V-MODA Forza Review (Page 3 of 4)
Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors who are insufficiently trained in reviewing audio equipment. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, they are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for speaker sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I will put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible (Yes, it is quite a paradox haha). On the wired, analog side, tests were conducted primarily with the Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD sound card (Creative CA20K2 DSP/APU, National Semiconductor LME49720NA OpAmp, JRC NJM4580 signal buffers, Cirrus Logic CS4382A DAC, Nichon MUSE ES capacitors). For portable tests, I mainly used an Apple iPhone 6 and an LG G3. These are some of the best consumer sound equipment out there in the market today, which will hopefully reduce its potential to be a limiting factor in our auditioning. After over 100 hours of break-in time, which is well above typically required period, we put the V-MODA Forza to the tests. All tracks were uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher.
As I do for most of my audio reviews, let us take a closer look at the big three frequencies, starting with the bass. When it comes to in-ear monitors, the low-end is usually where the bass is not the best in quality, mostly due to physical limitations. With this in mind, I have to say I the bass provided with the V-MODA Forza was as expected. It definitely did not feel as wide or as deep and it lacked the oomph I normally like. For comparison, I hooked up the V-MODA Zn as a reference point, and unsurprisingly the more expensive model came out on top. It was the first time I personally listened to the Zn, and they really defied what I would have expected from any in ear monitors. This is not to say the Forza is terrible, and I found it acceptable, but the lacking depth in comparison to the more expensive Zn was undeniable.
When it comes to the middle frequencies, I found the V-MODA Forza to recreate a decent sound. The lower mid-range carried similar characteristics as the bass. There were some hints of dryness near the higher end of the middle portion, but this was not too surprising. Guitars and pianos had the right amount of wooden resonance, but it was not necessarily natural. Vocals were moist until it reached the higher end, where the aforementioned dryness was heard a bit more. At times the midrange seemed crowded, with the instruments in this region clashing with each other. Overall though, the middle frequencies felt recessed, especially in comparison to the bass.
Moving to the treble, the V-MODA Forza was capable, though some bad characteristics started creeping in. While I found the treble to be clean, there was some dryness found, and like the midrange, the treble was recessed too. When it came to balancing all three regions together, I felt like the V-MODA Forza had a V-shaped profile as we have seen from past V-MODA audio products, however this time around we had a greater emphasis in the lower end compared to the upper, creating a darker sound than normal. With the midrange and upper frequencies feeling recessed in relation to the lower end, the Forza felt at times uncomfortable.
The biggest difference I felt when listening to the Forza and transitioning to the Zn was by far the soundstaging. While the V-MODA Zn offered very good and wide soundstaging, even outside the in-ear monitor category, the Forza did not carry these characteristics, at least not to its fullest extent. I found the Forza reproduced sound in a narrower playing field, creating a closer image in comparison to the Zn. The Forza still had direction and depth, but it definitely was not as wide as the Zn. Of course this also comes from the fact the Forza has a 5.8mm driver, which is smaller than the Zn's 8mm driver. Imaging created by the Forza was average at best, once again being affected by the narrower soundstage. Overall then, the soundstaging and imaging performance from the Forza was acceptable, but I think we have also been spoiled by the V-MODA Zn.
When it came to layering, the V-MODA Forza was able to handle the all the different layers. Despite testing the Forza in complicated and messy audio circumstances, it was able to pick up and maintain the details. This being said, due to the closer soundstaging than ideal, there were times where some layers were a bit hard to differentiate from others. Detail and resolution was okay as well, though once again not as clear as the Zn. As for frequency separation, each layer was detailed enough and felt clean overall. Transitions between the frequencies were decent without any apparent frequency banding. Output from the V-MODA Forza was relatively clean overall.
As the V-MODA Forza is a closed IEM, its noise cancellation is passive in nature, as the included sleeves seal your ears from the rest of your environment. Testing the passive noise cancellation, I threw an over-ears headset over my ears while listening to the Forza. While I could still hear the output from my over-ear headphones, the Forza came through clearly. While this probably will never be done in real life, it illustrates the good seal created by the sleeves. In real life, I felt like the V-MODA was capable in blocking out most external environmental noises. The microphone also stayed true to V-MODA's form, picking up my voice clearly when calling other people.
In the end, the V-MODA Forza was a capable set of headphones at this price range. Comparatively speaking, the V-MODA Zn definitely revealed the deficiencies in the Forza, with a shortfalls found in various categories, especially in the soundstaging area. On the other hand, I think the Forza did its job for the target audience and price bracket. Yes, the Zn were the superior headphones, but I think the V-MODA Forza were still capable when it comes to audio reproduction.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis