Fans of V-Moda's popular Crossfade M-80 on-ear headphones ($230) may not immediately notice that the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 ($310) is actually larger than its over-the-ear cousin, or that its hinged headband allows it to collapse into a small bundle. The M-100 has an engaging, lively sound that lets you hear lots of detail, but never sounds harsh or too bright.
The bass, always a V-Moda strength, is punchy and deep so it's the sort of headphone that brings out the best in rock, or any bass-heavy music, but not at the cost of rendering classical or acoustic jazz less appealing to the ear. If you're a versatile audiophile or a DJ that needs a rugged headphone that doesn't compromise on fidelity, the V-Moda Crossfade M-100 is a worthwhile purchase.
Design and features
The V-Moda M-100 over-ear headphone is a close relative to the company's popular M-80 on-ear headphone, with a few notable differences. Its CliqFold metal hinges -- a feature the M-80 lacks -- allows the M-100s to fold into a small bundle, and that adds value for traveling audiophiles. The M-100's ear cups' metal shields are user-replaceable and can be customized with a laser engraving of your own logo or artwork by V-Moda. Despite the obvious size differences, the M-100s are relatively light, weighing in at just 280 grams.
All V-Moda headphones are exceedingly rugged and overbuilt, and the M-100 is no exception. Designed to survive 70-plus impacts from a height of six feet onto a concrete floor, the steel-reinforced headband can be flattened 10 times and still return to its original curve. The faux-leather-covered, memory foam ear cushions are all user-replaceable and provide a tight, noise-blocking seal.
Pressure on the wearer's head is moderate, so the M-100 stays put as you move about, but I felt the pressure was a little too high at first. Reverse bending the headband eased the pressure, and as I wore the headphones my concerns about comfort faded away. The lightly padded headband applied some pressure to my head, but I would still give the M-100 a moderately comfortable rating.
The headphone comes with two gray Kevlar-reinforced cables: a 36-inch wire for Apple, Android, and Windows with a compatible in-line one-button remote and microphone, and a 78-inch "plain" cable. Both cables terminate with a reinforced 3.5mm plug at each end, and both can connect to either the left or right ear cups.
The unused ear cup connector hole can be fitted with a tiny V-Cork plug to prevent dirt and debris from entering the ear cup -- it's a small accessory that illustrates V-Moda's admirable attention to detail.
The long cable also has a secondary 3.5mm input that V-Moda calls SharePlay, which lets a friend plug their own headphone to the V-Moda cable and listen at the same time. V-Moda also sells an optional "Boom Pro" mic for gamers or broadcasters, as well as an optional coiled cable with a locking connector for DJs.
Accessories include a 6.3mm, gold-plated adapter jack and a sturdy "exoskeleton" clamshell carry case. The cardboard box that the M-100s come in also has added value; its external paper wrapping with pictures and info about the product can be discarded, and the M-100's crème-white outer cardboard box can be reused as a carrying case.
The M-100 includes a two-year warranty, and V-Moda will sell you a new pair of M-100s for half the current retail price should the headphones break after the warranty expires.
The M-100 fits the bill for a "crossover" headphone that appeals to audiophiles as well as V-Moda's core customers, who prize potent bass and dynamic impact. The headphones have a larger-than-average 50mm driver in each ear cup, so the M-100 's bass response is fuller and richer sounding than the M-80's, with improved punch and clarity to boot. The headphones also have superior dynamic impact that excels at all volume levels.
Comparing the M-100 with Sennheiser's newly released Momentum full-size headphone ($350), the M-100 again has the advantage with its warmer bass and midrange, but I should note that the Momentum's stereo imaging, midrange clarity, and treble detail outpaced the M-100's. The M-100's richer sonic flair will definitely click with some buyers, but the Momentum should have stronger appeal to audiophiles craving maximum resolution of fine detail.
Next up, I compared the M-100 with Beyerdynamic's new Custom One Pro headphones. They have a four-step adjustable bass tuning feature, and with the bass turned to the second-from-maximum setting, the M-100 couldn't keep up with the Beyerdynamic's bass punch and dynamic kicks. All of my listening tests up to this point were conducted with the headphones plugged into my iPod Classic.
I also watched a few movies on my desktop, with my FiiO E10 USB/DAC headphone amplifier and the M-100.
The M-100 performed even better with Eminem's "Live From New York City" concert's heavyweight sound than what I was getting from my iPod Classic -- the bass kicked harder and the stereo image felt broader with more 3D depth.
It's clear that the Crossfade M-100 is V-Moda's best headphone. It's beautifully built and sounds great with all types of music. Its exceptional build quality and durability, compared with most audiophile-oriented designs and various Beats by Dr. Dre models bode well for the M-100's long-term use.
Sure, it's a highly competitive market, but no other headphone can touch the M-100's combination of features, build quality, and sound for the money; that's why it deserves an Editors' Choice award.