V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

It has been ten years since we have covered the first product from V-MODA, the Vibe, and since the very beginning, it was clear to us the company is set on making products that are both fashionable and high performing. The V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless, as its name suggests, is a new and improved version of the Crossfade Wireless, which itself is the wireless version of the Crossfade M-100. Starting from the design of the Crossfade II Wireless, little has changed compared to its predecessors. It is an excellent combination of subtle elegance and modern touches. The dark color scheme of our matte black unit is complemented by a pair of replaceable side shields for a high degree of customization, and needless to say -- whatever your taste takes you -- it looks great both on and off your head. Our photo above shows the stock shield from V-MODA's online design gallery, which will not cost you any extra money. You can also purchase the Crossfade II Wireless in matte white and rose gold, but only the rose gold version supports aptX over Bluetooth for an extra $20 at press time.

From a practical perspective, the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless has to be one of the most well-built headphones I have ever encountered along with the rest of the company's popular lineup, which we have covered all in detail here on this website. It feels absolutely solid in the hand, but this is not just my personal opinion. The SteelFlex Headband is designed to support ten-plus flat bends. The ear cups are attached to the headband by a pair of solid metal brackets, each reinforced with multiple screws at every end to ensure a secure assembly. The company also claims it can survive "severe high/low temperatures, humidity, salt spray and UV rays" per the MIL-STD-810G test standard. With the new wireless components, V-MODA no longer claims it can live with more than seventy drops from 1.5m onto concrete like the original Crossfade M-100, but this is not a big deal. I have done none of these tests on my particular pair, but these claims are quite believable to say the least.

Our photo above shows the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless in its collapsed state. This was a feature missing in the Crossfade Wireless, and it is nice to see its return. It is very convenient to fold these over the ear headphones, and I am quite impressed how portable they can be compared to its configuration in its expanded state. Now, obviously they will not be as convenient as having in ear monitors, but they are two completely different classes of products. To fold it in, simply push and pivot the ear cups into the headband. With a satisfying "click" to indicate its fully closed and fully open state (V-MODA calls it the CliqFold Hinge; they have a name for practically everything) the impression of quality in refinement is further reinforced to the end user.

Two cables are included for use with the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless, as you can see in our photo above. We will dig into the details of the cables in just a moment, but for now, keep in mind the USB cable used for charging is flat and goes into the left side, while the one button "SpeakEasy" gold plated 3.5mm cable goes into the right side, just the way I like it.

Pursuing the end of ubiquity are not empty words, but a slogan with substance. The company thinks choosing from three or four different colors is too mainstream, and being able to configure your headphones with custom shields is their pursuit for the last little while. The online configurator reminds me of an automotive website, and rightly so. 3D printed shields are available in a variety of materials, including fiber, aluminum, stainless steel, and precious metals. Unless you come from Dubai and want splash literally a car amount of money (Well, an American kind of car money for $27,000, not Dubai kind of car money) for some golden bling, most peasants like us will stick with the remaining options. As aforementioned, the photo set in this review shows the default shield from V-MODA's online design gallery, which costs you nothing. A couple of custom shields, including one with our website's logo printed on, were demonstrated in our Crossfade M-100 review I wrote back in September 2015. Swapping them is quite easy; simply remove six hex screws, and you are on your way.

Moving on, the design philosophy of the Crossfade II Wireless is what V-MODA refers to as "Mind the Gap". This theory suggests heads are not circular, and neither should the headphones that go over it. Even with every sliding increment set to the smallest scale, these headphones fit me perfectly with minimal gaps anywhere. Yes, I did look in the mirror. People with bigger heads than me tried these headphones on and -- stunningly -- fits them like a custom-made hat as well with a few notches expanded out. The SteelFlex Headband is nicely padded on the inside, and wrapped with some hipster vegan leather on the outside.

These over-ear circumaural headphones are specified with a weight of 309g without the cable, which is reasonably weighted. It is about 17g heavier than the Crossfade Wireless due to a larger battery. The drivers are all-new 50mm M-Class dual diaphragm, high fidelity units with Japanese engineered and made copper-clad aluminium wire coils. The rated frequency response of an impressive 5Hz to 40kHz. This means they are 10mm larger than the XS drivers, and are identical in size to the Crossfade Wireless and Crossfade M-100. These specifications are, quite frankly, quite a bit beyond the hearing range of any normal human being of around 20Hz to 20kHz. The rated sensitivity is 100dB @ 1kHz 1mW with an impedance of 32 ohms. It will work quite well with unamplified sources such as your smartphone in wired mode, but amplifying it does have its benefits, and I have evaluated in my SilverStone EB01-E and EB03 review in 2014. But we did not buy Bluetooth headphones to use it in wired mode, did we?

BLISS memory foam cushions wrapped in soft vegan leather surrounds the M-Class drivers on the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless. They are also updated from its predecessors. Not only are they very comfortable, but they also exhibit excellent noise sealing properties. To demonstrate, I tried playing some music through these headphones at regular volumes. Next, I pressed the cups together. At this point, most of the sound that was clearly audible just a moment ago sudden became cut out. This is not black magic; just good design. They will not block out noise like in ear monitors, but they are decent enough for use in commuting. A series of holes in the leather provide a little bit of ventilation into the foam without leaking sound. With all these in combination, I will have to say the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless not only looks good in the mirror, but is also very comfortable in everyday use. Compared to the V-MODA XS, which are on-ear headphones, the Crossfade II Wireless, like the rest of the Crossfade series, are more comfortable with slightly sealing properties, since they are larger and sits around your ears.

Exclusive to wireless Crossfade headphones are three buttons at the top of the right ear cup, as well as a three-way slider switch at the bottom. We will talk about that in just a moment. For the three buttons, the user interface is identical to any smartphone headset remote; hit the multi-function button with V-MODA's logo once to answer a call, and hold it down to reject. For music control, press once to play, twice for next track, and three times for previous. The '+' and '-' should be self-explanatory -- they adjust the volume up or down, respectively.

At the bottom view, here is the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless with the cable attached. Yes, these are wireless Bluetooth headphones, but you can still plug in a regular analog cable into the right side to turn it into what is essentially a Crossfade II wired, if such a headphone exists, haha. This way, you can bypass wireless limitations and the Crossfade II Wireless' internal digital to analog converter for improved sound quality and reduced latency -- at the expense of convenience, of course. Using it in passive analog mode does not require any battery power either, and plugging in the cable will automatically disable its wireless electronics. I think this option is great, since you can get the best of both worlds. Unlike the M-100, however, there is no audio passthrough on the Crossfade II Wireless; the port on the left ear cup is a USB input used for recharging the 430mAh internal battery. V-MODA claims the Crossfade II Wireless has 15% better battery life than the original Crossfade Wireless at 14 hours.

The black Kevlar reinforced "SpeakEasy" 24k gold plated 3.5mm cable is rated for over a million bends. It goes into your Crossfade II Wireless via a straight plug on one end, and via a forty five degree strain relief on the other end for the input source, such as your amplifier or smartphone. The cable has a special name, because it features another microphone in addition to the integrated one on the headset (More on this in just a moment), as well as controls compatible with Apple, Android, Kindle, Windows, and Blackberry devices. The microphone is rated at -42dB @ 1kHz. The cable is somewhat prone to microphonics, but I would not consider this a big problem. Also, this is made to be a wireless headset, so what microphonics?

At the bottom of the right ear cup is a three-way slider switch and an integrated microphone used for making calls. If you slide it all the way to the left, it will turn off the Crossfade II Wireless. To turn it on, move it to the middle, and the integrated white LED in the middle will blink once per second until a connection is established. If you want to pair it with a new device, slide it all the way to the right, and hold it there for three seconds until the white LED blinks twice per second. The Crossfade II Wireless can be paired with up to two devices at the same time with a range of up to 10 meters. The same LED also doubles as a charge indicator; when it is blinking orange, it means battery is low. A fading orange LED will indicate charging is in progress, while a constant white LED when plugged in means charging is complete.

With excellent build quality, impressive attention to detail, cool customization options, and remarkable comfort, here is the most important question of them all: Does the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless sound as good as it looks? What losses will we get switching from wired mode to wireless mode? We have the entire Page 3 dedicated to presenting our auditioning results.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion