V-MODA Crossfade M-100 with Custom Shield Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

We have been covering products from V-MODA since 2007, 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 M-100 actually came a few years before the awesome sounding V-MODA XS, but they are from the same family of headphones. Starting from the design of the M-100, I have to say it is an excellent combination of subtle elegance and modern touches. The cream and chrome color scheme of our White Silver 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 a 3D printed steel shield from V-MODA's online design gallery. It is a $130 upgrade from the factory, but I am not going to show too many photos of it, because there is something even cooler than that. I will get to that in just a moment.

From a practical perspective, the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 has to be one of the most well-built headphones I have ever encountered, along with the XS. 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 they have done tests with more than seventy drops from 1.5m onto concrete, and survives "severe high/low temperatures, humidity, salt spray and UV rays" per the MIL-STD-810G test standard. 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 M-100 in its collapsed state. It is actually 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 on the M-100) the impression of quality in refinement is further reinforced to the end user.

The audio cable can be fully detached from the V-MODA Crossfade M-100, as you can see in our photo above. We will dig into the details of the cable in just a moment, but for now, it is interesting to point out it can actually be plugged into the left side or the right side of the headphones, depending on your preference. By default, it goes in on the left side, but I prefer the right, because I usually have my phone in my right pocket. When one side is set to the input, the other side can be set as a passthrough, so you can plug in another pair of headphones to share your music with your friends. I do not believe I have ever seen anyone walking down the street daisy chained for music, but hey -- whatever that floats your boat. For the rest of the population, if you do not plan to do anything weird, the side you are not using can be plugged to prevent dirt from entering, and your fashionable M-100 headphones from looking ugly.

Pursuing the end of ubiquity are not empty words, but a slogan with substance. The company thinks choosing from two or three different colors is too mainstream, and being able to configure your headphones with custom shields is their latest pursuit. 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, not Dubai kind of car money) for some golden bling, most peasants like us will stick with the remaining options. As aforementioned, the previous photo shows a stainless steel shield from V-MODA's online design gallery, which is a relatively budget $130 upgrade compared to $27,000 platinum. The 3D printing quality was excellent, but my favorite has to be the fiber shield they sent me in the second box. When I first saw it, I was a little confused to why they chose the funky blue, and what the lower case 'A' meant. Then it hit me. They managed to engrave the APH Networks logo, along with the blue color scheme of this website, onto the shields. Anyone can upload their custom design at no extra charge to be used in the online configurator, and this is a demonstration of their capabilities. A V-MODA Crossfade M-100 with our logo on it? This, my friend, is what I call cool. Immediately, I took out my hex screwdriver, and installed them. We will be using these shields for the rest of the photos.

Moving on, the design philosophy of the Crossfade M-100 what V-MODA refers to as ABC+P, or "anything but circles + plastic". The first part of this theory is heads are not circular, and neither should the headphones that go over it. I did not quite understand the merits of this theory, until I actually started using the V-MODA XS last year. I do not have a particularly big head, despite the fact I am doing my thesis based Master of Science in Electrical Engineering here in the University of Calgary. That said, 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. On the other hand, my colleague Aaron Lai, who has a much bigger head than me, tried these headphones on and -- stunningly -- fits his head like a custom made hat as well. He did expand it a few notches out, but needless to say, I am impressed. The SteelFlex Headband is nicely padded on the inside, and wrapped with leather on the outside.

These over-ear circumaural headphones are specified with a weight of 280g without the cable, which is pretty light to behold. The drivers are 50mm M-Class dual diaphragm, high fidelity units with a rated frequency response of an impressive 5Hz to 30kHz. This means they are 10mm larger than the XS drivers. 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 103dB @ 1kHz 1mW with an impedance of 32 ohms. It will work quite well with unamplified sources such as your smartphone, but amplifying it does have its benefits, and I have evaluated in my SilverStone EB01-E and EB03 review last year.

Memory foam cushions wrapped in soft leather surrounds the M-Class drivers on the V-MODA Crossfade M-100. 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 on the train. With all these in combination, I will have to say the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 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 M-100 are more comfortable with slightly sealing properties, since they are larger, and sits around your ears.

Back to the full view, here is the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 in its full expanded configuration, and the cable attached. The grey and black Kevlar reinforced "SpeakEasy" 24k gold plated 3.5mm cable is rated for over a million bends. The way I see it, even if it becomes damaged, you can easily replace it without replacing your entire headset, which is cool. It goes into your M-100 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 has a microphone and integrated 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. Back to the first photo, V-MODA also includes a second cable, which they call the SharePlay cable. It is very similar to the SpeakEasy cable, but it comes with no microphone or integrated controls. Instead, it has a 3.5mm male to female passthrough near the source, leading to a 3.5mm male jack that goes into your M-100 on the other end.

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 M-100 sound as good as it looks? How will it compare to the venerable V-MODA XS? 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