V-moda has gained quite a reputation for its stylish, low-profile earbuds. The good word has been helped along by the fact that these 'phones are not just lookers, but they sound sweet, too. The latest model, an iPhone-specific pair called the Vibe Duo, is no exception. These $101 earbuds offer great sound quality, a sleek design with a unique cable, and plug housing that fits perfectly into the iPhone's recessed headphone jack.
V-moda really excels in the design department, and the Vibe Duo earphones are a perfect example of this. The set starts with a gold-plated plug encased in a simple, narrow, black plastic housing. This is followed by 32 inches of cable, which splits at a chrome barrier into an additional foot of Y-cable that leads to the two tiny earbuds. (Various silicone ear fittings in clear and black are included to help ensure a secure fit.) Along the way to the right 'bud, you'll find a shirt clip and a small mic, also housed in narrow black plastic. Unfortunately, you don't get a call-answer button, as you do with the Shure Music Phone Adapter. Still, the design is nice: sleek, stylish, and low-profile--exactly what earbuds should be. V-moda includes a basic carrying pouch to keep your investment looking good.
There are a couple of design aspects in particular that are worth calling out, as they compose the main makeup of the Vibe Duo. The first is the headphone cable, which is more truly a cord than that of most other headphones we've seen. It's got the kind of cloth overlay that you find on cables in drawstring clothing and accessories items. The result is that the cable isn't very tangle-prone at all, if it's not actually tangle-proof. Then there are the earbuds, which are quite stylish--something that we don't often see with 'buds and perhaps something people don't care about. But if you're fashion-conscious at all, you'll appreciate the sleek, black housing, which is dolled up with chrome-like accenting. (V-moda also plans to come out with an all-chrome version.) Also, it's nice not to have gargantuan 'buds hanging out of your ears--the Duo's measure just three-quarters of an inch from tip to end and have a diameter of 0.3 inch. Overall, they're noticeably smaller than those of other high-end earphones.
Of course, all the design smarts in the world are for naught if the headphones don't sound good. Luckily, the Vibe Duos sound pretty great across most genres--songs sound deep and warm, and offer impressive bass and decent clarity (most of the time). The headphones performed particularly well on songs with mellow electronic components, such as Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" and the remixed version of Bob Marley's "Kaya (Turn Me Loose)" on The Legend Lived On. However, the low end can get overwhelming on frantic rock songs--such as the Deftones' "RX Queen"--and certain fringe electronica, lending a distorted air to the music. Like with most V-moda headphones, the Vibe Duos sound considerably louder than those of most competitors, so make sure you're aware of volume levels when switching.
Call quality through the built-in mic is just fine, though it tends to pick up background noise easily and can have a conference-call-like echo for the caller on the other end. Note that due to the triple-ring design of the headphone plug (one for left channel, one for right channel, and one for mic), the Vibe Duo headphones will not work appropriately with many MP3 players. The 'buds worked fine with the Clix, but not well at all with my computer or the Zen V Plus. Best just not to risk it and instead get the plain, old V-Moda Vibe for that application.