V-Moda Crossfade M-100 Review
V-Moda's flagship headphones are certainly impressive... albeit pricey.
If you care about sound quality, it's not always the case that paying more gets you more. However, that's absolutely the case when it comes to V-Moda's Crossfade M-100 ($310 MSRP) headphones. Billed as the first crowdsourced set of headphones, the M-100s have rather impressive performance.
Not only are they a great pick for anyone—audiophiles or no—but they boast V-Moda's legendary durability as well. Unless you're trying, you can't kill these cans.
But are they worth the high price of admission? Absolutely.
When it comes to design, these headphones have got a good thing going. Mostly metal, the M-100s can take one hell of a lot of abuse where other headphones would simply shatter. Not only are the ear cups armored, but you can also replace the braided kevlar-wrapped cables on the cheap if you need to. Given that this is the first thing to break on most cans, that's a great feature.
The bright orange, kevlar-wrapped cable of the M-100s is 3.93 feet long, and completely removable from the headphones themselves. Don't like the side they're plugged into? Yank 'em out and put them in the other ear cup: it'll work the same, and you can plug up the open hole with the little "corks" provided in the packaging. Additionally, the cable is punctuated by a microphone, as well as a remote assembly so you can take these metal cans wherever you go with your smartphone.
Much like their predecessors, the Crossfade LP-2s, the backs of the M-100s have faceplates that are held in by hex screws that can be removed to allow a newer custom faceplate to the headphones themselves. You can have your own designs laser-etched onto the faceplates you order for a nominal fee.
For short listening periods, the M-100s are fantastically comfortable, as the ear pads are very soft, and the band is very accommodating to heads of all sizes. Over long periods of time, the ear cups are liable to build up heat, but usually the most common consequence of that is simply that the ear pads mold to your pinna if your ears are too big to fit in between the pads. If the heat buildup gets to be too bad, taking the headphones off for a short time should be enough to dissipate it.
You could also pick up the fairly inexpensive XL pads online. I found these to be far more comfortable, and much more forgiving for larger ears. It also doesn't hurt that isolation is somewhat improved with them too.
If you're a commuter, you'll make liberal use of the M-100's ability to fold up quite tightly. Though it does add in a potential point of failure, I have yet to see a pair break at that point. If you're worried about the cans twisting or shearing, you can stuff them in the included hard case and shove that in your bag.
Audio quality to fit the price
For its very minor faults, the frequency response of the M-100s conform very similarly to what an equal loudness contour would look like, meaning that to your ear, all frequencies should sound like they're roughly at the same volume. That being said, if that's what V-Moda was going for, they did underemphasize some higher notes a bit, but a little bit of artistic license never hurt anybody. This type of variation from the norm is not all that uncommon.
So what's it like? Well, it's going to be a little jarring at first because many headphones don't do note emphasis quite as well as the M-100. Bass is going to thump a bit more than you might be used to, and because these are headphones with a relatively low power requirement, they'll be a bit louder than most headphones you're used to using.
But you'll start to notice things like basslines that were almost muted before are much more present and noticeable. Songs like Nine Inch Nails' We're In This Together will sound much different—in a good way. In that example, many people miss the lowest part of the bassline at the beginning of the song because it's masked by higher-frequency notes on headphones that don't maintain bass emphasis that well. Won't happen with the M-100s.
In terms of observable flaws, these headphones really don't have many—at least when it comes to objective issues. Distortion is well managed, channel balance errors are present, but minor, and isolation is surprisingly decent. If you're looking for nits to pick, you won't find many.
Obviously, there are many out there who prefer a more "studio" flat response. If you've tried headphones like any of the Sony MDR-V6/V7506 brethren and liked them, the experience you get with the V-Moda M-100s will be far different.
When you're out and about, you'll find that these cans block out a decent amount of external noise. Mid to high-frequency sounds are reduced in loudness by half to 3/4ths of what they'd sound like without the M-100s on your ears, which is really good for passive isolators. Low-frequency sound will still cut right through, though.
The Bottom Line
All-around impressive headphones, but not perfect.
V-Moda has been setting its sights higher with their newest set of over-ears, and it shows. Despite the Crossfade LP-2s winning headphones of the year in 2012, the company has put out a set of cans that builds on its success (and price).
For the coin you'd slap down in order to buy these headphones, it's harder to get more. In all honesty, it'd be difficult to find headphones anywhere that offer this level of customizability or durability. However, it's probably a bit difficult for most to justify just how much these headphones cost.
That's not to say that they won't be a bit more affordable down the line, but the audio quality might be enough for many with money burning a hole in their pocket. The audio quality is absolutely worth it, and it doesn't hurt that the M-100s might be able to withstand the apocalypse.
It's tough to pick alternatives if you're a little short on cash. You could pick up the V-Moda Crossfade LP-2, but those don't have as good sound or portability as the M-100s. The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus is a little more affordable, and has a much more comfortable design—but the sound quality falls a little short in comparison.
There's just no bones about it: these headphones are awesome.
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