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Over-Ear item created by AnakChan, Sep 29, 2012
Pros - Clear Treble, Excellent booming bass, great design, good mids, SOUNDSTAGE!!
Cons - mids & treble are a little recessed, comfort. Getting headphones and accessories to fit in the case.
My First problem that I ran into with these headphones is the comfort factor. The clamping force made it a little uncomfortable, but that is easily fixed with a five second bend. The earcups are also a bit shallow but I am fine with that, since I have small ears. Another problem is that sometimes the bass can be too overpowering, and one cannot hear everything else as clearly. My final problem I had with these, was getting everything to fit in the case, this is not to hard, but if you're in a rush, it is hard to fit your headphones back down into their original shape when they have been stretched out.
Those problems are minor compared to how awesome they are! They look amazing, they are cooler than beats, and I have had my fair collection of beats! They sound amazing! The soundstage is incredible each instrument has its own little place. I have heard things in my music that I have never heard before because of these! They are good in practically any genre! The BASS, THE BASS IS AMAZINNNGGGGGGGG! BOOOOOM! (a little example) the mids are very good, but are sometimes covered up by the bass. They fold up super small, but sometimes I have trouble getting them into their case. There is nothing really to say besides they are awesome!
Pros - Built like a tank. Replaceable cables. Nice folding design. Can handle extreme bass without cracking up. Clear MIDS, realistics Highs. FUN!
Cons - A lot of audiophiles don't like the bass. Use the EQ to reduce the bass problem solved. Sound isolation and leakage needs improvement.
So called audiophiles complain about the bass. Well then use the EQ. Audiophiles buy expensive amplifier and they they don't use the EQ. That's what is for... I rather have headphones that can handle plenty of bass than a headphone that cannot handle songs with heavy deep bass (like the M-80) and would simply make a crack up sound. I rather have a headphone that doesn't make CRACK sound with heavy deep bass songs. These headphones are for fun sounding which is a good looking headphones SHOULD BE.
Pros - Fantastic build, engaging sound, great accessories, super cool carrying case, very responsive to EQ, customizable, portable
Cons - White case is prone to stains, not great worn around the neck, bass is slightly overpowering with some genres, audio cable frays
I was one of the lucky few who received the M-100 back in September as part of a Head-Fi.org promotion, so I've had ample time listening, wandering, traveling, subwaying and airplaning these heaphones. I've also had some time to compare the M-100 to my other pair of V-MODA headphones, the V-80, as well as to other headphones I've managed to play with at various retailers in New York City such as the Apple Store and B&H Photo.
My video review is located at the bottom of this text.
Form and Function:
The photos of the M-100, especially the one gracing the front of its box, are misleading. It is indeed as aesthetically pleasing in person as the pictures suggest (and possibly more so) but is surprisingly much smaller than it appears. On my head, which is medium/large, it is form fitting and doesn't protrude out on the sides unlike other headphones I've tried, such as the V-MODA V-80, or the ubiquitous Beats by Dre Studio. Folded up it is about the size of a grapefruit.
Also included is an amazingly well thought out case that is as beautiful as it is utilitarian. Besides protecting your headphones in snug, rubberized shell, the case also contains straps to hold your audio cables, a 1/4-inch headphone adapter, a memory stick and even a pair of V-MODA Faders(earplugs).
The M-100, like the V-80, is mostly made of metal and feels solid. Solid enough to break you out of a rickety building should that situation arise. There are many plastic based headphones out there, Bose, Beats, Skullcandy, Sony, that feel as though an accidental meeting with one's posterior would result in a snapped headband. Not so with these. I have sat on them, dropped them onto hard tile, walked through the rain and had my audio cable snag and get ripped out of the port. All is in working order with nary a scratch to show for it.
The hinge is a patented V-MODA design and it has a satisfying "click" upon opening and closing and I have yet to see any wear and tear on the joints.
My one complaint about build quality is the audio cables which tend to kink or get twisted when wandering about. They're also prone to fraying. I use mine nearly everyday on the streets of New York City and the cables are starting to resemble the fingertips on wool gloves. They also cause some unavoidable microphonics which was a problem I didn't notice as much with the red, one-button cable that came with my V-80s. The red V-80 cable also didn't fray as much.
Weather the Weather: 4.5/5
First off, I must mention that I wear glasses and that these do pinch my earhooks slightly. It's not bothersome, but it's noticeable and requires adjustments every now and then. The earcups fit around my entire ear and the soft pleather pads feel plush against my head without putting too much pressure on any one area. The same goes for the headband. I've been able to wear these for 3-hour stretches before feeling the need to take them off. When worn around-the-neck, either for bling-ability or during a performance of the National Anthem or whatever, the earcups are a little too big and end up limiting head movement. Since it's wintertime they double as fantastic earmuffs, but I think summertime use will be a sweaty, steamy affair.
Cranial Embrace: 4.25/5
Heat Retention: 4/5
I have used these on flights and they block out the ambient noise pretty well, although not as well in in-ear monitors or noise-cancelling headphones. I also use these daily on the subway and they are fine in most situations. Random events, such as breakdancers, crazy preachers, panhandlers, and just plain obnoxious people still manage to seep into your sound space, but I find it beneficial to be aware of these people for safety concerns. At really high volumes these do leak a good amount of sound, although you shouldn't be listening to it that loudly. At normal listening volumes, leakage isn't a problem.
"Excuse me? Can you hear me? Hello?": 4/5
"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!": 3/5
"While I like 'Mambo No.5' I'm trying to study here.": 3.5/5
The most prominent frequency of the M-100 is its punchy, deep, and sometimes rumbling bass. Val Kolton, V-MODA's CEO calls this deep rumble "purring." On certain songs, if you turn up the music loud enough and hold the M-100 with both the earcups aligned and touching each other, you can feel the entire headphone vibrate in your hand. The sub-bass on the M-100 is among the best I've heard(felt) and shows up in songs where lesser headphones often fail. For those of you who are into dubstep, EDM, and hip hop these will give you all the bass punch you need to groove to your music. But none of this lower-end oomph is at the expense of the other frequencies. The bass is there when it's called for, but backs off when the song doesn't require it.
Vocals on the M-100 are intimate, clear and lively. They are a small step behind the V-80 in terms of mid-range presence. The V-80 provides a more forward mid-range, but the M-100 provides more clarity and detail retrieval than its smaller sibling despite its more laid-back nature. A better way to illustrate what I'm saying is that the M-100 sounds like you're sitting near the stage at a concert while the V-80 is more like sitting on stage directly in front of the singer.
Part of Val Kolton's sound philosophy involves the reduction and prevention of hearing loss. Hearing loss is one of the fastest growing problems among young people in this post-iPod era and, because of the low isolation and low sound quality of pack-in earbuds, most people listen to their music at dangerously loud volumes. Out of all the sound frequencies treble is the most damaging especially when you're exposed to it at high volumes for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, the treble on the M-100, while greatly improved over the V-80 in terms of extension and sparkle, is still slightly rolled off. For treble heads, this may not provide enough sparkle or crunch, especially if you have experience with Sennheiser or Grado headphones. However, the benefit of the M-100's treble is that there is little to no sibilance and the sound signature is less fatiguing during marathon listening sessions.
The soundstage has both good depth and width, though not quite on par with open headphones, and you genuinely get a 3D effect of being in a club with speakers pumping sound all around you. Action movies also sound very immersive especially during actions scenes involving shoot outs and explosions. They are relatively easy to drive and can provide plenty of volume straight out of a laptop or a cell phone/MP3 player, and they respond extremely well to eq'ing. Although an amp isn't necessary, they do benefit from amping and, when paired with my cMoyBB v.2.03 with bass boost turned on, can provide face melting levels of thump.
Instrument Separation: 4.25
Music I used to compare include:
Adele - Rolling in the Deep, Set Fire to the Rain
Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe
Black Eyed Peas - Boom Boom Pow
Girls' Generation - Genie (Tell Me Your Wish), Gee, Run Devil Run
George Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue
Fun - Some Nights
Shinee - Lucifer, Juliette
Maroon 5 - This Love, Misery, Payphone
Skrillex - Bangarang
Bassnectar - Ping Pong
Pros - Crisp and clear highs, punchy bass.
Cons - Hot, low mids, uncomfortable.
After picking up these headphones, I soon returned them. This is why.
1. They get HOT. Due to the memory foam, my ears were sweating under these.
2. They leak more sound out than in.
3. The reduced treble left some parts of songs lacking - cutting out vocals almost entirely at some points.
4. V-Moda's apparent refusal to accept returns of their headphones from sellers aside from themselves - even when they advertise the return policy on the seller's website. (Buy through Amazon instead)
5. DAMN UNCOMFORTABLE, DOWNRIGHT PAINFUL. I stuck paper towels between the pads and the drivers to get some relief from the pain of the metal cage pressing against my ear. I guess that is the price of slim headphones.
6. I had difficulty getting them to sit symmetrically on my head - either a product of the pads and their slight inconsistency in accomidating my ears under them, or a factor of my own ears.
But here I am - a month later and I miss them. I'm a novice to high end audio, but I did like some areas of these. They fit well with most electronic music.
1. The crisp, clean, sparkly highs were beautiful, and feeling the cans vibrate with the lowest bass was incredible.
2. Sturdy headphones - I was not worried at all about damaging them.
3. They're just purty.
4. The pain part of them was more or less fixable. If bigger pads come out, I would pick those up without a second throught.
I'll probably pick these up again when the price goes down, I think 250 is about right for these. It will be interesting to see how future production runs compare in audio quality, as the whole time I had them I hunted through songs for tiny pops of static and little imperfections in the headphones. I found very few.
To reiterate- if you have tiny ears and like listening to nothing but electronica and dubstep these are for you. They're nice by all means, but they didn't fit me.
Pros - Easy to drive, great sound, immersive feel
Cons - Can't find anything yet... missing the apple 3 button cable if it also counts
M-100 is a very easy to drive headphones. Before that I am using M-80s on-ear, and really do not belive any headphones can replace it. As the M-80 can deliver very high quality audio even with bare iPhone 4S with lossless music tracks! With an headamp the sound is just bigger and better a little bit but it is not 'day and night＇difference.
The first hour I tried M-100 I found the bass a bit too much, maybe I have used to M-80 sound. But after a few tracks I feel that all music becoming more rich and help me to get higher involvement. And to my surprise that almost every types of music I like including classical music can deliver same nice feeling. I always think that classical music should be lean and I always use Senn HD800 for classical. Now I know that it is not a correct approach, v-moda + classical = BIG SOUND.
And of course, for pop music, v-moda is a sure winner, my recent flavor is Adele's "someone like you", it is live version "live at the royal albert hall", the part that everyone is singing together with Adele, it is reallllly shocking!
Pros - Solid build, Matt black and orange looks cool, Amazing hinge / folding mechanism
Cons - Doesn't sound good for much music, Bass eats in the mid-range, Not like the M-80
I pre-ordered the M-100 after falling madly in love with the M-80 less than a year ago. I wanted a bigger sound and larger ear cups for an over-ear fit. Unfortunately I got bass that is crazy and kills the mid-range. I find the highs a little splashy too and I don't want to turn them up too loud as they hurt at both ends of the scale pretty quickly! The comfort is funky too, not much better than the M-80 because they don't sit away from the ears. I've had on-ears that cause less pain than these so that's another reason that they just don't improve on the M-80. Just to clarify - the sound is not as good as the M-80. Not just, not better, it's much worse generally.
If these were sold as 'DJ sound', 'Heavy V-shaped response', 'Basshead', 'Beats Like' bass. With no regard for musicality, hifi or audiophile sound then I'd have no problem with them. Unfortunately they are described and priced as something that suggests so much more and it just doesn't deliver on the sound front. Such a shame too because on the outside they are stunning. For most head-fi ppl the M-80 will now be a fluke, an amazing portable that V-Moda clearly isn't interested
Pros - Finely tuned bass emphasis, excellent treble extension (near sibilant but not!), just damn fun
Cons - Colored, slightly recessed midrange
Wow. It’s been awhile, a long time of wait, development, etc. Quite the journey, but three weeks back, I finally got my hands on these. V-Moda’s latest entry to their Crossfade series, the Crossfade M-100. As anyone here can attest, Val Kolton’s latest piece de resistance has been nurtured for quite some time under his perfectionist eye, and man, these cans are simply delectable. Shall we continue?
V-Moda is one of the pioneers of the fashionable headphone, and these have the design of stealthy, sleek elegance. For those of you feeling that your headphone collection is feeling a bit too black, you also have the option of selecting the fabulous white-silver edition. For me though, the matte black edition was just calling to me. Sleek, stylish with an industrial, almost cyberpunk quality, these headphones are simply excellent. In spite of its stylistic choices to stand out such as its V-wings, the sheer elegance of an all black design goes well with anything I throw with it.
Size wise, I was always under the impression based on photos that these would be sizeable headphones. Just as with the M-80’s, however, the M-100’s are much smaller than expected. When receiving the box, I was almost flabberghasted at how small the box was. In its case, the M-100’s are no larger than a softball! Or a grapefruit. Whatever obloid-shaped object happens to be within your grasps that fits in your hand.
As expected by V-Moda’s build quality, the cans I have in my hand are top notch pieces of work. The curiosity buzzing around the M-100’s is the hinge and whether it’ll stand the test of time or not. Mr. Kolton has taken care to be sure that the hinge not only stands the test of time but has the feel that it will stand any amount of folding you throw at it. Describing it as a “German Car Feel” by its maker, every fold is accompanied by a *click* sound that is satisfying to fold and unfold.
The rest? Fine cloth on the headband, plastic a bit, particularly for the cups (which is fine unless you want to be weighed down by the sheer weight of metal on your shoulders). Overall, the build is metal, and demonstrating to friends the durability brings some star struck faces. The screws for the shields are initially the worst screws ever to deal with (I think the shield change took me somewhere around an hour to finish. But seeing as I’ve got four sets to fiddle around with, I perservered, and now it takes me a little less than 15 minutes to do a shield change.
And for the curious amongst some build problems in the first batch, I’ve had no problems. These things have stood up to Sandy, an early November nor’easter, and being handled by my brother, a professional with the midus touch, if midus broke everything in sight.
Your standard package comes with: case, (for matte black) a black shareplay cable (5ish feet, have yet to measure it formally), an orange one-button cable (4 feet or so), stickers! And a 1/4” -1/8” adapter. As with the M-80’s, the one button cable is *just* the right length for me. It somewhat irks me why V-Moda has the audio only cable and the shareplay cable (both the same length) be longer when the one button cable is fabulous. But the orange of the one button cable works excellently and exquisitely with the matte black design.
Along with those are preorder extras. Faders (excellent for keeping out noise when I need earplugs such as crashing at my friends’ place with a rather rambunctious heater) and the Boom Pro mic cable, which I have yet to test out due to lack of a VOIP adapter.
Short and simple for me, these headphones are excellent. I could (and have been) wearing these things for hours on end with no sight of fatigue. I understand that for some fellow members of head-fi that there are comfort issues based on the shallowness of the cups and the tendency of the plush to compress after a period of time, but I’ve been all set in that department. For the most part for other people, it has been the same (we must all have small ears! Read below) Twisting/flattening the headphones decreases clamping force if that’s a problem for you.
Alright, let’s get down to the real reason why we’re here. How do they sound? That is the main reason why we’re shooting $310 for a new, unreleased headphone, no?
*Bam* *Purr* *Growl*
Bass is the star of the show on these cans. But think not of these cans as basshead level cans. The bass here is controlled, detailed, and makes these cans lively as can be. They really purr and growl, and it is simply a visceral experience to listen to bass through these cans. Catbread by Deadmau5 really grooves well as the first top of my head example.
As a fan of forward mids, it is a bit of a change for me to have the mids a tad laid back in comparison to the heavily forward Beyerdynamic DT1350’s. But the mid presentation is well within what I would consider acceptable for me. No bass bleed, and they stand well, if at least a bit behind the rest of the spectrum.
Extension is superior to the M80’s, and that’s excellent. They stand a bit more forward than the mids, but of course in comparison to the Alessandro MS-1’s, they seem to be missing just a wee bit at the top, but I’d say that’s acceptable, especially considering that the grado sound (a treble emphasis that can at points be too sibilant) is not what V-Moda is aiming at.
For a “semi-closed” phone? Pretty darn good. I believe miceblue has posted the inner workings of the vents, showing some foam below where the shields are and some sort of second layer of foam beneath that one, which makes it questionable how much the v-port vents actually play a role in the sound, but it is a pretty wide sound for closed-back. Not concert hall, mind you, but perhaps something of a club sort of sound as anak-chan alludes to when he describes the soundstage.
The spectrum layout alludes to this, but there are certain things that don’t stand out as well as I’d like. Cymbals don’t crash as nicely, and string-emphasized pieces, while not presented in a bad way, are not presented in the most accurate way in my opinion. Listening to a variety of pieces over these three weeks, My breakdown as to genre matching with these headphones would go like this:
By no means is classical bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, simply that the M-100’s would not be my preferred headphone for the selection. Rock is a bit of a mixed bag. Some songs are *okay* while others (Roundabout by Yes comes to mind) are superb, so I’d say that’s where things start turning the tide. It’s a wellrounded phone, but it’s a bit genre specific in the sense that some songs are adequate while others absolutely shine.
When writing a review, I’d like to keep in mind the perspective of the maker. What is the objective of their designs? Mr. Kolton has kept this design philosophy in mind: “Greatest sound for the greatest number of people.” Has he achieved that goal? Let’s find out.
Friend #1: 20 years old female, wore bose because she liked the comfort, less concerned about sound quality.
“Ooh! These are so comfy!”
*ten minutes later*
“Yeah you’re not getting these back for awhile”
“I like these way more than your other ones! (DT1350’s”
Friend #2: 20 year old male, actually head-fi member kagelou!
“Yep, these are pretty good.”
“They’re smaller than I thought they’d be”
Overall his impression was that they beat out the M-80’s, and the comfort easily wins compared to the M-100’s due to A) the pads being less stiff and B) the difference in circumaural vs supraaural headphoens
Friend #3: 18 Year old male, M-50 owner for a few months, new audiophile!
“Wow. Darn it! I’m going to go home and be like, I wish I had robble’s headphones! It won’t be the same!”
“Some stuff sounds great! But I’m not sure if I’d prefer these over the M50’s by much for some genres”
“I love how Val has been able to marry great sound with great aesthetic design! I wish the TMA-1’s had the sound quality of these”
Positive feedback, no? Yes, these three are aged 18-20 and are college students, so this is a bit more of a youth sound, but these are just people that stuck out in my mind in particular.
Headphones? Fashion statement? Personal statement? These are all qualities of the Crossfade M-100. But all those man hours and late nights tweaking have led to something really extraordinary. Many will note from Tyll's review that these are not measured well, and they are by far not the most neutral headphones around. But measurements can only tell so much, and these are by far the headphones that rock my music the most! A community semi-open sourced headphone taking the positives of the M80’s and the critiques of audiophiles, the tuning is truly excellent. A wonderful sound for a huge range of people.
Pros - Excellent mobile headphone, really great chest-hitting bass, fairly detailed, non-fatiguing treble, folding mechanism is sturdy, modular design
Cons - Shallow earpads, odd presentation of instruments/soundstage, too much bass, laid-back midrange, laid-back upper-treble, fragile zipper on case
Table of Contents
You can CTRL+F or Command+F the following to get to a certain point in my review, or just scroll through and look for the big, bold headings. If you want the gist of my review, sections V and VI are the most important parts.
Preamble (Introduction to the M-100)
I. VTF-100 and the Package Contents
II. Unboxing the M-100
III. My Initial Impressions of the M-100 Before Burn-In
IV. My Impressions of the M-100 After 144+ Hours of Pink Noise Burn-In
V. My Final Impressions of the M-100 (Section "V the People")
VI. Conclusions and Final Thoughts
VII. Customisation and Modularity
VIII. Thank You's
IX. Future Improvements for V-MODA
Preamble (Introduction to the M-100)
The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 has provided me with a headphone experience unlike any other headphone I have encountered.
If you've heard of the M-100 before, chances are you've come across the colossal thread at one point in time. Now, this thread can be thought of the M-100 developmental thread, a V-MODA fanboy thread, a bunch of random off-topic posts, or a super-thread including all of the above plus a lot of hype. I joined this thread in early July and have been pretty active in it since I joined. Originally I was intending to purchase a new headphone that would better suite my needs for mobile listening, mainly a warm-sounding, bass-boosted, durable, compact headphone.
The question is, does the M-100 live up to its hype? Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please take your seats and enjoy the ride.
*Disclaimer: all of what I say in this review are purely my own observations. This review is not influenced by major Head-Fiers such as Jude or Tyll and are not influenced by "headphone measurements".
Furthermore, my thoughts of the M-100 have not changed significantly throughout my "journey".
Of course, just like any review, these are my own personal impressions and thoughts. People hear things differently, so what I say might not completely coincide with what you think of the product. Personal preferences as well as getting used to a headphone's sound signature both play a role in headphone reviews.
Before taking this review to heart, as with most products, it is best to try out the product yourself to see whether or not you like it. V-MODA offers a 60-day test trial guarantee, so if you don't like the M-100, and you purchased it from an authorized retailer, you can return your M-100 to V-MODA for a full refund within 60 days.*
I. VTF-100 and the Package Contents
Through this colossal M-100 thread, a secret code was revealed, "VTF-100", in early August. With this code, people were able to pre-pre-purchase a M-100 for $310 USD through V-MODA's official website by typing the code into the search box. A very limited amount of people were allowed to have this pre-pre-order opportunity as only ~300 of these units were to be sold. Some people have called these units the "pre-production units" (PPU), others have called it the VTF-100. Val Kolton (CEO and founder of V-MODA) himself stated that the "VTF-100 is actually the limited first production run of M-100." Because of this, I like to call these units the "First Edition" Crossfade M-100's.
What's in this pre-pre-order special?
The standard Crossfade M-100 package [includes 1 Crossfade M-100, 2-year limited warranty, 1 hard-shell "exoskeleton" carrying case, 1 carabiner, 1 SpeakEasy Cable (4 ft., 1 button, 1 microphone), 1 SharePlay Cable (6 ft., headphone splitter at the "MP3" player jack), 1 6.3 mm (1/4") gold-plated adaptor, and 2 VCORKs] - $300 MSRP
A second pair of shields of a colour and custom design of your choice - $45
A different earpad colour (as of right now, these have not been shipped to customers yet) - $15
Boom Pro Mic cable (6 ft., boom microphone (not noise-canceling), mute switch, volume dial) - $??
V-MODA Faders VIP tuned earplugs - $20 MSRP
A hand-written note from either Val Kolton himself, or V-MODA (although some people did not receive a note)
Total value of package: $370+ USD
II. Unboxing the M-100
^ I just posted the link because having videos in a headphone review on Head-Fi is just weird...and it takes up a lot of screen-space in the review itself.
Don't forget the hidden box feature!
III. My Initial Impressions of the M-100 Before Burn-In
Sound (using the Sansa Clip Zip)
Bass punch is decent, not the best, but it's there
To me the bass seems a bit too much, at least in a quiet home it seems that way
Bass guitars are really nicely textured, well-defined, and have much presence (such as in Fourplay's songs)
Mids seem a bit withdrawn/laid-back, but still very acceptable for me
Nice warmth in the mids
Upper mids sound pretty good to me
Less shimmer in the treble compared to the SRH940, but that might be a good thing for mobile listening
Treble seems to be laid back and seems a bit plastiky to me (testing using Cloudkicker - Amy, I Love You, Fourplay - Bali Run, and 12 Girls Band - 莫高窟 (Mo Gao Ku))
Soundstage is decent, not as large as what I was expecting. It seems deeper than wide.
I don't think the M-100's would be good for rock music if you like to "be the drummer" (pretend you're playing the drumset)
^ I like to move my hands when playing a rock track as if I were playing the drum set, just a weird quirk I do. The bass pedal of the drum set has some good thump and authority in tracks that I've listened to. To me, the cymbals sound laid back; they're present and they have some sparkle, but I feel that they're somewhat veiled by the bass pedal, when I think the cymbals are inherently louder-sounding than the bass pedal. This happens on the multiple rock tracks that I've listened to. As a result of this, I find that it's harder for me to "be the drummer" since it's harder for me to hear the cymbals over the mids and lows.
12 Girls Band - 莫高窟 (Mo Gao Ku)
Battles - Futura
Cloudkicker - Amy I Love You
Fourplay - Bali Run
HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR - Pain (I've seen them live)
Illness Sickness - Anything But Postrock
Malice Mizer - Le ciel
Matt Mayfield - It's All About You
Moi dix Mois - D+SECT (I've seen them live)
Stereopony - ツキアカリのミチシルベ (Tsukiakari no Michishirube) (I've seen them live)
The Headphone Itself
Comfort doesn't seem to be an issue for me, but my ears are starting to warm up after 15 minutes of use.
Earcups are actually kind of shallow. The edges of my ears don't touch the earpads themselves, but they do touch the driver enclosure
The noise leakage is very minimal despite the semi-closed V-PORT design
No one has really mentioned it, but there is a felt patch on the M-100's V-PORT that might affect how it sounds (possible opportunity for modding?)
The M-100 in-person is TINY when folded! I am still surprised at how small it is!
^ For a size comparison, the headphone on the left is the Logitech UE6000, the Sansa Clip Zip is below it, and an iPad on the far left
The new CLIQFOLD hinge mechanism is pretty clever. I don't know why there are so many of the metal discs on the hinge, but the main mechanism is that there is a nub on one disc, and when you fold it, the nub goes into a little niche on another disc, which makes the *click* sound. Doing it in the reverse is the same process. I'm not sure how long this "nub" will last, but since it's made of metal, I'm assuming it will last a while.
The Boom Pro Mic cable's microphone has pretty good audio quality I think
Audio Test - Boom Pro Mic on Mac OS X
Audio Test - MacBook's built-in microphone
Microphonics seems to be an issue for me. For example, when I turn my head to the left (with the cable being in the left earcup), I can very clearly hear microphonics as the cable rubs against my shirt. The cable microphonics of the SRH940 (kind of a rubbery cable) are much less noticeable and seem very dampened in comparison (kind of a low-piched sound as opposed to the M-100's higher pitched sound)
Shield swapping seems to be pretty easy once you get the hang of it
Simultaneously SharePlay cable and dual-source listening seems to work just fine
^ Post rock combined with shamisen sounds pretty wicked!
I don't have a smartphone to scan QR codes, but the M-100's box seems to have 4 such codes on the box and one for registration
The box's material is a very soft-feeling, thick, sturdy cardboard. None of your average, everyday thin cardboard boxes.
The "ribbon cutting ceremony tradition" is something unlike any product I have encountered in my entire life. I have honestly never felt more excited to open a package then with the M-100.
The handle of the M-100's box is made of the same material as the headphone's headband, which is still an unknown material to me
The boxception design of the M-100 box is very clever and is pretty neat in my opinion. This is definitely a box I'm going to keep!
IV. My Impressions of the M-100 After 144+ Hours of Pink Noise Burn-In
Thought I was kidding when I said 144+ hours of pink noise burn-in? After all, who wants to wait for their headphone to burn-in for nearly a whole week without using it? Apparently me + science does:
5-Minute Pink Noise (300 second, 0.8 amplitude pink noise generated by Audacity in Mac OS X, exported as WAV signed 16-bit PCM file, mono)
5-Minute Pink Noise (300 second, 0.8 amplitude pink noise generated by Audacity in Mac OS X, exported as WAV signed 16-bit PCM file, stereo)
Media player used:
iTunes 10.7 (21) on Mac OS X (maximum volume output)
FiiO E7 USB DAC/amp (bass boost 0)
V-MODA SpeakEasy cable
Phase 1 - Left Earcup Mono Track Burn-In
Saturday October 13, 2012
Left earcup with cable, right earcup with V-MODA "cork"
Loud volume (E7 volume level 10) start: 00:35:57 (0 plays; start)
Medium volume (E7 volume level 05) start: 16:00:57 (~185 plays; ~15.41666667 hours later; ~15.41666667 hours from start)
Quiet volume (E7 volume level 01) start: 20:20:57 (~237 plays; ~4.93250003 hours later; ~19.77 hours from start)
No volume (disconnect headphone jacks and suspend in air) start: 00:36:25 (~288 plays; ~4.271666667 hours later; ~24.0077777778 hours from start)
23:55 of "resting time"; reset MacBook
Phase 2 - Right Earcup Stereo Track Burn-In
Sunday October 14, 2012
Right earcup with cable, left earcup with V-MODA "cork"
Loud volume (E7 volume level 10) start: 01:00:20 (0 plays; start)
Medium volume (E7 volume level 05) start: 16:31:42 (185 plays; 6:22 video break (paused iTunes and disconnected E7 from MacBook); ~15.41666667 hours later; ~15.52277778 hours from start)
Quiet volume (E7 volume level 01) start: 20:48:30 (~236 plays; ~4.28 hours later; ~19.80277778 hours from start)
No volume (disconnect headphone jacks and suspend in air) start: 1:48:30 (~296 plays; 5 hours later; ~24.8083333333 hours from start)
23:55 of "resting time"; reset MacBook
Phase 3 - Left Earcup Stereo Track Burn-In
Monday October 15, 2012
Left earcup with cable, right earcup with V-MODA "cork"
Medium-loud volume (E7 volume level 07) start: 02:12:25 (0 plays; start)
Quiet volume (E7 volume level 01) start: 22:12:25 (~240 plays; 20 hours later; 20 hours from start)
No volume (disconnect headphone jacks and suspend in air) start: 02:12:25 (~288 plays; 4 hours later; 24 hours from start)
34:20 of "resting time"; reset MacBook
Phase 4 - Right Earcup Mono Track Burn-In
Tuesday October 16, 2012
Right earcup with cable, left earcup with V-MODA "cork"
Medium-loud volume (E7 volume level 07) start: 02:46:45
Quiet volume (E7 volume level 01) start: 22:50:00 (~240 plays; 20.05416667 hours later; 20.05416667 hours from start)
No volume (disconnect headphone jacks and suspend in air) start: 02:46:45 (~288 plays; 3.945833333 hours later; 24 hours from start)
34:20 of "resting time"; reset MacBook
Phase 5 - Left, Dual-Entry Stereo Track Burn-In
Wednesday October 17, 2012
Left earcup with cable, right earcup with Shure SRH940
Medium-loud volume (E7 volume level 07) start: 03:21:05 (0 plays; start)
Quiet volume (E7 volume level 01) start: 23:21:05 (~240 plays; 20 hours later; 20 hours from start)
No volume (disconnect headphone jacks and suspend in air) start: 03:21:05 (~288 plays; 4 hours later; 24 hours from start)
34:22 of "resting time"; reset MacBook
Phase 6 - Right, Dual-Entry Stereo Track Burn-In
Thursday October 18, 2012
Right earcup with cable, left earcup with Shure SRH940
Medium-loud volume (E7 volume level 07) start: 03:55:27 (0 plays; start)
Quiet volume (E7 volume level 01) start: 23:55:27 (~240 plays; 20 hours later; 20 hours from start)
No volume (disconnect headphone jacks and suspend in air) start: 03:55:27 (~288 plays; 4 hours later; 24 hours from start)
34:22 of "resting time"; reset MacBook
Friday October 19, 2012
04:29:49 Listen and write impressions
Rest until 08:20
This concludes the pink noise "burn-in" period.
Sound (using the Sansa Clip Zip, and MacBook + FiiO E7 + Audirvana Plus)
The bass extension is really good
Drum pedals have a really nice kick/thump to them
They have a nice lush/organic-sound to them
Upper midrange seems to have a slight emphasis
There is a nice sparkle without having the feeling of fatigue
The sound has barely changed (if at all) since pre burn-in
I still think the cymbals/upper-treble are laid back relative to the mids (initial cymbal and drum hits don't have the "bite" I think they're supposed to have)
The Headphone Itself
For people who wear glasses, the M-100's pads don't press on your glasses' arms too much and still retains a good seal
V. My Final Impressions of the M-100 (Section "V the People")
On October 26, 2012, I received the JDS Labs Objective2 and ObjectiveDAC. These devices are known to be pretty transparent and Tyll of Innerfidelity is actually using the Objective2 as his benchmark amplifier for measurements.
In this point of the review, my impressions will be listed as follows:
Overall build quality and design
Noise isolation and noise leakage
Unamped (home listening vs. mobile listening)
Amped (home listening vs mobile listening)
Applying a sound equalizer
Earpad modifications (yes, earpad modifications can drastically change the sound of the M-100)
Tracks and albums I've listened to
I uploaded a video review on my YouTube channel if you're interested in a different way of presenting my thoughts of the M-100. It's more geared towards the average consumer, as opposed to an audiophile, so the level of detail is less, and is more of a "soft" review. Read-on below for my full-on review and you'll see what I mean.
Build Quality and Design
Overall the M-100 has a really good build quality and a good design
There are lots of metal pieces in important structures in the headphone
The STEELFLEX headband is able to be stretched in many directions without having to worry about it snapping
The new CLIQFOLD hinge seems to have a very sturdy build-quality and I don't foresee any problems with it in the future. The hinge itself is secured in place with 4 hex scews (the same screws as the replaceable shields), two on each part of the folding hinge
The dual entry headphone ports is a really neat feature as I like to have the cable on the right earcup in certain situations, but the entry is so narrow and deep that many cables won't be able to fit in it
The SharePlay cable's headphone splitter is a nice option to have. I only know of one other headphone company that offers a headphone splitter cable
The V-PORT vents on the earcups allows air to flow through the drivers, which most likely decreases the noise isolation. This is good for me because I like to be aware of my surroundings while listening to music. It might be a problem to others though.
As a result of the V-PORTs, there is some sound leakage but it's very minimal. It shouldn't be a problem to people sitting next to you in a quiet library.
The M-100's can withstand heavy rain pretty well
The hard-shell case it comes with is extremely handy for storing the M-100 and is very small in size too.
There are some problems I have with the build and design though
The white silver model is more of a créme colour than pure white. I was expecting a pure white, but the créme colour doesn't look too bad.
^ Those are the LP/LP2 pads installed on the M-100
The metal yokes are screwed into plastic pieces that act as the pivot point for the earcups. These plastic pieces are not held in place by anything in the earcup other than with a plastic peg. This peg can pop out of the earcup.
The plastic wing-plates that are at the adjustable headband are prone to cracking as a lot of stress is applied to the 3 screws holding it in place, especially when stretching the headband outward to place on one's head
The inner-headband is made of a fabric material. Whether or not that material absorbs sweat and consequently bacteria is unknown to me, but since it is fabric, I will say this is a design problem. For a headphone built for portability and active listening, this is probably not the ideal choice of material to use.
The earpads, although really soft, tend to compress too much for me when worn for more than 1.5 hours. As a result of this, the tips of my ears are hard-pressed against the driver enclosure of the earcups. The driver enclosure itself is dome-shaped, so you get less clearance in the earcup than one might think. This effect happens even sooner when exercising.
^ M-100 pads are on the left, LP/LP2 pads on the right; they are different in size and the LP/LP2 pads do affect the sound quality
The cables are made of fabric, so there tends to be some microphonics. Even more so for the SpeakEasy cable since that cable in particular is rather stiff and non-pliant.
^ SpeakEasy on the right, SharePlay on the left
Also related to the fabric cables, they have a tendency to fray. I've used the SpeakEasy cable for about 3 weeks and it's already fraying near the microphone portion of the cable.
The earpads are made of pleather, so they tend to warm up and while exercising, tend to get really moist/wet
The white hard-shell case is prone to show signs of dirt/wear/tear
Noise isolation and sound leakage
For a full-sized, closed-back headphone the M-100 doesn't isolate a whole lot. They seem to isolate most of the higher frequencies, but much of the midrange frequencies still seem pretty audible, just lower in volume.
Despite the V-PORT "hole" in the M-100's earcups, they don't leak a lot of sound at all. They do leak a little, but by the time the leakage is audible, the volume has to be pretty high. The sound leakage should not be a problem for the majority of people.
Generally speaking, the M-100 is pretty comfortable even if my ears touch the driver enclosure a little. While wearing glasses, the comfort of the M-100 seems to be fine as well.
When using the M-100 for more than 1.5 hours on the other hand, my ears do feel pained from the compressed earpads and I have to set the M-100's down and take a break.
This effect happens even faster when I exercise and I usually have to take them off my ears after 30 minutes.
The headband of the M-100 is fairly large, but flush against one's head. From my experience, the M-80's headband was extremely small and I had to adjust it to nearly the last "click". With the M-100, I only need to adjust the headband to "click" number 3 of 11.
The pleather eapads do tend to warm up pretty quickly, which may be an issue to some
Your mileage may vary as there have been plenty of people with no comfort issues.
The M-100's unamped
While listening at home, the M-100's are limited to the genres of music you listen to because
The bass presence is really the first thing that you notice for the M-100 and thus takes the main spotlight in a song
The lower-mids are thus slightly veiled from the bass and thus sound more distant than they should be from the listener
The upper-mids/lower-treble is slightly emphasised so that female vocals are more forward than male vocals, but also emphasise the hits of snare drums so it can get a bit fatiguing to listen to
The upper-treble is laid-back just like the lower-mids. As a result of this, cymbal crashes seem to occur behind the drummer with the snare drum rather than being in-line with the drummer
The soundstage seems pretty deep, but not too wide. This gives the effect that the music is being played in a long narrow hallway as opposed to a spacious room.
The instrument separation is pretty good overall. Instruments are pretty identifiable within a song but the lower mids kind of blend-in with the upper bass and the upper-treble is laid-back so some cymbal notes are hard to follow.
While mobile listening, the M-100's sound really fantastic to my ears
The bass presence is decreased due to external background noise, thus causing it to sound more balanced with the rest of the audio spectrum
The chest-thumping bass is still audible over the background noise in most cases
The midrange as a whole sounds more balanced with the bass and is not nearly as laid-back as it might be
The upper-mids/lower-treble is not as pronounced, so the snare drums sound less fatiguing
The upper-treble doesn't seem to be as laid-back as well, similar to the mids, so it presents a balanced sound with the mids and lows
The soundstage is more narrow than it might be, so the headphone sounds more "closed-in"
Instrument separation is still pretty good
The M-100's amped
When amped with either the FiiO E7 or the Objective2, the M-100 generally
Has more of that chest-thumping bass
The whole frequency spectrum just sounds a little cleaner to my ears
Instrumentation separation is improved and details are more apparent, which may be a cause for the previous point
The soundstage is larger, both in terms of width and depth (again, maybe it's due to more instrument separation)
The upper-treble is brought a tad bit more forward in the stage, but not drastically
I notice these differences both while home listening and during mobile listening (yes I brought the O2 with me to school/on the bus).
EDIT: I recently purchased a Retina MacBook Pro, so I will compare how it sounds to the 4-year old MacBook I originally used in this section.
4-year old MacBook
MacBook headphone-out: OK sound
FiiO E7 (line-in connection, bass boost 0) -> M-100 = better sound in my opinion (harder-hitting and cleaner bass, better L/R imaging and instrument separation, slightly more detailed, better upper-treble response)
JDS Labs O2 (line-in connection, fully-charged battery-powered) -> M-100 = better sound than E7 in my opinion (tighter bass that's less boomy but loses some of that chest-thump, midrange is more detailed and slightly less laid back, upper-treble response is smoother/less sharp than E7)
Retina MacBook Pro
MacBook Pro headphone-out: better sound than the setup above with the E7 in my opinion, I was genuinely surprised (lots of chest-thumping bass, very good L/R imaging and instrument separation, relatively speaking, good upper-treble response)
FiiO E7 (line-in connection, bass boost 0) -> M-100 = "meh", I can't tell if it's any better than without the E7 :/ The treble sounds a little grainier/artificial to me and the soundstage is more of that closed-hallway kind of sound (not as good L/R imaging). There is more clarity in the midrange and the bass is tightened up a bit. Strange indeed.
JDS Labs O2 (line-in connection, fully-charged battery-powered) -> M-100 = honestly, there's not a whole lot different from without any amps (bass is tighter and better-controlled, slightly better upper-treble response, a bit more detail with the midrange and it's slightly less laid back, slightly better L/R imaging, better instrument separation)
Would I recommend a more powerful amp for the M-100? Probably not. A portable amp is sufficient.
Conclusion: if you already have a good source and amp, amping won't help the M-100's a whole lot. On the other hand, if you have a "meh" amp (as was the case for the 4-year old MacBook), amping does provide some benefits. I wouldn't spend more than $100 on an amp though, personally, as the $144 JDS Lab Objective2 didn't sound substantially better over the E7 at half the price; in other words, you don't miss out on very much if you buy a "cheaper" amp.
Generally speaking, a bass reducing, upper-treble increasing sound equalizer makes the M-100 sound more balanced for home-listening and brings out the mids a little with more definition and clarity, especially the lower-mids.
In iTunes, I applied an EQ for many different genres of music and I came up with this "average EQ" composed of 11 EQ's total:
Of course EQ-ing is a subjective process so your mileage may vary. Using a sound equalizer with more bands, or better yet, a parametric EQ would probably be better, but the above EQ should suffice for most people.
For the sake of keeping this strictly a review for the M-100 as it is, as it was meant to be, I will place all modifications in a spoiler tag. Readers may read through this spoiler at their own leisure.
How I did the mod
Paper towel info:
Brand: Up & Up (I think this is Target's house brand)
Size: 11 in (27.94 cm) X 10.4 in (26.416 cm)
Take the paper towel and tear/cut it into fourths
Using one of the fourths, tear/cut it in half
Fold each of these so that you are left with 2 long strips (see second photo)
Use one of these pieces in each earcup (I lined the right, bottom, and left sides of the earcup)
Repeat steps 2-3
Cut one of these pieces in half so you have 2 shorter pieces
Use one of those pieces in each earcup so that each earcup has 1.5 long strips (I lined the upper right, top, and upper-left parts of the earcup). In the top photo, the smaller piece is the other half of a fourth that is leftover.
The bass is reduced in quantity, making it sound more balanced with the rest of the audio spectrum
The midrange is more forward and details are clearer to hear
The highs are much easier to hear (in particular the cymbals, which is the one main area of the unmodded M-100 that I think could have been improved; they are muuuuch better defined with the mod and they still remain not sibilant to my ears)
Surprisingly the soundstage seems to have gotten wider too. It sounds much more spacious with the mod. This soundstage can rival the SRH940 in my A/B comparison on my MacBook + Audirvana Plus + FiiO E7 setup (it's still not as wide, but it's much wider and deeper than the unmodded M-100)
As for fit, yes the pads are stiffer, but my ears no longer touch the driver enclosure as much, so it's more comfortable as a whole.
Joanna Wang - Lost In Paradise (the vocals are brought more forward and sound a little clearer)
Battles - Futura (the bass pedal isn't emphasised as much, but the punch is still there, so the cymbals are easier to hear; drummer-mode is activated! ) )
Cloudkicker - Amy I Love You (same result as ^)
Ottmar Liebert - Snakecharmer (the guitar seems more up-front)
Massive Attack - Teardrop (the bass isn't as prominent, but it sounds more balanced to me; the "ssss" vocals are still sharp as before probably due to the recording, but they are again not ear-grating like they were on the SRH940)
Fourplay - Chant
good instrument separation
drum up front
drum pedal has punch, a little too much for me
bass guitar is very prominent, and has lots of authority
cymbals ts ts ts audible, more in background (quiet)
snare drum easily heard, back on stage
1:11 very good left/right imaging, lots of air between instruments
voices in background in front of snare drum a few steps
other drums have very forward sound
1:40 voices slightly in front of drums, front stage, bass guitar in front of drums (well defined notes)
piano is very clear, in front of drums and background vocals, front stage
2:50 guitar? now takes front stage, piano good distance away, bass next to piano, cymbals barely audible
cymbals clearly defined, nice authority
very good L/R imaging for drumset
5:50, cymbal ting ting ting ting audible, voices in front, bass guitar slightly behind voices
good instrument separation
drum up front, but more behind than modded, tonality seems off (sounds flatter in sound)
drum pedal has more punch
bass guitar is not as clear, (bu duuuuum ditto dooom, doom part is much quieter than modded), but louder than modded overall
cymbals ts ts ts ts is barely audible, still in background
1:11 ok left/right imaging (less wide)
snare drum easily heard, might cover "doom", seems farther back than modded
voices in background seem further back than before, but still in front of drums
decent left/right imaging, not as wide
1:40 main vocals seem quieter than bass guitar (doom doom doom doom doom bass), bass guitar in front stage, notes not well defined
piano is clearly defined again, not as forward, but in front of drumset and bass guitar, behind background voices (sound nasally)
2:50 guitar takes front stage, piano behind, bass guitar in front of piano (overshadows)
cymbals clearly defined, way behind vocals
good L/R imaging for drumset
5:34, cymbal ting ting ting ting audible, next to voices, bass guitar in front
Overall, modded sounds like a wider stage with better instrument separation, but not as deep (sounds like 1st row in a concert?), unmodded sounds like a deeper stage with less width and the bass guitar is more forward in the stage (sounds like 10th row in a concert? more reverb sound?).
Listening in a noisy environment
After trying the M-100 at school and on the bus, I concluded that:
It does have better noise isolation but not a whole lot more, as I mentioned. The bus's engine noise was drowned out a bit more, especially the higher frequencies.
Cymbal crashes and other higher frequency sounds were more apparent than unmodded
The U-shaped sound is more preferable, to me, while walking on campus/with extra background noises
The bass was more easily heard over the outside noise than the modded version, so it was actually really pleasant to hear the bass guitars in some tracks over people's conversations
Laid back lower midrange was harder to hear over outside noise, but the upper mids were nicely balanced with the bass (snare drum and cymbal hits can get a bit fatiguing though)
The quieter [upper?] treble was also more pleasant to my ear since it's not fatiguing (the modded version was a similar experience with my SRH940, too little bass and lower mids, too much upper mids and highs)
Test track played on $20 desktop speakers: Quincy Jones - Back on the Block
(M-100 is not connected to anything, cable is removed from earcup)
Isolation is pretty good
Most of the highs are blocked out
The mids/vocals are somewhat blocked out (I can still hear the singer's lyrics and the background "ooo waaai eee ooh")
Bass guitar is kind of audible
Isolation is still pretty good
More of the highs come through to me (the snare drum's hit is more audible), but they're still mostly blocked out
The mids/vocals, just like the highs are a tad bit louder to me (the lyrics are more distinguishable）
The bass guitar is is also more audible
Overall there is slightly more noise isolation when modded, but it's not a deal-breaker.
Both versions isolate a decent amount. With this mod, the higher and upper-midrange frequencies are blocked out more. They don't isolate as much as the SRH940, which I thought was good (Innerfidelity says it has a -14 dB isolation rating, which is about average for a full-sized headphone), but it's pretty close.
Using this video as a test for the soundstage, it gave me a good sense of the M-100's soundstage.
I definitely sense more depth than width as I've mentioned before. The two sentries at the L/R locations at 1:48 in the video seem to be more diagonal L/R, giving a larger sense of depth. On the SRH940, the L/R locations are much more accurate from my quick listen, and the echo effects in the TF2 room makes the room much more realistic-sounding than the M-100 relatively speaking.
Wow OK this is kind of scaring me. With this mod, the soundstage IS in fact wider as I previously mentioned as well. The L/R imaging of the sentries is more accurate (L/R as opposed to diagonally behind L/R) and the echoes of the sentries in the room make the room sound much larger than it was in the unmodded version....this larger soundstage actually does rival the SRH940, also as mentioned before.
I've been switching from modded to unmodded and the sound difference is very clear to me. The best thing about this mod is that it's completely reversible and is easy to do.
DigitalFreak suggested a different mod that uses smaller paper towel pieces.
Setup: MacBook + Audirvana Plus (integer mode, exclusive access mode, use max I/O buffer size, best quality sample rate conversion) + FiiO E7 (volume level 05, bass boost 0)
Track used: Fourplay - Chant
very good instrument separation
drum up front, mid-stage
lots of bass pedal punch
bass guitar in front of drums, very prominent, well-defined notes
cymbals ts ts ts ts audible
vocals up closer to front stage
good L/R imaging
bass guitar in front (dun dun dun dun dun sound), cymbals behind vocals
piano slightly in front of bass guitar, drumset behind
guitar takes front stage, bass guitar behind, piano behind bass guitar, drumset behind that
3:29 very clear cymbals and drums, vocals slightly in front, bass guitar behind vocals
5:50 cymbal ting ting ting ting present, next to bass guitar, vocals in front, piano slightly behind
ok instrument separation
drum further back
more bass pedal punch
bass guitar in front, VERY prominent (I can feel it rumbling my gut), slightly slurred notes
cymbals ts ts ts ts barely audible (bass guitar/pedal overshadows)
vocals next or slightly behind bass guitar
OK L/R imaging
bass guitar in very front (dun dun dun dun dun sound), cymbals next to vocals
piano in front of drums, behind bass, vocals slightly in front of piano
guitar takes front stage next to bass guitar, piano behind both, cymbals barely audible
3:29 cymbals sound lacking in higher ring, vocals next to or slightly behind drumset
5:50 cymbal ting ting ting ting back on stage, vocals slightly in front, piano next to vocals, bass guitar slightly behind vocals/piano
excellent good instrument separation (lots of air between instruments)
drum up front, mid-stage
least bass pedal punch, still good though
bass guitar slightly in front of drums, prominent, well-defined notes
cymbals ts ts ts ts is audible
vocals closer to front stage
very good L/R imaging
bass guitar in front (dun dun dun dun dun sound), vocals very slightly behind, drums slightly behind vocals
piano in front stage, bass guitar behind, vocals slightly in front of bass guitar
guitar in front stage, piano slightly behind, bass guitar behind in front of drumset
3:29 very clear cymbals and drums, vocals in front of drumset, bass guitar slightly in front of drumset
5:50 cymbal ting ting ting ting present very clear, vocals in front, piano slightly behind bass guitar next to drums
Overall impressions, DigitalFreak's mod is mid-way between miceblue's mod and not modded. miceblue's mod seems to have better instrument separation and stage width, but at the loss of some bass impact/presence, sounds more balanced overall. DigitalFreak's mod still retains the M-100's signature bass but is more clearly defined/cleaner and the midrange is brought more forward as well as having clearer treble.
Given the slight differences between mods, I could actually go for either! They both sounded good to me for that particular track.
I like DigitalFreak's mod a little more since 1) it retains the signature M-100 sound for the most part, and 2) it's easier to install. My mod, on the other hand, significantly changes the sound and it's much more cumbersome to install.
Tracks and Albums I've Listened To
Because this part can be quite boring to some, I'll place all of the tracks and albums I've listened to in a spoiler tag. I used all of these tracks and albums to help formulate my thoughts of the M-100's sound.
As you can see, I listen to a wide variety of music genres.
Most of the albums are either in the form of a CD, accurately ripped EAC FLAC files, or FLAC files downloaded from Bandcamp. If I used an MP3 file, except where noted, it was likely encoded as a V0 LAME MP3 file.
László Szendrey-Karper - Hungarian Chamber Orchestra - Guitar Concertos & Sonatas - Antonio Vivaldi & Francesco Geminiani
Leo Ku - Strings Fever
Opus Two, Charles Bernard, Marin Mazzie - Leonard Bernstein: Violin Sonata, Piano Trio, New Transcriptions
Yo-Yo Ma - Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten: Sonata for Cello & Piano, Simply Baroque 2
Yury Boukoff, Mark Drobinsky, Rasma Lielmane - Richard Strauss: Les Trois Sonates
2CELLOS - 2CELLOS
Lindsey Stirling - Lindsey Stirling
ThePiano Guys - ThePianoGuys
Ambidextrous & Morkva - A&M
Amon Tobin - Bricolage, Foley Room, ISAM, Out from Out Where
Basshunter - LOL <(^^,)>
Deadmau5 - 4x4=12, For Lack of a Better Name, Random Album Title
Fighter X - various unreleased tracks
Fila Brazillia - Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight
Ladytron - Best of 00-10 Deluxe Edition
Little People - Mickey Mouse Operation, Unreleased Bits & Pieces (Part 1), Unreleased Bits & Pieces (Part 2), We Are But Hunks Of Wood
Massive Attack - Mezzanine
Tiësto - Magikal Journey: The Hits Collection
Trash80 - Hologram EP, Icarus EP, Weeklybeats 2012, various singles
V2V Online - various music streams (available on SoundCloud)
Yosi Horikawa - Wandering EP
Ottmar Liebert - The Hours Between Night + Day, Up Close
12 Girls Band - Eastern Energy, Romantic Energy
Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers, Daybreaker, Trailer Park
Chen Dacan Chinese Ensemble, Soloist Li He - Classical Chinese Folk Music, Featuring the Chinese Flute
Joanna Wang - Start From Here
Shan Di Orchestra - China-The Middle Kingdom
Various Artists - Pu'ukani: 'Sweet Music' of Hawai'i
Jon Cleary - Jon Cleary and the absolute monster gentlemen
Tower of Power - Bump City
M-Flo - Cosmicolor
Quincy Jones - Back on the Block
98.9 Smooth Jazz KWJZ - Free CD Music Sampler
Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
Deems - Deem's Greatest Hits
Fourplay - Between the Sheets, Fourplay
Mongo Santamaría - Montreux Heat!
Quincy Jones - From Q, with Love
Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas [Starbucks Exclusive]
Gabriela Montero - Baroque, En Concert à Montréal - Frédéric Chopin, Sergei Rachmaninov
Yuja Wang -
Adele - 21
By2 - Twins
Fahrenheit - 越來越愛, 雙面飛輪海
Fiona Sit - Funny Girl
Gigi Leung - 怕寂寞的貓
Jane Zhang - 我相信, 改变
Lady Gaga - Born This Way, The Fame, The Fame Monster
Magnetic North & Taiyo Na - Home- Word (Deluxe Edition)
Peggy Hsu - 奇幻精品店
Pet Shop Boys - Please, The Most Incredible Thing
Rainie Yang - 任意門
S.H.E - Play, SHERO, Super Star, 愛的地圖
Taylor Swift - Fearless, Speak Now, Taylor Swift
Vitas - Say You Love, Philosophy of Miracle
加藤ミリヤ - Ring
Slightly Stoopid - Chronchitis, Everything You Need
1724 Records - Beijing Post-Rock
Battles - Gloss Drop
Boris - Heavy Rocks
Cloudkicker - Beacons
GACKT - Diabolos, Episode.0, Mizérable
HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR - Swamp Man
Linkin Park - Meteora
Matt Mayfield - A Dozen Doughnuts For Feeding Thirteen
Moi dix Mois - D+SECT, Diaxandu
Nightwish - Angels Fall First, Imaginaerum, Made in Hong Kong (And in Various Other Places), Once, Over the Hills and Far Away, Wishmaker
Pink Floyd - The Wall
Stereopony - Over The Border
The National - Exile Vilify
Versailles - Noble
Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul
Seal - Seal, Seal 6: Commitment, Soul 2
Usher - Confessions
Chiaki Ishikawa - Bokurano OP & ED
Daft Punk - Tron Legacy Original Soundtrack
Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, Magome Togoshi, OdiakeS - various Key anime soundtracks (Air, Clannad, Clannad: After Story, Kanon, Kanon 2006)
Isaac Hayes - Shaft
Official Music Created for Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs - Sound Sketches of Ancient Egypt
The Track Team - The Legend of Korra Unreleased Music (16-bit, 48 kHz, 256 kbps)
TM Revolution - Ignited (128 kbps), Invoke (192 kpbs)
Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra - 涼宮ハルヒの弦奏
Two-Mix - Just Communication (128 kbps), White Reflection (128 kbps)
Various artists - Tron Legacy Reconfigured
Yoshida Brothers - Ibuki, Yoshida Brothers II, Prism
VI. Conclusions and Final Thoughts
So why did I give the value of the M-100 a 5/5 rating when everything else is a 3.5/5?
Let's step back for a second. As I posted in the first paragraph of the Preamble, I was looking for a headphone that "would better suite my needs for mobile listening, mainly a warm-sounding, bass-boosted, durable, compact headphone". Does the M-100 deliver that requirement? Absolutely yes! The M-100 passes those criteria with flying colours!!! Therefore to me the M-100 is totally worth the $310 I paid for it. From this criteria, I would give the M-100 a 4/5 for sound quality. The laid back midrange is really the only thing I would want fixed for mobile listening.
However, on the other hand, this is [SPARTA!!] Head-fi and wherever there is hype, people are expecting a high-fidelity product. In this sense, I do not think the M-100 excels very well here.
The M-100 is a very "fun-sounding" headphone that oddly presents instruments in the stage in my opinion. The more depth-based soundstage sounds weird to me since I'm used to hearing headphones with a very wide, more realistic "looking" soundstage. From my own personal experience, when music is played live, on-stage, the stage itself is fairly limited in depth and more spacious in width.
The bass presence of the M-100 is so present, that the lower midrange is veiled somewhat. Bass guitars and drum pedals are placed front and center in the stage, placing guitars and male vocals behind them. This presents the bulk of the midrange, essentially, at half-stage instead of the front.
The slightly emphasised upper-midrange/lower-treble is near "sibilant" to my ears, where "sibilant" is not the traditional sssss sibilant, but more about how bright those sounds sound. Snare drum hits can get fatiguing for example.
The upper-treble is laid back, just as the mids are, so the cymbal crashes seem to be further back on the stage than the snare drums. This odd presentation makes the whole drumset sound weird because the bass pedal is in the front stage, snare drums slightly behind that, and the cymbals way behind the snares.
Or in short:
Bass lower-midrange upper-midrange lower-treble upper-treble
^ hence, a U-shaped sound signature
The M-100's are well textured and detailed, but due to the laid back midrange and upper-treble, the resolution of detail isn't as good as what other headphones might offer (mainly headphones with a forward midrange and more treble presence) at the same volume level.
Wrapping up this whole experience, it has been one of the most, if not THE most, interesting experiences I have ever encountered on Head-Fi.
Does the M-100 live up to its hype? In my honest opinion, going from what Head-Fiers usually want from a super-hyped headphone, no. It doesn't seem to have the same sound signature of the M-80 from my experience and is more of a consumer-audiophile headphone as opposed to the M-80's more audiophile-consumer sound. Some people on Head-Fi looking for an upgrade from the M-80 might find themselves a bit disappointed with the large increase in bass, more "sibilant" treble, and still laid back midrange. Resulting from this is a very "iffy" headphone when it comes to different music genres. Electronic music excels with this kind of sound signature, but many do not benefit from this type of signature.
Does this mean the M-100 is a bad headphone? Not in a chance is it bad. The M-100 was developed for the purpose of fulfilling the needs of "Modern audiophiles", which I interpret to be "audiophiles" who listen to more modern genres. This is why I gave the M-100 a pretty positive review on my YouTube video as most viewers are likely going to be listening to modern music on their modern iPods. The M-100 excels for this purpose in my opinion, but at the same time may disappoint hard-core audiophiles expecting a more traditional audiophile output from the M-100.
For me and my purposes, the M-100's are the best portable, mobile headphone I have ever touched and so they have a high value to me. As a mobile "road warrior" listener, the M-100 provides a very balanced sound for nearly every genre of music I throw at it from my Clip Zip. Again, I must emphasise that the M-100 is by far the best-sounding mobile headphone I have touched. I've tried many different portable headphones and the M-100 is almost always on the top. The Crossfade M-100 really is the perfect headphone for my purposes as it easily, EASILY slayed the criteria I had prior to going through this "journey" and it goes way beyond what I had in store. In comparison, other headphones I've tried can only meet, but not exceed these criteria.
....OK it's 4:45 AM where I am. I might be missing a thing or two in my review, but I really, really, really need to get some sleep. >_<''
VII. Customisation and Modularity
As with V-MODA's previous headphones, the ability to customise your headphone is a really neat feature. V-MODA offers a level of customisability unlike any other headphone in the market, to-date, so if you're looking to purchase a M-100, I would highly recommend taking advantage of this feature.
The M-100 comes in 3 default colour schemes:
Matte-black - everything on the headphone is matte (non-glossy) black, even the branding; comes with matte-black shields, black earpads, a bright orange SpeakEasy cable, and a black SharePlay cable
Shadow - it has a suede-like headband with red stiching, a red "V" on the glossy wingplate, and the earcups are a glossy black; comes with brushed-aluminum shields, black earpads, a black SpeakEasy cable, and a red/black SharePlay cable
White silver (the one I purchased) - everything is a créme coloured white, with chrome accents on the earcups and "V" on the wingplate, the wingplate and earcups have matte-finish, the headband is made of a leatherette-like material and has visible "dots" on them; comes with matte-silver aluminum shields, grey earpads, a two-tone grey SpeakEasy and SharePlay cables
From these default schemes, different coloured shields can be purchased separately via their V-MODA's Custom Shield Kits. Each kit comes with 2 shields with an optional, laser-engraved, V-MODA-designed logo with text of your choice, extra hex scews, and a hex (AKA Allen) key. These kits sell for $25 each, except for the gold-coloured shields, which are $50 each.
For an additional $20 fee, you can have V-MODA engrave a custom logo of your choice. More information regarding this process can be found on V-MODA's custom shields webpage.
My custom design ended up looking like this (on the ocean blue colour):
Furthermore, you can add more customisation options to your headphone by having different coloured earpads. As of right now, V-MODA does not have extra earpads in stock, but in the future, they should have black, grey, and white earpads available to purchase for $15.
^ That's a white LP/LP2 earpad, not an M-100 one
And if that wasn't enough, there are the different colour options for cables. Right now V-MODA, again, doesn't have this as an option yet, but I'm assuming in the future, once they start shipping the M-100's to the public, different cable colour options will be available to purchase.
Relating to cables, there are a plethora of cables available for you to use.
Got an Android device? There's a cable for that (1-button SpeakEasy).
Got an Apple device? There's a cable for that (1 or 3-button SpeakEasy).
Are you a gamer? There's a cable for that (Boom Pro Mic). This cable has a built-in flexible boom microphone. This cable has a single TRRS jack at the end, so if you need a VoIP connection, a separate adaptor is needed.
Are you a DJ or a professional sound engineer who needs the flexibility of long cables? There's a cable for that (CoilPro Cable).
Are you a mobile listener who likes to share music with others? There's a cable for that (SharePlay).
Maybe you're just an audiophile who wants an audio-only cable. Well good news for you, there's a cable for that (Audio only).
The best thing about the cables with the M-100 is that you can plug-in your cable into either earcup. Sometimes I put my portable media player in my right pocket, so it's convenient to have the cable going to the right earcup; at other times it's in my left pocket, so having the cable going to the left earcup is more convenient.
VIII. Thank You's
Thank you V-MODA for allowing me to have this incredible pre-pre-order opportunity.
Thank you Val Kolton for dedicating so much time and energy with the Head-Fi community to create this first semi-open-source headphone. It is truly an honour to interact with the CEO and founder of a company. It has been quite a journey going through the M-100 develpmental thread and I appreciate all of the hard work you have done to:
Cope with everyone's requests, complaints, questions, and burdens
Manage to create a product that meets many of the requests
I think many people in that thread are going to be satisfied with what the M-100 offers as a direct result of your hard work in trying to put everyone's requests into one product.
Lastly, thank you readers for taking the time to read through this incredibly long review. I have spent a great deal of time compiling my experiences, photos, videos, and afterthoughts into this review and I hope you get a thing or two out of it.
IX. Future Improvements for V-MODA
This is mainly for Val and V-MODA to read, as I will offer some constructive criticism. Normal Head-Fiers or readers may disregard this section.
In all honesty, think the Crossfade M-100 is a very successful product for mobile "road warriors" as well as "Modern audiophiles". The M-100 is by far the best portable, mobile headphone I have ever encountered and I wholeheartily think the M-100 is an absolute bargain for the $300 price tag if you need a headphone for those purposes.
You took the sound of the very successful M-80 and tweaked it to match the needs for "road warriors" and "Modern audiophiles" alike. Bumping up the bass as well as the lower-treble region to create a U-shaped sound signature is very ideal for such listening purposes. I think many people are going to love the sound of the M-100, and it has been very favourable so far as evident by tech blogs and major reviewers.
On the other hand, tweaking the M-80's sound to be more "fun" may disappoint die-hard audiophiles who were expecting a more audiophile-like output from the M-100. In this regards, I don't think the M-100 is very successful in creating this kind of sound. The bass presence is way too much for many genres of music, the laid-back upper-treble (cymbal crashes) isn't sparkly enough to satisfy many rockers out there, and the laid back midrange makes the M-100 an "iffy" headphone for mid-centric music genres, and especially those featuring vocals.
Because of this choice of tuning, the M-100 presents instruments in more of depth-based stage rather than a more realistic-sounding wide-stage. This is especially noticeable while listening to orchestra music as the cello is placed right up in the front stage (which is okay), but the violins and other strings are placed much farther back, and are limited in their left/right positioning. A full-staged orchestra is now compressed into a long, narrow hallway. A similar effect is noticed when playing rock music. I noted this effect the first time I posted my impressions on Head-Fi a few hours after unboxing the M-100.
Pianos have good timbre, but, again, because of the tuning, the presentation of the piano seems off and is more of a distant background instrument rather than the main spotlight in many of the tracks I've listened to. I feel like I am sitting in row M in a concert rather than in the front rows, the piano just seems so distant to me.
Enough with the examples, you're probably asking "where is the constructive criticism?"
For a future headphone, whether it's in the Revolver, or the Milano, I think Head-Fiers would really like a true-audiophile headphone produced from V-MODA.
The M-80 is a huge success in the audiophile community, and you'll soon find out how the M-100 will fare in the same community. I personally don't think the M-100 will receive too many good marks for pure, home-listening audio quality, but rather it will receive excellent marks for "road warrior"/"Modern audiophile"/casual-listening audio quality. They are two different kinds of sounds desired by two different audiences.
For a more pure, home-listening, traditional audiophile experience, I think the following can be improved:
Reduce the bass quanity - most true audiophile headphones have a slight bass boost, but the M-100 has too much of a bass boost. Something like the M-80 but with an ever-so-slightly boosted bass with the M-100's bass extension looks to be a desireable sound in the bass region.
Reduce the lower-midrange veiling - as many have noted with the M-100, myself included as evident by my immediate initial impressions, the M-100 has a laid-back midrange. Val has mentioned that the mids are "neutral", but neutral means presented without colouration. The mids, and especially the lower-mids are coloured by the accentuated bass, and give the impression that they are further back in the stage than where they should be. The mid and sub-bass seems to take the most authority in the M-100 so it overshadows, hence veiling, the lower midrange.
Bring the whole midrange more forward - as with the M-80, the M-100's midrange as a whole is fairly clear, but is held back. Bringing the midrange more forward would offer a more realistically-presented midrange. The singer and/or other midrange instruments such as violins or guitars would take the front stage as they should, being the main spotlight of the song, rather than the bass instruments.
If all of the above are done, lower the lower-treble a tad bit - snare drum hits would be more aligned with the rest of the sounds, so not a huge alteration should be made for this region of sound. At the moment, the M-100's lower-treble is slightly fatiguing for home listening as a result of the U-shaped tuning
Increase the upper-midrange - the M-100 has decent sparkle, much better than the M-80 from my experience, but is still lacking for home listening since it still seems relatively laid back compared to the upper-mids/lower-treble and the very forward, in-your-face bass
Increase the width of the soundstage - the M-100's depth-based soundstage is odd to hear. The different amounts of layering on the stage due to depth sounds rather unusual and un-realistic because, as previously mentioned, most headphones with a "large soundstage" have much more width in the stage than depth, as is the case for concert stages.
Resulting from all of the above, I think a more audiophile-like output can be achieved. Reducing the bass quantity, making the midrange more forward, and increasing the sparkle of the headphone will ultimately allow the listener to hear things more accurately and thus is able to pick up details in recordings much better.
Like I said, these are my thoughts for how the future headphones of V-MODA can be improved to create a more traditional, home-listening, audiophile-friendly headphone. In my mind, the M-100 is a huge success for its intended purposes, and is definitely my recommended headphone of choice for "road warriors" out there, but those looking for a more "audiophile M-80" will be slightly disappointed with the more "fun" sound signature.
Finally, not related to headphones, I think V-MODA in general has fantastic customer service. The "Six Star Service" experience has been a very positive one for me. However, throughout this M-100 journey, I noticed that there were several inconsistencies that occurred. To help improve the "Six Star Service":
The V-MODA support staff should be notified of changes that Val has mentioned - I can imagine this is extremely hard to do, but it was kind of frustrating to hear Val say one thing, V-MODA support to say another
Have "due dates" that are either accurate, or over-estimated - it was also frustrating to hear that the M-100 was going to be released X, and then it got "delayed" until Y, and then it got moved to Z, and then it finally shipped on V. It is also equally frustrating for some people to see the broad message of: "will ship within 60 days".
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I am really looking forward to seeing how future V-MODA headphones will turn out!
Veni. Vidi. Vici.
Revision 1: November 12, 2012
Fixed a few typos ✓
Changed the formatting for the photos ✓
Added a Table of Contents before the Preamble section ✓
Added a small disclaimer in the Preamble section regarding my observations ✓
Added an equalizer ✓, noise isolation and leakage ✓, and "tracks and albums I've listened to" ✓ sections in section V
Update the comfort section in section V to include the headband size ✓
Added some more details about why I like the M-100 in last sentence/paragaph of section VI ✓
Added a seventh (VII) section regarding customisation options and modularity for the M-100 ✓
I have concluded that this "review editing window" is not very convenient
Revision 2: December 3, 2012
Fixed a few typos ✓
Added more details in the The M-100's amped section ✓
Revision 3: December 9, 2012
Changed the cons section at the top of the review to include shallow earpads and a fragile zipper on the case (I originally had "emphasised upper-mids/lower-treble" in the cons list but it's a minor complaint compared to the new ones I added) ✓
Added "horizontal lines" to better indicate when a new major section appears in the review ✓
Pros - Efficient, good isolation, punchy and fun sounding, relaxed treble without fatigue
Cons - Sensitive enough to reveal amplifier hiss, could use a little more treble presence, bass tended to bump up with higher output impedance
V-MODA CROSSFADE M-100 REVIEW.
Associated Gear: Macbook Retina Pro, iTunes 10.7 with Amarra Music Player, CEntrance DACmini and DACport, Nuforce DAC-100, Woo WA6, Eddie Current ZDT, HiFIMan EF5, HM-801, iPhone 5, iPod Nano (5th and 6th Gen), CablePro Reverie LOD, Whiplash Audio TWag V2 LOD, Headamp Pico Slim, and RSA SR-71b.
MUSIC USED: See review.
M-100 FEATURES (from website):
- Modern Audiophile Sound
50mm Dual-Diaphragm drivers (patent pending)
Analog Noise Isolation
No Batteries or Artificial Processing
3+ Years of Ergonomic R&D
Balanced, layered, clean yet Deep Bass, Vivid Mids and Ultra-Extended Highs
Maximal 3D Soundstage & Minimal Leakage
- Military-Level Materials & Quality
MIL-STD-810G Test Standards
Virtually Indestructible CLIQFOLD Headband
6 band frequency response Quality Control
Exoskeleton Hard Case
ABCP® - Anything But Circles & Plastic Materials
Detachable Kevlar® reinforced SharePlay and Universal SpeakEasy Mic cables
1/4" adapter included
PHOTOS: [review edited to fix a missing photo]
The M-100 comes with a nice hardshell zipper case, 1/4" adapter for the 1/8" plug, and two 1/8" (3.5mm) plug headphone cables - one with a mic and button, and the other with a short splitter and extra 3.5mm jack to allow plugging in another set of headphones. The other end of the cable that plugs into the headphones is terminated in a 1/8" plug as well. The two headphone cables are covered in a tight weave fabric, which feels more upscale than the cheap rubbery cable with my HD25-1 II or Shure SRH-840. I tried the splitter cable at RMAF, and with a second M-100 connected there was no change in sound quality when connected to a DJ Mixer board and amp. If the cups could swivel forward to uncover one ear this might work better as a DJ headphone, although the extra hinge it might weaken the super-strong headband. At RMAF Val told me that we could daisy chain 4-5 M-100 together without causing problems.
With the single button on the headphone cable I was able to pause the music (1 click), or skip forward (2 click) and back (3 click). The button also works with Siri on my iPhone 5 if I press and hold it, which is wonderful. The microphone pod in the cable is closer to the ear cups and mouth, while the button pod is at an easier to reach location at mid chest level. The plug is also small enough to be used with just about any iPhone case out there, even those with with a small headphone jack hole like my Speck candyshell case.
I spent a bit of time with the V-MODA M-100 at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012 (RMAF), and posted some early impressions about them in the RMAF 2012 impressions forum at Head-fi.org that night. I was excited about these and was ready to buy a pair of matt-black at the show, but they only had a few samples remaining until December, so they couldn't sell me a pair until then. After two days of pleading my case I was able to get a loaner pair to review. To last me until December I also got a pair of M-80, which I hope to review later and hand down to my daughter or son.
Now that I've had these Shadow Black M-100 in hand for a few days, the shiny black shell surrounding the matt black ear cup's center panels has grown on me. At first I liked the all matte black ones better, but I thought the headband on these Shadow black phones was more attractive. I love the look of the suede headband that comes with the Shadow. These are stylish without feeling gaudy. I would not be embarrassed to wear them out in public, or in front of my kids.
I was initially drawn to the V-MODA M-100 not by the looks but by necessity. Before RMAF I had misplaced my Sennheiser HD25-1 II and I wanted something better to replace them as an inexpensive closed headphone with good isolation. My SRH-840 are a little too big to be portable, and didn't isolate as well the HD25-1 II. After the demo at RMAF I felt these could be a good replacement for the HD25-1 II. I was sad that I wouldn't be able to compare them for more than the 10 minutes I had with someone elses HD25-1 at RMAF.
As luck would have it, when I got home from Rocky Mountain Audio Fest my son pointed me right to the missing headphones, hiding in a black Sennheiser case on my dresser. For some reason someone had put them away for me and didn't tell me. This meant that I'd still have a good isolating phone if I didn't buy the M-100, which I felt would make me less biased. But if I hadn't thought I'd lost the HD25-1 II before CanJam @ RMAF I might have glossed over the M-100 and any other closed headphones altogether. That would have meant no review. Needless to say, after doing comparisons with my HD25-1 II, SRH-840, and ATH-A900 at home I'm still convinced that I need the M-100.
In a nutshell, the M-100 is a fuller and richer sounding headphone than my HD25-1 II, with stronger bass and less grainy treble. The M-100 is actually more laid back and less aggressive sounding than the HD25-1 II, which I sometimes think sound too much like lower or middle of the line Grado headphone. That's not such a bad thing, but it limits the HD25-1 II as far as what I can enjoy with them. This especially in light of the Sennheiser's flat soundstage which presents more of a wall of sound, as well as limits the immersion in the musical experience with many genre like classical music and live jazz recordings.
I tended to think of the HD25-1 II as my "rock music" headphones with isolation, and even then I would prefer a bit more bass impact from them. The M-100 give me that and more, while throwing out a bigger and more transparent soundstage that is unusual for a mid-priced closed headphone like this. And the icing on the cake is the M-100 are more comfortable to wear for long periods than my HD25-1 II which sit on and compress my ears.
In comparison to my Shure SRH-840, the M-100 mids are fuller and not recessed in the lower mids like the Shure seem to be. And the M-100's stronger bass lends a bit more weight to instruments and the illusion that they are in the room with me. The M-100 soundstage is also a bit bigger than the SRH-840. The SRH-840 and HD25-1 II are a little brighter in the treble region, which does make picking out small details in the music a little easier if these are all paired with a high output impedance amplifier. I have a comfort issue with the SRH-840 in that the cups are shallow and my ears hit the baffles, but not so with the M-100.
My ATH-A900 have been recabled and internally dampened, and sounded a lot more like a Denon D2000 the last I did comparisons. The problem is that means the same V-shaped frequency response with recessed mids in relation to the bass and treble, and the treble still isn't all that smooth. All of my comparison phones were a little brighter than the M-100. With good gear and good quality masterings I wouldn't say the M-100 are too dark, and although they are darker than the HD25-1, SRH-840 or ATH-A900 the M-100 treble seems a little more refined to me. The ATH-A900 are extremely comfortable, but often too loose and don't retain their position on my head when I recline my chair. They also don't isolate much at all compared to the M-100 or HD25-1 or SRH-840.
The first time I tried the M-100 at RMAF was with my iPhone 5 and 5th Gen iPod Nano and a CD ripped in Apple lossless format. I listened to Amanda Palmer (AFP) playing Radiohead songs with her ukelele; and in "Fake PLastic Trees" I thought the ukelele was clearly coming from outside of the headphones. When Amanda started singing after the intro, her voice was full and inviting without any overdone lower mids or missing ambience and air. And the music's weight, body and presence was great.
I then listened to the M-100 with a $2700 April Music Eximus DAC/amp at the Moon Audio table and fell in love even more (with both the M-100 and Eximus). My 5th Gen iPod Nano paired with a CablePro Reverie line-out dock and Pico Slim amplifier fell between the iPhone and Eximus in sound quality, with a surprising level of detail for such a small audio rig. All of these with a lower output impedance than my Nuforce DAC-100 and CEntrance DACmini that I used once I got these headphones home. What I heard at RMAF sold me on these phones, as they did other head-fi member like jude and Asr.
At home, with some amps that have an output impedance of around 10-15 Ohm the M-100 did develop a little more bass-boost than is optimal, but that's not the M-100's fault but rather an impedance mismatch to blame. Fortunately it's not an issue with every music track played through these amps, and one song or album might be okay while another was just a little troublesome. But if it was an issue it's improved greatly just by using the EQ in iTunes or Amarra Music Player to take out about 2-3 dB at 125Hz and 250Hz. It was never bad enough that I felt I must use EQ with these amps.
Regardless, with my Pico Slim and SR-71b portable amps, Woo WA6, HiFiMan EF5 or Eddie Current ZDT desktop headphone amps, the output impedance is low enough to not be an issue. The M-100 also play very well with my HM-801, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPod Nanos (5G and 6G) right out of the headphone jack. So, if I note elsewhere in my review any issues with bass bloom or slightly decreased bass control, know that I was using the high output impedance amps at the time.
Clearly, changing to an iPhone/iPod or an amplifier with low output impedance the week after I started my review negated the need for the small amount of EQ that I tried in parts of the review. However, I didn't want to re-write all of my review that was almost completed without using the amps in question, because it's important that people see what the synergy with different gear is like. While many of my high-end headphones don't mind the slightly elevated output impedance (LA7000, HF-2, HE-500, HE-5 LE, LCD-2 r1, HD600, HD800), I think that proper impedance matching is a little more important with the M-100. With that sorted out they did very well with all the program material and no EQ required.
IMPRESSIONS - mostly with DACmini (10 ohm) and DAC-100 (15 ohm), and other home amps:
The day after I returned from the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest I started listening to the M-100 with several of my home audio rigs. The DACmini and DAC-100 are the ones I usually have hooked up to my Macbook Pro, and the most convenient. One thing I noticed was that the M-100 were very sensitive and efficient, and revealed the zero volume background hiss of the DAC-100's headphone amp, which previously I had only heard with IEM or earphones. I didn't hear any hiss or noise with my other amps, including my HiFIMan EF5 which is also too noisy to use with IEM.
Up first was Lori Bell-Ron Satterfield Duo on the Nuforce Bluport Jazz Sampler in 24/96 via my Nuforce DAC-100. In direct comparison the M-100 has a better soundstage in every dimension than my HD25-1 II which have a fairly flat or shallow soundstage front to back in comparison. The M-100 is fairly transparent despite the strong bass, but there was a small amount of mid-bass bleed of the string bass and acoustic guitar into the lower mids, due to the amp's >15 ohm output impedance. But then the flute was so "right there in the freaking room with me" that I almost turned my head to look for it!
This portrayal of a spacious soundstage was reinforced when I played Tabula Rasa "Part: Fratres" with Gidon Kremer and Keith Jarrett. I could place the violins and piano easily in the concert hall, with an enveloping sense of space that was surprising for a closed phone in this price range. Many of my classical recordings that were done with wide spaced and somewhat distant mics usually lose a bit of bass impact and presence from the instruments being unamplified in a large hall. However, the M-100 retained the weight and warmth that I've heard before in live performances when the bass strings, brass, and tympani come in full strength (such as in my 24/96 recordings of Elgar Enigma Varation No.9 • Lawrence Foster • Houston Sym. Orch.• Recorded Live, and Tchaikovsky: Hopak from Mazeppa • The Minnesota Ochestra, and especially in Jeu de cartes • Charles Munch • Boston Symphony Orchestra).
With female vocals in Chesky's "Audiophile Voices I & II" the M-100 sound full bodied, and with the DAC-100 and DACmini there was only small amount of bass bleed into the lower mids, but not too bad or distracting, especially if you've been to enough concerts to be used to hearing close mic'd and amped vocals that you forget about it. In other music selections on the Nuforce Bluport Jazz Sampler album, with piano's I thought the M-100 lacked some of the super fast transient response that I get with high end phones like the HiFIMan HE-500, Audeze LCD-2 and Sennheiser HD800. However, their speed and performance with pianos improved noticeably when I selected other piano recordings such as Keith Jarret "The Koln Concert" in 24/96 or Maxense Cyrin "Novo Piano". The transient response improved even further when used with a low output impedance amp like the Woo WA6, proving that synergy and recording quality are both just as important.
I'll note that pianos are usually hard to reproduce with the stunning clarity of live instruments, but these can do a pretty respectable job with good music selections, even with my DAC-100 and DACmini. I pulled out the venerable Jazz at the Pawnshop. In the song "Lady Be Good" for example, I was pleased with the piano presentation offering pretty good transparency and no bleed-over. When the saxophone kicked in at 2m 10s it felt just a little more forward and up front in respect to the rest of the band than I am used to. More like he was playing right up to the microphone at the edge of the stage. I went into the iTunes EQ and pulled back the 125Hz slider by about 2dB and the 250Hz slider by 2.5 dB which took care of the bass bleed into the saxophone. Despite the M-100's laid back nature and treble, the high hat cymbals and ride cymbals that are struck in the background behind the piano for the first minute or two were clean and sharp. And you could still hear them shimmer in the background through the entire song, although slightly recessed in volume.
At the other end of the spectrum, when switching to the Batman Begins soundtrack, you can feel all the weight and power you'd expect from a 5.1 sound system with subwoofer in your home theater. Sometimes I'll skip right to the song "Molossus" for a demo, but the sound was so immersive and surrounding when I started track one that I found myself listening to the entire album while typing this, even though I was supposed to be spending that hour with a wider variety of music. Likewise, I greatly enjoyed the M-100 with many other orchestral movie soundtracks from Hans Zimmer and others, such as Gladiator, Pirates of the Carribean, The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, etc. This needed no EQ with my high or low impedance amps.
These headphones give a very powerful presentation, with huge weight and depth and immersion into the movie soundtrack. By blocking the outside noise, one doesn't need to crank up the volume to higher than safe levels either. But just like being addicted to the acceleration of a fast car, it's sometimes still fun to turn it up the volume and feel the power and weight these portray. I did so and was not disappointed. They can play at extreme volumes and not complain one bit. The M-100 is the first efficient headphone with which I have maxed the volume on my DACmini, and it did so without distortion at incredibly high and dangerous volumes.
And with music like Pink Floyd "The Wall" or Black Eyed Peas the M-100 found their element as well. With "The Wall" and the DACmini I preferred to use some light bass-reduction EQ the music as above, but switching to the iPhone 5 or a low impedance amp with "The Wall" required no EQ. With Blackeyed Peas I preferred the M-100 without any EQ, regardless of amp. In one test I cranked up "Boom Boom Pow" and "Imma Be" on the DACmini to such high volumes that I actually felt my ears bouncing and saw my vision blur, surely exceeding 120 dB without clipping. After that I tried some V-MODA Faders VIP plugs to reduce the volume level for hearing protection during high volume tests, and I could hear clean music without clipping at very high volumes (I learned the earplug trick when I used to do car stereo competition in college - turn it up until it was just below clipping and then look at the dB meter).
With the same desktop rig I switched to The Dark Night soundtrack, and in "Why So Serious" the sucking throbbing low 20Hz bass notes really felt like I had a plunger hooked up to my ear canals with somebody working it like a butter churn. Seriously, I don't recall the last time I felt such power and impact from a headphone without clipping, except maybe when I got my first Koss Pro 4AAA when I was a teenager, played via Marantz 2240 receiver. With the Bella Sonus album, in the intro to "Enamoured" it throws out a few 20Hz notes that can be clearly heard, while the low notes often disappear with other mid-priced headphones.
To see just how low these go and how they play from 20Hz - 20Khz, I tried out Michael Knowles "Binks Audio Test CD" where bass is strong to 20Hz and can still be felt at 16Hz. There is a small hump around 160-250 Hz as well as a small audible dip in the frequency response from 2150-5000 Hz, but no spiky treble peaks and especially nothing noted in the 6KHz range that would lead to any sibilance. My 50 year old ears roll off after 12,500 Hz and I can clearly hear the M-100 at that point, but with the volume turned up to compensate for my age the 16Khz tone is also definitely audible with these.
As I said before, some recordings sound a little "bloomy" with high output impedance amps, like "The Wall", but with other recordings the bass and overall clarity is just fine without EQ on those amps. Switching to the Nuforce DAC-100 to play Jimmy Cobb Quartet "Jazz in the Key of Blue" in 24/96 was one example of such. It was very detailed and well balanced with the M-100, without being dark or boomy. This was another time that I found myself listening to the entire album when I was supposed to be listening to everything I could throw at the M-100. I didn't realize I had become totally immersed until the next album in iTunes started playing, which was Keith Jarrett "The Koln Concert" in 24/96. And with this recording the M-100 did a fine job of reproducing the delicate piano notes that seemed to hang in the air, with great ambience and space of the live hall where it was performed.
Next I pulled up Sara K "Hobo" in 24/96. This album also showed off the clarity and PRAT that the M-100 are capable of, albeit with continued strong bass emphasis. I also tried the 24/96 Chesky Records "Explorations in Space and Time", which proved that the M-100 can transparently recreate a large hall with ambience and air, and still hit super hard with the drum impacts. In contrast, with the same amp I listened to "Fever" on the Ray Charles "Genius Loves Company" in 24/96 and thought the bass sounded a little boomy, requiring that previous EQ of about minus 2-3 dB at 125 & 250Hz. This went on and on where many albums were just fine with the 10-15 ohm output impedance, and if not it was fixed by a low impedance amp or a small amount of EQ in the bass.
Even better news is that for the intended playback devices like iPhones and other iDevices or portable gear, with or without a portable amp, the synergy is very good. This makes a great portable circumaural headphones for iPhone use, with a mic and without need for an amp. However, it's good enough to reveal the differences between sources, so choose well.
I don't think the iPhone 5 sounds as good as those that came before it, and I preferred my 5th Gen iPod Nano, iPhone 4 and 4S, and iPad 3 over the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 is reported to have a slightly higher output impedance than the 4S and older iPods, but it still worked well when using it with the M-100. Unfortunately the clarity, spaciousness, and detail still can't compare to the DAC-100 or DACmini (or even the iPhone 4S). Note, the iPhone 5 needed a lot of burn-in to open up, and it wasn't fully burned-in by RMAF. After almost 2 months it sounds much more open, and is more pleasing to listen to than a month ago when I started working on this review. The iPhone 4S, 5G Nano and iPad 3 still hold an edge over it, but I can still enjoy them with the iPhone 5 despite it's slight veil over the other iDevices.
I really appreciated that I don't need to use an amplifier to drive the M-100 well, because with an amp piggybacked to the iPhone you can't use the mic or the controller button on the cable. The other reason to avoid an amp is that the iPhone 5 now lacks a line out to connect a line-out dock to an amp. The cheap Apple Lightning to 30-pin adapter plus a line out dock and Pico Slim sounded pretty dull, bland and lifeless vs the headphone out, so I did most of the listening via headphone out.
For a comparison of power output from the iPhone I played Mercan Dede "800" in lossless via the DAC-100 at 50% volume, and really got into the thumping rhythm and drums. I then switched to the iPhone 5 headphone out with the same album, and the M-100 right out of the headphone jack only needed to be set at about 65% volume to match the volume of the DAC-100 at 50%.
Setting the iPhone 5 volume at 50-80% is all you will ever need with most music. Above 80-90% it was louder than I normally listen (without distortion I should add). And 100% was uncomfortable after 15-30 seconds but still sounded clear with most music. Dropping back to 65% on the iPhone was just right for me after that. This is loud enough to drown out most traffic driving by, without blocking the sound of a honking horn or screeching tires.
With a wide variety of high-end, mid-fi, and lower budget rigs the M-100 never failed to please. They have a solid high standing in the ranks of fun and easy to drive headphones that can also please audiophiles, although I might not place these in the ranks of audiophile headphones, mostly due to their emphasis on the low end and their laid back treble. Still, I thought their timbre and tone reminded me most of being like a "closed Sennheiser HD650", although with a little extra bass and slightly less detail. That's a good baseline sound signature that can appeal to most people.
Compared to other popular passively isolating headphones near this price range, such as Shure SRH-840, Sennheiser HD25-1 II and Amperior, and Beyer DT-1350 or Custom One, I really prefer the M-100 (my ATH-A900 and Denon D2000 don't really offer much if any isolation). While the HD25-1, ATH-A900 and SRH-840 that I have here at home have a more present treble that makes them sound crisper (and maybe seem more detailed at times), those lack either the weight, body, presence, or depth of stage that brings the music to life and makes you feel like you are there. The only other closed headphones that I think could compete with the M-100 in this category, that I heard at RMAF but don't have on hand to compare, were the Sennheiser Momentum and Sony MDR-1.
And, the M-100 don't have a problem with presenting details if you have the gear and the ears to hear it. For those who are getting older and experiencing high frequency roll-off, or using these with too high of an output impedance, then the M-100 might start to sound a little too dark. But even then, it was easy to enjoy them with just a touch of EQ, although I didn't find myself touching the treble with the EQ.
Personally, I found it easier to just listen to them as they are without adding or removing anything with EQ. If I MUST EQ a headphone to enjoy it, like with my last two pairs of Darth Beyers, then they aren't worth owning. The M-100 on the other hand are a keeper. Now, if I can only keep my son from sneaking in and borrowing them from me.
Pros - Superb build quality, excellently rendered bass, really fun sonically
Cons - Genre specific
V-Moda M-100 Unboxing Picture Post
Warning: Picture Heavy
Today I received a production version of the V-Moda M-100. As I was not a part of the pre-release run these aren't the VTF-100s with additional accessories, etc. As such there are no pictures of the additional accessories. This is the retail on-the-shelf stock package.
I also have to thank you very much to the V-Moda team (Val, Gavin, Bill), and to VentureCraft (Hamada-san) for making this happen for me. I feel very privileged to be able to get these in my hands so early post production. I deeply and truly appreciate this gesture by them.
As mentioned in other posts in other M-100 threads, I won't be giving a sonic review in this post. I'll make one after the M-100 has been run in overnight at least. As a end-user, I personally do believe in burn-in, some headphones required more than others, some longer than others too. But at least in the past V-Moda headphones I've owned, I gather the M-100 will be similar to them where most of the changes are within the first few hours and thereafter, the improvements taper off over time (diminishing returns).
Along the picture post, though, I will be giving my thoughts about the construction, fit, comfort, etc. in note form.
As can be seen, V-Moda has pretty much kept to the similar concept & design of the packaging as with their other models. The exception is the colour now is orange rather than deep blood red. As always the product is packaged with style.
The Clamshell Case & Contents
The carry case now has more clamshell design since the M-100 can collapse. As with the other cases for other models, it's a reasonably hardshell. Aesthetically it looks really clean and classy. The zipper slider is now seamless and the zipper tab (at least for this white M-100) is the same as the white M-80 zipper tab - note that the M-80 shadow case, the zipper tab was more normal. V-Moda has added more style to their packaging.
With the clamshell open, included (aside from the headphones of course), are 2 cables - a 1 button SpeakEasy cable, and a SharePlay audio cable. Also included is a 1/8"->1/4" 24k gold pro adapter. And of course a carrying spring clip.
I'd like to add a quick note about the cables. Not microphonic!! I wonder if this is the reason the material weaving pattern had changed from the M-80's.
The way the M-100 collapses is unique and well thought of.
These hinges are heavy duty. I remember when I first saw these at the Tokyo Fujiya Spring Festival, I mentioned in the forums that I thought they looked chunky and they don't seem to flow with the V-Moda lines. However I look at them now and they don't stick out like a sore thumb the way I first thought. It's probably as simple as their colour blending into the headbands and fork.
A close up of where the headband forks attach to the cups. I think these have remained the same as the other V-Moda headphones :-
Having seen a few different M-100 prototypes, this is one component where I've seen it changed back 'n forth. In the May '12 Fujiya Spring Festival, the M-100 had an LP2-styled wider headband. Whereas in June '12 with Val & Gavin's visit to Tokyo the M-100 prototype then had a more M-80 slimmer styled headband. This final white production version has gone back to the LP2-styled headband. I know that the M-100 will be offered in Shadow too and I'm wondering if that will have the M-80 slimmer styled headband or not.
At least with the thee white M-100s, the cups have a satin white texture. They do seem to be quite durable ABS too (ABS??). Although I'm not about to try any destruction tests on my first day of having them in my hands.
The face plates are vented with the standard 3-V ports (sorry, not peeling off the skin protector yet).
Now really the important side of the cup. Here's your 50mm driver protected by a thin diaphragm porous material (sorry, at this stage I'm out of technical jargon ...I'm tired). The foam memory cushions seem to be the same as the LP2 (Val to confirm?).
I'm sure readers will ask about isolation and for I would rate their isolation as average (as with LP2 and M-80). In later planned reviews when I compare the M-100 with other competing headphones, I can give an isolation comparison too. The clamping force is strong and I may need to adjust it for my head size.
As for fit, to me these are true circumaural and my ears fit inside the cups. However I'd say that it's a just perfect fit. i.e. if you do have large ears, then your ears may not necessarily fit inside the cup. This however is true for the LP/LP2s too.
The other features which I've glanced through but not talked much about is the dual headphone jack port, one per cup. I've tried switching back 'n forth but I have not attempted to have both plugged into different sources. That may be an interesting test later.
I think V-Moda has given the M-100 a lot of thought into every detail from functionality to styling. All else, the M-100 has followed the trend of it's predecessors and sister models of aesthetics, durability and comfort.
However I feel competing products are quickly learning from V-Moda's design and aesthetic philosophies and stepping up to the challenge very quickly. It would be interesting to see what V-Moda comes up with next to stay ahead of the challenge.
Next Post Review - SQ
But after I've burnt in and given the M-100 a good listen. And so the burn-in begins.
P.S. Please let me know if any inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or clarification. I'd be happy to fix this post.
Edit #1: Added circumaural fit comment.
M-100 Sonic Review
The M-100 is probably one of the most long awaited headphones this year. Ever since it's announcement a year ago, Val has kept his customers and e-audience updated and involved throughout the entire development process of this headphone. This frequent interaction is a risky and daring move as it leaves very little room for the product to fail and still expected to impress upon delivery. And has he pulled it off? Now as the early-bird VTF-100/M-100s are being delivered on customer doorsteps throughout the world, I believe he has!
Disclaimer: My M-100 review has been based on my personal sonic capabilities, and in addition, my sonic preferences based on the genre of music I like.
I have an average headsize and the M-100 fits quite well on me. The ear cup-size is just the perfect fit for my ears. There's little room to play though which means that if you have large ears, then it may be a tight fit. The headband and clamping was initially tight however as advised by Val, flexing the headband and wearing the headphones regularly, the pads eventually mould to one's head shape. This not only makes the headphone more comfortable but by having a proper seal, also improves sonically. After 2 weeks of having the headphones this was an accurate advice.
When I'm home I wear my glasses and the M-100s don't cause any discomfort even them on. The arms of my glasses also arch out a little (i.e. they don't sit flush on the sides of my face) but I'm still fine with the M-100s sitting on them.
I find the isolation on the M-100 to be on par with the LP2s. They're quite decent but using it on the trains, some higher frequency ambient noise leaks in enough to be distracting. However there's very little leakage out. The person sitting next to me can hear "noise" from my headphones but not identify what kind of music I'm listening to.
By far the strongest sonic trait of the M-100 is it's rendering of its bass. At least to my ears, this is the defining signature of these headphones. Before getting into the nitty gritty details, overall I felt the headphones had a somewhat U-shaped signature. In my conversations with Val, it's really more the prominence of the bass and slight forwardness in the trebles give this perception. The mids are somewhat more neutral/flat however due to the characteristics of the bass and trebles, the perception appears U-shaped.
As mentioned previously, the bass rendering is the most prominent feature I picked up in the M-100's sonics. This was the same trait I personally fell in love with even on the June M-100 prototype. I can't say honestly if it's the same then as now or if it's improved (my sonic memory can't go back that far) but I can say that it wow-ed me then and continues to wow me now in the production model. I won't call myself a bass head but the M-100's bass traits have enlightened me on how to appreciate good quality bass. It has resulted in an addiction that has led me scouring for new tracks that emphasise on this quality.
The bass on the M-100 to me has done something few headphones have achieved before. It's reached deep (and I mean really deep!) yet extremely well controlled. Where other headphones attempt to reach that deep resulting in boomy or bleeding bass into the mids, the M-100 maintains a tight control of the bass. However it doesn't end there and only gets better. On tracks that do emphasise on bass, there is this beautiful 3D rendering that's fluid and reverberating. I've called it the "rumble" but Val has more accurately described it as "purr".
To my ears the mids are somewhat pulled back and as mentioned above Val describes it to be neutral/flat which I can see where he's coming from. For me, I find this particular signature less ideal for strong vocal tracks but good for more modern R&B, Hip Hop, and Electronic genre. Because of the bass are well controlled and doesn't bleed into the mids, my ears still can focus on it and there's clarity and detail in the mids. However, for my personal sonic preferences this factor has made my M-100s to be more genre specific.
The trebles make a comeback but just above neutral. Back to my conversations with Val, he confirmed my opinions. It's approx 1-1.5dB but nothing like the other treble-forward competing brands out there. This in itself is a positive trait especially for those who are sensitive to sibilance. From around 8kHz onwards it peaks up and mostly flattens. I would state that in my early days of listening to the production M-100, I felt I wasn't getting enough treble however, over time I don't know if the earpad moulding, the burning in, or me getting used to it's signature I found the trebles have been creeping up to be a little more forward and I'm appreciating it a lot more than 2 weeks ago. It's airy, transparent and micro-detail.
Soundstage & Imaging Presentation
When I first heard the soundstage I felt it was large but nothing to be impressed about. After getting my hands on a few more headphones that are in competition to the M-100, I realised I was wrong! I had merely been used to very high end headphones. The soundstage actually feels quite large by comparison to other closed headphones around the same category. In addition, primarily due to the bass 3D rendering, the imaging is beautifully textured. The combination of these two factors make the instrument separation (and therefore ability to focus on instrument detail). The way I'd summarise the soundstage and imaging to my ears is that some of the other headphones sound like a big gig in a small pub/bar but the M-100 sounds like a gig in a concert with you sitting around the 5th row from the front.
Other Non-Sonic Features
Do I really need to comment on the durability? If not known already, the V-Moda headphones are extremely durable and V-Moda spends a lot of time on testing these headphones to ensure they meet their tight standards prior to production. Even with the new collapsing hinges, they feel extremely rugged and durable. When you hold a the M-100, it doesn't rattle, it doesn't shake, and it doesn't convey any sense of flimsiness. It's like German engineering with an Italian design.
Another special feature is the dual headphone jack. Val & I actually tried plugging in two different sources - each into each earcup. WIth the right kinds of source, you can actually mix if you wanted to! It's quite a surreal experience.
Conclusion for Now
I have to say, to my ears I'd still classify the M-100s to be somewhat coloured, and for my personal use, not reference headphones since I feel for my sonic preferences the M-100s are genre specific. I've mentioned this to Val and he understands. However this coloured-ness in itself is an extremely positive feature and in fact a great selling point for this headphone. As mentioned before, the strong deep bass is so well controlled and rendered that it's made me (and others I'm sure) wanting to find new music tracks to exploit this feature.
Combined with the ruggedness and compactness, and low profile of headphones, I do find myself grabbing the M-100s more when I go out and about the city. If I just want to enjoy music these are the headphones I'll grab.
Sample music I enjoy with the M-100's :-
TRON Legacy (check out the C.L.U track!)
Sting's Brand New Day (More specifically A Thousand Years track)
Bond's Viva!/Wintersun & Born
Vanessa-Mae's Art Of War
Alex Gaudino's Destination Calabria (ok I admit, I do like the video a lot too)
Il Divo Il Divo (makes my hair at the back of my neck stand!!)
The Postal Service Give Up (Such Great Heights track)
Jamiroquai A Funk Odyssey
Ne-Yo Year of the Gentleman
Where can the M-100 improve?
In my mind, the M-100 is the top in its class of which I wouldn't hesitate in recommending. However, it's also reaching up to the next level and category. There's potential for the M-100 to come close to competing with some of the higher end headphones. In my honest opinion, the next few features for V-Moda to focus on for the future would be (aside from the M-100s current features), are further detail and increased resolution.
A Little Durability Update
This morning, in attempting to take some extreme pictures of the V-Moda M-100, it decided to take a swim in an almost frozen lake. The headphone surprisingly still works but naturally sonics are affected.