Testing & Results
Choosing the right set of headphones is a very personal quest. A great experience for person #1 may be a different experience for person #2 and gets even more convoluted when you have an eclectic taste in music. There is a lot of hype surrounding top brand headphones and price is not always a good indicator of performance. I’m not an audiophile or purist by any means, and before now I would not have been willing to spend more than $150 on a set of headphones, but that’s just me. The only headphones I have for comparison that are remotely close to the price of the CrossFade M-100’s are my ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Gaming Headset (~$120).
I am very keen on getting a good audio experience however. I want good clarity and I won’t settle for sub par headphones. I’ll try to be as descriptive as possible and give answers to any questions you may have, but the best way to tell if you like how these headphones sound is to try them out for yourself. V-MODA state on their website that you can test drive their CrossFade M-100 Headphones at Microsoft stores and also at House for Hunger PlayButton listen stations in Ralph Lauren Denim and Supply stores.
I used AudioCheck.net’s sound tests to check frequency response, dynamic range, sound quality, driver matching, wiring, binaural signal, and full music playback on my PC. When using the tests on AudioCheck.net it is advisable to first download the samples to your computer and play them in a good media player. Some of the tests can be skewed by the audio compression of the online version. For music on the go I paired the CrossFade M-100 Headphones with my Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone. I also tested the headphones in other usage scenarios such as Gaming and watching Movies/TV shows on my PC for extended periods of time to gauge comfort and wearability.
I generally listen to Urban / Alternative styles of music such as Dance, Dubstep, Drum and Bass, Rap and HipHop and UK Grime. These genres tend to be very heavy on the bassline front, and I personally prefer bass that can be felt rather than heard. You also get a fantastic mixture of instrument sounds and samples within these genres too, as the artists and producers are more willing to play and experiment with sound, more so than your average pop icon or recording artist would. It might also be important to note that the majority of my music listening is whilst inside my car (windows up) where I have the stereo and speakers tuned to my own taste.
- Samsung Galaxy SIII Smartphone
- Creative Desktop PC Sound-system
- ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Headset for comparison
Sound Quality: I could easily summarise the sound quality with just three words; Depth, Immersion and clean. I may well need to reconsider my core values when I purchase headphones in the future. I had originally thought the ASUS ROG Vulcans to be an excellent sounding heasdset but next to the Crossfade M-100’s they are no competition. V-MODA have an exceptional set of headphones with the CrossFade M-100’s. The immediate feeling I got when switching between the two sets of headphones was a much richer level of depth with the CrossFade M-100’s. I started to notice sounds in music that I would normally only hear when listening through my car sound system. The CrossFade M-100 Headphones introduced a level of immersion I had yet to experience from a set of headphones. The sound remains clean throughout with no distortion experienced since the minute I started to use them.
Frequency response and Dynamic Range: Looking at the specifications you will see that the CrossFade M-100 Headphones have a frequency response of 5Hz – 30 kHz. This, coupled with the dual diaphragm design of the drivers, is ultimately responsible for the increased depth and immersion and cleanliness of sound I have so far experienced. Bass at frequencies below 20Hz is not audible – it is felt. The CrossFade M-100 Headphones performed flawlessly in the low frequency sound tests. The 10Hz frequency tests produced a tinnitus inducing low pressure pulse wave – Don’t do this test too loud or for too long as you will cause damage to your hearing.
The high frequency tests were met by a 14kHz roadblock. There is more than one limiting factor that can account for this, such as; 1) Upper hearing limit of test subject (Human factor). 2) Sound card is prone to aliasing (Reproduction factor) or 3) Frequency response of headphones may not be correct (Specifications factor). In general the upper human hearing limit is 15 – 20kHz which tends to deteriorate with age. Even so, sounds at these frequencies are so piercing that you wouldn’t want prolonged exposure anyway.
Binaural Testing: Binaural testing shows the headphone’s ability to recreate the exact position of sound. To test this, a recording of sound is taken with a microphone inside your ear, where the sound actually reaches you. Playing this back through good headphones, which rest very closely to the area where the sound was recorded, should make it sound extremely realistic. This test doesn’t work with regular speakers because of their positioning relative to your ears. Suffice to say, the V-MODA CrossFade M-100 Headphones performed flawlessly during the binaural testing.
Extended Playback and Comfort: The V-MODA CrossFade M-100 Headphones weigh slightly less than my ASUS ROG Vulcan headset (280g vs 325g) which is very surprising considering the metal construction. The Clamping force is quite strong but this does subside over time and can be immediately alleviated by straightening the headband a couple of times. The earpads cover the whole ear but do not completely surround it. While the CrossFade M-100’s don’t have Active Noise Cancellation they do a great job of blocking out quite a lot of exterior sound just as they are. This all adds up to a comfortable and pleasurable listening experience, but it could be better with less clamping force and softer/thicker earpads.
Overall impressions: I have been very impressed by the awesome performance of the V-MODA CrossFade M-100 Headphones. They bring extra depth to music, the likes of which I had not experienced with a set of headphones before. To be honest though, at this price point I really wouldn’t settle for anything other than an absolute stellar performance.