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HUGE sound packed in a very small, ultra-portable package

A Review On: V-MODA XS

V-MODA XS

Rated # 8 in On-Ear
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Audio Quality
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Design
Value
roma101
Posted · 21014 Views · 28 Comments

Pros: Dynamic, balanced, nice detail, extremely comfortable, and more portable than the most portable of cans

Cons: May not have enough sparkle for treble-heads, otherwise the highs are much airier and more improved than the M-80s

The XS is one of the most portable, best-built and packaged headphones you can find on the market today. Not to mention, it is the smallest headphone I've encountered that packs the biggest sound that is also incredibly balanced and neutral compared to many headphones out there. I thought the M-80, its predecessor, was amazing when it came out a couple years back, but I'm in awe at how much V-MODA was able to improve an already great headphone in basically every category.

Ergonomics and aesthetics:
The XS is extremely lightweight and more head-conforming. While I considered the comfort of the M-80 just fine, the XS takes it to the next level now that the headband, itself, is lighter weight than that of the M-80 and the XS basically hugs the head now that the gap has been reduced in between the head and the headband on each side. V-MODA's slogan for this headphone is 'Mind the gap' - it's about time, IMO, that a headphone company paid attention to this. Not only does it look better (as in thank goodness it doesn't look like I have a satellite dish on my head like with some other headphones, but it looks gorgeous and its stealth factor just sky-rocketed), and somehow while it feels snug and secure it never clamps with a vice grip the way many other supra-aurals do. I also feel the weight is very well distributed with the way it hugs the head - it's easy to forget I'm even wearing headphones. All in all best ergonomics hands down I've experienced in a headphone and I've had quite a few. Good job V-MODA!


Presentation, features and accessories:
I'll be quick with this part - basically V-MODA always packages their products with the utmost love and care, as if a precious gift to their customer. I love this and cannot commend it enough. They also pay attention to the smallest of details; when this headphone was designed to fold up this small, they kept the case in mind to make sure it was small and slender enough to fit in just about any bag. I wish many more headphone manufacturers kept this in mind - many a time even though a headphone came with a case I end up not using the case because most cases out there are so bulky and so I just end up keeping my headphones in my own bag on its own. Even though the XS, like all other V-MODA headphones, is built like a tank and I know it can withstand just about anything, I am now using its case because it is so small and discreet. (I recently found out they're making a chain for it in different sizes so you can actually carry it like a bag also - pretty innovative) The headphone comes with detachable speakeasy cable that can be used with your smartphone or DAP. The documentation is good stuff, very informative and well-designed. And who doesn't love to cut that ribbon before you hear some amazing cans? And on that note, let's get to the sound....

Sound description:
The beauty of this headphone, besides its aesthetics, is the SQ. It's balanced, neutral, detailed and fun all at the same time. It also works for just about any genre. I'm listening to some metal as I write this and I am indeed head-banging quite a bit. I listen to pretty much all genres so it's important to me that a headphone sound good with just about anything, from all kinds of rock to R&B to electronic, etc.

Bass: deep, punchy, extends to very low octaves and is wonderfully layered. The bass is tighter to my ears than its predecessor's yet it still has plenty of power and impact. With the way the XS conforms so easily on the head, it's much easier to get a seal also which certainly helps with the bass. It's also very fast while still remaining full-sounding.

Mids: This was the highlight of the M-80s: rich liquidy beautiful mids with great vocals that are tonally very natural. The mids on the XS are all that yet a bit more detailed to my ears. This may be due to how nice and tight the bass is. The resolution is pretty amazing so if you're a mid-head and love a balanced sound with some punch in the low end, this is your ticket.

Highs: My only slight issue with the M-80 was that the highs were a bit too soft. They extended nicely but just weren't sparkly enough. I still loved the fact that they were non-fatiguing still at the top there was not enough sizzle for me. The XS has improved in that respect as well and sounds much airier up top while still remaining non-fatiguing. Cymbals and high-hats have more detail and overall the highs have slightly more energy and a bit more sparkle. (If you want even more sparkle the M-100 may be a better option for your preferences.)

The XS is incredibly dynamic and one thing that has always impressed me, with both the M-80 and now the XS, is the spacious sound and better-than-average imaging (placing of the instruments around you) for such a small supra-aural. The fact that it's such a small headphone would, I think, attract a lot people who usually go for IEMs. But at the same time, I can see a lot of full-size-headphone-users loving this headphone for its big and balanced sound in such an ultra-portable package. I am someone who finds the M-100 very portable for example  (another great V-MODA headphone that exhibits more impactful and powerful bass, a wider soundstage, and more sparkly highs with mids that are also detailed but slightly further back in presentation - to my ears, XS = intimate lounge/club while M-100 = spacious concert hall) and so naturally this is why I call the XS 'ultra-portable.' It's as compact as it gets.

IME while the XS sounds great out of a DAP or smartphone, it sounds even better when amped. Out of my VAMP VERZA, the resolution goes to the next level: better separation, soundstage expands, imaging improves, more detail across the spectrum to my ears.

Conclusion:
If you want a rich, smooth, warm yet detailed, big and dynamic sound in a crazy small portable package I strongly recommend trying the XS out. V-MODA just keeps getting better and better with the quality of their products and they should really be proud of this one.
 

 

**Hope this review has helped. Please keep in mind these are my personal impressions to MY ears, YMMV.**

28 Comments:

great Review, thanks!
I wish you'd included some pictures that show this quality work!
Thanks guys. And I will definitely try to add some photos tonight!
great review! i'm getting my xs today or tomorrow probably, gonna see how they stack up with the m100s and see which one i keep
Which colour did you get Roma? I'm currently deciding on either the White or Black. Not sure if I want black because I already have Shadow M100s.

Great review btw. Looking forward to getting them in my hands myself.
Darn it Roma you just made me seal the deal I tried so hard not to want these but i'm going to buy them when my in ear's die. I would love these since i no longer like taking my M-100's out and about, the ergonomics and size of this can make it perfect for travel for those who want to replace their in-ears. Great review, but does feel a touch empty without a couple of pictures. 
Tom22 - I look forward to your impressions! IME I have found that I value both headphones for different reasons. I would not put them against one another as I think of them more as a tag team of sorts in terms of two different enjoyable presentations. I'm just glad they're both portable.

Hey Tom/kyuuketsuki! I have the black matte and prefer black in general but these look immaculate in WP (had the M-80s in White Pearl and they looked very luxurious but I gifted them to a friend that didn't have any quality headphones. If I still had them I would put black matte shields on them! Would look fantastic I bet). On that note, when we meet up sometime I will totally bring them by so you can check out how they look in matte black and of course how they sound. But WP would be an excellent choice to go with the rest of your collection.

Audio addict19 - hope you enjoy them if you end up getting them! I still can't believe how small they are when they fold up. I will do my best to get some photos up by tonight or tomorrow!
We should meet up because I haven't seen you in forever and a half. But yeah, that's basically my reasoning. Do the Matte Black look similar to the M-100 Matte Black or the M80 Matte Black? I remember not getting matte black because I felt it looked cheaper (imho) than the Shadow and WP. Though in some ways I regret that because they are less versatile with shield customization than the Matte Black and White
Interesting feedback on colors, thanks. The matte black is very stealth and customizable.
 
The white pearl with Matte Black shields is a VERY great color combo too.  We almost made it the default color!  My brother is a pilot in the Air Force, which is very conservative but he swears by the white with matte black.  
 
I personally use the matte black with green shields and the orange cable.  The matte black with orange shields is out of this world too. But, then again, so are many of the color options. We are always surprised by new customs!
 
-V
Is the isolation on the same level as the M80? Thanks! 
Tom, it's the same matte black of the M-100 (M-80 only had Shadow and WP). The Shadow and WP definitely look very elegant while matte looks very stealthy - I've always preferred that look though.

Val - that's cool that was your bro's preference too! I'm also digging black matte with midnight blue shields for the M-100 - I may go for that next. You really cannot go wrong in customizing these.

Imackler - about the same as the M-80 for me in that the XS definitely doesn't isolate as well as the DT 1350 or HD25, but a couple notches below them. I've taken them on the train and can hear rails screeching and someone talking next to me but otherwise, the isolation was still good enough for me to enjoy my music. Since the highs are nonfatiguing also I was able to increase the volume slightly to turn down the drone around me, without hurting my ears.
Nice review, may need to get my hands on one of these!
This or the m100
Alex - here are some impressions I shared with another HFier who asked for a comparison between the two:

"...It's hard to choose between the XS and M-100 because they both fulfill certain purposes for me as portables. The XS is great when I wanna go very light and portable, while having a nice neutral yet fun sound (overall very similar to the M-80 sonically except more refined throughout the spectrum and a touch airer up top). They don't isolate as well as the M-100 (with XL pads) but I enjoyed them tonight on the train on my commute back home a lot. It's important to note that the XS is more intimate, mid-focused and more linear than the M-100. The M-100 is bigger-sounding, taller, wider and U-shaped with more prominent bass, mids and vocals that are at a distance and highs that are more sparkly than the XS. That said, I can't ever see myself letting any of these cans go as they both complement each other so well. When I want to be more isolated and jam to my music on the commute the M-100s are perfect. They allow me to just relax, enjoy the music and I find myself head-banging here and there with them.

Did you enjoy the sound of the M-80s when you had them? The XS is more refined and just a better and way more comfortable upgrade. The headphones just become a part of my head - it strikes a perfect balance with remaining stable on the head, does not clamp, and light and comfortable. Sound wise there's definitely improvement across the frequency. It's still an intimate experience and the mids are very prominent, especially in comparison with the M-100.

It's just a difference in presentation ultimately although I think because of the more neutral and balanced response of the XS, it is more coherent and technically the better headphone. BUT there are some thing that the M-100 do better (soundstage, isolation, a bit more lively, more sparkly treble).

Hope this helps. If anything you can always try the XS out and if it's not your cup of tea, V-MODA has a rock-solid return policy."
Thanks FunkyChina!!
Hi Roma:
 
got my XS last night and I was reading your review as I put it through its paces from just my iPhone (i.e. unamped). I found myself nodding in agreement as I listened to various bands with your views on the SQ. I was particularly apprehensive before listening  that the treble could be a little on the higher side (for my liking) but I was pleasantly surprised by the detail yet non-fatiguing nature. Fortunately, I've not heard any other V-Moda HP so I am completely unbiased on this one.
Hello,
How do these compare to the Audio Technica ATH-M50 in terms of soundstage and overall sound quality? Thanks!
I know this might be too far-fetched but being a newbie who likes a bit of treble, how would this compare to the response on the Beyerdynamic DT 880, if you or somebody else is aware? i know its like comparing apples and pears but it'd be great to know because Tyll Hertsens over at Innerfidelity has not been able to measure them yet and I am not sure when Goldenears or about.com will be doing theirs. 
   On a separate note, do you guys know of any other website/resource apart from the above three that offer frequency measurements on headphones?
Thanks  
kothganesh, glad you're enjoying them and that the review was helpfu!

Feilong4, it's funny you ask this because just this past week I pulled out my M50s after a long time. The M50 is a different animal from the XS because it's pretty V-shaped, with a big emphasis on treble which I found to be especially grating with certain music with a lot of high frequency notes (electronic/synth). Mids are further back so vocals and a lot of musical info are pushed back and bass is impactful but still with good extension. Overall to my ears, the XS is way more balanced and coherent overall. There is no grain to the sound and what's great is the bass, mids, and highs are all there for you to enjoy. The highs of the XS are no where near as emphasized as the M50 and are very non-fatiguing while still having air. I find the XS to have a slightly bigger soundstage as well. After listening to good cans like the XS, M-100, and other good cans in my collection it's very easy to spot certain flaws of the M50 quite easily. While isolation, instrument separation, and the bass is good the overall SQ is not as refined and balanced as a headphone like the XS. Definitely no where near as portable either.

ashutoshp, I have only auditioned the DT880 a couple times and that was a long time ago. What I know is that since it's semi-open it has a bigger soundstage and I remember the treble being very sparkly - overall it's a bright can with a lot of energy. I would say the while the XS extends well it is still not as sparkly as the DT880 and is warmer overall in flavor. The DT880 is a bit cooler sounding. It would certainly serve as a great complement to your DT880 if you want something a bit less fatiguing in a very portable package. As for headphone measurements, you can check headphone.com (headroom).
The talk about Vmods are just HYPE, i was fool enough to buy into this BS, i bought some of the most expensive Vmods, and was stupid to buy Two different versions, one that was Inear for the road, and Closed for my profession as a dj and producer.
 
NEVER AGAIN, i agree the design is perfect, so is the build quality, but the sound, no way, comparing to my HD25 or HDJ 2000, they are thin, dull, grey, clouded and brittle in comparrison.
 
So my conclusion is that most people buying into this is either naive or daft like i was!
 
I could have bought something more fun for £500, like a PS4!
 
Fkk Vmoda!
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