Originally posted at our sister-site InnerFidelity, and written by Tyll Hertsens.
V-Moda Crossfade M-100 ($310)
Please forgive me. I try to be even-keeled and objective when I write headphone reviews. I try to draw a careful balance in describing the beauty and the warts of a particular headphone. But in this case I might not be able to be quite so objective. In this case I might not quite be able to keep my shit together. Because in this case, I’m in love. The V-Moda M-100 is the coolest, sexiest, grooviest headphone I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing…as long as you’re okay with listening just for the fun of it.
But Val’s not like that…not one bit. He’s totally true to himself and to his products. He digs style for sure, but he loves music, and he loves his gear to play music well. My benchmark for headphones is, “Do they do honor to the music?” I can honestly say that Val gets it, at least for youthful, exuberant electronic music. Moreover, he’s insanely driven to put products into the hands of people that work well in every possible way. His operation, it seems to me, is built upon the rock of truly delivering incredible value for money…and deliver he does.
While I feel some of his earlier offerings were sub-par in terms of sound quality, I’ve got to say his latest efforts have nailed it. The build quality and styling are simply out-freaking-standing! While I’m just about exactly opposite from Val when it comes to style, we’re like brothers from other mothers when it comes to our passion for headphones, great sound, and the worthiness of music.
Pure sex. Of course, matters of taste are various, but I think these are great looking cans. The thought occurs to me that, say, Apple products have very broad appeal due to their minimalist design. The M-100 is far from a minimalist design, it’s flashy, and sexy, and hip (if you can even use that word anymore), but it’s done very tastefully. The M-100 is available in three basic color schemes: Gloss black, matte black, and pearly white, and in each of these schemes the M-100 looks badass.
The gloss black version is flashy like a Lamborghini. High-gloss black plastic capsules have brushed aluminum “shields” covering the outside. Headband endcaps are gloss black with a bright red “V” accent. The matte black version has matte plastic capsules covered by a bead-blasted black anodized shield; headband endcaps are likewise matte black with a back glossy “V” accent. The pearly white M-100 has very sensual off-white color on the plastics, and clear anodizing on the aluminum with satin finishes throughout, with a few chrome features tastefully highlighting the look. Yes, the design is bold and tight, these are great looking cans.
Another very cool aspect of the styling is the ability to customize the shields of these headphones. For a small up-charge (~$25) you can have custom artwork etched onto the shields of your cans. This is a laser engraving process, and your art needs to be one color only. The laser etching system then “writes” the image onto the shield by bleaching the anodizing to near white. So the best images will be against the darker color background colors. Full instructions can be found here.
The M-100 hugs your head with a firm, secure fit. Earpads are cozy, but comfortable. If you have large ears though, they may be a tight fit. Headband padding is about right and the curvature distributes the weight nicely across the top of my slightly large noggin. While these headphones are a tad on the heavy side, I felt the comfort was good. The compromise here is always between a sense of security and the sense of weightlessness. The Sennheiser Momentum I’ll be reviewing shortly were certainly more comfortable for long listening sessions, but don’t feel nearly as secure on my head. I suspect the fit and comfort of the M-100 is spot on for their youthful and energetic target audience. Feel free to throw your pinky and index finger high in the air as you violently bob your head, the M-100 will remain nicely positioned as the tunes modulate your brain.
These headphones rock! I don’t think I’ve been impelled to bob my head or sing out loud as strongly with any other headphone. I can nitpick at them (and I will in a minute), their measurements certainly weren’t all that great, but at the end of the day what matters is headphones that make your juices flow, and the M-100 does that in spades…if you want a fun headphone for contemporary music.
This is a great basshead headphone. Tight, punchy, driving. The low notes hit like a sledgehammer, while the highs sparkle without harshness, and the mids don’t go terribly missing or become oddly colored like with most basshead cans. Now, the big bass can get in the way at times. It’s weird having Linda Ronstadt and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra up on stage and the bass player sitting in your lap. And I’ve got some orchestral tracks where the concert hall’s air conditioning rumble is downright distracting. But let’s face it, that’s not what these cans are for. Put on some Shukar Collective, Gipsy.cz, or Prago Union and prepare for a Balkan head-banging par excellence. (Links are to MOG.com, a really great way to scrounge for new music.) If you’re an audiophile, though, looking for transparency and color-free reproduction, these are not a headphone for you. I suggest the Sennheiser Momentum for a few dollars more, or the Logitech UE 6000 at $100 less.
The V-Moda M-100 has dramatically emphasized bass, nominally up about 8-9dB over the mid-range. That’s a lot of bass, and it starts to kick in from 400Hz to 200Hz. I would have preferred the bass boost to happen about 100Hz lower. For acoustic music and smooth Jazz like Foreplay or Dave Grusin, this upper bass/low mids accentuation is a bit too thick.
I’d call the treble “sparkly.” It’s nice and present, without being strident or harsh. It’s a bit unnatural though, and lacks extension in the highest octave. The thing is, it works with pop and streaming sources where loudness wars and compressions of all kinds can conspire to make a mess of the treble. The M-100 is wonderfully forgiving here. Assuming you’re looking for a fun, bass-rich headphone, I think you’ll be quite happy with the treble here. Again, if you’re looking for air and transparency, look elsewhere.
Between the big bass and sparkly treble is a mid-range that feels a bit left out. Audiophiles will note this fairly quickly and hear the mids as a bit withdrawn and veiled. But if you’re going to boost the bass and put some pizzazz up top, something’s gonna get left out somewhere. The thing is, I’ve been searching for a great basshead can, and everything before the M-100 was so colored that I really couldn’t enjoy what I tried for long (e.g., Sony XB-500, ATH-WS55, Skullcandy Hesh 2). The M-100 is different, the coloring is done tastefully. Fun “V” shaped frequency response curves are called fun for a reason and, for me, the M-100 nails the “fun” curve.
The M-100′s imaging is a little above average. While the slightly artificial treble gets in the way of really good imaging, the sparkle does a good job of keeping things separated and lively. Again, given the intended use for these cans with contemporary, driving tunes–tunes that don’t have a lot of “real” imaging information–the M-100 does fine. The dynamics though, are stellar. Plenty of snap, plenty of slam.
The M-100 makes for a great portable headphone. The “fun” frequency response curve is great for delivering bass and intelligibility in noisy environments. It’s a fairly efficient headphone as well, so you will get plenty of volume from portable players and smartphones. Lastly, and this is important kids, these headphones sound great without having to turn them up too loud. The M-100 has slam and punch to spare, so spare your ears and enjoy these cans at moderate levels. The small size when folded is a big plus here as well, the M-100 will leave plenty of room left over in your backpack for other stuff.
The isolation is about average for a full-sized sealed can, plenty good to stop your tunes from bleeding out and bugging roommates, and good enough for urban warriors braving noisy streets. They won’t shut out the loudest noises like IEMs would, but the accentuated bass and good intelligibility will cut through the din quite well.
For just about anyone I know under the age of 35, these will be on the top of my recommendation list. The thump and drive and sparkle are irresistible with any form of contemporary popular music. Whether from an iPhone, computer, or high-end amp, as long as I was playing youthfully exuberant music, the V-Moda M-100 flat out rocked. They’re a basshead’s delight.
Audiophiles looking for faithful reproduction should look elsewhere for a full-sized sealed headphone (e.g., Sennheiser Momentum, Logitech UE6000), the M-100 simply are not transparent enough. But there are plenty of audiophiles, both young and old, who want something fun for popular music, and these cans will scratch that itch. I know I’ll definitely be keeping the M-100 in heavy use for a slammin’ good time when the mood strikes. In fact, they’ll be my go-to headphones against which all basshead wanna-bes will be compared, and as such are going on the “Wall of Fame” as the best basshead headphone.
Add to the good time fun sound of the M-100 the fact that you’re getting great styling, superb build quality, good isolation, and uniquely useful accessories in an amazingly small package, and you’ve got yourself a candidate for the headphones with the broadest possible appeal in today’s young market. This headphone is a winner, and one where you don’t have to say “sorry about your wallet,” because these cans easily deliver $310 in user value for the right listener.
For more, check the rest of the article for more on the V-Moda Crossfade M-100, including features, accesories, and measurements Over at Inner-Fidelity…