V-MODA Crossfade M-80 and V-80 True Blood Headphones

This story originally appeared at InnerFidelity.com

V-MODA Crossfade M-80 ($229) and V-80 True Blood ($199)
Val Kolton, CEO of V-MODA, started the idea of fashion headphones with his company in 2004. I remember when his stuff first started showing up, and I remember thinking the whole fashion headphone schtick was pretty weird. (Well, I'm kind of a geek.) Now, some 8 years later, fashion and celebrity headphones are more the rule than the exception, and upon hearing and holding the new V-MODA Crossfade M-80 and V-80 True Blood headphones I no longer think the idea so weird. These headphones are flat-out AWESOME!!!

I love the styling of these headphones. It's as if a fancy Italian clothing designer ran the Pentagon, and these are the headphones designed for tank commanders. I stared at them for a long time trying to figure out how V-MODA managed to so successfully bring all the pieces together and make a headphone that's both stylish and apparently indestructible. Practice, I guess, I still can't figure it out. They just jell.

The M-80 and V-80 are sealed, on-ear headphones. They are structurally and acoustically identical --- the only differences are cosmetic. The V-80 has a red fabric panel on the inside of the headband; on the M-80 the panel is black. The V-80 has "True Blood" written on the plastic caps on the end of the headband; the M-80 has the V-MODA logo. Two of the screws that hold on the earpiece shields on the V-80 are red signifying the teethmarks of a Vampire bite. And the V-80 carry-case has a small simulated vial of blood as the zipper pull. Other than that, the headphones are identical.

The build quality of these headphones is simply extraordinary! The headband is padded and fabric covered throughout, with a bit of extra cushion under the mesh panel on the inside of the headband to cushion your noggin. The ends of the headband are nicely finished with a two-part plastic cap that is screwed together and into place. The headband main structural element is a sturdy spring-steel band that can be significantly bent and still return to its normal shape. It can also be bent past the elastic limits of the metal in order to shape the headband to conform exactly to the shape of your head. They fit me well out of the box, but a little fiddling with the headband and they fit perfectly now.

The headphone bails (the "Y"-shaped piece between the band and earpieces) are likewise very sturdy steel. Screwed to the ends of the arms are small plastic fittings that connect the bail to the earpiece, and allow it to swivel up and down. This construction, however, prevents the earpieces from swiveling front to back, which may cause the earpads to not quite fit properly. Fortunately again, simply bending the headband around will allow adjustments to the fit of the earpads. (See video.)

The main earpiece housing is gloss black plastic and has a shallow indent on the outside to allow the shields to be flush when mounted. The earpads are pleather covered, medium density memory foam, and are glued to a plastic frame, which is removed with a sharp tug. The earpad's seal and comfort against the ear is somewhat above average for a headphone of this type.

The ergonomics of these cans are squarely between very comfortable but not secure on your head (liker the B&W P5 or Blue Ant Embrace), and very secure but somewhat less comfortable (like the split headbands of the Beyerdynamic DT1350 and Sennheiser HD 25-1 II). In other words, ergonomically, these are an excellent compromise between comfort and secure fit.

The M-80/V-80 come with two cables. One cable has an iDevice compatible microphone and three-button remote, the other has a single-button remote for other smartphones. Cables are fabric covered, kevlar reinforced, and designed to withstand a million flex cycles. The cables are terminated with a straight 1/8" stereo mini-plug at the headphone end, and a 45 degree angle bent 1/8" mini-plug on the other. I think a narrow body, 45 degree angle connector is the way to go for portable devices. Straight connectors put too much strain on the jack, and 90 degree connectors sometimes won't go all the way into jack or bump into something and won't rotate fully when there is a protective case on the player. I'm not really a fan of fabric covered cables as they tend to tangle more easily and can create a lot of noise on the microphone --- which I did find with the Crossfade M-80/V-80. However, the look of the cables is sweet, and I understand the esthetic choice made. V-Mode says they are working on another cable with less noise for phone use.