V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis

The only way to compare is to compare the entire V-MODA lineup.

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 SilverStone EB01-E dedicated external digital to analog converter (XMOS XS1 TQ128 USB decoder, TI PCM1798 DAC, TI NE5532 OpAmp) and amplified with the SilverStone EB03 headphone amplifier (THAT 1646W 16-U monolithic audio differential line driver, THAT 1512S14-U preamplifier). Some analog tests were conducted with the Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD sound card as well (Creative CA20K2 DSP/APU, National Semiconductor LME49720NA OpAmp, JRC NJM4580 signal buffers, Cirrus Logic CS4382A DAC, Nichon MUSE ES capacitors). For portable tests, including wirelessly via Bluetooth, I mainly used an Apple iPhone 6, with battery life tests done on the Google Nexus 9. These are some of the best consumer sound equipment out there in the market today, and will reduce its potential to be a limiting factor in our auditioning.

After over 140 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless to the tests. All tracks were uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher.

If you think the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless is just a small iterative improvement over its predecessor, then you cannot be more wrong. After listening to them side by side, the latest model really showed me what I have been missing in the last couple of years. In my past reviews, I said the Crossfade M-100 and Crossfade Wireless' soundstaging has room for improvement. My wish was granted in this product. The first time I listened to the Crossfade II Wireless, my jaws dropped to the floor with regards to how much the company improved it. The Crossfade II Wireless sounded considerably wider and deeper than anything I have ever seen in the V-MODA lineup. And this is not to simply compare them against the company's own products. The Crossfade II Wireless simply sounded large.

My second complaint with the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 and Crossfade Wireless were their boosted bass. The Crossfade II Wireless' bass intensity was dialed back for significantly better balance, while retaining the same tightness and authority. With the same minimum response specified as low as 5Hz -- well beyond the human hearing range -- the bass was always present and well defined went called upon. It was deep, solid, round, smooth, and articulate; giving a satisfying dose of pulse and depth delivered with much better accuracy than it was in the past. They are still not perfectly flat, but it works. The bass was a little cleaner and richer in wired mode compared to wireless, but it was really negligible.

Compared to its predecessors, the Crossfade II Wireless' midrange was more laid back for improved neutrality as well. The V-MODA XS produced some of the widest and fattest midrange I have heard in a pair of headphones, and after testing everything else in the Crossfade series, this statement still remains true. The neutrality came at the expense of warmth shown in the XS, and to a lesser degree, the Crossfade M-100 and Crossfade Wireless. Furthermore, the vocals are no longer as forward sounding, but there was a deeper saturation more a very pleasant, harmonious, and natural response. If you desire accuracy in the midrange as you want in the bass, the Crossfade II Wireless is, once again, an improvement. When operating over Bluetooth, the Crossfade II Wireless sounded a bit harsher; it was definitely a bit warmer sounding with a cable attached. This could be a result of the DAC I was using, however.

Surprisingly, even the treble on the Crossfade II Wireless was noticeably improved, even though it was not a big issue on its predecessors. In my Crossfade M-100 and Crossfade Wireless reviews, I said the output was "a bit on the dark side, creating an atmosphere that lacked a bit of excitement and immediacy". With the Crossfade II Wireless, not only was the treble sharp, clean, wet, and clear as it should, but also much fuller with some sparkle in session. When you directly compare the two headphones, the latest iteration made the original sound almost harsh -- and the original was far from harsh to begin with. The solidity and treble smoothness of the Crossfade II Wireless simply cannot be beat.

Closing off with the auxiliary auditioning results, the imaging of the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless was very realistic; staying true to the original production or recording, as we would expect from the M-class drivers. Please note imaging is different than frequency response, where the Crossfade II Wireless is reasonably balanced with a bright overtone. Sure, they are not studio monitors, but they were not meant to be. The layers were precisely produced with a perfect amount of detail. The resolution was nearly perfect across the range, as it picked up practically everything and anything in a quality encoded track. If you think you know your music, ladies and gentlemen, listen to the tracks all over again with the V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless, and you will simply find it a totally new experience. And I say this even if you have other V-MODA headphones in your collection.

Deriving from this, the frequency separation was excellent over analog. Again, every detail was almost perfectly reproduced, thanks to its clear, high definition, and clean separation. At the same time, the entire spectrum was cohesive with no transition effects, making it sound exactly as it should. I was also very impressed by how clean the sound comes out to be. On the digital, wireless end of things, you lose out a bit in these areas. As I have alluded to earlier, the headphones sounded a little bit harsher. The Crossfade II Wireless in analog mode was richer, warmer, and had more detail for cleaner output. Obviously, I was testing it against a series of high end digital to analog converters with an amplified source, which had an influence on the output quality, so keep this in mind. For most people, you will really have to listen to them carefully side-by-side in order to tell the difference though.

The V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless over Bluetooth suffered from a couple of problems common to all products in this category. Firstly, there was some background hissing noise when turned on. You probably will not be able to hear it when you are on the train or the bus, but you will definitely be able to pick it up it in quieter locations. Secondly, there was some lag. It was not too major, but you can probably tell when watching a video on your device.

The company estimates the battery to last around 14 hours on a single charge. Based on normal volumes, I found this to be a pretty fair estimate. The rated wireless range is about ten meters, and from my tests, it seems to be a good estimate as well. I can walk a couple rooms over in my house, and still maintain a consistent connection. During normal usage on the train or bus, I have never experienced any wireless inconsistency issues paired to my Apple iPhone 6.

The V-MODA Crossfade II Wireless are unbelievably good headphones. It almost embarrasses its renowned predecessors in several key areas. Also, wireless headphones are extremely convenient when on the go. You really have to use one to truly understand its appeal. Sure, there are shortcomings, but it is a trade-off I am willing to make. If you are not, just plug in the cable -- V-MODA even includes one for you.

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