The V-Moda Crossfade 2 Wireless looks very similar to its predecessor, but it's been significantly improved -- particularly its sound quality.
The first thing you'll notice about V-Moda's new $330 Crossfade 2 Wireless headphone is that it's a little more comfortable than its predecessor. (It retails for £300 in the UK; it's not officially available in Australia, but the US price converts to about AU$435.) The extra comfort comes from its new, thicker earpads. They aren't quite as deep as the optional XL earpads you could purchase for V-Moda's earlier full-size headphones, but they do offer more cushioning.
Why the change? Popular demand. V-Moda customers kept requesting the company include the larger earpads with its headphones, so it did. The new earpads are more like a medium or large size rather than an extra large size.
The other big changes are on the inside: There's a new 50mm driver, more frequency response in wired mode and an increase in battery life to 14 hours. That bigger battery adds weight, however, and the Crossfade 2 Wireless tips the scales at a beefy 309 grams with the included standard aluminum shields (its predecessor weighed 292 grams).
Like other V-Moda headphones, this new model is really well built, feels very sturdy, and has a highly bendable "Steelflex" headband that conforms to your head nicely. But it's heavy. OK, I said that already. But it is.
The headphones fold up to fit into the same smartly designed carrying case that came with the original Crossfade Wireless . The case has one small design modification: a small air vent. Why? Turns out a lot of DJs like V-Moda headphones, and they tend to sweat on their headphones, then throw them in the case after a gig. Things can get a little stinky (the same goes for people who work out in them). Thus, the vent.
This is one of the best-sounding Bluetooth headphones you'll find in this price range. (The step-up Rose Gold model, which costs $350, adds support for the aptX codec, which is supposed offer improved sound quality when using Bluetooth devices that support it.) While it doesn't blow away the competition as a wireless headphone, V-Moda has managed to increase the detail and clarity and improve the quality of the bass from the earlier model.
V-Moda headphones have always featured plenty of bass -- some might say too much -- and the Crossfade 2 Wireless isn't going to shortchange its fans on that front. But I'm happy to report that the bass is more sculpted with this headphone, which is a good thing. Also, the headphone is nicely balanced and sounds relatively open for a closed-back headphone.
I compared it to the popular Bose QuietComfort 35, which costs the same, features active noise canceling, and is the more comfortable headphone -- though it's not as sturdily built as the V-Moda. While I thought the V-Moda worked well as a headset for making calls, the Bose features dual microphones with some noise-canceling features so it performs a little better as a headset.
I liked how both headphones sounded. The V-Moda is slightly more dynamic and has a touch more sparkle in the treble and more bass energy. However, I thought the Bose was warmer and slightly more natural sounding in the midrange. For instance, with Andra Day's rendition of "What the World Needs Now" and Emma Stone's "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from the "La La Land" soundtrack, both women's voices sounded smoother and more pleasant with the Bose than the V-Moda. Also, the V-Moda does play louder than the Bose.
On the wired front, I'd give the edge to the Crossfade 2 Wireless for sound quality. Last year, V-Moda was bought by musical-instrument maker Roland, and it's taken advantage of that new relationship, tapping the expertise of Roland engineers. The headphone is powered by those aforementioned 50mm drivers, with an extended frequency range from 5Hz to 40kHz. The dual-diaphragm drivers use a high-resolution copper-clad aluminum wire coil that's "made in Japan," and the Crossfade 2 Wireless has been certified by the Japan Audio Society (JAS) to meet the Hi-Res Audio standard in wired mode.
I gave Steve Guttenberg, who writes CNET's Audiophiliac column, the Crossfade 2 Wireless for a short listening session. Steve, who isn't a fan of Bluetooth headphones, came away fairly impressed. "They're nice," he said. "Well balanced. They do sound better as a wired headphone, but they're good for wireless."
We both noted that the only downside to having a more revealing headphone with better clarity is that it will accentuate the flaws in recordings. In other words, less well-mastered tracks -- or tracks that are more compressed -- can end up with a harsh edge.
That observation aside, my only real reservation about the headphone is its weight. For me, it's a little heavy, and for longer listening sessions I preferred the lighter Bose. But that won't be a problem for a lot of people and, as I said, with the new ear pads, the Crossfade 2 Wireless is more comfortable than its predecessor. It also performed nearly flawlessly for me, with minimal Bluetooth hiccups, and it paired and repaired without a problem.
Despite my quibbles, I'd say it's the best headphone V-Moda has ever made.