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Mini-Review: V-Moda M-80 vs Audio-Technica ES7

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 


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.

Equipment Setup

- 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.

Evaluation Music

- 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.

Related Reading

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
post #2 of 10
Thread Starter 


These notes include specific details not mentioned in the mini-review

> vs Creative Aurvana Live

M-80 has deeper & more powerful bass, also more tactile and visceral bass/mid-range. Also marginally clearer, as CAL is semi-muddy, esp in mid-bass area on complex music (power metal speedruns). CAL tends to "muddify" in mid-bass, M-80 retains clarity more. M-80 may also have lower bass extension. M-80 has more treble quantity too, while CAL is semi-dark/mids-focused. CAL also less sensitive, need to turn up volume knob more to achieve similar volume (on GL).

Gaming: CAL too muffled-sounding, sfx aren't clear enough. M-80 has acceptable clarity - i.e., decently sharp reports on machine-gun fire. More "direct"-sounding than CAL.

> Comfort/Isolation

Both isolate well - minimal leakage, though ES7 leaks none and M-80 leaks a little due to vents on earcups.

> Amping Efficiency

M-80 has higher sensitivity - louder than ES7 at any volume. Both very sensitive though.

> Gaming (Far Cry)

More "grunt" on gunfire w/ M-80 - i.e., beefier and heavier-sounding guns. Boomier explosions too, more impact and blowing-up factor. However, ES7 has "quicker" sound on automatic gunfire that makes it sound sharper/more precise. ES7's soundstage also places sfx along a virtual left/right arc better which is better for gaming - better illusion of sfx localization, for footsteps for example. M-80's soundstage not ideal for sfx localization due to shifty positioning (hard to discern exact positioning along left or right channels).

> DVD Movie Watching (The Dark Knight)

Similar experience as gaming test, no major differences. M-80 better overall as it diffuses the soundtrack more, easier to hear music against the sfx.

> Music Notes

- AKUS - New Favorite - "Let Me Touch You For Awhile", "The Boy Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn"

M-80 properly conveys the depth of the double-bass notes and separates out the instruments nicely. Not very much treble "bite" on banjo or dobro though, and only moderate level of clarity - could be better.

- Massive Attack - Mezzanine - "Teardrop", "Inertia Creeps", "Black Milk"

ES7 exudes strong, heavy bass throughout track, with forward heavy presence on 3D's vocals. M-80 not as "thick" overall, thinner in mids, but retains deep bass (without as much quantity as ES7). Belly drums shoved to background on M-80 for more diffuse sound. ES7 better portrays a dark creepy atmosphere to track than M-80. M-80 more "open & surrounding" with the soundstage, ES7 is flatter.

M-80 loses definition over bass in general on "Black Milk", like indistinct generic bass, almost one-note. Achieves lower extension than ES7 though to sound deeper/lower.

("Teardrop") ES7 puts sound in front and center (almost Grado-like) and directly around but not overly forward. M-80 spreads out & separates more, more diffuse, more out & away for proper soundstage positioning. ES7 definitely has more mid-bass - heavier ooze/sludge-like factor. More dimension to Liz Fraser's vocals on M-80, more air around her voice. Mids on ES7 sound more integrated with bass than on M-80 - more evenly matched. M-80 bass almost disjointed from its mids.

- Leftfield - Leftism - "Inspection Check One"

M-80 has deeper, thicker, more driving low bass. Also closer positioning w/ smaller soundstage. ES7 more spatial-sounding with slightly further-out positioning. ES7 not as deep into bass line, sounds light-weight in comparison.

ES7 has clearer, more distinct bass though - M-80's bass sounds sludgy with not much definition.

- Porcupine Tree - Deadwing - "Halo", "Mellotron Scratch"

M-80 has punchier, deeper bass. ES7 has more left/right soundstage span and more clarity throughout spectrum - easier to hear the percussive "slaps". Both headphones very good for music type with full mids and bass kick, though M-80 has more bass kick and lower bass, also less "air" that's more engaging. M-80's cleaner, more precise treble apparent on guitars (more apparent on "Mellotron Scratch"). Despite M-80's deeper bass, ES7 sounds more solid & visceral/forceful though, with a generally thicker, pushy sound.

- The Crystal Method - Tweekend - "Murder", "Tough Guy"
- The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land - "Breathe", "Funky ****", "Fuel My Fire"

M-80 bass extension & strength good enough for this music type - very good low, full bass for electronica, though could be better - like LCD-2's full/fat bass or AD2K's hard-hitting/agile bass. Really not bad for this electronica though, very good overall, though it probably still ranks at "average" on personal scale ranking.

- Beyond Twilight - Section X - "The Path of Darkness"

- Helloween - 7 Sinners - "Where The Sinners Go"
- In Flames - The Jester Race - "Moonshield", "Artifacts of the Black Rain"
- Kamelot - Poetry for the Poisoned - "The Great Pandemonium"
- Megadeth - Countdown to Extinction [MFSL] - "Sweating Bullets"
- Nightwish - Once - "Wish I Had An Angel", "Planet Hell"
- Symphony X - Paradise Lost - "Oculus Ex Inferni", "The Walls of Babylon"

Male vocals tend to be somewhat recessed on M-80, and most metal tracks lack mid-bass/lower-mids punch. M-80's lack of clarity in mid-bass/lower mids generally obvious with metal, esp in bass guitar (most obvious with bass guitar actually). Bass guitars tend to sound indistinct and noticeably generic/muddy on M-80 and also lack some presence factor. M-80 also not very fast in impulse response, sounds a bit plodgy, especially in mid-bass. Not enough agility in mid-bass either for fast metal or speedruns.

Metal somewhat on the passive/boring side with M-80, contrasting from headphones like AD2K or LCD-2 that are more assertive & forward/direct. Positioning on M-80 also tends to sound diverged to left/right too much, not as much in center - music not in front of you, more to the sides.

- Sir Neville Marriner & Academy of St Martin in the Fields - Mozart Flute Concertos
- Carlos Kleiber & VPO - Beethoven Symphonies 5 & 7
- Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos

M-80 decent enough for classical - not bad, but not very good. Positioning seems to throw off where instrument sections should be by a bit. Violins don't sound real - too glossy in treble. Size of orchestra also not accurately conveyed - too small, not enough "air span" between violins & cello. The forced left/right channel divergence also breaks the continuum between violin & cello plus other instrument sections - sections don't sound like they're all in the same orchestra, but sound like separate sections in separate orchestras. Probably good enough for non-critical listening though.

> Conclusions

Both headphones relatively mids focused - both have full mids w/ plenty of body overall. M-80 has more treble which helps guitar strings stick out. M-80 clearer than ES7 and with more diffusion; ES7 more integrated and not very clear.

ES7 has heavier mids than M-80 - fuller, more body & presence. More "direct" sound too. Music sounds closer positioned than on M-80 - could be too close for some people. ES7 with stronger, heavier, "fatter", more solid bass/mids overall - more musically engaging for prog/hard rock or metal. ES7 has very "up front & center" type of sound, M-80 more distant and passive in comparison. Between the two, ES7 is more Grado-like with the forward presentation; M-80's distant presentation more AKG or Senn-like.

M-80 moderately clear-sounding, but not very clear overall - more than ES7, but less than HD800.

Edited by Asr - 12/26/11 at 10:53pm
post #3 of 10

Interesting comparison! While I haven't heard the V-Moda M80, I agree with pretty much everything you write about the ES7. I've got the ES10 and Sennheiser HD25 1:II as well, and I still kept my ES7 because of the mids that work great with rock music. They are not the most detailed headphones around, but the definitely have a place in your collection if you listen to rock music!

post #4 of 10
Originally Posted by Danneq View Post

Interesting comparison! While I haven't heard the V-Moda M80, I agree with pretty much everything you write about the ES7. I've got the ES10 and Sennheiser HD25 1:II as well, and I still kept my ES7 because of the mids that work great with rock music. They are not the most detailed headphones around, but the definitely have a place in your collection if you listen to rock music!



Hey just wondering briefly how is your es10 compared to the others?


I have a used es7 I was playing and took it off but left running  a repeating song with strong bass on a loud Dell laptopXPS laptop.

Next mourning I took it 2 work and playing the same songs everyday I did notice difference specifically in the midrange more than anything.

I was able to distinguish female lyrics much more easyer and actually found out singer was saying more than I knew!


So just giving you a heads up that es7 has potential for more clarity than I periously thought.

Mayby previous owner did not break in fully so I left wondering how many hours it needs.


There is always another too check out and I am aiming for the  es88 and/or dt1350 next.

Edited by Maxx134 - 2/17/12 at 8:19am
post #5 of 10

@ Maxx134


My ES10 are not broken in yet, but still sound good. I think they'll sound better after having been used more.


The HD25 have the most upfront sound, but the mids are slightly recessed, so compared to the ES7 and ES10 rock guitars doesn't sound as good. But the overall sound of the HD25 is still very very good. I bought my ES7 second hand when I lived in Japan. The previous owner had used them while commuting, but I don't know how much he had used them. When used on some rock music, especially progressive rock such as Genesis and Yes, I notice that tiny details such as precussion (cymbals, high-hats and such) are not as easy to distinguish as on the HD25 and ES10. But the great mids make up for it.

The ES10 have a bigger soundstage than the HD25, and more detail than the ES7. I feel that there's something with the soundstage that sounds a bit strange, like there's a bit too much echo. But it might be because they are not broken-in yet.


Even if I have all the big portable phones I need, I'm still curious about how the new ES88 compare to the ES7...



post #6 of 10

I think we overlooked the es9  as another option.


I am now using my 18v cmoy more as I am getting increased clarity and weight on the es7 with it more so than my fiio11.


Still I will be keeping an eye out on the Senn Amperior and how they compare.

post #7 of 10

Thanks for the review Steve.  I'm surprised this thread died out like this.  I heard the M-80 at the Moon Audio table at RMAF on a new April Music DAC/amp combo which made almost everything but the D7100 sound good.  I might actually prefer the M-80 to the D7100.

Edited by HeadphoneAddict - 10/17/12 at 2:39am
post #8 of 10
I love the review! Very informative. Mine is on the way and I wanted to research more.
HA, ur post is a little confusing sounding. At first I thought you were saying the M-80 made everything but the D7100 sound good, then after rereading I think you meant the DAC/amp made everything sound good.
post #9 of 10
Originally Posted by Uruha View Post

I love the review! Very informative. Mine is on the way and I wanted to research more.
HA, ur post is a little confusing sounding. At first I thought you were saying the M-80 made everything but the D7100 sound good, then after rereading I think you meant the DAC/amp made everything sound good.


Yeah, the Eximus DAC/amp made everything but the D7100 sound good, but the M80 were still more enjoyable to listen to than the Beyer Custom One.  I could tell that right away, and the Beyer didn't suck, but they didn't strike me as something I'd want to own.  The M-80 were more inviting sounding.  I did prefer the M-100 over the M-80, as well as above the HD25-1 II, Amperior, or DT-1350.  But I can't really say for sure where I would place the M-80 against those until I unbox mine and burn them in and listen for a while.  But I'm not sure whether I'm gonna give them to my kid or open them up and use them myself, so I've been afraid to unbox them yet.

post #10 of 10

You just have them sitting around? Haha. I wish I could afford the M-100, but that $130 difference(amazon price) must go towards a new longer lasting phone.

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