Gadling Gear Review: V-MODA Crossfade M-100 Headphones

Audiophiles are a tough group to please and traveling audiophiles even more so. They demand the absolute best sound out of their equipment and they seem to always be on a quest for better music quality. That’s a challenging enough prospect when they’re at home with a full-fledged stereo system at their disposal, but when on the road it can be nearly impossible. A good pair of headphones and a high-quality, portable music player can help, but unfortunately most headphones don’t provide the level of quality that an audiophile is looking for.

V-MODA, a company that specializes in high-end audio products, set out to rectify this situation with their Crossfade M-100 headphones. This is a product that was built from the ground up not just for audiophiles but by audiophiles. The engineers at V-MODA consulted with some of the most knowledgeable, not to mention picky, audiophiles they could find and it shows through in the final product. To call the sound quality from the M-100s amazing doesn’t fully convey just how fantastic these headphones sound. Music is clear and distinct in the low-, mid- and high-ranges, and vocals sounded stunningly pure, creating an experience that simply needs to be heard to be believed.

Personally, I’m no audiophile, but listening to my favorite tracks with a set of M-100s was a bit of revelation. Prior to testing the over-the-ear Crossfades, I’d never heard such pure sound from a set of headphones before. Every element of the music comes through in a very distinct and clean fashion, including the low-end bass, which can often sound distorted or muffled. It was an incredibly immersive and rich experience that gave me a glimpse of what an audiophile must hear all the time.But V-MODA designed the M-100s to provide more than just best-in-class sound. These headphones are also built to be incredibly tough, allowing them to survive the rigors of the road. Their sturdy construction means that you can take the Crossfades with you where ever you go without fear of them breaking. The same can’t be said for most other headphones on the market, many of which are highly susceptible to accidental breakage. Two metal shields on the outside of each ear cup add to the level of ruggedness, while giving these headphones a distinct look all their own. Those shields are also user replaceable and V-MODA offers a number of custom designs on their website allowing M-100 owners to further set their headphones apart from the crowd.

Military grade durability is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the level of detail that V-MODA has put into the design of this product. For example, the M-100s are also capable of folding in on themselves, reducing their footprint nicely. This allows them to take up much less room in a carry-on bag or nicely slip into the included hard case. That case provides yet another level of protection while traveling and also securely stows the headphones and cables as well.

Speaking of cables, the Crossfades ship with two audio cables that can plug into either the left or right ear cups. One of those cables features a microphone and an inline remote for pausing playback or picking up incoming phone calls on a smartphone or other mobile device. The second cable features a built-in audio jack that allows users to share their sound with a companion. This comes in handy when you want to watch a movie or television show with someone on a long flight. Both cables are thick, resist tangling and are very high in quality. In another nod to the audiophile crowd, V-MODA also includes a 1/4″ 24k gold pro adapter for use with home stereo systems as well.

In terms of comfort, I found the M-100s to be easy to wear, even over extended periods of time. While testing them, I often wore the Crossfades for several hours without much of an issue at all, sometimes even forgetting that I had them on. It did take a bit for the tension in the headband to loosen up, however, and until that happened, I occasionally had some discomfort due to the ear cups pressing against the arms of my glasses.

The M-100s do a great job of isolating outside noise, even though they don’t include an active noise-canceling system of any kind. While listening to great music with these headphones it is easy to become cutoff from the outside world, getting caught up in the rich sound that they deliver. It is nearly impossible to crank that music to a level that is too loud for the Crossfades to handle, but it can easily be loud enough that no outside sound can be heard at all. That is actually an excellent feature when you truly want to escape for a while.

All of this amazing sound and build quality comes at a price, however, and it is likely to be beyond what most consumers will want to pay. The Crossfade M-100s carry a price tag of $310, which is actually quite reasonable for a pair of headphones that offer audiophile levels of sound. That puts them in the same price range as the Bose QuietComfort series of headphones, which are also quite popular amongst travelers. While the Bose QC’s do offer active noise cancelation, however, they don’t perform nearly as well in terms of overall sound quality. Even to my non-audiophile ears, the M-100s simply sound much better. The build quality between the two headphones isn’t nearly the same either with V-MODA’s offering outclassing the Bose in every way. That is an important factor to consider when you’re shelling out $300+ for a pair of headphones for travel.

If you appreciate great sound and need a pair of headphones that can survive just about anything short of a nuclear blast, then the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 should be your top choice for music and audio on the go. Quite simply, these are the best headphones I’ve ever heard and well worth every penny.

[Photo Credit: V-MODA]