Style and Power: Vmoda M-100
The M100′s sonic signature is one of deep and powerful bass, more so than the M-80 and perhaps a little too powerful in the wrong places to be considered a true hifi headphone. The mid-tones feel quite recessed at times due to this upper bass emphasis so I see this appealing more to the ‘DJ’ / ‘bass-head’ crowd. If it’s not the strongest bass it can’t be that far off. Considering where it’s being pushed, combined with the isolation gives an enveloping effect that is either deeply impressive or just too boomy and fatiguing for musical enjoyment – depending on what you like. For me this is going in the wrong direction from the smaller M-80, despite the soundstage opening up. In fact for a closed back headphone, that improves on isolation, the three-dimensionality of the imaging is really rather impressive.
If you care about nothing but Bass quantity and are looking for the largest sound stage in a full size closed back portable headphone, you do not need to read further. Just go order an M-100 right now. I am not aware of any over the ear Portables that have a sound stage this large with this type of Earcup design. I am also not aware of anything that has Bass potency that can rival it. However, that is where the line in the sand is drawn. Beyond those features, you should stop and take a few minutes to read ahead and get the low down on this headphone before purchasing.
The Bass on the M-100 is extremely powerful and plentiful, I feel safe in saying it responds better to EQ more efficiently and more absurdly than any Portable Headphone I have ever used. The Bass Quantity is sick! The quality is just okay. I wouldn’t even venture as far into saying it was good. Side by side with my equally priced Philips L1, the M-100 Bass qualities are much airier, punchy, less focused and absolutely out of control with heavy Bass music tracks. It feels splattered to me, broad and stretched. Where as the Philips L1 is tight, controlled, more solid feeling and significantly less powerful and easier on the ears. Two completely different low end experiences. I feel strange about this because I really enjoyed the V-Moda M-80.
SOUND: MIDS & HIGHS
The mid-range being rather in the background will disappoint some as it takes sparkle away from areas like detail and vocals. It feels a little dull here and is less resolving of the finer details as a result, even feeling muddled at times. It feels like this sound is trying to be several things at once and not really finding a focus, there is speed here but restrained under a ton of power. There is warmth here, but I can’t describe it as smooth exactly. I did find enjoyment with more dynamic and bold Electronic music (EDM?), but switching to Rock, Metal or Pop and it’s like listening through mud by comparison.
The Mid-Range is somewhere closer to Forward, but not quite. Closer to Forward sounding than something more relaxed, something like most Sennheiser Headphones for example. The vocal experience is bright and lively. Too bright for my tastes as it is really back to A/Bing this headphone with my Philips L1. The background noise on the L1 is almost non existent and it really makes everything pop more. Where as the M-100 is noticeably more bright in the background. I admit, the M-100 Vocals sound more spacious over pretty much every $100-300 pair of Headphones I’ve ever listened to. Very spacious and airy Mids. Again, I am not happy about the overall brightness of the set, mixed with that colder than warm sound signature I just cannot enjoy anything I listen to. I find tracks from Seth MacFarlane or Michael Buble’ to be neigh impossible to listen to, due to an overwhelming noticeable lack of clarity in the background. I do not think this is the fault of V-Moda, but rather the crazy presentation qualities of the Philips L1. That Black Background on the L1 is really hard to get over, its so yummy and fun to listen to that I just cannot happily pick up the V-Moda M-100 immediately after. Mids simply do not pop much compared to the Fidelio series and are closer to the AKG K550 signature than anything I can think of off the top of my head. Kind of flat sounding and lacking depth.
My ears are extremely sensitive to bright and harsh Upper Regions. The last thing I would call the M-100 would be Smooth in the Upper Areas. I find them too harsh and bright. Some may disagree. I enjoy Fusion Guitar via incredible artists like Guthrie Govan, Andy James, Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Bireli Lagrene, and a number of other Genius Level musicians out there. I cannot enjoy these Genre with the M-100. In your face screaming guitars get a little painful over a short period of time for me. I simply find the set too bright for my enjoyment in this area. Once again, side by side with my favorite Mid-Tier, the M-100 is severely outclassed if you wanted to relax and enjoy tracks with heavy emphasis on the Upper Regions. Seems like Night and Day to me, switching up between the two. I am severely disappointed. I expected much more from the V-Moda M-100 in this area due to my M-80 plowing through some of those tracks like a true Champion. I cannot use the M-100 with my Guitar Amplifier or through a Live Band setup where every other musician in my group can be heard. Those Upper Regions are not relaxing and have too much bite for my ears. Switching up quickly between the Philips models and the M-100 reveals the latter to have some sibilance issues. The Philips Fidelio series, as well as my AKG550 both have noticeably less ice atop their mountains, noticeably less slurring in vocals and less prevalent Sibilance all around. Yikes.
The Soundstage is a real win for me. I do not know of any other closed back set in this price tier that has such an aired out and spacious presentation. Shocking really, I was very impressed to also see how efficient the set was. None of my amplifiers did a thing for it, neither did any of my portable sources. This is a great thing, you don’t need much amplification to get a great staging experience. My Cowon J3 provides a great experience that is not all that different in width, height and separation over using a Monster Amplifier like the Hifiman EF-6 or my Bottlehead Crack. The only differences I detect are obviously overall clarity and kick factor. The M-100 became a little more relaxed with the more expensive Amplifiers I subjected it to. But, who is going to pay $1600 for an EF-6 when the M-100 itself only costs around $300? I think this Headphone bested the AKG K550 by a small degree, both sets have great staging experiences for a closed back headphone so if this is your thing, you should be pretty happy. I am a sound stage nut, myself. I really love that open and vast experience and in the case of the M-100 I really get what I was looking for. Portable Sound Stage King, no doubt about it.
OVERALL SOUND IMPRESSION
The M-100 is lightyears from being warm and relaxed. My JVC DX-1000 is warm and relaxed. My Philips L1, as well as the M1 portable version are more relaxed and closer to neutral than monitor-like Bass. Side by side with these Headphones, the V-Moda M-100 places somewhere closer to that colder end of the spectrum. I do not find this type of tone to be Musical and I am dumbfounded as to why it exists in Portable Headphone One really strange thing I encountered was in a track called Awkward by Craig David. The result is a really true to the track title experience. I hear splashy and uncontrolled omnipresent Bass ( That rumble factor that hits really hard and deep) but at the same time the electric bass behind it sounds excellent. It sounds entirely different on every other headphone I own and I am starting to believe the M-100 might have some funky dB booster on the low end that is really working against the potential quality this headphone could have had. This is pure speculation, of course. It is just not at all for me, but this is just my opinion and purely based on my preferences. Yours might be totally opposite of mine.
About a year ago, V-Moda hand selected some people to be part of a private discussion group who will review the M-80 for the public. I was one of those people. The M-80 has less punch and kick than the M-100, thus making it an easier headphone to listen to for extended periods of time. I find the M-100 Low End to be harsh and too punchy at times, especially when EQ’ed a little into the lower frequencies. This is not the type of Bass I enjoy. Although, I am sure there are a ton of listeners who love a really powerful low end that can become punchy and hard hitting with minor EQ adjustments. Another thing that bugs me is the low ends overall cold, Monitor tonality. It sounds a lot like the low that Beyerdynamic or Shure might have. That slightly brighter and more cold than warm and velvety experience.
More on sound: EQ, Music, TV, Media, Gaming applications on the next page…