Pros - High Definition, Dynamic, Sparkle, Clean and Highly Textured Bass
Cons - Separation and Space Between Layers/Instruments
Resolution and Imaging
Layering And Separation
Suggestions For Improvement
I was lucky to be selected by VMODA to review the Crossfade 2 free of charge. The Crossfade 2 Wireless (CF2W) is the natural successor to VMODA’s Crossfade 1 headphone. The CF2 was engineered to be a dual purpose headphone with excellent sound in wired and wireless modes. A miniaturized amp developed by VMODA called the Vamp is inside the headphones, the amp can be disabled and analog mode enabled by using the headphone in wired mode.
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The heart of the CF2 headphone is the patented 50mm Dual Diaphragm drivers. VMODA spent a great deal of time tuning additional bass into the driver because it is an audiophile style driver with an airy presentation without much low end. Stringent 6 band frequency testing ensures every driver’s performance is up to spec. Anyone familiar with VMODA knows their house sound is known to have significant bass quantity. According to Val Kolton the new CCAW coil featured in the CF2 is:
“…very fast, durable and made in Japan…It wants to be reference and high resolution…so I had to tune it a lot to still have bass! It took me 100+ cushions and many variations of other components to get it just right.”
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In case you ever wanted to exceed the limit of human hearing the CF2 is your headphone as it is certified by the Japan Audio Society to support these “super human” frequencies” in wired mode. The Rose Gold version featured in this review has Qualcomm aptX while the other variants-Matte Black and Matte White-do not. Bluetooth effective range with the CF2 is approximately 30 feet and battery life is in the 14 hour range with the 430mah battery which is in the left earpiece. When in wireless mode the Crossfade 2 utilizes a tiny but powerful internal amp called the Vamp. The CF2 utilizes passive instead of active noise cancelling isolation. If you need to take a call the CF2’s have a hidden microphone and a cable with a button that with a single click allows you to pause the music and take a call. A ¼” gold plated adapter is included with the CF2’s.
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The CliqFold hinges are patent pending and save a ton of space in your bag.
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The steelflex headband meets MIL-STD-810G standards for durability, can be bent a million times without deformation and has about a 1/2” of adjustment per side. VMODA offers a plethora of accessories and customizations for the CF2: BoomPro gaming mic, custom shield plates, XL memory foam cushions and a variety of cables. The case features a carabiner clip, tough exterior and straps for storing cables.
All sound impressions will be done in wired mode as this provides the maximum sound quality the headphone is capable of. At the end of the sound analysis section I will compare wired vs wireless sound. In order to provide the most accurate review I will be pairing the Crossfade 2 with my Chord Mojo. Mojo is a neutral slightly warm DAC with exceptional detail and sufficient power to drive most headphones. Music will be in FLAC format and from a variety of genres, all being highly dynamic and audiophile quality recordings in bitperfect playback mode.
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VMODA chose to go in an audiophile direction with the CF2. I hear an extremely detailed audiophile style signature with a dash of warmth. The highs can sound a little harsh at first but mellow out after burn in. The CF2’s have a V shaped dynamic signature that extends deep into the highs and lows. It’s a unique take on the V shaped signature in that it shares some aspects of U shaped signatures as well. The mids are slightly recessed but not to the point to where the user has to crank the volume to hear. To those familiar with other VMODA headphones, they will find the mids as being forward but this is because in the past VMODA has utilized quite a recessed mid-section. Not so with the CF2 as the mids are very detailed. The signature can be tweaked by adjusting the position of the headphones, a slight movement up or back will tilt the sound a little more toward the upper mids and highs. The CF2 plays well with all genres but sounds best with electronic music in my opinion. The CF2’s give me a warm relaxing feeling after listening for hours, as if I’m sitting on my back porch watching the sun go down enjoying a beer on a Friday night. Keywords: Audiophile, Dynamic, Smooth.
Many factors can affect our perception of a headphones stage. Texture and depth cues are important to understand when analyzing stage properties. In the outdoors, the further away a sound is the less texture it’ll have when it reaches us. The texture is absorbed by land and atmosphere. Quiet sounds and sounds with reverb also sound further away. Highly textured sounds appear closer to us than sounds lacking texture.
Below: the Y-axis is the height, the X is the width and the Z is the depth. From these three planes we form a 3D stage.
The CF2 has an intimate stage. At its’ widest it sounds as though it’s coming from about an inch outside the closed back CF2’s. Some of this is due to the nature of the CF2’s being closed back. Vocals typically are positioned forward with regard to stage position (not frequency response as if you are standing at a live show near the front looking up at the band. Like vocals, drums and bass are also focused in toward the center of the head just slightly further back than the vocals. The stage is much wider than it is tall or deep. This creates an “amplified width” effect wherein the stage sounds wider but also creates a simultaneous tightening where height is moderate and instruments can sometimes sound close to each other or as if they are competing for the same space. Keywords: Width Dominant, Moderate, Tight, Intimate.
Resolution and Imaging
The CF2’s are high definition headphones, in fact resolution is one of the best technical capabilities of this headphone. Fuzzy distorted guitars, string slides, and mid/sub bass are all highly detailed with rich texture. Reverberations and micro details come through clean and on par with louder sounds. I don’t find the definition to be focused in one region, it is evenly spread across the spectrum-masterful tuning given the deep sub bass and sparkly highs which tend to focus detail in those regions. Keywords:High definition.
A top of the line transparent headphone should be free of distortion and have a natural tone. These two things among other factors create transparency. Tuning for transparency is often a balancing act between dynamism and naturalism. The CF2 is dynamic and unashamed. It has good transparency but loves to have a good time more. The deep, powerful and simultaneously fast decaying sub and mid bass tend to reduce transparency but simultaneously increase dynamism. If you’re a fan of a dynamic sound you’ll love the CF2. I’ve found that significantly stretching out the headphones and flexing the headband makes them fit looser which creates a bit more of a transparent effect because when they’re clamping down hard on your head it tends to muffle the sound and make it sound closer. Keywords: Dynamic.
Layering and Separation
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The CF2 tends to separate vocals from the rest of the sound better than it separates instruments from other instruments. Everything is presented in high definition but because of the shape and proportions of the stage, complex passages with a lot of instruments can lack pin point precision in the stage and sound like they are elbowing each other out of the way for the same space. Excellent separation is maintained up close near the listener, moving further away from the listener results in less separation especially in complex passages. Keywords: Blending at the edges.
Some have reported the CF2 is harsh, I heard a bit of harshness pre-burn in but after 100+ hours of burn the harshness was totally gone. Sometimes with a V shaped signature there is a tendency for the listener to crank the volume to hear more of the mid-range. I did this myself for experimental purposes and even then I didn’t feel as if the highs were fatiguing, sibilant or harsh. I find treble natural in tone. The deep reaching sub bass contrasts nicely with the sparkle to mellow it out and make the sound more dynamic. The treble does not interfere harmonically with the midrange in the sense of reducing decay. Keywords: Sparkle.
The midrange is clean and high definition, while retaining some of the characteristics of a V shaped signature. The lower mids are slightly thicker than the upper mids but they are restrained such that they don’t congest the excellent definition of the upper mids. Vocals are forward with regard to the rest of the mids yet slightly recessed with regard to the rest of the sound. The ever so slight warmth in the midrange allows CF2 to retain a natural tonality. Mid bass punches hard when called upon but doesn’t hang around to overly color the sound. Midrange vocals and instruments alike are highly defined, both male and female vocals share this high definition. Keywords: Definition, Clarity.
The mid and sub bass on the CF2 are hard and fast in attack but polite and tidy in decay allowing for a high definition audiophile style sound. Bass can slam and punch when called upon. Bass quality and texture has been emphasized over quantity. I get more slam and punch than rumble. The bass quantity is enough to be tactile and vibratory. Keywords: Deep, Hard Hitting, Punchy, Textured, Uncongested, Clean, Tidy.
The CF2’s need a good stretching out before they will be comfortable. I have been wearing them 10 hours a day for weeks. I do not find the weight to be a problem due to the comfortable memory foam which does a great job at absorbing weight and keeping the headphones in place. I would however prefer bigger cups because the CF2’s tend to clamp down on the ears instead of encircling them at the edges. At the end of the day my ears are a little sore-it’s nothing dramatic and I don’t notice it unless I touch them. I understand VMODA wants to keep the footprint small but I would prefer the option of ordering a unit with XL pads instead of the default small ones. Heat build has been an issue for some people but not really a big issue for me. No one could hear my music in the office and I had a good seal.
Connecting the CF2 to my S7 Edge was easy, I held the sliding power button in the forward position for two seconds, activated the Bluetooth on the S7 Edge and the headphone was quickly found and paired. I was wireless and streaming Bandcamp to my CF2’s! I then opened UAPP, I had to know if I could play flac files wirelessly, I could! I then disconnected from my S7 Edge and connected the CF2 to my Macbook Pro. It connected without issue. I opened Jriver and VLC and both showed “VMODA Crossfade 2 Stereo”, both programs had no trouble connecting. Flac files played fine and sounded great. I did experience a bit of stutter every few minutes playing flac files while standing about 20 feet away from the S7 Edge or MacbookPro but it disappeared when I got closer.
I don’t think it’s fair to compare the sound quality of the CF2’s wired to a Mojo/CDM running FLAC in bitperfect mode to my S7 Edge streaming flac that has been upsampled by the Android DAC, but to my surprise the difference minimal due to the performance of the Rose Gold CF2. It has exceptional wireless capability and I would strongly advise anyone considering this headphone for wireless purposes to pay a little more and go for the rose gold version. In wireless mode I find the bass goes deep and the mid bass retains punch just like the wired version. Treble reaches just as high as the wired version. Layering, separation and soundstage are mostly unchanged from wired mode. Detail retrieval remains very high.
All the buttons worked well in wireless mode and provided positive tactile response. Sound quality was pretty good for phone calls as well. I tested both the call answering and call blocking features and both worked. I also was able to listen for the full 14 hours on one charge at my normal volume (little past ½ on my S7 Edge), a rare feat as most manufacturers overstate battery capacity.
Meze 99 Neo:
Beginning with the Highs, CF2 extends further than 99 Neo but both remain smooth headphones. The CF2 sparkles, the 99 Neo does not. Both are dynamic headphones but the CF2 is a more dynamic. Mids are more forward and less recessed on the Neo’s as they have a more balanced instead of V shaped signature. Both headphones are non-fatiguing although some sensitive to high frequencies may find the Neo more tolerable. Neo has slightly thicker mids and the taller stage while the width is similar between the two. The 99 Neo has a clearer less claustrophobic sound with more air. The CF2’s have higher resolution and detail; offering the most high definition sound and texture of the two headphones. The 99 Neo has more separation between the instruments and a more spacious sound due to its’ taller and deeper stage. The CF2’s have deeper reaching, more textured bass and more slam/punch than 99 Neo. Both have similar approaches with regard to bass attack and decay; that being a strong quick attack and a quick cleanup or tidy decay. 99Neo’s were more comfortable right out of the box and for extended listening sessions while the CF2’s required a good week long break in period and repeated flexing of the headband.
High resolution texture and detail. Increased warmth, tamed sparkle. Smaller stage than CDM.
Mojo + CDM:
Much taller and wider stage than Mojo alone and with better separation and layering. Space between the instruments has increased, less congestion. More dynamic and vibratory sound, ends of the spectrum have a stronger attack for example high hats are more audible.
Similar stage, dynamism and tactile sound as Mojo + CDM. Brighter sound as the slight warmth of the Mojo has been removed.
The pairing with the S7 Edge is very good for a smartphone and it had more than enough volume. The mid and sub bass remain well controlled with regard to decay. Mid bass has solid punch. The highs have good decay and extension. Of course you lose a little bit of dynamism given the power differential between sources like Mojo/CDM and the S7 Edge but the S7 edge is a good match with the CF2’s especially when you consider the convenience and coolness of going wireless.
Suggestions For Improvement
I always try to find improvements no matter how minor. The stage could have been larger, which affected layering and separation especially in complex passages with many instruments such as an opera. Making the raised portions of the buttons protrude a little further would also be nice as in wireless mode they can sometimes be hard to find.
Few manufacturers put the time, research and quality materials into their headphones that VMODA does. These headphones are very very very tough. The included accessories are all top notch; the case, the gold plated connector and cables. With VMODA it’s obvious that they pay extreme attention to the details that others forget; take the case, it has dual straps for the cables and dual vents to vent moisture or heat.
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Also the headphone jack fits ALL my cell phone cases, this is important because sometimes case manufacturers make the whole very small such that connectors will not fit. The 3.5mm jack also has an ingenious protruding hard button on the back which makes inserting the jack easy and straight every time-again, it’s the little details that make all the difference with the CF2.
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Even the box is well thought out; using minimal packaging, the neat little ribbon on the side and the foam inserts that fit perfectly. Of course if we are mentioning hardware I cannot neglect the most impressive aspect of the ergonomics of this headphone and that is the Cliqfold hinges. I love these hinges, I wish every headphone had them, they allow the CF2’s to shrink down into a miniscule footprint which is perfect for travel. In my opinion the Crossfade 2 is a headphone that could easily be $500+ if VMODA wanted to charge that much, it’s a steal at $350 for the Rose Gold and $330 for the other colors.
The CF2’s are an audiophile headphone. They are incredibly resolute and highly detailed for their asking price. They will sound great with any genre but they sound spectacular with electronic music. If you’re a detail fanatic who loves a great value and you want a wireless headphone you’ll enjoy the Crossfade Wireless 2. If you are interested in the Bluetooth aspect, make sure you get the Rose Gold version as it has apt X. The CF2 looks spectacular, is tough as nails, allows you to be free of wires, has a very long battery life (14 hours) and produces excellent sound quality. Overall a very solid offering from VMODA and at $350 it’s going to be very hard to beat at that price.
Pros - Most balanced V-MODA sound yet, wired or wireless usage
Cons - A little heavy, apt-X only in Rose Gold, better Bluetooth mic needed
V-MODA has a pretty diverse following that has grown over the past few years and their offerings have progressed along the way, positive progression in my opinion. V-MODA is one of the few brands that bridges the gap from commercial appeal to audiophiles.
I really enjoyed the sound of the V-MODA XS but there were some things that I didn’t like, the isolation was poor. Granted it was an on-ear but to me it was even poor by on-ear standards. The second issue was that I couldn’t wear them to the gym because with any quick movement they would shift on my head and I would be staring into an earcup.
The M-100 has been one of their most popular headphones. The M-100 bass has been its long suit but to me it’s loose, uncontrolled bass can become overpowering fast. I really enjoy a warm overall sound and V-MODA has always delivered on that, but I was left wishing for more detail in my listening to go with all that warmth.
I will say, up to this point, the majority of audiophiles that own a V-MODA own them as their fun, non-critical music listening headphone and it is sometimes nice to throw on a pair of headphones without worrying about critical listening for layering, bass extension and rolled off treble. However, I consider myself a critical listener and was never satisfied with that aspect.
I have been hoping for a V-MODA offering that will offer fun, yet controlled bass and give the sound buff in me some satisfaction. Could the latest V-MODA be the one? In a word…YES!
Let’s take a closer look at the best all around headphone, in my opinion, in the V-MODA stable. I am especially curious to hear the first headphone release since Roland has owned a major stake in V-MODA. I introduce you to the V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless.
V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless
-MRSP: $349 Rose Gold apt-X
To me, the name of the product, Crossfade 2 Wireless holds the key to this new offering from V-MODA. They are called the Crossfade 2 Wireless and not the Crossfade Wireless 2. In my opinion the company was trying to produce an excellent wired headphone with the addition of Bluetooth instead of vice versa. To my ears this is one of the first Bluetooth wireless headphones that sound almost equal wired vs.wireless, great job for a Bluetooth headphone.
Below is what you receive for the price of admission when you purchase the Crossfade 2 Wireless. I always enjoy opening a box of headphones from V-MODA, cutting the ribbon makes you feel like the Mayor doing a ribbon cutting at a new Public Recreation Center or something along those lines anyway.
The exoskeleton case is the usual V-MODA fare. Inside they provide strapping for cable storage and the headphones fold to create a small footprint and fit just perfectly in the case. One thing I thought was nice about this case is that there are vents to allow air into the case to assist in drying from sweating, particularly nice for DJ's and workout buffs. There is also a Carbiner clip attached to the case, another nice touch.
The styling hasn’t changed much from some of the previous V-MODA styles and these are very distinctly V-MODA. All of the usual customizations are available as well through the V-MODA site including the 3D printed shields. I want to add that owning a “Rose Gold” color did not appeal to me at first. Once I saw them, my opinion changed as it would be what I would describe as a deep copper color. I really like it. They also have the CliqFold hinge of the models past to create a small footprint for storage.
The build quality of the headphones and the cables are very good and sturdy and as usual the V-MODA’s are built like a tank. They are a touch heavy at 309g and also sit a bit heavy on the head. Included is a micro VAMP that functions when the headphone is in wireless mode. I am certain that ads a bit to the weight. Let me say that these are a very comfortable headphone, weight aside. The headband comfort has benefited from the five years of comfort research as well as the earpads being exceptionally conforming and comfortable. I easily wear them for my one hour walk in the morning and never feel the need to adjust them. I live in Florida and I do not notice these making my ears sweat any more than any other earpads, it is Florida and it is hot and humid so it is very difficult to not sweat. They are a cushiony memory foam that conforms very well to my ears and I would think to anyone's ears.
These are not ANC headphones so aside from the isolation inherent in the headphone there is not active noise cancelling to create an artificial buffer. The buffer against outside noise is created by the more than adequate isolation and the solid bass when listening to music. To some it might have been a nice addition but if active noise cancelling is not done right it can change the sound signature of the headphone. The positive here is there is nothing to negatively alter the impressive sound signature. These are Certified Hi-Res Audio (wired mode) but we are seeing that designation more and more.
They say you can expect 14+ hours of battery life. I am not seeing that quite that long, but I do utilize the volume on highest setting and use my cellphone or source to control the listening volume. I also play a lot of FLAC files when utilizing my Opus #2. If you are using the V-MODA REMIX, which I reviewed earlier https://www.head-fi.org/f/showcase/review/18392, it is fully compatible with their, VAMP, internal amp in the REMIX.
I want to address the buttons on the headphones that control the Volume UP, Volume DOWN and Multi - Function button for pausing, answering calls etc. I am in favor of actual push buttons as opposed to touch controls on an earcup as I have found touch controls to be a little inconsistent. However, I am not a big fan of the feel or placement of these buttons. I find them a little difficult to push and to know which button you are pushing when you are feeling blindly above the earcup, with more Bluetooth listening time I am sure I could get used to the function. The function control of say the Sennheiser Momentum 2 is easier to get the hang of.
With regard to the Bluetooth functionality, these paired easily with everything I attempted to pair them with. The Bluetooth functions phenomenally and I have found I can go the 30ft. as advertised without a drop. In fact I cannot recall any drop outs or disruption in sound when using them wirelessly. I have found when talking on the phone while using the Bluetooth, along with the built-in mic, people say they are noisy. Traffic or wind makes it frustrating for the other party. However, with the enclosed cable they are fine for conversation.
Let’s move on to the sound, shall we?
I want to address a couple things from the Head-Fi Crossfade 2 thread. There is a bit of discussion about codecs in the Crossfade 2 Wireless thread. As can be seen from the photos I have a pair of Rose Gold/Black headphones. The Rose Gold/Black offering utilizes apt-X and that is about all I can tell you regarding any other codecs utilized. AAC is the gorilla in the room with some folks and they feel there needs to be more clarification as to its existence. I would say if there isn’t any mention of a specific codec on the box or on the company website, it doesn’t exist in this offering. The only question I have regarding codecs is why all of the color models don’t offer at least apt-X, only the Rose Gold? With apt-X I hear a wee bit more clarity and a little added spaciousness but it really isn’t earth shattering. It is nice to listen using apt-X if your equipment takes advantage of it and I feel it is a nice addition to offer the consumer.
In my opening I briefly said the Crossfade 2 Wireless checked a lot of the sound boxes I have been waiting for from V-MODA. I think we need to discuss the basic V-MODA house sound. V-MODA’s are generally warm, bass tilted, fun headphones. The bass quality is generally impactful but a bit loose and bloomy bleeding into the mids. That said I would take the V-MODA house sound over MOST of the Beats models if I needed a bass fix. I have always thought of the M-100 as a formidable basshead headphone, although it is a little tiring for me at times. There are many reviews out in the wild on those so I am not going to dwell on the M-100.
The overall basic first listen to the CF2W (CF2W for short, because I am tired as hell writing it out), is warm, and has a bass tilt as well, very reminiscent of their house sound. It is with time that you start to realize the nuances between these and other V-MODA offerings. They do have that V-MODA signature house bass, and that is okay, because as you listen the more you realize there is also a refined treble and midrange that is aptly apparent. As mentioned, the M-100 model the bass is so strong and overpowering that it bleeds into the lower midrange and then some. I am not being overly critical I am merely saying the M-100 have a place in fun music listening or if you are DJ, but not the best for detailed, critical listening. The CF2W is the most balanced offering yet from V-MODA. The bass is sculpted differently than in other models and provides bass detail and solid warmth and does not impede the other frequencies. I use these a lot outdoors and the bass is perfect to cover outside noise.
The midrange on CF2W are a little more forward than on previous V-MODA’s and the treble is ever present. The treble is never sharp or harsh and it has great tone and quality. Combine the treble with a more forward upper midrange the overall sensation is that of balance and detail. Given the fact that there is just a slight difference in extension between wired and wireless feel free to cut the cord without loss of sound quality. I do not want to only compare these to prior V-MODA's, but in general these are an enjoyable listen and best so many other offerings available in the same price range.
In closing, I was pleasantly surprised with the CF2W. I had been a loyal Sennheiser Momentum 2 wireless guy since their release, recall and re-release. I never really cared to venture into the wireless realm with any seriousness. I will say that the CF2W has changed that and I have a new daily go to for my wireless listening.