V-Moda takes aim at Apple with ultra-pricey ANC headphones
The M-200 ANC offer features galore and promise top-notch sound.
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Apple may have gotten a head start with its December 2020 release of the AirPods Max, but the early stages of CES 2021 have proven that competitors are determined not to let the tech giant have all the high-end headphones fun. V-Moda showed off its first Bluetooth active noise-canceling headphones at Pepcom's Digital Experience this year, and they're not kidding around. Designed for the audiophile set (with a price to match), the new M-200 ANC will run you $499.99.
Available now, the M-200 ANC feature a heap of amenities, including 10 different levels of active noise cancellation and six distinct EQ presets that can be customized or totally rewritten, signaling that the company is prepared to dive deeper into the premium wireless headphones market. Like the pair that V-Moda modeled them after, the wired M-200 ($349.99), these new headphones appear positioned to deliver a more balanced, studio-grade sound. Unlike the M-200, the M-200 ANC add both noise cancellation and wireless connection, featuring Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.
Can they stack up to the $550 AirPods Max? Maybe! They definitely have specifications that give the impression of being potential Apple adversaries. The M-200 ANC sport 40mm drivers made of a combination of Neodymium magnets with copper-clad aluminum wire coils. They come with support for aptX HD, AAC, and SBC audio codecs as well as a Hi-Res Audio certification when in wired mode, with a 10hz to 40kHz frequency response.
Additionally, when paired with the V-Moda app, the M-200 ANC let you adjust both the sound and the level of active noise cancellation to let more (or less) outside sound in at your leisure. You can also hold your hand against the earcup to automatically pause ANC and turn down the volume, something we've seen from Sony's flagship headphones. Oddly, V-Moda doesn't mention any form of ambient sound/transparency mode to bring in the exterior world via exterior microphones. It's something we usually think of as standard for flagship ANC headphones, and would be a surprising miss here.
The M-200 ANC do match up well with the AirPods Max in terms of battery life, with both pairs claiming up to 20 hours of playback with ANC activated (though that's 10 hours less than Sony's ultra-popular WH-1000XM4. The M-200 ANC will provide 1.5 hours of playback from 10 minutes of charging, whereas Apple's cans are capable of the exact same playback time from just five minutes in their charging case.
On the subject of voice assistants, the AirPods Max stay loyal to their Apple roots with Siri compatibility, while the M-200 ANC offer support for Siri or Google Assistant.
On top of an extensive list of performance-oriented features, the M-200 ANC do appear to carry over V-Moda’s signature build quality. The M-200 ANC have a 100 percent PU leather exterior, plus what the company describes as a metal-build core and a flexible headband. Past pairs have let you fold the band into nearly any position, making them nearly indestructible, and they also collapse down to a very small size for easy travel. Also, in case you were jonesing for some personal design options with your new high-end cans, the M-200 ANC have customizable decorative shields with six different color choices as well as the opportunity to have shields engraved with specific logos or designs.
It’s no secret that the AirPods Max have received generally glowing reviews for their combination of sound quality, active noise cancellation, and easy-access, Apple-centric features. They’ve also been subject to recent complaints of condensation inside their earcups, as reported by MacRumors and others.
There’s no way to tell how the V-Moda M-200 ANC are going to sound without listening to them first, so the jury is still out when trying to compare the audio quality of these two pairs of pricey headphones. That being said, if the M-200 ANC can approach the sound quality for which their wired counterpart have been praised while maintaining the tank-like build quality of its pedigree, then the latest from V-Moda are sure to be compelling alternatives to Apple's high-end headphones.
Or, you know, you could save a couple (hundred) bucks and buy the Sony WH-1000XM4, which remain one of the most value-packed pairs of wireless headphones on the market.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.