V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless Over-Ear Headphones Review
V-Moda's new wireless over-ears sound good but don't live up to their price
In recent years, V-Moda developed a reputation for manufacturing premium headphones with top-notch performance, customizability, and rugged design. We found a lot to love about last year's V-Moda Crossfade Wireless over-ears, but its shortcomings ultimately didn't justify its price tag.
The newest entry in the Crossfade series is the V-Moda Crossfade II Wireless (available at Amazon for $279.99), and honestly, not much has changed. The Crossfade IIs sound fantastic and fit relatively well, but their faults will nag at you long after you've parted ways with the $350 they cost you.
If all you're looking for is a stellar sounding pair of over-ears with good battery life and rugged hardware, these Crossfades will suit you well. Shoppers aiming for some cans with a bit more finesse will be best suited elsewhere—the Crossfade IIs give it their all but ultimately fall short of greatness.
What I like about the Crossfade IIs
The last iteration of V-Moda's Crossfade Wireless over-ears provided top-shelf performance, military-grade toughness, and an interesting design. The Crossfade IIs have a slightly bigger battery and a slightly better audio driver, but beyond that, they're pretty much the same.
These cans sound damn good.
Like the Crossfades that came before them, this pair of over-ears pumps out supremely spacious, problem-free audio that will please casual and finicky listeners alike.
Our frequency response test revealed a sound profile suited for just about every type of music, with a slight emphasis on the low-end that looks somewhat restrained compared to bass-heavy cans like the Beats Solo 3s. Our distortion test showed that there's almost no discernible distortion to speak of—another thing the Crossfade IIs have in common with their predecessors.
What floored me the most about the type of soundstage the Crossfade IIs create is just how big everything sounds. There are moments on the beginning of Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. where vocal samples slide in from the left channel, and listening to these moments on the Crossfades adds enough stereo separation that you can almost visualize the samples as tiles of music jutting in from the left and making their way into your brain.
Overall, the only nit I can pick when it comes to the Crossfades' performance is their relatively weak isolation, but even then the Crossfade IIs are better than average. These cans just sound good—period.
Great battery life
The wireless headphone experience still has a lot of wrinkles it needs to iron out, but battery life is one aspect that manufacturers seem to have figured out.
In fact, contemporary wireless headphone batteries are so good at stayin' alive that the Crossfade IIs seem somewhat pedestrian in comparison. They're not going to be churning out high-volume audio for nearly 40 hours like the Beats Solo3s, but they'll keep the tunes going somewhere between 12 and 20 hours, by my estimation.
Again—they're not the longest-lasting wireless headphones in the game, but they'll satisfy most lifestyles, and that goes a long way, especially if you have a hearty commute to-and-from work.
A resilient design and added protection
The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless are built with durability in mind. These over-ears meet a standard used by the United States military designed to measure resilience in particularly stressful environments and scenarios.
And frankly, the effort paid off—the Crossfade IIs feel like they'd stand-up to drops, knocks, and accidents of all types. Some headphones are forged in materials and design flourishes that inspire no confidence. The Beats Solo3s, for example, feel like they're on the verge of snapping every time they're folded up and placed in their soft, squishy carrying case. The Crossfade IIs, on the other hand, collapse securely into a tightly-compacted shape that fits snugly in a tough-as-nails "exoskeleton" case.
What I don't like about the Crossfade IIs
For all of the premium flourishes and top-shelf performance aspects, the V-Moda Crossfade IIs also come packaged with some nagging issues that elbow their way into an otherwise great listening experience.
There's often an audible ambient hiss when audio isn't playing.
Much like their predecessors, the Crossfade IIs have the tendency to produce a hissing sound when a Bluetooth connection is engaged but no audio is playing. It's not always there—the issue is worse when I'm connected to a computer rather than a phone, but it's hard to ignore once you notice it.
For example, when the Crossfades are synced to my MacBook and no music is playing, the hissing will kick in the moment I do something simple like drop a file in the trash can. The sound effect of the trash can is effectively waking the headphones up, and it takes a couple seconds after the crumpling paper sound effect ends for the hiss to shut itself off.
The ability for the Crossfades to put themselves to sleep in this manner might contribute to their robust battery life, but the difference is dramatic enough that it's impossible not to notice.
Comfortable until they're not
The Crossfade IIs are easier to wear than most studio-style over-ear headphones, but they're not as cozy as they ought to be given the price tag. My biggest issue with the fit has to do with the Crossfades' pads, which sometimes smush my ears instead of gently cupping them. After about an hour of use, the sweat and heat build-up takes its toll and I find myself yearning for a break.
The metal frames that keep the cups affixed to the headband also create a little too much resistance, which makes for a tight, skull-clamping fit that ranges from "slightly annoying" to "very invasive," depending on how I feel on any given day.
The design—while rugged—is the wrong type of "bold."
Like the last entry in the Crossfade series, the Crossfade IIs aren't likely to fall apart anytime soon. But that tough-as-nails design takes its form in a busy-looking package that features abrasive angular lines and gaudy metallic highlights.
Admittedly, my idea of "good design" isn't a universal one—surely plenty of people will find the Crossfades' "Klingon" aesthetic to be an attractive one. Me? I prefer a sleek, minimal approach, and V-Moda design tends to be overwrought and overly-serious; it looks like the elbow joints of a Michael Bay Transformer.
What's worse is that, by trying to subtly incorporate the playback control buttons within the natural ridges and angles of the ear cups, V-Moda has effectively shrouded them in textural camouflage—I don't think I ever got used to using the buttons in my extensive time using the Crossfades.
Should you buy it?
There's a scene in Mad Men (bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this) when accounts man Pete Campbell is told that the promotion he was vying for would be going to his office rival instead. When asked why, his boss informs him that, although Pete excels in giving his clients everything they ask for, his colleague has the keen ability to make clients feel as though they don't need anything at all.
The Crossfade IIs are sort of like poor ol' Pete Campbell—they deliver nearly everything I want, but the cracks in the presentation will always show just enough to grow tired of them.
I suppose in this analogy the Bose QC35s are the Crossfades' Kenny Cosgrove: the casual office rival with a better haircut and greater mass appeal; someone imminently more comfortable in their own skin. For all of the Crossfade IIs' expertise, they never allow me to forget that I'm even wearing headphones in the same way the QC35s manage to do.
On top of an overall better listening experience, the Bose QC35s also provide some of the best noise-cancelling in the game—all for roughly the same amount you'd spend on the Crossfade IIs.
But hey—maybe you just really, really dig the Crossfades' aesthetic. While it's certainly not my thing, it's a unique look, and V-Moda's faceplate customization goes a long way for users who take time out to personalize their headphones. If this sounds like you, then go ahead: plop down $350 and rest comfortably knowing you've secured a pair of durable over-ears that sound fantastic and perform reliably.
Better yet, why not save yourself some cash and invest in last year's Crossfades? They're currently listed at $300 on Amazon, and for my money, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with anything about the Crossfade IIs that would be worth the difference in cost. Yes, there's a shiny new driver under the hood, but it's not a deal-maker given the cost.
V-Moda knows how to engineer great headphones, but the Crossfade IIs still come up somewhat short given their steep price tag.
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