V-MODA is one of those firms that at first blush seems to be European—right up until you discover the marketing tagline that proclaims the company’s headphones are “inspired in Italy, designed in Hollywood.” That fascinating set of influences means that V-MODA headphones tend as a rule to offer Euro-chic styling but also to feature construction details that exude a robust and almost “mil-spec” vibe. A perfect case in point would be V-MODA’s new Crossfade M-80 on-ear headphone/headset ($230), which according to V-MODA CEO Val Kolton combines, “the durability of an M1 Abrams tank, timeless Vinyl sound, Italian-suit elegance and exotic motorsports materials.” And sure enough, the compact M-80 is a stylish beauty to look at and to hold in your hands, though the key question remains: “How does it actually perform?” This review will seek answers.
• Drivers: The M-80 is based on patent pending “dual-diaphragm” 40mm drivers said to “deliver multi-driver sound with the energy efficiency and consistent quality of a single driver.”
• Voicing: According to V-MODA a team of “select master musicians and producers” used a 31-band EQ system to develop an optimal target response curve for the M-80, where the objective, in part, was to create a sound “analogous to vinyl.” Then, using purely acoustic techniques (no batteries or digital signal processing), the V-MODA team crafted the M-80’s driver/ear cup assemblies to match the desired target curve.
• Beefy yet elegant design: some people expect that stylish products are also fragile, but the M-80 is, by design, an exception to the rule. It features what the manufacturer terms “a bespoke STEELFLEX headband and tactile arm extensions” for a headphone V-MODA promises, “can bend, move and twist like no other.”
• Design details:
⇒ Ported ear cups: While not a true open-back headphone in the usual sense of the terms, the M-80 uses V-MODA’s V-PORT V3 porting system—a series of three V-shaped ports found in each ear cup—that help direct air in and out of the ear cups, ostensibly improving openness and three-dimensionality of the sound while still maintaining a good degree of noise isolation.
⇒ Ear cups feature interchangeable brushed metal ear cup shields, with optional custom shields available (allowing users to personalize the M-80’s to suit their tastes).
⇒ Memory foam ear cup pads are soft and very comfortable for long-term wear.
⇒ Microfiber suede headband pad provides a firm gripping surface on the outside with comfortable, textured fabric padding on the inside.
⇒ Kevlar reinforced, fabric covered detachable signal cables with 24K gold-plated cable plugs.
• Rigorous quality control standards:
⇒ Some parts of the M-80 are subjected to MIL-STD-810G environmental tests “including high and low temperatures, humidity, salt spray and UV exposure.”
⇒ The headband can be bent flat 10+ times “without breaking and (while) retaining its memory and shape.”
⇒ The signal cable and plug strain relief “can each bend more than 1 million times”—a test said to exceed industry standards by 100x.
⇒ The entire headphone can survive “70+ drops on concrete from 6 feet”—a test said to be “approximately three times the industry standard.”
⇒ Driver matching: V-MODA claims “virtually inaudible sound variances across the spectrum of less than 2dB from unit to unit…”
⇒ “Exoskeleton” hardshell carrying case (trust us one this one: the case looks really cool).
⇒ Carabiner-style bag clip.
⇒ One signal cable set up with a three-button mic/audio control that is “Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad”
⇒ One signal cable set up with a single-button mic/audio control compatible with Android, Blackberry and Windows 7 smartphones.