V-Moda M-80 Review
Now I will start by admitting that I am rather late to jumping aboard the M-80, which by now is admired as one of the best portable on ear headphones that one can purchase. All of these claims intrigued me more and more and I wanted to make my own mind up so much. Now when it comes to IEMs I have quite a bit o experience but that is not as much the case with portable headphones. All that aside I have more than enough knowledge to make up whether the claims are worthy. Well from my first impression unboxing it, I started to get an idea what I was in for.
The set-up I have used is the normal, as I have started using a new portable rig, which is the Hippo CriCri amplifier connected through a LOD to an iPod Nano 3G with Apple Lossless and MP3 on it.
I also used my old set-ups of my iPhone 4, Cowon J3 (with FLAC) and my iMac with my Objective 2 amplifier.
The M-80 and my portable rig
Now my first big purchase in headphones was a Beats by Dre headphone. Yes it was appalling but it got me here today. Well I will say that if I had seen these before had purchased them then they would have been the ones that I bought. These things are just plain cool. The full sized headphones from V-Moda are for DJing and these are just the same look with smaller cups. They are everything that is cool these days with a nice shiny and matte cup and the great colour schemes. They also offer the ability to change the shields on the cups so you can personalize them which is just sooo awesome. I would just like to say that I am very impressed with the fact that a company is aiming a cool looking headphone at heavy audio enthusiasts. These also come in a pearl whit version and a true blood version.
These things boast military grade build on the packaging and they keep to their words. These things are beasts. The cables are Kevlar coated (yes, that bullet proof stuff) and are as strong as nails, I would do a bungee jump attached to one of these. The cables also have a great 45 degrees angle jack, which fits great in phone cases and is also really solid. However, the cable does like to keep bends and kinks in it which is quite annoying.
Both the yokes and the shields on the cups are metal and also very strong. The only plastic in sight is on the rest of the cup and it looks like it will cope just fine. The headband is the most impressive bit because it is just so flexible. I mean I can bend it into the most ridiculous of shapes and there is not an ounce of stress.
Yes they are very flexible
With headphones lately I have not really been getting nay accessories to get excited about but with these you get a full package. I will start by saying how amazing the initial packaging in is and that if you want to see opening one unfold to check out my unboxing video.
Now inside you get a plethora of accessories that could rival some of the well-packaged IEMs.
I will start off by talking of the glorious case you get with these. They do not fold up but the case has a cut out of them in a sense inside so they fit in perfectly and when zipped up you can see the outline of the headphones. Inside it has some elastic straps, which can hold spare cables and other accessories on the go, which is just great. It also comes with a carabineer clip so that you cant attach it to your bag or belt which is a nifty feature. The case is also very hard so it will protect the indestructible headphone to its maximum.
The case from the outside all zipped up
The inside packed with accessories
You also get a cable clip, which is meant to reduce microphonics, and it serves its purpose handily.
Lastly you get to cables. These are to both serve different purposes. One is black and has a three buttons remote and mic on it, which are made specifically for iDevices. However so these do not discriminate android users as they come with another red cable, which has a one button remote and mic and is made with android phones and other devices in mind. I think this is a great idea so whatever phone I have I will have a mic and remote and the other one is also a great back up.
The two remotes, iDevice one on the bottom, Android top
Now I was a bit dubious about comfort on these, as I had heard a lot of clamping horror stories. I know how bad clamping can get after the Beats Pro, which started to hurt after 30 minutes. These without even stretching them over night seemed to be fine and not painful at all. They adjust really nice to your head size and the synthetic leather pads are extremely comfortable as they sit on your ear.
I wore these on a three-hour journey and when at the destination had no desire or urge to take them off.
Getting a good fit is something I would like to bring up though as it can prove quite trick and should not be rushed. If you just throw these on you head then you will likely not get the sound quality desired and a poor bass response. You really have to make sure that they are angled correctly with the driver to your ear canal for that perfect seal.
Experience with on ears as lead me to realize that it is not the best design for good quality isolation. These are also ported/vented. These two factors combined do lead to a sub-par isolation. For the most part when your out it will not cause to many problems however some noises that are of low frequencies can case problems to the sound.
If isolation is a huge factor I recommend some full size over the ear cans that are closed and even have a good noise cancelation.
Microphonics (Cable Noise):
With the little sticker in the packaging saying that the shirt clip is to reduce microphonics I instantly thought, they are going to have some darn annoying cable noise. Well I was so wrong as these have hardly any at all. I have never once though that I need any less or too put the shirt clip on and that is just what anyone could want.
By what I am about to write I do not want to cause any upsets or arguments as this topic can be seen as a sour subject. These have had roughly 100 hours now of use and burn in combined. As burn in is not scientifically proven this all could be mental and happening in my head but in the case that it does happen I recommend burning them in as in my personal experience I have noted improvements which have a massive impact on my enjoyment factor, so dint make any irrational decisions after listening to them out the box.
The overall sound is quite flat which is nice. Coming from a DJ orientated brand these could easily have been bass dominated and that is far from the case. The overall are smooth and detailed although just generally sound a little thin and lacks texture. The fact that it has a balance sound, which is completely absent of any peaks, is great and it has a hugely enjoyable signature.
Soundstage and instrument separation:
The soundstage is meant to be fully 3-D because of the porting on the shields. Sadly I cannot agree with this. The width of the soundstage is no better than average but not to bad either. It is the depth though that prevents the full 3-D effect, as it is almost non-existent. It is actually the worst part of the headphone as far as I am concerned and it really stops it being a lot better as a lot of IEMs at this price are fully 3-D with great realistic depth and this could just not manage that. This also deeply affects the presentation and imagery of the music and this is also very poor and it is not too great either as there is limited space for the music to be coming from.
The instrument separation is were things starting to step up a little bit, as the driver is fairly speedy and makes a clear sound. Instruments rarely distort or merge with one another and although not by along way, everything is kept apart until the fastest of passages.
The mid-bass on these is very clean on these and actually quite slight in quantity. In fact I would consider calling these close to bass light (yes I am getting a seal, there is bass) but this is great in my opinion as it completes the balanced signature. It is very successful in quality though and it is never boomy and always tight and punchy although could do with a tad more speed. The texture of it is also a bit thin but the body is off good size packing slam.
The extension is very nice and it does make it into those sub-bass rumple regions. Not huge or head pounding but those low frequency rumbles are there and very pleasant indeed.
The mids are what hold these headphones together as they are just great. They are airy and perhaps a tad on the bright side of things. They may also be seen as a bit forward which is very welcome. Do not worry as it is not got a hump or anything that makes these near fatiguing but just a tiny bit ahead of the other frequencies making the vocals always very clear. The timbre is kind as far as guitars are concerned but drums do not have the impact and presence that they deserve. Because they are a bit on the bright side female vocals excel more than those of males but both are great and so clear. The mids are extremely thin but also transparent with the details really shining through but also showing up many mistakes in poor recordings. The mids are truly fantastic all of what I said aside.
Finally the treble is again neutral and positioned very nicely and does not appear too prominent but neither relaxed. It could do with a tad more extension but the roll off is very smooth and not to worry about. The sparkle is there and actually in big quantities and the timbre is quite metallic and zingy like a BA IEM. This causes guitar solos to really wow and take control.
What we have here at the end of all that I have said is by far the best on ear headphone I have heard and at its price range and a great buy if your in the market for one. It combines looking good, sounding good and a great package all at a reasonable price of roughly £150. This is for those who want to look stylish and want a good sound. V-Moda has a great product here and it is well deserving of all that is said about it. My kudos to the M-80!
Edited by Swimsonny - 8/30/12 at 3:54pm