Headphones are hot right now. As a product group, there has never been quite such a confusing plethora of choice, be it form, aesthetics, function or price. But V-MODA tries to bring together the very best of all these things, along with a few drops of their own special sauce to make something a little different in a very crowded market. We’ve been here twice before, with the original Crossfades, and more recently the M-80s. And here we are with the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 — a natural progression and distillation of previous products to make something even better than before.
CREDIT: Daughter/intern Hatty Settle did the photography for this review.
In The Box
For box, read lavish and expensive presentation gift box that will end up on a shelf never to be used again, made even worse by the “do not recycle” logo on the base. It seems however (according to Val Kolton, the V in V-MODA) that the box is designed to be reusable, by simply pulling off the outer sleeve and leaving a pretty nondescript container for pens and whatnots.
To get this out of the way first, I’ve been here twice before, so see little point in retelling much the same info over again. So please refer to the Crossfade and M-80 reviews if you need the minutiae of the basic V-MODA models.
In the smaller than previous box you’ll find the now standard exoskeleton case, but this time around it has a much more marine than alien feel — it’s like a big clamshell with a flock lining. Safely cosseted within are the M-100s, a 1m colour-matched TRRS cable for mobile use and a 2m black cable, handily coming with what V-MODA calls a Shareplay connection, essentially a splitter for shared use, and of course a 1/4″ jack adaptor. All pretty standard stuff for V-MODA these days, but most notably not the rest of the market.
V-MODA has developed a distinct ID, and this has been carried on to the M-100s. Right away I was drawn to the M-100s because they arrived with an Orange colour way, something inherit to the matt black model that was send. But it seems that V-MODA cannot contain their artistic bent and have a positively huge range of customisation options on their website — 3 different base colours, 16 different shield colours as well as being able to have your own text and logos added as well. You can truly make them your own.
These matt (or matte apparently) black ones however are about as stealth as they get. If you use the black 2m cable, these M-100 headphones sit as inconspicuously as any on the market. So you can go fairly incognito, or make a pretty garish statement — choice is good. Speaking of choice, the M-100 cans give you a choice of which cup to plug your cable into. Functionally cool, but aesthetically, it’s a tiny blot on the otherwise excellent copybook.
So yes, V-MODA is a lifestyle brand insofar as the aesthetic choices they offer, but the quality is there to back it up too. Speaking of which…
There is a very reassuring feel to the M-100s. While there are plastic elements in the construction, the major bits that tend to break are metal. I’m also still a big fan of the non-coiled Kevlar cables. They simply do not tangle, and using the 2m cable makes them long enough for most situations without having to stretch a coiled cable. I appreciate that not everyone likes them — I wasn’t sure at first, but now I’m a convert.
But for those who simply cannot stand the stringy feel of the supplied cable, but absolutely must have V-MODA headphones, they’ve got an optional DJ friendly coiled cable as well. It’s a separate purchase, and is of the same supreme high quality as everything else V-MODA does, from the all metal plugs to the spiral wire strengtheners.
The biggest change comes with the construction of the arms. Previously, these were one piece but to enable better folding, this has been split into two. Uh-oh – a hinge right in the place where they always break doesn’t sound like a good idea. But thankfully this is all metal with quite a complex selection of nuts, bolts, and washers in place to make sure they always move freely. And when you unfold them, they snap into place with a reassuring click — like a Golf as Brits say.
I suspect that the decision to make folding arms was hard, and actually turning it into reality harder still. I feel that V-MODA did a sterling job in this regard, and the M-100s are better for it, and your DJ bag has that little big more space.
An observation about the cables. The plugs tend to be straight or right angled. On the V-MODAs they’re compact and at 45°, neatly getting round the extremes of stresses caused by being bent and twisted while being thrust in and out of your pockets. Smart.
With every new headphone that comes my way this part gets increasingly tough to nail differences in driver characteristics. I am after all just one guy, with a particular set of requirements, a particular environment and my own physiological attributes as well.
The science — the M-100s come with 50mm drivers, but not just any old driver, but a patent pending dual diaphragm. Sounds good on paper, but we’ll see if it makes a difference to my ears.
For this particular test, I’ve pushed deep house, opera, classical, and jazz from my MacBook Air into the Focusrite Forte and then into 5 different pairs of high end headphones (HS25, HDJ-2000, Beats Mixr and Beats Pro + M-100) to see if I can pick out any differences. And this time round, this particular evaluation has been tougher than ever. Let’s be clear – they all sound outstanding, and any differences are pretty minor from a DJ perspective. If I were to pick out 2 things:
The bass to mids response was higher with the M-100s. This gave them a definite warmth and beefy feel.
From the mids onwards, the M-100 response was a little less than others. When listening to Jesse Ware’s “Running” Disclosure remix, I was able to pick out a noticeable difference between the HDJ-2000 and M-100s in the upper frequencies.
Given these characteristics, some might describe them as too bassy, something which some like in DJ headphones. The jury is out on whether this is an out of date maxim given that DJ headphones now cover pedestrian, production and club use. Perhaps a loudness button needs to be incorporated to make headphones immediately DJ friendly.
This chart over at headphone.com shows the response curves for the M-100 against the Pioneer HDJ-2000 and Sennheiser HD 25 -1.
Underlining this again, all headphones in this price bracket sound at least excellent. Any other differences will be down to a whole number of different factors. What I think sound amazing might not be the same on someone else’s head.
Nothing new to report here. Aided by the copious soft ear pads, the over-ear isolation is excellent. But for people sat next to you on the train, they’ll be less happy. I think it’s possibly better than before, and can be made a tiny bit better by closing up any holes in the cups. V-MODA helpfully provides a couple of plugs to fill in unused ports in the cups, but it’s a minimal difference.
Comfort and Stability
Another big plus point for the M-100s here. Due to the limited movement in the construction, they tend to clamp to your head and not move, even when the urge to over-indulge in head nodding or banging. And despite the headband being narrower and less padded than some, it gave me no comfort issues, even after hours of being sat at my desk and DJ setup while testing. The relatively light weight also adds to the overall feeling of comfort too. Good work V-MODA.
The obvious change in construction leads to a big gain for the M-100s. Due the the folding arms, the cups can fold up inside the headband and squeeze down to a very small size. Combine this with the much smaller hard case, and V-MODA just amiably squashed one of the issues with V-MODAs of old. Another big thumbs-up.
Value for Money
This is a tough one because V-MODA seem to do most of their business through their own online shop. So I’m forced to do some research based on US prices only. The M-100s come in at $310, so if we do natural comparisons to Sennheiser HD-25 ($249), Pioneer HDJ-2000 ($349), AIAIAI TMA-1 ($249), and Beats by Dre Mixr ($249), there seems to be a natural $249 price point that people seem happy to pay for quality. The M-100s come in a bit higher, but for this you do get a lot for your money, especially with the hard case and choice of colours and custom designs.
Some will baulk at these prices, but these days (if you’re in the right region), you do get what you pay for. I’m happier to pay more, with the fairly certain knowledge that they’re going to last a good deal of time, sound amazing and can be customised to match my brand.
Headphone brands seem to engender loyalty amongst their users, with many people finding a brand that they’re happy with and defending it to the hilt. This seems to be especially true of Sennheiser HD25s, and while they are a class leader, alternatives are now available. I’m at a point where if I had HD25, HDJ-2000, Mixrs and M-100s in front of me, I would really struggle to pick between them as my headphone of choice. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, with no clear winner.
So the above statement speaks volumes about where VMODA M-100s stand in my estimation. Some will consider it headphone heresy to put a perceived lifestyle brand in the same sentence as HD25s, but times have changed. The M-100s are image conscious, but not a cheap garish lifestyle brand that is all style and no substance. They are extremely well designed, sound really good from a DJ perspective and are priced in the same ball park as their natural competitors.
Having spent time with Val Kolton, most recently for a sit down in London, I’ve come away with the impression of a man who cares passionately about his brand, to the point where I could honestly see him sat in his house in the evening packing every single product himself and kissing each one before putting them in the box. He’s quite obsessive about the detail, and I imagine it’s very hard for him to release product at all as he’ll always be searching for ways to make things that little bit better.
And the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 headphones are indeed that little bit better. Just like the Crossfades and M-80s before them, the M-100s are very worthy DJ headphones, and if you’re in the market for a pair that compare favourably to the established leaders, you’d be mad not to put a pair on your head for a tryout.