-looking as well. You can even have your own brushed metal plates customized with your own personalized logo or design, or even monogrammed with your initials --- all with laser-engraved precision, on either black, red, graphite or blue-colored brushed metal plates. Not too shabby, indeed, if I do say so (and I do)!!
Next, a word on the overall comfort of these phones. Let me first say that I am an eyeglass wearer. And this being the case, I have tried a few OEs in the very recent past, one in particular, the Pioneer HDK-2000, only to have to get rid of them not long after receiving them (as a gift from a friend). They pushed too tightly against the frames of my eyeglasses and my ears, and therefore became very uncomfortable after just a very short period of time. However, I must say that with these M-80s, I have had none of that. These are super-comfy --- even after wearing them for long periods of time. The suede-padding which covers the headband, along with the ergonomic (soft) memory foam on the earcups both combine to make for an extremely comfortable listening experience, even for the long haul. I believe I could wear these for hours, and not get tired of having them on. This is definitely a real plus, especially when you consider that these are designed to be used on the “Go”. And while I don’t think that these would be awkward to wear in public places (actually, quite the contrary since after all, they ARE a fashion statement, are they not?????), however I can’t really say that they offer the best isolation from the outside world.
And so this brings to the final segment, essentially, and in my opinion the most important one also, sound quality. In the final estimation, I really do like the sound of these phones. These are a rather fun set of headphones. They are a very durable set which can be used with many different types and genres of music, and are really great for day to day use. Although I might say a few things about these headphones which might sound like a complaint, please don’t misinterpret this to mean that I don’t like these headphones. I actually do like them. A lot. And I plan on using them on a regular basis. I am enjoying the sound of them more and more each day. But like anything else in life, they are not perfect. There could be some fine tuning or tweaking down the road which could (and would) make them even a better set of phones. But this does not mean that I don’t like them. I honestly do. Having said that, lets move on, shall we. . .
During the time of my testing, my initial impressions after I first received these was that they seemed to be very well suited for a harder type of music genre, such as Alternative Rock (which, if you don’t know is typified by a bit of a harsher sound, maybe more of a Metal sound, perhaps). But then, after quite a bit of use (and a good solid break-in time), I started realizing that they are actually very well suited to quite a few different types of music (including Alternative Rock, but many others also). The following is a brief breakdown of how each of the main frequencies seem to respond with these M-80s.
First, the bass. The bass is very solid, and hard-hitting. It packs a very good punch, and has decent ‘attack’. But, then for some strange reason, I don’t feel like the bass extends very well beyond this initial punch. What I am hearing is what sounds like a very quick roll-off --- at times too quick. The initial punch is certainly there, but then the decay or roll-off seems to come a little too quickly. But this does vary quite a bit from genre to genre. Not every music type reacts this way. But for the most part, this is what I experienced with these. Which, at times could be rather frustrating. Now, I for one am not really a ‘basshead’ in the true sense of the word. But when there IS bass in a track, I don’t just want to hear it; I want to feel it, too. And you certainly DO feel it, as a matter of fact with MOST music types you can feel it (if you have your EQ turned up high enough). But after that initial attack, it seems to roll off too soon for my tastes. As a result, I would not necessarily classify these as a ‘bass-lover’s headphone’. But on the other hand, it could certainly be said that the bass does hit hard, and is NOT muddy at all.
If I had to say that there was one overall strength (for lack of a better word) of this sound signature, it would have to be the mid-range. Right out of the box I noticed this with these. The mid-range is spiked. It was spiked quite a lot right out of the box (too much for my tastes), but did become a bit tamed after a good bit of use. However, I do still hear what sounds like an emphasized amount of it. And for me personally, this doesn’t tend to be my favorite part of a song. So for my customized EQ settings on both of my DAPs, I have had to reduce the mids quite a bit (and boost both the bass and treble --- or the lows and the high-end frequencies). Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, if you like vocals, then they will come shining through with these M-80s. But the mid-range can be rather overpowering for some (like myself). Which is why I prefer to reduce this part of the frequency range on my player(s).
I think I can say without any hesitation that the treble is the most difficult and complex part of the sound signature to come to terms with, regarding these M-80 headphones. And I don’t believe that I am alone in this view, either. I know that there are others in our Voyager group who feel the same way. The treble is a bit perplexing. It is an enigma, of sorts. What made the treble so difficult to come to terms with is, because for the longest time whenever I would hear it, although I knew something was wrong or missing. But for the life of me, I just couldn’t put my finger on what exactly that missing piece of the puzzle really was. It wasn’t actually until another member of our group (Armaegis) was able to properly articulate this point, that I was able to realize and understand what was really going on here with the treble. As Armaegis so tactfully put it:
“. . .I think my expression of treble is might also be what others would consider upper mids. I feel like it has some sort of echo or resonance that blurs it. Cymbals and finger snaps just don't sound crisp enough, like they're coming through a veil. I can hear the initial ring, but it doesn't catch your attention. It's especially fuzzy when there's a lot of other music layers. . .”
And, he also goes on to say (regarding the LOW end this time). . .
“. . .Conversely, the low low end (<50Hz) to me feels like the initial impulse is too strong and it loses shape after that. Well, I can't say for certain that it's the impulse... low notes feel very strong and have plenty of "punch", but the actual tone itself doesn't quite feel right, with it getting looser the deeper we go. . .”
I want to thank Armaegis for this. I really like the way he put this. He was able to put into words what (perhaps) many of us in the group felt, but just could not communicate properly. You see, the treble (or high-end) to me seems to be lacking a certain luster or shimmer to it (or perhaps the right word here would be SPARKLE). As Armaegis said, it doesn’t sound crisp enough, and I agree with him. It may be that V-Moda was trying too hard to compensate for sibilance, and perhaps they overcompensated a little too much. I can’t really say for sure. But you do get the point though. So, if you're looking for something that has a crisp, clear high-end sparkle and luster remeniscent of the RE0, then you'll want to keep looking. Consequently, I personally feel that this is one of the biggest downfalls and disappointments of the M-80 (but even still, all is not lost. They are still a very nice-sounding set of phones. They could just be a tad bit better, in my opinion).
In closing, all in all I think its fair to say (as I’ve already said before) that I really like these headphones a lot. They are a fun set of phones. I am very thankful to have been selected as one of the Voyagers in this group, and I’m thankful to have been given this set of headphones. So, I would easily recommend these M-80s. To me, the sound signature is very full-bodied and smooth. It works well with a lot of different types of music. Additionally, the stage is nice too, open, airy, and 3-dimensional. There is a great deal of width and depth, and as a result I never feel claustrophobic listening to these (I never had the sense like I was inside of a sardine can, as I have had with other OEs --- and even with a few IEs which I have tried in the past).
And so while I can most definitely recommend these phones, I am also going to be very hopeful that any improvements in terms of future-generation editions down the road will be even better, and will hopefully remedy the things which are lacking in this first generation edition.
V-Moda, you have a lot to be proud of here. Not a bad first effort at all. Keep up the great work, and thank you once again for this opportunity!