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Mixed feelings: Better then I expect, worse then I hoped.

A Review On: V-MODA Crossfade M-80

V-MODA Crossfade M-80

Rated # 1 in On-Ear
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Pros: Surprising SQ for a on-ear, customizable shield design, fantastic build quality, competitively priced, nice carrying case with extra wires

Cons: Poor isolation, uncomfortable to wear, treble extension not spectacular.


In addition to being a newbie audiophile, I don't really have much experience with listening to supra-aural or on ear headphones, therefore you should take my review with a fistful of salt. My purpose for buying the M-80 was to replace my TF10s as my part of my portable setup for use during traveling to and fro from work, via bus and train, which is what I have based my opinion of the M-80 on, as a portable/travel headphone. I have had the M-80s for about a 4 months now, and have been using it almost everyday while commuting, without an amp straight out of my Cowon J3.


What I like...


Design and Build:
The biggest draw for me to these headphones were not the rave impressions about it's sound but rather it's striking looks. The headphone design is incredibly stylish to me and is one of the few headphones that I love wearing out in public. The white ones I got look stunning and goes well with most of my outfits.


There's little to say about the build quality that hasn't been already highlighted. The headphones feel very durable and haven't shown any signs of wear after the months of abuse I've put it through. The shields still look great and my custom logo design is still unscratched (even after running my fingernail across the thinner parts of my logo to try to scratch it off). Replaceable shields and detachable wires are a big pluses.


Sound Quality:

Definitely much better then I expected when I first tried them. The standout for me was probably the soundstage, which was unexpected for a supra-aural. Rather spacious with good separation, almost felt like a mini-open back headphone (which perhaps it is due to it's vents).


I normally don't like headphones with strong bass emphasis, but the M-80 pulls it off rather well, without being muddy and detracting from the lower mids. In fact, the strong bass on the M-80 is advantageous for traveling, which is usually drowned out by the background noise. The impact really helps keep the music enjoyable in noisier environments. The treble isn't too bad albeit a bit too rolled off for my tastes. Detail and speed are fairly good but nothing too impressive.


All this might sound very average but it's really not. It's surprising that V-moda managed to fit this much level of sound quality into portable headphones, so much so it seems comparable to some full sized headphones. Overall a pleasant listening experience.


What I dislike...


The biggest reason I have actively advised some of my friends who have showed interest not to buy the M-80. The isolation on the M-80 makes me question it's usability as a portable headphone. Lower frequency noises are basically untouched by headphone's passive noise cancellation and makes listening to music on the bus/train, by the roadside or in crowded places extremely frustrating. Admittedly, I do not like listening at high volumes, therefore my biggest complaint about these headphones are, because of their poor isolation, I have a tendency to turn up the volume in order to retrieve details/mid-range frequencies when listening to music, due to them being drowned out and masked by background noise.



An inherent problem of all on ears imo, is that they can't be used for long periods without my ears aching, the M-80 is no exception. After months of use, I have gotten used to the headphone and it has formed an appropriate clamping force on my head. I do however wish they had visible notches on the sides of the headphone to show how long each side is so I can adjust each side equally without the use of any measuring tool and allow me to quickly readjust the headband to my preferable size if they have been changed. The headband on the M-80 is also noticeable when they are on your head and they don't "disappear" like many comfortable headphones do. I also remember the headphones to be quite uncomfortable when I first got them, but they are much better after a period of usage.


Overall impressions:
I personally find that the M-80 has very little practical usage. The poor isolation seems to defeat the purpose of making them portable headphones. On the move and in noisier environments, I find IEMs to provide a much better listening experience despite having poorer performance at this price range; and as for home or office usage, full sized headphones give much better performance and scalability. Furthermore with full-sized portable noise-cancelling headphones like the UE6000 and UE9000 (neither of which I have heard), it's even harder to give the M-80s a recommendation. Maybe if you only have a short commute to work and you worked at a place with a quiet environment which required you to be mobile (like a librarian maybe?), these headphones might be suitable. The poor isolation also allows for higher situational awareness, making crossing roads safer (although it's still highly advisable to remove them before crossing), but is made at the cost of not being able to fully enjoy your music in noisier environments.


Overall, these headphones seem more like a fashion accessory then a portable headphone solution. They look and sound great but aren't really suited for travel, at least not in my case. In no way a bad headphone, just situation specific.


An IEM with good isolation would probably suit you better. This headphone seems decent(I haven't heard it yet, just read a few reviews), however even at $150 it seems expensive. Imo if they price it at $99(or less) and have the case and extra cable as optional accesories it would probably sell much better.
IEMs do indeed suit me better, I tried commuting to work this week with my TF10s and found myself a lot happier.
The M-80s are well worth their asking price imo, solid build and surprising sound quality. It does come with a case and 2 extra cables too which makes it quite a good package. Unfortunately it just doesn't fit my usage.
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