V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Headphones Look Great & Sound Amazing

| In-Depth Review

At US$310, V-Moda's over-the-ear Crossfade M-100 headphones are competing at the high-end of the headphone market, and they are the best sounding headphones I have found.

M-Voda Crossfade M100 Headphones (with Case)

M-Voda Crossfade M100 Headphones (with Case)

Great highs, great mids, and great bass with wonderful separation make these the headphones I have been looking for more than a year. That great sound is combined with quality materials, a very compact case, and even great looks if you care about that sort of thing.

For context, I've listened to roughly ten sets of headphones competing in this price range, though only three of those sets were in the comfort of my own home. I've also listened to innumerable in-earphones, scads of less expensive over-the-ear and on-ear headphones, as well as Logitech's Ultimate Ears UE 4 custom-fit in-ear monitors.

I have experience with desktop reference monitors, and I usually can't say enough good things about Audioengine's A5 desktop speakers for listening pleasure. In short, that makes me more experienced (and more of a snob) than your average bear, but I'm far from a high-end audiophile.

Biases

Let me interrupt this review by declaring my biases so that everyone knows how I am approaching it: I love Dr. Dre both for being awesome and for reinvigorating the over-the-ear headphone market, but I do not care for his product. Beats Studio are well-built headphones that feel oh-so-comfortable on your ears, but they are much too low-end heavy and muddy for me. Your mileage will certainly vary.

For more on my biases, check out my listening list at the bottom of this review. Note the preponderance of rock and pop tunes that form the foundation of my listening needs.

Bass

This is the biggee for me. I want great sounding bass that doesn't rampage all over the music. This year at CES I tried as many quality headphones as I could. Most were muddy and thumpy like a freight train wallowing in a tar pit. A couple had adequate bass that left me wanting more.

What I want is bass that punches through without getting in the way. That's not too much to ask, and V-Moda delivers with the Crossfade M-100s.

Take a song like Nine Inch Nail's "Down In It" with that delicious Akai 808 bass note in the bridge. Through the M-100s, that note rings out clear and glorious, like God knocking on your front door.

I can't stress this enough. I know there are folks out there who think that "too much bass" is an oxymoron akin to being "too healthy" or having "too much money in my bank account." Those people are in luck because there are a ton of headphones catering to them, but the Crossfade M-100 headphones deliver the right amount of bass for people looking for a balanced sound.

Mids & Highs

Let's not forget the mids and highs. These headphones produce very clear and crisp mids and highs, and the separation is fantastic. The balance between all three parts of the sound spectrum is wonderful. Each has its place and each plays its role in making sweet, sweet love to your ears.

Comfort

I do a lot of writing at noisy coffee shops, and I tested the M-100s for more than 60 hours in that kind of environment. My sessions last as long as four hours, and it's the length of those sessions that made me turn to over-the-ear headphones in the first place.

I have a largish head and medium/large-sized ears for a man. These headphones fit both my head and my ears securely and comfortably. People with very large ears might feel differently about the cup size as I didn't feel like I had a lot of wiggle room to spare.

I also wear glasses when I write, and these headphones still felt very comfortable at the end of a long session.

Materials

The Crossfade M-100s are made of quality materials and I couldn't find anything that struck me as a corner cut. The earcups are comfy, and they're held by steel frames. The headband is constructed of what V-Moda calls "Steelflex" that can withstand 10 (plus) flat bends. I didn't test that particular aspect, but I can tell you that when you hold them they look and feel well made.

These headphones are designed to fold up, and the company developed an all-metal hinge it calls CliqFold Hinge for this purpose. You get a satisfying snick both when you're folding them up and unfolding them for use.

The same is true for the extenders. They're made of metal and when you adjust them they feel precise and solid.

All-Metal CliqFold Hinge

All-Metal CliqFold Hinge

Cables

One of the nice touches is that these headphones come with two cables, both of which fit in the very compact case. One (black) has a "SharePlay" y-splitter on one end you can use to share your music with another listener. The other (orange) has a mic you can use with any three-button audio jack (for instance, iPhone/iPad/iPod touch) for phone calls, Skype, or gaming.

Black Cable Showing Kevlar Coating and SharePlay Y-Splitter

Black Cable Showing Kevlar Coating and SharePlay Y-Splitter

The cables are reinforced with Kevlar and the company says the plug can withstand 1 million (plus) bends. In my use, they also resisted getting tangled, but that could be a product of how the case makes it easy to wrap the things up and stow them properly.

The Case

Another thing I love about these headphones is the case. Every high-end headphone case I've seen has been flat, but wide. Very wide. The M-100s are much thicker than these other cases, but the overall volume appears to be smaller. More importantly, the case is small enough to clip on to a bag (carabiner included) without feeling like you have a big bag attached to your bag.

Case, with Room for Two Cables Jack Adapter

Case, with Room for Two Cables Jack Adapter

As a test, I asked several people which they preferred, the wide and flat case of a pair of high-end noise cancelling headphones I am also testing or the case for the Crossfade M-100s. Half had no opinion. The half that did have an opinion unanimously chose the Crossfade M-100s. It was a small data set of eight people, but I found it interesting.

Noise Isolating

V-Moda bills these headphones as "noise isolating," and I wanted to take a moment to make sure that was clear. Noise isolating headphones use analog means of isolating you from ambient noise. In this case, we're talking over-the-ear cups with comfortable padding that serves as a barrier for noise.

That's far different from "noise canceling" headphones that use active electronics to cancel out ambient noise.

I like noise cancelling headphones on planes and other very noisy environments. For listening to music, I want a nice over-the-ear headphone that isolates me from ambient noise without mucking with the signal. Plus, when I'm in a quiet environment, the noise isolating headphones still aren't mucking with the signal.

In my extensive coffee-shop listening, ambient noise was a non-issue for me with the Crossfade M-100s.

Seal

To that end, the seal on these headphones is excellent. In public settings I didn't have people giving me annoyed looks when listening at loud volume. When I stuck them on friends ears to see if I could hear, I got a little noise in a quiet environment, but not enough to identify the songs they flipped through.

Odds & Sods

The metal shields on the outside of the earcups are replaceable and interchangeable. The company sells a variety of these shields in different colors. That's not the sort of thing that matters much to me personally, but different strokes...

You also get input ports on both sides of your headphones. You can use either one, use them to mix two sources (V-Moda's roots are with the DJ industry), or even daisy chain headphones. They come with a "V-Cork" to seal your unused port.

The Bottom Line

The V-Moda Crossfade M-100 headphones do everything right. They look great and they sound even better. They're very portable, and they're made of high quality materials.

 


 

Post Script: Bryan's Testing Listening List (March 2013 Edition)

A note about this list: As I stated above, I listened to these headphones for more than 60 hours before writing this review. Almost all of those hours were under the normal conditions for when I use headphones, which is writing in a public setting listening to music I love, mostly various genres of rock and pop.

I also spent time with the songs below listening for the specific features listed, many of them A/B tested with other headphones and in-earphones. In other words, these songs don't represent my entire test, but are rather my go-to songs for really close listening.

Product: Crossfade M-100 Headphones

Company: V-Moda

List Price: $310

Amazon Price: $299.99

Pros:

Great looks, even better sound. Highs, mids, and lows all sound crisp and clean. High quality materials, including steel for the band. Folds up into compact case that's easy to carry. Comes with two cables, one with a mic and one with a y-splitter.

Cons:

None noted.

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2 Comments

Paul Goodwin

I have a Grado SR60i headphone that I like for the same musical reason, decent punchy bass that doesn’t muddy up the upper ranges, very clear and undistorted mids and highs and a balanced sound. At times I need the isolation of a full cup headphone. I’ll have to check these out.

Sunil K.

I have a set of V-Moda earbuds that have great sound, but even with the ‘kevlar sheath’ around the cord, I’ve still had to send them back for replacement twice - once the controller stopped working, then the sheath popped out of the controller and exposed the wires. And just last week, the third replacement pair’s controller stopped working…so I’ve actually switched back to my Apple earbuds (orignal model).

Hopefully the M-100’s are better built for constant use…

BTW, Down In It is one of my favorite songs to listen to in headphones…

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