V-MODA XS 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 that 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, these 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's quite a paradox haha). The 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 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, I have used an Apple iPhone 5. 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 today.

After over 200 hours of break-in time -- well above typically required period -- we put the V-MODA XS to the tests. All tracks are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher.

When discussing the audio characteristics of the V-MODA XS, there is only one line that can describe these headphones: The sound is so flat, it will make Saskatchewan jealous. In my personal opinion, in terms of pure technicalities, the V-MODA XS' frequency response curve is close to being perfect, with no apparent tuning issues. This is quite a contrast to the renowned Audioengine A2+ speakers I have reviewed earlier this year. Whereas the XS is technically perfect in this regard, the A2+ is not tuned to be flat like studio monitors, yet I have enjoyed both just as much. How can it be? Well, let me break it down to the details for you.

Firstly, the bass is very balanced. It is not pound at all; at the same time, keep in mind these are not tuned to appeal to the basshead. If you are looking for something that is heavy for the sake of being heavy, look for those designed by a certain doctor. With a minimum response specified as low as 5Hz -- well beyond the human hearing range -- and a flat curve across the chart, I found the bass to be always present and well defined when called upon. It is deep, solid, round, smooth, and articulate; just like how it was meant to be when the track was recorded. In fact, I found it practically perfect for the discerning audiophile.

Secondly, the midrange is incredible. In fact, the V-MODA XS produces some of the widest and fattest midrange I have heard in a pair of headphones. It extends a comprehensive range with such thickness that simply blew me away. Voices and everything in this area was very natural and clear, with a rich and full saturation for an incredible listening experience. A degree of warmth gives the headphones a distinct signature for hours of enjoyment without listening fatigue.

Thirdly, the treble is also reproduced with practically perfect technicalities. Again, extending upon the V-MODA XS' flat characteristics, the treble is sharp, clean, wet, and clear without question. With frequency response up to 30 kHz, again, it is well beyond the human hearing range. On the other hand, I found the output to be a bit on the dark side, creating an atmosphere that lacks a bit of excitement and immediacy. I cannot say this is necessarily a detrimental aspect of the V-MODA XS, however. I am simply describing its character. Whether it is preferred or not by you is a completely different issue.

As far as soundstaging is concerned, here is where it merits a little bit of discussion. This is because if there is one thing the V-MODA XS is not completely perfect in, it will have to be this. Realistically, these are relatively small headphones, and without resorting to artificial tricks, I think, to some degree, is contributed by a factor of physical limitations. The perception and direction of everything is present beyond a shadow of a doubt, but it can use a little bit more of depth and distance. Do not get me wrong; the V-MODA XS does not necessarily lack width, but as the saying goes, there is always room for improvement.

Closing off with the auxiliary auditioning results, the imaging of the V-MODA XS is quite realistic; staying true to the original production or recording. The layers are precisely produced with a high amount of detail. The resolution is perfect across the range, as it picks 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 XS, and you will simply find so much more.

Deriving from this, the frequency separating is amazing. Again, every detail is very well reproduced, thanks to its clear, high definition, and clean separation. At the same time, the entire spectrum is cohesive with no transition effects, making it sound exactly as it should. I am also very impressed by how clean the sound comes out to be. As I have said in my Audioengine A2+ review, if there is a better word for "clean" that roughly carries the meaning of "super duper clean", I would use that word.

Needless to say, the V-MODA XS sounds amazing. In fact, I would say, to many extents, it is almost technically perfect. We are picky audiophiles here at APH Networks, and we do not making comments like these normally. You can take my word for it.

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