V-Moda XS On-Ear Headphones Reviewed

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V-moda-XS.jpgV-Moda makes stylish-looking headphones that are designed and built to appeal to a wide audience -- music lovers, travelers, audiophiles, and DJs. The V-Moda Crossfade LP2s ($199) and M-100s ($310) are both full-sized over-the-ear headphones aimed specifically at DJs and others who need maximum isolation in noisy environments. The new XS ($212) is an on-ear rather than over-ear headphone for travelers and anyone else who needs some isolation to prevent their music from disturbing others, but also wants to be able to hear what's going on around them, such as when they're in an airline terminal waiting for a plane.

The XS replaces the M-80 ($199), which was V-Moda's first on-ear design. The XS manages to be even more comfortable than the M-80 while folding into a much smaller package for travel and storage. I've owned and used the V-Moda M-80 headphones for a while, and they've been my go-to cans when I travel, along with a pair of isolating in-ears for the actual plane ride. Since the XS arrived, the M-80s have been relegated to back-up travel headphone status. Everything that I liked about the M-80s has been retained by the XS design. In several ergonomic and performance categories, the XS betters V-Moda's previous efforts.

The V-Moda XS is based around a 40mm patented dual diaphragm design. It uses a Steelflex headband that is quite flexible but still supplies enough pressure to make a good seal around your ears. XS earpads are made of memory foam that molds to your ears after being on for a few minutes. The XS employs V-Moda's "cliq-fold" design, which allows the headphones to fold up into the curve of the headband. The whole XS package is less than five inches across and six inches high.

One unique feature of the XS is the lack of a space between the top of your head and the curve of the XS headband. Unlike some headphones, such as the AKG K701 or Audio-Technica ATH-A900x whose headbands stick up well above your head and resemble alien antennae, the XS headband closely follows the curve of your head. Another neat ergonomic features is the ability to attach the removable cable to either the right or left headphone enclosure. Most headphones, even those with removable cables, have an attachment only on the left side. You can also use the second attachment point to power a second set of headphones in a daisy chain, or you can place the supplied V-cork into the opening to seal it from dirt and sound leakage.

The V-Moda XS comes with one Kevlar-reinforced cable for use with portable devices, complete with a built-in volume control. Longer cables are available via V-Moda's website. Other accessories that come with the XS include an Exoskeleton hard carry case, a metal carabiner, two V-corks, a V-MODA sticker, and the V-MODA Six Star Service instruction book with discount codes for accessories. V-Moda's Six Star Service includes a two-year full warranty, plus a "50 percent immortal life" program where older, nonfunctional pairs of V-Moda headphones can be replaced by a new pair at a 50 percent discount. The V-Moda website also has live chat for questions about any of the company's headphones or warranties.

Ergonomic Impressions
V-Moda headphones are more than merely a good pair of headphones; they are a complete experience that begins with the packaging, which is clever, artistic, and elegant, just like the headphones themselves. The hexagonal box features a faux white leather carrying handle, a hinged snap-closure opening, and slots for installing a locking anti-theft cable. Once removed from the packaging and placed onto your head, the XS adapts quite easily to your head shape. After a couple of minutes, the warmth from your body encourages the memory foam pads to form a complete seal on your ears. In many ways an on-ear headphone is one of the most difficult designs to fit right: if the headband is too loose, you'll never have a good seal; if it is too tight, the headphones can cause discomfort, especially if you want to use your headphones while wearing glasses. The XS avoids these issues. The fit was as complete and comfortable when I was wearing glasses as it was without spectacles. In fact, the V-Moda XS ranks as the most comfortable on-ear headphones I've used. Only the over-ear Oppo PM-1, Stax 404, and Sennheiser HD-600 headphones offer a more comfortable fit.

Isolation from outside sounds is not as complete as what I've heard from over-the-ear designs like the MrSpeakers Alpha Dog Prime, but it is good enough to shield anyone nearby from your music. As I mentioned earlier, in situations where you do need to hear some outside noise, such as in an airport or waiting for the light to change at your favorite pedestrian crossing, the XS headphones permit some connection to the outside world.

The only ergonomic shortcoming on the XS is that the designations for right and left are located on the bottom of the headband, so you have to turn the cans upside down to figure out which side is which.

Click over to Page Two for Sonic Impressions, High Points, Low Points, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...


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