Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.
V-MODA began in 2004. It was founded by Val Kolton, who has a background as a DJ, music producer and audiophile. The company originally focused on offering stylish earphones of exotic quality, materials and appearance, but has evolved into a manufacturer of higher-quality earphones and headphones. The Crossfade M-100 is the company's flagship over-ear headphone, offering passive noise isolation, audiophile-quality design, and excellent attention to detail, with a unique folding design that allows the product to fit into a compact case. The headphones come in three base colors: Matte Black, Shadow, and White Silver. There are 15 side "shield" colors and 15 designs to choose from for the shields. You can also use your own personalized text for the shields, or you can have your own logo or artwork imprinted on the shields, all of which can be ordered directly through the company's website. The headphones are customized in Hollywood and can be shipped within three to four days. The M-100's retail price is $310, which includes one Kevlar-reinforced SpeakEasy mic cable, one SharePlay cable, one 6.3mm (1/4) adapter, and a storage case.
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The M-100 uses a very strong "Steelflex" headband, steel frame, and interchangeable aircraft-grade metal shields. The included case, which V-Moda calls Exoskeleton, is very compact and precisely surrounds the headphones. The headphones can be folded very compactly so that they can travel conveniently. In addition, the M-100 is tested beyond "military quality" specifications in the areas of plug bends, concrete drops, headband bend tests, high and low temperatures, humidity, salt spray, and UV exposure.
Overall, the M-100's sound quality is pleasing, with perhaps slightly forward and overemphasized mid- and low-bass frequencies. Clarity, spaciousness, depth, and soundstage are very good. Female vocals are nicely reproduced, with a slightly forward sound. When pushed, the headphones play nicely, with little signs of stress. Sounds in the upper frequency range, such as cymbals, did not smear and sounded live. The M-100 did a wonderful job of reproducing Natalie Merchant's voice on the 10,000 Maniacs' MTV Unplugged album (Elektra). Soundstaging and clarity were pleasing. Holly Cole's It Happened One Night sounded natural, with a smooth and detailed reproduction of her voice. The M-100's sound isolation is similar to other products in the passive category that lack batteries or active noise cancellation, providing a more purist approach. As a result, sound isolation is limited.
The ear pad and cups are comfortable and fit tightly, but not overly so, giving you the confidence that you can be active while wearing these headphones. However, the faux leather could get a bit uncomfortable over time. I say that cautiously, as I am not suggesting that real leather would be a wise choice, either. The overall size of the headphones is compact, so you could wear these while working out or running without having them look out of place.
The SpeakEasy mic cable worked well. The microphone worked well with my iPhone, and I was able to easily answer and end calls with the microphone button.
Read about the high points and low points of the V-MODA M-100 headphones on Page 2.
Comparison and Competition
In comparing the Crossfade M-100 with the Monster Inspiration, the Inspiration has a somewhat laid-back sound that was very calm and relaxing, while the M-100 was more forward. However, the M-100 had a bit more detail, with heavy bass. The Inspiration had strong bass as well, but the M-100 was more generous with it, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your tastes.
The Sennheiser HD 700 headphones may not necessarily be a fair comparison at $999.99, but I had them on hand. As to be expected, the Sennheisers displayed a much larger soundstage, with more depth, clarity, realism, and just all-around superior sound and balance. However, the Sennheisers are not the best for traveling, working out, or anything other than using in your home or in a professional mixing session.
The quality of construction, overall sound, functionality, and comfort of the Crossfade M-100 are quite good. The construction aspect I most appreciated was the headphones' ability to fold compactly. Also, the headphone design is compact, so you can use these over-the-ear headphones while doing activities like traveling or exercising. Let's face it, wearing a full-sized headphone while at the gym could attract a bit of unwanted attention, but the M-100 works well in this regard. In addition, these headphones fit snugly, which is also a plus when running through an airport or exercising. The sound quality is good, but will depend on your taste. The M-100 is not tuned for the typical audiophile-neutral balance. If heavy bass and a forward sound is what you like, you will love this product. The warranty is strong as well, giving you a lifetime guarantee of 50 percent off a new pair if you destroy your old ones. Overall, this product fills a popular niche - full-sized sound in a compact form that's great for traveling, especially if you prefer sound isolation instead of active noise cancelling.