This mini-review covers my thoughts on the V-Moda M-80, which I bought just before Black Friday this year and owned for a couple of weeks. This is a comparative mini-review against the Audio-Technica ATH-ES7, which I've owned for a few years as it's been the best closed portable headphone that I've been able to find for my purposes of general computer audio - Internet music streaming, DVD movie watching, & light gaming (FPS games).
The reason I bought the M-80 was to find out if it could be a replacement for my ES7 while doubling for some music listening, as I don't use the ES7 for music listening on either my CD player setup or my MP3 player. I consider the ES7 solely as a "computer" headphone. So my hope for the M-80 was to see if it could be my new "computer" headphone as well as a headphone for my more audio-specific setup.
Usual disclaimer: listening for this mini-review was done over about 2 weeks, which is a lot less time than I usually do for full reviews (hence why I call it a "mini-review"). That means my thoughts aren't necessarily final and susceptible to change. I'd describe my approach for this mini-review as informal & short-term with semi-critical listening.
Appended in post #2 directly below are my review notes - opted to not create a PDF for them this time.
- Audio-Specific Setup
-- Source component: Plinius CD-101 (CD player) (Signal Cable Silver Reference power cord, directly into wall)
-- Analog interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Oval RCA
-- Headphone Amp: HeadAmp Gilmore Lite
-- Comparison Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-ES7, Creative Labs Aurvana Live
- Computer Setup
-- OS: Windows Vista x64
-- Sound Card: Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
-- Computer Speakers: Yamaha YSTMS50 (headphone jack)
-- Cables: 6' Radio Shack-type interconnect from sound card to speakers, & 6' headphone extension from speakers to headphones
Computer setup was used for brief gaming and DVD movie-watching tests.
- Alison Krauss & Union Station - New Favorite
- Beyond Twilight - Section X
- Carlos Kleiber & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra - Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7
- Helloween - 7 Sinners
- In Flames - The Jester Race
- Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos
- Kamelot - Poetry for the Poisoned
- Leftfield - Leftism
- Massive Attack - Mezzanine
- Megadeth - Countdown to Extinction [MFSL]
- Nightwish - Once
- Porcupine Tree - Deadwing
- Sir Neville Marriner & Academy of St Martin in the Fields - Mozart Flute Concertos
- Symphony X - Paradise Lost
- The Crystal Method - Tweekend
- The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land
The most immediate question I wanted to get answered out of the M-80 was to find out if I could use it for gaming, and if it could replace the ES7 for me in that aspect. The short answer is that yes, it was good enough that I could use it for gaming with appropriately beefy-sounding gunfire and explosions, but it wasn't really ideal either, mostly because of its soundstage/imaging, which I thought negatively affected accurate perception of enemy positions.
As far as general computer audio aside from gaming, it did acceptably well in my key areas - Internet music streaming and movie/video watching (DVDs and YouTube). In fact, based on its computer audio performance, I thought the M-80 was a star in the making.
Now the reason I don't use the Audio-Technica ES7 for music listening is because I just think it's not very good with most music genres and the only genre I can really tolerate it for is rock music, and if I'm listening to that, I invariably prefer my full-size AD2000 for that.
So the M-80 didn't really have much to go up against for me here and my foremost question was: could it actually handle multiple music genres on my audio setup?
The answer was a resounding yes, and the M-80 surprised me at a lot of turns. Ok I'm not going to lie and say that it punched above its price or anything like that, because to put it bluntly, I didn't think it was that amazing. Let's be realistic, this is a ~$200 headphone. Most ~$200 headphones I've heard have been good. But none have been outstanding and I'd be lying if I said the M-80 was awesome.
So I'll just say that I thought the M-80 was really good and it easily earned its place on my personal "average" ranking of headphones. Not that my average ranking is bad though: the LCD-2, HD800, and T1, among others (including some discontinued headphones like the Grado HP1000), are all in my above-average ranking. My lesser average ranking includes headphones like the AKG K701, Senn HD600, etc. Not that the M-80 was better than those though as "better" is a subjective term, but it was definitely good enough to me that I thought it was perfectly fine for just about every music genre I tried on it. Electronica, rock, metal, and classical all sounded completely acceptable, which for me is saying a lot, as I tend to be really nitpicky. I couldn't really come up with any major complaints for any single genre. But of course I ended up nitpicking anyway, just for the sake of nitpicking, and for those who want the gory details I've included my notes below.
The most notable detractions I found with the M-80 were its less than stellar overall clarity (always a stickler for me) and unfortunately a lack of comfort. The pressure they exerted on my ears was intolerable after approximately half an hour, fairly consistently on multiple listening sessions.
I ended up disappointed that the M-80 ultimately didn't beat out my ES7 for a replacement computer headphone, because it sounded good enough for music that it could have been my computer headphone too (a few nitpicky issues aside). I decided to not keep it for two primary reasons: I got my ES7 a lot cheaper than the M-80, and for me the ES7 was more comfortable too.
I was definitely impressed by the M-80's sonic performance though, minor issues aside, and I think it's a prime choice for anyone looking for a portable closed headphone up to about $200. While it wasn't the best headphone I've heard, it wasn't bad either and to me it fell squarely in the middle of the road. I have to say that V-Moda did a good job on these. I'm looking forward to the M-100 which will hopefully remedy my comfort issues, and hopefully improve sonic clarity too.
Some old reviews/threads I've written that cover my thoughts on other closed portable headphones:
- Audio-Technica OR7, ES5, and FC7: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/183296/review-audio-technica-ath-or7-ath-es5-ath-fc7
- Audio-Technica ESW9 and Denon AH-D2000: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/311973/mini-review-audio-technica-ath-esw9-and-denon-ah-d2000
- Beyerdynamic T70: http://www.head-fi.org/t/584599/mini-review-beyerdynamic-t70
- Story of my closed portable headphone journey: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/235997/how-my-journey-for-closed-portable-bliss-came-to-an-end
Edited by Asr - 12/26/11 at 10:42pm