V-Moda XS on-ear headphones review: V-Moda's upgraded on-ear headphones make the grade

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.4
  • Design: 9.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Sound quality: 9.0
  • Value: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The V-Moda XS is a compact, comfortable on-ear headphone that has a sturdy design and folds up into a small carrying carry case (included). It sounds slightly better than V-Moda's earlier on-ear headphone, the M80, and comes with a reinforced detachable cord that has an inline one-button remote and microphone.

The Bad Design won't appeal to everyone.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for a $150-$250 on-ear headphone, the well-built V-Moda XS should be on your short list.

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V-Moda spent a lot of time trying to develop the perfect successor to its popular Crossfade M-80 on-ear headphone. The fruit of all that labor is the XS, a $200 model that's both more comfortable to wear and arguably slightly better sounding.

At first glance, the two models look a lot alike, but there are a few key differences. For starters, the XS has a hinged headband that allows you to fold up the headphone like the company's larger over-the-ear M-100, which earned an Editors' Choice award from CNET.

Thanks to the new design, these headphones fit into a significantly smaller carrying case, a big plus. That ergonomically correct "exoskeleton" case is a shrunken down version of the the case for the M-100; it's nicely designed and comes with carabiner, so you can clip it onto your backpack if you want.

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The V-Moda XS looks a lot like the earlier M-80, but it features some key design changes. Sarah Tew/CNET

The other big change is to the "steelflex" headband itself. It remains are sturdy as ever but it sits more closely against your head, particularly in the temple region.

Most on-ear and over-the-ear headphones have a gap there, but V-Moda's co-founder Val Kolton has made it a mission, and perhaps even an obsession, to close that gap. The end result is a more comfortable headphone and one that V-Moda thinks will also appeal to women due to the visually less bulky, head-hugging design.

That said, we can't say this is the most comfortable on-ear headphone out there (that distinction probably belongs to the Bose's on-ear headphones). Still, it does fit snugly on your head without feeling too tight and overall I liked wearing them around and I'm not really a fan of on-ear designs.

Like most of these smaller types of headphones that sit on your ear, they don't offer very good sound isolation. They also leak some sound, though they do contain it relatively well for an on-ear model (most headphones do leak some sound, even over-the-ear models, when you play your music loud).

Of course, the fit of a headphone is a bit subjective, because after all, people's heads come in all shapes in sizes. But one thing can't be denied about the XS' design: it's easily among the best built headphones in its price class. There's lots of metal used in the construction, the cord is enforced with Kevlar, and these guys look and feel like they can take a beating (the company says they were "tested beyond military-level MIL-STD-810G quality standards").

It's also worth mentioning that the headphone comes with a two-year warranty and you can test drive it for up to 60 days (you can return it for a full refund within that time frame). Also, if some terrible accident befalls your XS headphones, you can get a replacement pair for 50 percent off.

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The headphone folds up into a compact carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

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Where to Buy See all prices

V-Moda XS Headphones (Matte Black Metal)

Part Number: XS-U-MBLACKM
Low Price: $179.99 See all prices