V-Moda XS Headphones Review
Party outside, business inside
The V-Moda XS on-ear headphones (MSRP $212) are the latest personal audio option from one of the industry's younger companies.
Known for quality design that incorporates metal over plastic, V-Moda also insists that headphones should be fashionable as well as functional.
In the case of the XS on-ears, the company delivers on that promise. These sleek, angular cans are extremely durable and portable, but still manage to deliver a full, satisfying sound. They aren't quite studio quality, but they definitely deliver well-crafted sound to suit a wide range of listeners—from beginners to hobbyists.
If you're looking for a set of headphones that have a ton of positive traits and will last through rain or shine, we highly recommend the XS on-ears. At $199 online, they're a solid deal.
For having such a focus on fashion, the V-Moda XS—available in matte-black metal or white silver—are some of the most durable on-ears available. In fact, V-Moda claims "military-level quality" right on the box.
While I can't confirm that, I do know that the ear cups on my black test sample are supremely solid. Each speaker back is even reinforced by shield-shaped back plates (you can swap these out for more colors/styles). The band is flexible and lined in light pleather padding, but it's no less sturdy. If you need a set of on-ears that can take some punishment, the XS are a terrific choice.
Despite the tough metal design, these headphones are actually quite comfortable. I'm not usually a fan of on-ear style headphones, especially as someone who wears thicker spectacles, but the XS have a surprisingly gentle clamp for being so durable, and wield cushy-enough ear pads for most people.
My one complaint? Over time, the comfort level drops a bit—after wearing the XS for a couple of hours, my ears started to ache.
Alongside the essentially indestructible band and cups is a removable cable, carrying case, and two tiny plastic objects that V-Moda calls "V Corks." Essentially, you can plug the cable into either cup, and the corks serve to stop up whichever jack you aren't using.
The 3.6-foot orange cable features reinforced black plastic at the flex points. Wrapped in a pliable kevlar, it resists tangling and is suitably sturdy. A single-button, in-line remote lets you skip/pause songs, or take/hang up calls. Best of all, the XS cable is compatible with Apple, Android, and Windows devices.
Finally, the ultra-sturdy V-Moda XS cups fold into the band for serious portability, allowing the whole product to be zipped away in an angular black carrying case that's reminiscent of a Batman accessory. The case is small and light enough to be clipped onto a keychain, but is also quite resistant to crushing force.
Truly, no detail was spared in the design and construction of these headphones—and that's not as common as it sounds, even at a $200 price point.
Tastefully balanced sound
For such heavy-duty cans, the V-Moda XS have a light touch. Time in the lab revealed an expertly balanced sound profile, with no marked areas of over- or under-emphasis throughout the bass, middle, and treble ranges. The response isn't completely flat, but it's very well-managed for a set of on-ears.
Users who want big, booming bass may be at a loss here—there's actually a little less bass emphasis than a good majority of consumer headphones (a very positive quality for anyone wanting to mix or else tailor their own EQ).
In fact, mid-tone and very high-pitched sounds, such as plucked guitar strings or soaring sopranos, are a little louder than sub-bass and bass altogether—but not by much. Overall, however, nothing is lost in the mix: Expect a full, balanced sound from tuba to piccolo.
It may be a good thing that sub-bass sounds are relatively quiet, as things get a bit distorted at louder volumes. Fortunately, none of the distortion is highly audible, as it tapers off prior to the heart of the bass range, and stays low throughout middle and treble notes, too.
If you plan on taking these cans on the go, you'll be glad to know that they're pretty good isolators, too—since they press right up against your ear, they have a way of naturally blocking outside noise.
While the XS have nothing on a good pair of active cancelers, and won't shut out the world like some snug in-ears, many sounds—especially high-pitched ones like screaming babies and ringing phones—will be greatly dampened.
For more test results and some fun colorful charts, head to the Science Page.
Have your cake and eat it, too
Finding the right headphones can be tricky. If you go for something more fashionable and portable, like in- or on-ear types, do you sacrifice the quality that's generally easier to achieve via the larger speaker drivers of over-ear headphones?
Well, fear not—this entry from V-Moda makes the choice for you. With the XS on-ears, you can have your cake and eat it, too.
When you combine their high-quality sound with great extras and a form factor that might outlast the car you bought last year, the $200 price tag feels very fair—especially considering the closest competition is over $100 more expensive. If you're looking for a great combination of sound quality and sturdy design, give these cans a try.
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